Soniya Nahata, BA Politics and International Relations
During an informal meeting with the representatives of the Students’ Union, a member of the academic board agreed that there is potential for the resurgence of strikes at SOAS this year. The prospect of more strikes this year has already caused panic amongst some students, as the impact of last year’s pension strikes still resounds in SOAS. What are the causes of this year’s threatened strikes, and what is the likelihood that it will lead to new levels of disruption?
SOAS has recently undertaken a restructuring program for their One Professional Services which began in 2017, in an attempt to “improve services and systems and allow for annual efficiency savings of 1 million pounds by 2019-20”.
The changes in the structure of the One Professional Services makes staff more vulnerable to compulsory redundancies,
which can be triggered by members of staff being shown to be unneeded under certain criteria set by the university. As a result of this vulnerability, SOAS UNISON members requested “that SOAS make a binding commitment that there will be no compulsory redundancies as a result of the One Professional Service Restructuring Program”. However, SOAS management has so far only stated that they have “no plans for compulsory redundancies” which clearly fell short of the binding agreement that was requested.
The lack of a binding agreement has created panic amongst UNISON members, which resulted in a consultative ballot which asked the members that “in the event that there are compulsory redundancies as a result of the One Professional Services restructuring program, would you be prepared to take industrial action in the form of strike action?” If the consultative ballot showed that there was widespread support for industrial action, then UNISON would form a formal ballot on the matter. However, the consultative ballot did not depict this level of support, meaning that the issue has been put aside for the time being.