Five the hard way

Union accuses Cardiff of heavy-handed tactics over redundancies. Hannah Fearn reports

April 6, 2010

Academics have accused Cardiff University of adopting bullying tactics in its treatment of 16 members of staff facing redundancy.

The Welsh Centre of Pharmacy Professional Education (WCPPE) at Cardiff employs 17 people, including pharmacists and tutors. Everyone at the centre apart from its director, Catherine O’Brien, has been offered voluntary redundancy as part of a restructure.

On 10 February, the university began a 90-day consultation period. After that, five staff are expected to leave. The centre’s remaining employees will have to reapply for jobs.

According to the local University and College Union branch, management is behaving badly. The union claims that Cardiff has said that it will choose names if people do not opt to leave, and has indicated that the severance package for volunteers will be no more generous than that for those who may be forced out. The union also said that Cardiff did not release details of the jobs to which staff must reapply until just two working days before the application deadline.

In a letter to Cardiff UCU members, the branch executive says: “Although managers gave a commitment at the beginning of the consultation process to offer voluntary severance or early retirement as a means of avoiding compulsory redundancies, management have since indicated that people will be offered no more than what they would be legally entitled to if they are made redundant. This makes a mockery of the exercise and offers little incentive for people to leave voluntarily.”

The union accused the university of “turning its back” on the centre’s staff and described its behaviour as “shameful”.

The continued use of fixed-term contracts was also condemned by the union, which said they had “compounded” the situation.

“In WCPPE, virtually all staff are on fixed-term contracts that are renewed every two or three years. This includes staff who have worked there for 16 years…If WCPPE staff were on permanent contracts, they would have 12 months’ notice like the rest of us do, which would at least cushion the blow for those whose jobs are being eliminated,” the letter says.

A spokesman for Cardiff said the university had worked closely with the UCU to help manage the change to a smaller pharmacology centre with 10.3 full-time equivalent roles. He said: “No standard package for all centre staff has either been proposed or withdrawn. The university has worked hard to inform and support staff throughout the realignment process. It believes that this realignment is crucial to keeping the centre in the forefront of its field and to the continuing development of the pharmacy profession in Wales.”

The reduction in staffing at the centre was prompted by “changes in the needs of pharmacists and their staff”, the university said.

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