UNISON, UCU and Unite unions held a meeting of staff and students, 120 strong, to discuss the prospect of job losses and deep service cuts at Kings College London university (KCL). Principal Rick Trainor had sent an email around KCL staff, saying that a budget shortfall could result in redundancies.
After checking the most recent finance reports available (July 2008) Unison discovered that £260 million is available in endowments and reserves, but also that the top earners at Kings include 188 individuals earning between £100,000 and £380,000 a year, excluding possible severance payments and additional pensions benefits!
The deficit is reportedly £14 million, which pales in comparison to the above figures. The endowments and reserves could be used, if the will was present, to buy some breathing space to conduct a campaign for more government funding, and avoid cuts and job losses. We should demand that Kings opens its accounts to public scrutiny so we can question the claim that cuts need to be made.
A vicious plan has been put forward to make all 30 staff redundant in Information Resources. Only half the existing posts would be retained, downgraded with some at only Grade 1 which pays only £14,000 a year before London Weighting. The present staff would be invited to reapply for the 15 posts that remain.
For these redundancies the 90-day statutory consultation period has been set, illegally, at only 30 days by the college. Other teams have already faced de facto cuts as the recruitment freeze has led to 'natural wastage' where staff leave, making it increasingly difficult to staff frontline services vital to students.
A staff member from London Metropolitan University, where 550 full time posts are threatened, pointed out the decline in educational standards that will occur if these job losses take place.
A mass campaign must be waged against these job losses. Already UCU has balloted for strike action over a pitiful 0.3% pay offer, and nationally over 100 institutions are planning action.
These cuts are part and parcel of the attack on the availability of quality public education. The attacks include students being forced to pay exorbitant fees that will be made even worse if the current £3,000 cap is lifted. We need a publicly funded education system. None of the shortfall in university funding should be made up by increasing student debt!
Both staff, represented by the trade unions, and students demand involvement in the running of the university. If those presently in control cannot guarantee jobs and services, what benefit are they to students and to staff?