London Metropolitan University, even more than most institutions of higher education, has suffered brutally over the past five years of cuts. The election of a Tory majority to parliament is ominous for the future of this university. Trade union members are organising a fight back, with strike action taking place this Thursday, 21st May.
London Metropolitan University, even more than most institutions of higher education, has suffered brutally over the past five years of cuts. The election of a Tory majority to parliament is ominous for the future of this university, which teaches more black students than the entire Russell Group combined.
The struggle is beginning anew with the proposal by management to cut 165 jobs. For that reason a demonstration was called on Tuesday 12th May to oppose these new attacks, at which there were roughly 100 students, staff and activists.
A senior lecturer interviewed by the Marxist Student Federation, who attended the rally in solidarity, told us that the Vice Chancellor Malcolm Gillies, himself earning a staggering £200,000, did not say they needed to save money, but simply wanted to get rid of workers. The staff generally feel that the relentless job cuts at this university are part of a plan to change it from an institution closely linked with the local working class community it largely teaches, to being a profit-driven doler out of marketable degree certificates. Thus high quality teaching is not so important, what matters more is to pay influential and well connected ‘administrators’, PR managers and the like.
Gillies had previously accused dissenting members of the UCU faculty from being ‘actively disengaged’ with the realities of managing the university. As a result, many demonstrators wore pins declaring themselves ‘actively disengaged’ as a show of solidarity of those staff members threatened with dismissal.
One of the speakers who addressed the crowd on a megaphone pointed out that this market driven restructuring should be replaced with another one of the workers’ making, which would save even more money – that is, one to cut the excessive numbers of top level managers and their huge pay packets, who do nothing to actually educate anyone. The understanding of the members of staff threatened with redundancy of the need for and their ability to run education on completely different principles is a glimpse of the creative potential of the working class to run society as a whole on different lines. Our education system must not be run for profit, which only leads to ripped-off students, indebtedness and more inequality, but must be run by and for the community.
Many trade unionists, as well as left-wing Labour MP Jeremy Corebyn, spoke proudly and confidently about their university and the need to fight militantly to protect it. It was reported that not only is Unison balloting for strike action over this, but that UCU has already done so and the vote was a resounding yes to action!
Towards the end, a number of students showing solidarity were brought in to speak to the crowd. Joe Attard from the Marxist Student Federation (and the King’s College London Marxist society) gave a speech giving solidarity and briefly explaining about the attacks and struggles at King’s College University. He added that capitalism can no longer afford a good quality public education system. We can win this battle, but the war against attacks to education must be fought with a socialist alternative. We have seen how the public did not support Labour’s offer of austerity lite. It is plain to most that under capitalism there is nothing but austerity. Thus to win we must confidently articulate an alternative programme of expropriations of big business under workers’ control to fund the services society needs!
Following on from last Tuesday’s demonstration, UCU members at London Met will be taking strike action on Thursday 21st May, with picket lines at:
- Tower Building: 166-220 Holloway Road, London N7 8DB
- Ladbroke House: 62-66 Highbury Grove, London, N5 2AD
In addition, there will be another “Hands Off London Met” demonstration on the day of the strike, assembling from midday at the Tower Building picket on Holloway Road, marching to Highbury Fields for a rally at 1pm, with speakers including local councillors, MPs, and community activists.
Sign the UCU petition to stop the cuts at London Met.