What’s happening to staff at your University?
- Over 100 job losses
- Privatisation of IT services
- More staff cuts expected!
- Post-graduates and early-career academics ought to be more worried than they might think…
What’s going on? The University of Manchester is in the process of making a growing number of staff redundant across the University – so far over 250 people have been told that they are ‘at risk’ of compulsory redundancy. At the same time, the University is attempting unilaterally to push through a change in the Redeployment Policy. This change will mean anyone on the redeployment register after 3 months will face compulsory redundancy.
What does this mean? I.T. is the first department to have been targeted with upheaval. With 67 redundancy notices called, putting 219 staff at risk. This will mean cuts to vital IT services. The outcome will be that these services will now be outsourced to a private company, who can pay their staff lower wages: a move which contradicts the growing evidence that privatisation actually results in increased cost.
Why should I be worried? Such moves also represent a risk to academic workers, with an increased threat of out-sourcing. Where in the past, academic staff have usually been accommodated into new structures, in future similar schemes aimed at compulsory redundancy could be applied to academic departments: a prospect made more likely by the current political climate. The TEF (Teaching in Excellence Framework) proposed by Minister for Universities and Science, Jo Johnson, and its accompanying metrics of graduate earnings, makes the threat to certain departments seem all the more imminent. Just like in some cases following the assessment of the REF (Research in Excellence framework) management may target staff whose research is not within arbitrary ‘priority’ areas, or which is currently unfashionable, or, in the case of the TEF, whose students simply do not go on to high-earning careers. These changes make a move in that direction both more feasible and more likely.
Another potential threat is the increased and very likely use of out-sourcing in the case of re-structures like this one. In the current case, the disproportionate targeting of mid-career, middle-aged staff, suggests an increasing separation between senior posts and agency-covered work. It is this sort of work-force pattern that has seen schemes introduced like Warwick’s Teach Higher, an out-sourcing programme for teaching.
Although not necessarily apparent at first, such changes do represent a considerable threat to early-career researchers and post-graduate teachers. Unlike staff employed on a permanent or ‘core-funding’ basis, those on fixed term contracts are already in a precarious position. In that sense these changes may not immediately threaten them. However, this is also precisely the group aspiring to attain those mid-career posts that are currently being erased. These sorts of changes are aimed at undermining long-term job-security and in effect threaten all those ‘more secure’ permanent positions with the University that already casualised workers are demanding.
What can I do? This is only the beginning. Future reorganization of faculties is set to put lots more staff at risk this year. The staff who will be affected by this issue really need your support. At the moment the University is making it as difficult as possible to negotiate by denying there is any dispute, leaving open the possibility of strike action. This is a very difficult action for staff to take and our support can make all the difference.
Join the action! Join your Union! You can help to raise awareness of the issue, by spreading the word in person and on social media. If you are or you become a member you can also help by partaking in action short of strike and joining your colleagues on the picket line. You must be a member of the union to take part in industrial action, this is a legal requirement. So join your union now!
UCU (University and College Union) has an on campus branch that represents all academic and related staff, including lecturers, researchers, professors, administrative staff, computer and library staff, teaching assistants and postgraduate students. Throughout the year they campaign for improved quality of education and research, salaries, working conditions and pensions, as well as support individuals in any employment dispute. Joining the Union is the best way that you can show your support and solidarity with your colleagues, as well as protect yourself from these changes.
Free Education Manchester will also be organising student solidarity actions, so like their facebook page to find out how you can help: https://www.facebook.com/freeeducationmcr
You can also find out more information by following the on campus Trade Union: Unite, Unison, UMUCU and their blog: http://manchester.web.ucu.org.uk/
To find out more about the fight against casualisation in general, visit:
Support the staff on your campus!