The Open University Harborne
The Open University Harborne, Open University, Harborne, 66, High Street, The Open University’s; Part time higher education, supported distance and open learning for undergraduate and postgraduate qualifications University.
Staff from the Open University in Birmingham are to take to the picket lines next week over plans to close the centre and axe hundreds of jobs.
Members of the University and College Union (UCU) at the Open University facility in Harborne’s High Street will walk out on Wednesday, November 25 over controversial plans to axe seven regional centres – putting 502 jobs at risk.
The strikes will be the first time staff have taken action over a local dispute in the university’s history.
It comes after 72 per cent of members of the union who voted in its recent ballot backed strike action. And 83 per cent supported action short of a strike, which could include steps like working to contract.
The seven centres earmarked for closure are in Birmingham, Bristol, Cambridge, Gateshead, Leeds, London and Oxford.
The Open University’s council is due to meet on November 24, when members will vote on the controversial plans.
The union said if the vote is to go ahead with the cuts, it has no choice but to take strike action “as an absolute last resort”.
The closure plans have been widely criticised by staff, students and MPs alike. Last month, members of the university’s senate rejected the plans describing them as “very high risk” and saying that they “failed to support the academic mission of the university”.
UCU Open University Branch President Pauline Collins said: “Nobody wants to take strike action, but we feel this is our only alternative.
“The closures have been criticised by staff, students, former students and politicians.
“Our senate, which is the academic body of the university, rejected the plans as high risk and failing to support the mission of the university.
“The ball is now firmly in the university’s court and we hope they will see sense and reject these plans.”
UCU said to lose such a huge amount of expertise would be a “devastating blow” and has questioned why so many centres are being hit at the same time.
Staff in the local offices evaluate and support students with disabilities, provide course materials, assign tutorial groups, run examination arrangements, advise on study options and manage the hugely popular degree ceremonies.
UCU members at the Open University have previously taken strike action in national campaigns over pay and pensions. However, they have never had to walk out in a local dispute.
A petition against the closures has already received over 6,200 signatures and Bassetlaw MP John Mann has tabled an early day motion in the House of Commons that opposes the closure of the regional centres.
A spokeswoman for the Open University said: “We understand that this will be a difficult time for everyone involved, including those most directly affected, and want to work constructively with unions to look after staff in the best possible way.
“We do not believe industrial action will be beneficial for our staff or students.
“The proposals to replace seven smaller support centres in England with three larger centres would allow us to invest more in student support. Our services to students would be enhanced by these proposals, and no existing services to students will be withdrawn.”
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