Union slates job cull plans

October 24, 2003

The Association of University Teachers Scotland has accused Aberdeen University of "rushing unnecessarily" to shed staff in a £1 million restructuring scheme, writes Olga Wojtas.

The university has just launched a recruitment drive for some 200 staff over the next three years but is seeking 100 voluntary redundancies by the end of January 2004.

A university spokesperson said the voluntary redundancy scheme, which is open to all 3,500 university staff, had been discussed with the campus trade unions, which had endorsed the financial aspects.

But David Bleiman, Scottish official of the AUT, said: "The consultation was inadequate and we are dismayed at the unnecessary rush to shed staff, in particular the target date of January 31 [2004] for staff to leave."

The deadline threatened to leave lecturers with the burden of taking over teaching from departing staff at very short notice, Mr Bleiman said.

Students might also be put in a difficult position.

"We made these points in consultation but are disappointed that the university has not taken our comments on board," he said.

But Lord Sewel, Aberdeen's senior vice-principal, said: "If somebody applies [for redundancy] and we find that they've got significant teaching commitments in the second-half session, they would suffer no penalty if it was in the management interest for them to stay on.

"In other cases, if they, for their own reasons, would wish to stay on, we would most likely have to make an adjustment in benefit."

Lord Sewel said that the university had tried to put in place the most generous package possible. He said: "The earlier people leave, the more generous we can be because we're not spending money on salaries."

A university spokesperson said: "Part of the £9 million is available to fund the restructuring. The investment aims to secure Aberdeen's position. We would not necessarily see a decrease in the number of academics; the main consideration is to improve the quality."

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