The Mancunion

Britain's biggest student newspaper

Heated dispute regarding IT redundancies continues

Due to a projected annual income loss of £14 million, the University of Manchester have forced through changes to their redeployment policy which has resulted in 219 staff members jobs being put at risk.

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Poor 2014 Research Excellence Framework (REF) results have meant that Manchester university is facing a loss in projected annual income of £14 million, higher than any other English university.

Due to this, Dame Nancy Rothwell and her leadership team seem to be forcing through changes to the university’s redeployment policy to make it easier to make staff compulsorily redundant.

At the end of April, 37 staff members, who had been on the redeployment register for more than three months, were given a choice of voluntary severance payment or compulsory redundancy.

Then on July 29th, while many staff were on holiday, they were given 22 minutes’ notice that a further 68 IT posts were to be lost.

IT staff had been assured that restructuring would not involve job losses; however, such reassurances given in a Q&A on the IT services website were removed in late June.

The campus trade unions UCU, Unison and Unite believed making such changes retrospectively to be grossly unfair.

A joint statement from the university’s UCU, Unite, and Unison branches states: “We cannot understand why Dame Nancy Rothwell and the Senior Leadership Team are insisting on going down this route without even attempting other, less divisive means to reduce staff costs.

“Threatening staff with compulsory redundancy in order to coerce them into accepting voluntary severance is unnecessary [and] unjustified. In the long-run this aggressive policy will be detrimental to staff morale and the goodwill the university relies upon.

“We understand the need to pay attention to the ‘bottom line’, but universities are not corporations.

“Yet the Senior Leadership Team seems to have been won over by corporate values and performance management-speak; they have gone over to the dark side, and Senate and its representatives on the Board of Governors are supine. It seems the only defenders of traditional values of collegiality and public service are the trade unions. That is not what we want, but if so, so be it.”

The trade unions will soon be challenging the university’s plans for outsourcing major parts of their IT services, a policy that has led to 219 staff being told they are at risk of compulsory redundancy if 68 staff members do not take voluntary severance. This is on the grounds that no detailed business case can be made to justify such a venture.

A University of Manchester spokesman said: “The UK Higher Education sector is facing a number of challenges including further substantial cuts in government funding, increasing costs and the need to invest in students and research to compete on a global stage. In this context, the university has recently initiated some changes to its redeployment register and is undertaking a restructure of its IT Services operation.

“In July, following consultation with the campus trades unions, the university announced that it would no longer allow staff who had no specific job roles to remain on its redeployment register indefinitely. The university’s judgement was that in the current economic climate, it was simply not financially justified to continue paying staff if no role could be found for them in the University within a reasonable time frame.

“The 37 staff affected have been offered support in finding alternative roles, and a generous voluntary severance package. The university has been open with the trade unions and with staff that compulsory redundancy is a potential outcome for those who do not obtain alternative roles or choose not to take the severance package offered.

“A separate review has recently concluded that the current structure and delivery model of IT Services will not meet the future requirements of the organisation. The university has therefore decided to move to a new, flexible model of IT support to meet the needs of staff and students. This new model will involve reshaping the core IT team alongside investment in new facilities.

“The move to this new model will involve the loss of 61 existing IT staff roles and the creation of 21 new roles. It is hoped that the reduction in roles can be achieved through retrainment, redeployment and a generous voluntary severance scheme. The university has consulted with the trade unions about the details of the voluntary severance scheme.

“The university will move to a compulsory redundancy programme only if the target numbers are not reached through these routes and this would then be the subject of a separate consultation with the trade unions.

“The university fully recognises and values the role of the trade unions and is keen to work in partnership with them in managing these difficult changes.

“All changes involving staff that are undertaken by the university are given very careful and serious consideration. The university is committed to ensuring that these processes are conducted fairly and transparently and will always seek to explore opportunities for the avoidance of redundancy.”