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24th October 2017

WE’RE ON STRIKE: staff to protest job cuts

With many seminars and lectures cancelled, University of Manchester students are set to join striking staff and demonstrate against the proposed staff cuts

Staff at the University of Manchester will go on strike on the 23rd and 24th of October to demonstrate the depth of anger towards senior management over proposed job cuts.

From 7:30am to 11:00am, University lecturers will be picketing buildings across campus, including outside the Alan Gilbert Learning Commons and the Samuel Alexander building.

After picketing, there will be refreshments and a rally in the Students’ Union from 11.00-12.30 and a speech from a senior UCU figure — likely to be the UCU General Secretary or UCU President.

University staff are striking over proposed redundancies in the University’s School of Arts, Languages and Cultures (35 posts), the Faculty of Biology, Medicine and Health (65 posts), and Alliance Manchester Business School (40 posts).

The dispute between staff and senior management has been ongoing for over a year, with an email sent to thousands of staff on the 10th of October 2016 detailing a Board of Governors’ decision about job cuts.

At the time, the University suggested that it needed “to make cost savings.”

However, the University College and Union (UCU) has rejected the university’s claim that it needs to create “financial headroom,” instead arguing that the University “is in a strong financial position having recorded a £36m surplus last year (2015/16) and its financial statement for the same year revealed it is sitting on £1.5bn of reserves.”

Though the Students’ Union collectively support the strikes after the ‘Save Our Staff’ motion was passed at the most recent Senate, General Secretary of the Students’ Union, Alex Tayler said that “the decision to boycott the University on the day is an entirely personal one.”

He added: “Whatever decision students make, they should be aware that the strike will not be an excuse for delayed assessment submission.

“Those students that wish to support the strike are welcome to stand on the picket line alongside UCU members and may consider not entering University buildings. They are still very welcome in the Union if they choose to do this.”

Alex Tayler also spoke about the university’s investments to relocate North Campus buildings, saying it was in fact a “cost saving.”

A University newsletter posted on the 13th October told UCU and University members that “whilst recognising the rights of individual members of staff to take industrial action, it is the University’s intention to endeavour to maintain normal operations during industrial action in order to safeguard the interests of our students and also of our staff and other stakeholders.”

A notice of deduction of pay followed. The newsletter said, “refusal or failure to cross a picket line is not an acceptable reason for absence from duty and all staff who fail to report for work will have their pay deducted on the above basis accordingly. “

One student told The Mancunion, “the post suggests that they want to maintain the best interests of students, but we’re all going to to be affected by redundancies which take effect in September 2018”

The student went on to comment on the struggles the university may face after Brexit. She said  “if anything we need more language graduates, more cultural awareness, more diplomacy.”

Save Our Staff MCR, the University student-run campaign against the cuts, told The Mancunion: “We call on students to show their support for the strike in whichever way they can.

“We invite them to join us at 8:00am on Monday outside the University of Manchester Students’ Union and from there to come to the picket lines with us in order to give staff our support. We would also like to encourage students to attend the rally organised by UCU on Monday at 11am in the Students’ Union. Also, if students wish to leave messages of support, there is a card on the campaigns officers desk where they can do so.”

Writing in The Mancunion last week, Matt Wynne echoed this sentiment and said that: “students will stand in solidarity on the picket lines with staff against the arrogance of the decisions made by The University of Manchester’s senior management.”

A ballot was held on the 4th of October amongst members of the UCU at the University and 86.7 per cent of the 1049 staff who cast a vote suggested that they were “prepared to take industrial action consisting of a strike.”

Though UCU regional officer, Martyn Moss, said that “striking is always a last resort and there is still the opportunity to avoid it” if the University was to “take compulsory redundancies off the table”, the strikes are set to go ahead.

Throughout the day, staff will be joined by friends and family, and food and drink will be provided to keep the strikers going.

A spokesperson for the University said: “the University is disappointed that members of the UCU are prepared to take strike action, particularly because we have been involved in an extensive consultation process.

“Whilst the University has initiated a compulsory redundancy processes for two positions, we are committed to mitigating the need for redundancy wherever possible, and have taken a number of steps, including sourcing redeployment opportunities, tight vacancy management control and offering a generous Voluntary Severance Scheme.”

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