What exactly is going on?
The University is seeking to dramatically erode job security and make it much easier to get rid of staff wherever and whenever they want.
In a dramatic departure from previous practice, right now the University is in the process of making a growing number of staff redundant – over 250 had been told they are ‘at risk’ at the time this document was drafted, but possibly more by the time you read it. At the same time, the University is attempting unilaterally to push through a change in the Redeployment Policy so that in future people will no longer be able to remain on the Redeployment Register until an alternative position can be found for them. Instead anyone who has been on the Register for 3 months will face compulsory redundancy. In effect the University is flagrantly departing from the existing Redeployment Policy in order to make redundancies while simultaneously trying to change the Policy to make this easier in future.
What has happened so far?
In April the University announced that 37 staff on the Redeployment Register were ‘at risk’ of compulsory redundancy. They have since been issued with compulsory redundancy notices, and told to choose between taking a voluntary severance option by mid-September or face compulsory redundancy on much poorer terms.
Their decision is made more difficult by the University’s refusal to openly admit that these people will almost certainly be made redundant if they don’t take the severance, claiming instead that the final decisions in each case will only be made in individual meetings with HR and senior managers that will take place after the voluntary severance option has expired. So their message is: jump now, or it is very likely that you will be pushed in the near future, although technically that decision has yet to be made.
On July 30th, a further 219 staff in IT Services were informed that their jobs were at risk, and similarly given the choice between a time-limited voluntary severance option or the risk of compulsory redundancy. The University has stated that it intends to shed at least 68 of these 219 staff, or one in three, and that if this target is not met by the time the voluntary severance option expires then there will be compulsory redundancies. Again this means that none of those affected know whether or not they will be among those made redundant if they don’t take the severance, and consequently they must make their decision entirely in the dark.
I am not on the redeployment register or in IT Services, so how does this affect me?
This affects everyone. The willingness to use compulsory redundancies and the proposed changes to Redeployment represent a dramatic change in the University’s approach.
In the past Manchester has always ruled out compulsory redundancies as a tool to reduce costs or achieve organisational change, even when the University has been going through significant financial challenges or large-scale restructurings such as the merger with UMIST. It was always understood that compulsory redundancies are not appropriate for a University because they create an atmosphere of fear and anxiety that is corrosive to the whole culture of a higher education institution, undermining collegiality, goodwill, academic freedom, job security, and the objective of being seen as a highly attractive ‘world class’ employer.
The recent abandonment of this approach potentially affects all staff, whether immediately or in the future. The changes to Redeployment that are being pushed through will effectively remove job security for everybody, and mean that in future restructurings – several of which are planned after those currently taking place in IT Services and the Life Sciences – anyone will be liable to be made compulsorily redundant at short notice.
I am an academic, so how does this affect me?
We are very concerned that the University’s move towards compulsory redundancies represents a threat both to the job security of academic staff and to our core principles of academic freedom and collegiality. Whereas in the past when Schools have been closed or restructured, academic staff have been accommodated in new structures and allowed to pursue their research interests, we fear that in future such situations will lead to compulsory redundancies. Management may target staff whose research is not within arbitrary ‘priority’ areas, or which is currently unfashionable. These changes make a move in that direction both more feasible and more likely.
I am on a fixed term contract, so how does this affect me?
Unlike staff employed on a permanent or ‘core-funding’ basis, staff on fixed term contracts or contracts based on fixed-term funding have always been at risk of redundancy when their contracts or funding expire. In that sense these changes may not immediately affect you. However, many staff on fixed term contracts aspire to progress to ‘more secure’ permanent positions with the University, and these changes will undermine that security. So although you may not be affected immediately, if you aspire to a long-term career at the University then it is likely that you will be detrimentally affected in the future.
Does the University have the right to do this?
The University claims that their dramatic change of approach does not constitute an official change in policy, because technically the Statutes and Ordinances always gave them the power to make staff compulsorily redundant at 3 months notice, even if this was never put into practice, and even if recent Presidents and Vice-Chancellors such as Alan Gilbert are on record as having stated that compulsory redundancies were not appropriate and were beyond consideration.
On this narrowly technical basis the University has claimed that it therefore does not need to negotiate with the campus Trade Unions on any of this, but is only obliged to engage in ‘meaningful consultation’. So far however the ‘consultation’ has not been meaningful, as there has been no willingness on the part of the University to seriously consider any change in their actions or substantial modification of their plans. The University has even announced that the consultation process is now concluded, when we do not consider meaningful consultation to have taken place.
Has the University conducted an Equality Impact Assessment?
Yes. The data on those staff who are affected, or ‘in scope’, raises some concerns about the impact on disabled staff and certain groups of BME staff – specifically Black African and Chinese staff, both of whom are overrepresented among those in scope. This is something that we will be carefully monitoring as the situation progresses.
I would like to take voluntary severance as it suits my circumstances: is the Union against this?
Not at all. For those who wish to take the voluntary severance option that is fine. But there are many who don’t want to take voluntary severance, or who aren’t in a financial position to be able to do so, and we believe that it is grossly unreasonable to offer ‘voluntary’ severance to people while at the same time holding the threat of compulsory redundancy over them if they don’t take it. So the Union does not oppose voluntary severance, but it does oppose compulsory redundancies and the proposed changes to the Redeployment Policy that will undermine job security for everyone.
What is the Union doing on my behalf?
We have consistently opposed the changes to Redeployment and will continue to do so, and we have consistently argued against the use of compulsory redundancies. We are offering support to those facing redundancy, and we continue to make the case for the University to pull back from its recent change in direction before irreparable damage is done. However, so far the University has not shown any willingness to compromise, and it increasingly seems to regard consultation with the campus Trade Unions as merely a formality.
For this reason, UMUCU, Unison and Unite are working together to mobilise for industrial action, and a ballot on industrial action will be sent to members in September, shortly after the start of semester. It is vital that we receive a powerful mandate for both strike action and action short of a strike, if we are to be able to exert the kind of pressure on the University that might compel them to engage with us more meaningfully. They have recently refused even to recognise this as an official dispute that should trigger recourse to the arbitration service ACAS, so it is clear that considerable pressure will be needed.
I am not a Union member, what should I do?
You should join the relevant Union now, using one of the links at the end of this document. This will ensure that you have union representation if your job is threatened and will also enable you to support your colleagues, bearing in mind that only Union members can legitimately take part in industrial action. The Union also represents staff negotiations over pay, terms and conditions, as well as supporting members with a huge range of individual problems. UCU represents academics and researchers at all levels as well as academic-related staff at PSS Grades 6 and above. Support staff at Grades 5 and below should join Unison or Unite.
What can I do to help?
The effectiveness of Unions is determined by their members. We are a small team of people relying mostly on volunteered time, so please download and print off the posters and leaflets available on our website and put them up in your area.
Also please speak to colleagues about this, build solidarity, and encourage them to join the union if they are not already members. The better informed people are and the more support we have, the greater our collective strength, and the better our ability to defend our members.
If you have any ideas or queries, email us at:
- email@example.com for UMUCU
- Unison.Office@manchester.ac.uk for Unison
- Branch Secretary C.Goodwin@manchester.ac.uk for Unite
How can I stay informed?
If you are not a UCU, Unison or Unite member, go to one of the links below and sign up (as appropriate) to receive regular emails.
You can also keep up to date by checking our websites, liking and opting for updates from Facebook, or following us on Twitter: