The Mancunion

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Union announces formal Trade Dispute and possible strike action

The Manchester branch of the University and College Union has announced it will ballot its members for industrial action over the outsourcing of IT jobs

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The University and College Union (UCU) has announced a formal Trade Dispute with the University of Manchester and will ballot for strike and other industrial action, after negotiations regarding the outsourcing of IT services broke down again.

The UMUCU Executive Committee sent a message to all its members on Wednesday the 21st of October, announcing that a six-hour meeting on Monday for Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service (ACAS) talks did not end in agreement.

In the AGM held the same day, it was unanimously agreed upon that a strike should be balloted for. According to President of UMUCU Dr. Adam Ozanne, this would be the first time in the history of the university that industrial action has been called locally as opposed to in a national campaign.

“In the continued absence of any concrete proposals from the Senior Leadership [Team] (SLT), UCU has no option but to exercise our members’ mandate, declare a formal Trade Dispute and ballot members on industrial action, authority for which was granted to the branch last week by UCU’s national officials,” read the Committee’s message.

“Despite this declaration, we wish to emphasise that the branch is committed to seeking a negotiated agreement and avoiding industrial action. However, achieving this will require significant concessions on key negotiation points from the SLT, which it has failed to do for nearly six months now.”

The campus unions asked the leadership of the university that there would be no compulsory redundancies of the 37 redeployees and 219 IT staff notified of their situations in April and July respectively;, that the maximum time an employee can remain on the redeployment register—currently being reduced from an unlimited time down to six months—can be negotiated; and that agreed policies and procedures were agreed to. The university, however, dispute that they have violated these procedures.

“This morning, we were told the SLT is now willing to ‘move’ from its current position of 6 months, but no concrete alternative proposal was offered. In addition, there is still no firm commitment to removing the threat of compulsory redundancies facing at risk staff,” said the Committee in its message.

“The misguided plans for outsourcing large parts of IT Services, the restructuring of FLS, MHS and EPS and the announcement last week of a review of Archaeology that focuses primarily on its “business case”… should worry every member of the University.”

Following a review of the Faculty of Life Sciences, it will be broken up and its constituent parts being integrated into the Faculty of Medical and Human Sciences or the Faculty of Engineering and Physical Sciences.

A University of Manchester spokesman said: “The university continues to meet with the trade unions on a range of matters and has offered further discussions to try to resolve any issues.”

Campaigns and Citizenship Officer Hannah McCarthy said: “The decision which came out of the UCU AGM to unanimously ballot for Industrial action shows an incredible appetite from staff to resist the increasing attacks on their employment terms and conditions by university management.

“The fact that staff are forced to contemplate industrial action in order to remove pernicious compulsory redundancies from the academic sphere and to fight 67 redundancies in IT services is shocking, and merely typifies the fact that the university and higher education more generally is becoming marketised; concerned more and more with the accumulation of profit as opposed to the welfare of staff and students and the promotion of education as a public good.”