Natfhe poised to take action over proposed jobs cuts

Redundancies planned at Northumbria and London South Bank universities have prompted staff protests and threats of industrial action on top of disruption arising from the pay dispute.

Some 650 members of lecturers' union Natfhe are to be balloted on strike and other industrial action to fight proposed job cuts and the downgrading of academic posts at Northumbria University's English Language Centre.

Natfhe leaders at South Bank are collecting signatures to a petition objecting to plans for 16 redundancies in the computing department, which, they claim, are likely to be compulsory.

Northumbria staff said that the shake-up at the English Language Centre would result in the number of lecturers being halved from 14 to seven.

Martin Levy, Northumbria Natfhe branch chairman, also claimed that changes brought in through the national pay modernisation framework would mean that lecturers not teaching on degree courses would be barred from progressing to senior lecturer grade.

He added that there were fears that the university was planning to privatise teaching by paying a private teaching firm to provide English language programmes for overseas students.

He said: "This gives Natfhe serious cause for alarm. It is essentially privatisation. We have to think that there is some sort of connection with the English Language Centre shake-up."

Peter Slee, pro vice-chancellor of Northumbria, said the university was not expecting to make any compulsory redundancies at the English Language Centre.

He confirmed that there were plans to rent space to a private firm called Study Group, but he denied that this was linked to the changes at the English Language Centre.

"They won't teach Northumbria University students," he said.

At South Bank, 31 lecturers in the faculty of business, computing and information management have signed a letter sent to The Times Higher that calls for other academics to add their names to a petition objecting to redundancies in computing.

A spokesman for South Bank said there were plans to "phase out" five posts in special effects and design over two years in addition to cutting the 16 jobs in computing.

He said the decision had been "reluctantly taken" to "reduce a number of posts in areas where enrolment has fallen substantially or where it is believed that courses need to be discontinued".

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