UNISON is to ballot for strike action at Edinburgh Napier University, after the employer moved to make at least 60 staff compulsorily redundant.
The union is also calling on Richard Lochhead, the minister for higher and further education, to intervene and enforce the Scottish government’s much vaunted fair work standards.
The announcement came as the university made the move before student recruitment income is clear and before less drastic alternatives have been exhausted.
Members at Napier should receive their ballots from the middle of next week, and the union is urging people to back their representatives and return their vote before 16 August.
The minister has previously given written and verbal assurances to education unions that the Holyrood’s fair work standards must be applied to institutions’ responses to the university funding crisis.
UNISON sees Napier’s approach as a clear breach of those Fair Work standards, and expects the minister to use his influence to secure a just outcome in line with the government policy.
Regional organiser Lorcan Mullen said: “If members support our call for industrial action, and if Napier continues down this destructive path, UNISON will be able to call strikes in freshers’ week and the first week of teaching.
“That is not something we take lightly, but we must keep all options open to protect the jobs and incomes of our members.
“We are hopeful the ballot will focus minds and lead Napier to adopt the unions’ very reasonable counter proposal, of pausing the process until student recruitment income is known, and opening a genuinely voluntary severance scheme in the meantime.
“Napier’s finances were strong going into the crisis – they are far from the worst hit university. They have the latitude to stand by their workforce and we are calling on them to use that latitude.”
Calling on the Scottish government to make sure fair work standards are applied, he added: “We welcome the minister’s previous remarks on the importance of this policy in responding to the crisis.
“From time to time, the policy must be re-emphasised so all employers in the sector play by the same rules. Employers making the effort to stand by their workforce should not feel they are being put at a disadvantage.
“We call on Mr Lochhead to use his influence to the utmost to defend the jobs of our members at Edinburgh Napier University.”