Lecturers Say They're Ready to Strike If Cuts Go Ahead; Education Wales WWW.Walesonline.Co.Uk/education: 'UNIVERSITIES AND COLLEGES TOO OFTEN FIRST FOR THE AXE'

Article excerpt

Byline: Gareth Evans

UNIVERSITY and college lecturers could be forced to strike if swingeing budget cuts are enforced, a leading union has warned.

At its annual conference in Manchester, the University and College Union (UCU) said there could soon come a point when its members would push for action at national level.

Several Welsh institutions have already announced redundancies, triggered by the Treasury's proposed pounds 187m cut to the devolved budget.

The union, which represents staff in both further and higher education, told delegates there had been more than 15 separate strikes across the UK since March.

Guy Stoate, president of UCU Cymru and a lecturer at Coleg Morgannwg, said: "The expected cuts to the Welsh block grant will place enormous pressure on the Assembly Government.

"When it comes to education this pressure must be resisted. Investing in our colleges and our universities is the way out of recession and the only way to move Wales up the prosperity league table."

Mr Stoate said cuts could risk a double-dip recession and limit the opportunities for education and training that young people and older students need.

"As a union we are unashamedly flying the flag for education," he said.

"It is of strategic importance to Wales' future.

"If cuts do take place then we are prepared to take action, including strike action, to defend quality education in our colleges and universities and to defend the opportunities our students deserve."

In her speech to congress on Monday, UCU general secretary Sally Hunt criticised the new coalition Government for cutting higher education budgets by pounds 1.5bn, while offering pounds 8bn in tax giveaways to big business.

Ms Hunt accused ministers of pursuing a policy of "ignorance over education" by implementing new funding restraints. "We will not accept the attack on education being implemented by the current Government," she said. …