Unions decry cuts made with no 'meaningful consultation'

UCA defends review process that resulted in more than 50 redundancies. Melanie Newman reports

April 30, 2009

More than 50 posts have been cut at the University of the Creative Arts, with many staff being moved on to part-time contracts.

About 50 people have taken voluntary redundancy, while 11 others - including four academics - remain at risk of being forced out. In addition, four members of professional support staff have fallen victim to compulsory redundancy.

Among those who have changed to fractional contracts is Ashley Howard, the head of ceramics and director of the MA in contemporary crafts, who has been moved from a full-time post to two days a week.

Also facing a cut is Colin Webster, the university's head of glass who delivers courses at all levels. He has been moved to a three-day-a-week contract.

A spokesman for the University and College Union said the UCA had originally sought to make 83 compulsory redundancies, "despite never making a plausible case to justify the job losses". He added that the university "only gave the unions a complete list of 'at risk' posts in March, during the latter stages of the formal consultation process.

"The UCU has ensured that staff who move on to a part-time contract will receive compensation where they lose more than 0.2 full-time equivalent of their contract, and staff who find themselves on a lower grade will see their pay protected for four years."

Unison and the UCU wrote to the university's governors on March saying they had "grave concerns" about the individual consultation process being followed.

The university was not meeting its statutory obligation to provide a rationale for the redundancy and to consult on it in a meaningful way in all instances, the letter said. The unions also asked the university to withhold £93,000 budgeted for managers' performance-related pay while jobs are still at risk.

A spokeswoman for the UCA said: "The university held collective consultation with the UCU and Unison, commencing 22 December and concluding on 6 March. This process was meaningful and enabled us to fully explore ways of minimising compulsory redundancies. Alongside the collective consultation process, individual consultation with those at risk has also taken place."

She added that the review of staffing levels was intended in part to eliminate duplication of posts resulting from the merger of its founder colleges.

"Maintaining the student experience has been a key concern, with staff-to-student ratios and teaching hours being protected throughout this process," she said.

Art and craft courses, with heavy teaching loads, are likely to suffer as universities tighten their belts during the recession. The Crafts Council warned recently of a "concentration of course losses" in glass and ceramics.

melanie.newman@tsleducation.com.

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