Strike ballot at Surrey over planned job cuts

Staff at the University of Surrey may strike later this term over plans to axe up to 100 jobs.

April 17, 2015

Members of the University and College Union at the university have been asked if they will support industrial action over the job loss plans, which were announced last month.

A ballot, which opened on 17 April, will run until 30 April.

The union says it has been forced to hold the ballot as Surrey has refused to rule out compulsory redundancies regarding the 75 academic posts and 25 other roles which are at risk.

“Any type of industrial action is always a last resort, especially for hard-working academics who care deeply about their students,” said Michael Moran, UCU regional official.

“Unfortunately, the university refuses to rule out making compulsory redundancies or working with us to manage this difficult situation.”

The university was criticised last month after it announced plans to cut the number of academics in its politics department from 14 to six, despite excellent teaching results which saw it ranked fourth in the 2014 National Student Survey with an overall satisfaction rating of 97 per cent. However, the department finished 50th out of 56 universities on grade point average score in the recent Research Excellence Framework

The proposed job losses follow a recent operational review undertaken by Surrey in order “to ensure we remain a leading UK university and secure a financially sustainable future,” said Paul Stephenson, vice-president of human resources at the University of Surrey.

“We are in the process of consulting widely with staff and the trade unions about the proposed changes,” he said.

Surrey was “actively seeking ways to avoid any compulsory redundancies, including the introduction of the Enhanced Voluntary Severance arrangements, but no guarantees can be given at this stage,” Mr Stephenson added.

The potential job losses comes despite Surrey’s strong undergraduate recruitment in recent years and surpluses in each of the past five years, including a £4.1 million surplus in 2013-14, according to the latest available accounts.

However, those accounts also state that the university returned a £0.7 million deficit on its core activities that year.

These losses have arisen as the university “has invested heavily in the past two years in the quality of its students, in academic staffing and in its new vet school,” the accounts say.

In Surrey’s statement on the on-going ballot, the university said it iwas “disappointed” by the UCU decision to ballot members, as its own consultation on the proposed changes will not close until 8 May, with final proposals set out later that month.

“As always, the university remains committed to ensuring that students continue to receive an outstanding experience at Surrey, and we would urge the UCU to be mindful of any action that could impact on service to students,” the university said.

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