UCU threaten industrial action
By Eve Foster
Last Thursday the University of Manchester’s UCU announced potential industrial action during a protest against changes made to the university’s redeployment policy.
The protest, which also involved Unison and Unite, and took place between the Samuel Alexander and Alan Gilbert buildings in the centre of campus, follows a meeting on Monday September the 21st between UCU and the university during which terms could not be agreed.
The meeting concerned the university’s redeployment policy, which has recently been altered. In April, 37 staff on the register were given a choice of voluntary severance payment or compulsory redundancy, and 219 more IT staff have been informed that they are ‘at risk’.
The protest’s key speaker was UMUCU President Adam Ozanne, who announced the potential industrial action. He said: “The university is in breach of its existing redeployment policy, and has failed to provide unions or the staff with any assurance that it will avoid redundancies, and by failing to negotiate these changes before implementing them it is in breach of UCU’s procedural agreement with the university.
“We will give the university until the 7th of October to settle this agreement. We need to give the university this deadline because quite frankly what has been happening over the summer is one delaying tactic after another.
“What I find shocking the way in which you hear management saying one thing one day and quite the opposite the next day, so we have given a deadline now and that’s a deadline within which we genuinely hope to reach some agreement.
“If we do not reach an agreement by October the 7th and we are not satisfied by any counter-proposals that the university brings forward, then the next step I’m afraid will be to move towards the balloting all of our members for industrial action.”
Ozanne and the UCU are requesting that the university further negotiate the revised redeployment policy, agree that there will be no compulsory redundancies due to the ‘at risk’ notices redeployees have received, and that there will be no future breach of agreed policies and procedures.
Among other speakers were part-time student Adam Neal and Ph.D. student Jess Patterson, also of Free Education Manchester, who called on students to show their support and see the issue in a wider context.
She said: “This university’s annual financial situation is good. The last figures show that they are operating at a surplus of £45 million, and that’s a profit that we’re not seeing, it’s not benefitting staff or students.
“I’d also like to draw your attention to the fact that this issue is a national issue, alongside maintenance grant cuts and changes to the repayment terms of student loans.
“I want to emphasise that students are here to support the unions and anyone who decides to take action, but also to implore you to see this in a wider context, which is the university’s decision to turn education into a marketplace. This is bad news for students and staff alike—it will mean more cuts, more outsourcing and fewer students from diverse backgrounds.”
In a statement Ozanne expressed similar concerns, stating: “Threatening staff with compulsory redundancy is nasty and unnecessary; it is damaging to the reputation of the university and will deter top class students and staff from coming here.”
A University of Manchester spokesman said: “The university fully recognises and values the role of the trades 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. The university is committed to a continued dialogue with the trade unions.”