Friday, May 29, 2009

Unions unite against cuts

By Robert Laurie

Several hundred demonstrators took part in a march in bright sunshine last Saturday across north London in defence of jobs in higher education and the Civil Service. Organised by PCS and the University and Colleges Union with the support of it marched along Holloway Road where it passed London Metropolitan University, the first main focus of the march. The University is facing drastic cuts amounting to about a quarter of the workforce forced upon it when it was discovered the University had grossly underestimated the number of students on its book. It not only has to pay back Government grants given on the base of these inflated student numbers but faces greatly reduced grants in future years. For once it is not entirely fair to blame the senior managers for these problems. Because LMU has a good record in providing access to university courses for working class students it has a very high and unpredictable drop out rate. This is due to these unfunded students facing financial troubles often having to temporarily or permanently abandon their courses.
The march ended with a rally in the park near Archway Tower thus linking up with the struggle of workers at the Tower who are fighting against relocation and job cuts. The Tower houses the Office of the Public Guardian (the government body responsible for administering the financial affairs of mentally handicapped people). Present government plans include either relocating the 500 staff out of London. Additionally the plans include establishing a call centre system which will cut all personal visits to vulnerable people and their carers.
Speakers included local MP Jeremy Corbyn who denounced Higher Education Minister David Lammy for speedily backtracked on a pledge given in the Commons to launch a public inquiry into events at LMU and stated that the struggle for jobs a LMU was only part of a wider struggle for access to higher education. Other speakers contrasted the billions being handed out to bankers with the comparatively small sums required to solve all the problems of funding higher education.

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