Image: Wikimedia Commons/ Derek Harper

Universities accused of exploiting the pandemic through job cuts

Several UK universities have been accused of exploiting the pandemic by cutting jobs.

As it currently stands, 12 universities are planning redundancies, including University of Leicester, University of Liverpool, University of Dundee, and University of Brighton.

Redundancies are also expected at University of Leeds, Newcastle University, University of Central Lancashire, and Solent University. Voluntary Redundancy Schemes are being prepared at Senate House, University of London.

At the University of Leicester 60 jobs are being cut, with 47 jobs being cut at the University of Liverpool. A further 34 jobs are being cut at the University of Dundee.

Staff at a number of the aforementioned institutions have claimed that they have been targeted for speaking out against the universities, since a number of those facing redundancy are prominent union members.

Speaking to Times Higher Education, a member of staff at the University of East London shared that they think it’s obvious “our employer is using covid to target specific union members.”

[It is] absolutely contemptible for some universities to exploit the pandemic by threatening to make staff redundant

– Jo Grady
 

The University of Leicester commented that any redundancies are “based on long-term strategy and not on individual performance or affiliations”.

In addition to this, members of staff have complained about the universities lack of concern for involving academic members of staff in this process of difficult decision-making.

Liz Morrish, visiting fellow in the School of Languages and Logistics at York St Johns University said these measures, which have “largely bypassed the usual channels of decision-making, such as senates”, will “sour relations” between staff and the university, and have “left staff and students feeling aggrieved.”

In light of these redundancies, a lack of staff involvement, and alleged targeted redundancies, many members of staff are taking action against their institution. There have been ballots in favour of strike action at the University of Brighton, University of Central Lancashire, and Solent University. Additionally, staff at the University of Leicester have passed a motion of no confidence in their vice-chancellor.

Jo Grady, the General Secretary at the University and College Union (UCU), said: “[it is] absolutely contemptible for some universities to exploit the pandemic by threatening to make staff redundant”

“UCU will support any members who are threatened with redundancy and will fight universities trying to push through cuts that would leave staff unemployed and students without teachers and support staff”

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