Leicester staff to strike over job cuts plan

Union members’ walkout over budget cuts will coincide with the arrival of new students

September 7, 2018
University of Leicester new

Staff at the University of Leicester are set to strike at the beginning of the new academic year over plans to cut jobs.

Members of Leicester’s University and College Union have said that they will stage a four-day walkout in the last week of September, starting on 24 September, followed by a further two weeks of strikes in early October, after almost two-thirds (63 per cent) of members who voted in a recent ballot backed industrial action.

Some 55 per cent of eligible union members voted in the ballot that took place across the summer months, in which some 78 per cent of voters also backed industrial action short of a strike, the union branch said.

The action has been sparked by plans, which may include compulsory redundancies, announced by Paul Boyle, the university’s vice-chancellor in June. That month, union members voted unanimously to condemn one potential “case for change” plan that aimed at “reducing the proportion of income spent on staffing costs by 5 per cent”.

In a statement, the university’s local UCU branch said that the attempt to “impose a programme of compulsory redundancies” had been undertaken “without any conversation with employees whether the direction they wish to take is the right one for the institution”.

“Leicester UCU believes this is a knee-jerk reaction, which threatens not only the livelihoods of many staff but also the future of the University of Leicester,” the statement said.

It added that the union “firmly believes that a university that recognises its staff are its biggest asset makes a university that will offer a richer experience to students as well as producing better research”.

Commenting on the UCU decision, a university spokesman said that it was “working closely and constructively with UCU to mitigate the risk of compulsory redundancies, with all alternatives being actively explored”, adding that “talks remain ongoing”.

Ken Weir, a lecturer in accountancy in the university’s School of Business, said that he was unconvinced by the case for cuts.

“Looking at the figures, I can’t see any pressing need to cut costs. The staff costs-to-income ratio the leadership team cite as being too high has actually fallen in recent years,” Dr Weir said.

He added that the university had “‘cut the cloth’ two years ago, citing the same need to reduce staff costs”, resulting in a “fairly high-profile cost-cutting exercise to ‘trim’ 150 posts”.

Sarah Seaton, co-chair of Leicester UCU, said that the plans for job cuts “did not make sense”.

“A university is made by people – by lecturers and researchers, by librarians and IT specialists, cleaners and cooks, timetablers and technicians. Why get rid of your most important resource?” she said.

“We don’t want to strike – we are still paying for the last one – and we are keen to work towards a resolution, but we will strike, if necessary.”

jack.grove@timeshighereducation.com

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