As the IT jobs dispute continues, with staff working at the University of Manchester under threat from compulsory redundancies if voluntary agreements cannot be reached, students and staff rallied in solidarity by staging a protest on Thursday the 15th of October displaying banners and distributing flyers to “keep up the pressure on the university and raise awareness” of the situation.
Speeches were made by staff, students and union members who all emphasised the need to resist the new measures and to negotiate fairer redundancy packages and better job security.
Speakers asserted these moves targeting IT workers are symptomatic of a changing attitude centred on generating profit, though the university denies this. One union member claimed the cuts were a result of the university’s efforts to ensure it adhered to a “sound business model.”
The unions say measures by the university which have given rise to this dispute, represent changes to the Redeployment Policy which states staff cannot be made compulsorily redundant, which focuses on finding alternative employment elsewhere within the university for staff.
Previously, staff were entitled to remain on the redeployment register indefinitely, but this has been reduced to just three months, offering little long-term job security.
The university plans to outsource much of IT services to private companies, a move which is strongly opposed by current staff who claim it will result in a “poorer service for students” and that it is primarily in the interest of profit.
The university maintains that offloading staff is necessary at a time of economic difficulty, when budgets are tight and cuts to expenditure are needed. But this is something staff, who feel like they are victims of “growing privatisation in higher education,” refuse to accept. With the leader of Unite stating that “we feel as though we have been backed into a corner over this”, strike action now looks increasingly likely.
A University of Manchester spokesman said: “The university has consulted with the campus trade unions concerning the position of staff who have been on the redeployment register for more than three months and has made an offer of voluntary severance to all those staff affected.
“The university has also made an offer of voluntary severance, in consultation with the unions, to those IT staff affected by the changes. The university remains willing to engage with the campus trade unions and is holding further discussions with them.”