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JOB LOSSES: College staff in strike ballot over £3.5m in cuts

Wednesday 12th June 2019


HUNDREDS of university staff face redundancy or a cut in pay in a £3.5m efficiency drive by management, unions claim.

The University and College Union (UCU) says 205 staff may have their specialist teaching posts scrapped or downgraded.

Now members at the University for the Creative Arts are being asked if they want to take strike action.

The university challenged the union's claims and blamed Brexit, “unprecedented uncertainty” in higher education, staff costs and pension contributions among the reasons for the cuts.

The UCA, with teaching facilities in Canterbury, Epsom, Farnham, Hampton Court, Maidstone and Rochester, claims management is planning to make £3.5 million in savings.

A statement from the UCU today said that after eight meetings between union reps and bosses said members will be asked if they want a strike ballot.

There is also a call for a vote of no confidence in the Vice Chancellor, Bashir Makoul.

UCU spokesman Michael Moran said: “With money set aside for buildings, including new student accommodation for International students and £15m identified for the Business School, the Leadership Team have alternatives to these cuts.

“UCA has acted to damage the academic body of the university, make our members redundant, significantly reduce their contract size and/or grade; to destabilise student experience and threaten staff health; we are now following through on our threat to raise a Vote of No Confidence in the Leadership Team.”
More than 2,500 people have signed a student union petition which calls on the University to rethink
its proposal.

The UCU claims management refused to give an exact number of jobs that will be cut  but claims a spreadsheet shows 108 posts which will be ‘disestablished’ and 134 which will undergo ‘major change’.

This includes full-time roles being reduced to three- or two-day-a-week positions, part-time staff whose hours will be reduced and staff who will see their pay grade cut, claims the UCU.

“Of these 242 posts, 37 are currently vacant – thus 205 staff are at risk. UCA says it plans to create 50 new posts. The university staged a ‘mutually agreed redundancy scheme’. As a result of this, 36 staff have had redundancy applications accepted. The remaining cuts will come through
compulsory redundancies,” the statement said.

But the university countered: "“The assertion that 205 staff are ‘at risk’ is incorrect. As it stands, 99 staff are at risk of redundancy, but there are 139 vacant posts that these staff can apply for.”

A statement from UCA said: “The UK higher education sector is facing unprecedented uncertainty, with the outcomes of Brexit and the Augur review likely to impact significantly on how we operate in the future. Added to this, we are facing challenging home recruitment conditions, increased staffing and other operating costs and increased pension costs.

 “As a consequence, UCA has taken steps to protect its financial resilience and long-term sustainability, and its ability to continue investing in the student experience. This has involved us identifying areas where we can make efficiency savings and reviewing our staffing structure.

 “We have put in place a number of mechanisms to minimize redundancies, including a voluntary exit scheme with enhanced payment and a redeployment programme. It is likely that the number of redundancies will be minimal, as we currently have more vacancies than we do staff at risk of redundancy.

 “We have consulted with the trade unions in good faith, but our union colleagues were unable to put forward any alternative proposals to make the required savings. We are therefore extremely disappointed that industrial action is now being considered.”