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Lecturers set for strike over cuts plans

The biggest outbreak of industrial action by college and university lecturers in London for over two years is threatened next month in a worsening row over funding cuts, union leaders warned today.

The University and College Union (UCU) said education in the capital could face "widespread disruption" on May 5, the day before the general election, because of planned protests over "massive" cuts which would lead to job losses.

Union members at 11 further education colleges have all backed strikes which will lead to action next month unless there is a breakthrough in the row.

Staff at the University of Westminster and University College London (UCL) voted earlier this week in favour of industrial action, following a walkout last month by staff at King's College in London.

The university staff are threatening to join the May 5 walkout in protest at cuts the union said were nearing £1 billion, on top of £340 million of savings further education has to make in the next academic year.

UCU general secretary Sally Hunt said: "All the tough talk about cuts has moved on and it is no longer figures on paper, but people's jobs and access to education that are disappearing.

"We believe in the power of education to make a real difference to people's lives and do not think we should be slashing funding at a time when more people than ever need access to education. UCU members are still on the side of education and they will be fighting to save jobs and defend education."

The UCU also warned that a second round of strikes could be held at the University of Sussex in Brighton on May 5 in a row over plans to cut jobs.

The union said it had "little option" but to move towards strike action as up to 107 staff were due to receive redundancy notices in the next few weeks.

Ms Hunt said: "Industrial action is always a last resort but the bottom line is that serious job losses will impact massively across the University of Sussex and result in a far worse experience for students.

"It is essential that management properly addresses the concerns of staff and students and that talks progress in good faith."