Pushed to severance

May 29, 1998

AT A meeting with the joint trade unions (GMB, MSF, Natfhe, Unison) last week, the University of East London's senior management said its voluntary redundancy initiative met with a good response (THES, May 1). Of 35 academic and 43 administrative and technical staff posts to be shed, all but six academics and four support staff had elected to go. So with only ten compulsory redundancy notices to go out, UEL's image of a caring employer with a good industrial relations record is untarnished.

Most of those opting for voluntary severance, however, decided to jump before they were pushed. To refer to it as "voluntary" when you are told that your subject area is closing, as happened in professional studies in nursing and mathematics, statistics and computing, is word play. All staff in "targeted areas" were given until April 30 to reply to the voluntary offer, but details of the severance package were only mailed on April 6. PSN staff were told that another local university would recruit students given places in September, while MSC staff were offered part-time fractional or hourly-paid contracts to ensure that the 60 first- and second-year students completed courses here.

The axing of PSN when there is growing demand for nursing education, the loss of MSC, which has the highest research assessment exercise grade in the faculty and two nominated funding council reviewers, and the bizarre redundancy of the access coordinator in a university proud of opening opportunities to those from non-traditional backgrounds, will do nothing to stop UEL's shortfall in students. Is it any wonder that our Natfhe branch has no confidence in the vice-chancellor's handling of the situation.

Alun Morinan. Secretary. Natfhe (Stratford Branch)

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