Redundancies raise their heads

UNISON prepares to defend members as staff are asked to pay the price for funding crises at two universities

UNISON branches in England and Wales are gearing up to defend members after the University of Gloucester and Cardiff University both announced plans for redundancies to deal with funding shortages.

Gloucester warned unions at the weekend that it plans to cut 100 posts as it seeks to make savings of around £5m as part of its ‘Securing a Sustainable Future’ plan.

The university has recently opened a new £16m business school, and a new sports centre is close to being completed.

The local branch said it has been “aware for some time” that the university is trying to make savings, and had been in talks over what those saving would entail – but was only notified at the weekend at “a large portion of the savings will come from redundancies”.

The latest proposals would see a significant proportion of professional services staff losing their jobs and UNISON is concerned that this will have direct impact on the student experience.

The union says the plans are “incredibly disappointing for our hard working members who deliver an exceptional service for the university and its students.”

The branch will continue talks in the new year “to find alternatives to the university’s current proposals”, as well as representing members who find themselves at risk of redundancy.

In Cardiff, all 7,000 staff have received letters telling them the university is offering a voluntary severance package – but the university is not ruling out compulsory redundancies.

This is the third time voluntary severance has been offered in six years.

The university faces an £11m funding cut, on top of an operating deficit reported to be more than £21m. But the joint unions on campus recalled that “only last year we were told that the university’s budget, deficit was predicted and manageable, but now we find our jobs are on the line yet again.”

UNISON branch secretary Katie Hall said the “looming threat of compulsory redundancies is a major worry”, and added that all three unions at the university would “unite in defence of our jobs should the need arise”.

Nationally, UNISON head of education Jon Richards told both universities: “We believe that there are other ways that these problems can be solved and we are urging the universities to enter into meaningful dialogue with UNISON representatives.

“No-one should have to lose their job when they want carry on working at the university providing support for students and colleagues.”