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Anger over University of Portsmouth plans to axe staff during coronavirus crisis

24 March 2020 | last updated: 26 March 2020

Redundancy plans are at odds with university's pledge to support staff and students

The University of Portsmouth is under fire for pushing ahead with plans to sack eight English literature lecturers. Eleven members of staff in the 13-strong department are at risk of losing their jobs as they try to deal with the many challenges the global coronavirus crisis presents.

Two of the lecturers at risk are currently self-isolating and six of the other at-risk staff have children of school age, who are now at home. UCU said the university should immediately halt the cuts so nobody was left trying to deal with the unprecedented circumstances of the current health crisis while fearing for their job.

The union said the university's pledge to enforce the cuts was at odds with recent messages from vice-chancellor Professor Graham Galbraith about the need to support for staff and students in this "difficult and stressful" time.

Professor Galbraith wrote to staff last week saying "we are facing an unprecedented set of circumstances" that he said he knew would be causing "a great deal of worry and concern". He talked about the need to "get through this difficult and stressful period by supporting each other, and by remembering to be considerate and kind". 

UCU said that even before the unprecedented upheaval of the coronavirus crisis, the case for the redundancies had not been properly made. The union has pointed out that the cuts would leave the department unable to meet the demand from existing students and see class sizes rise to some of the highest in the UK.

Under the plans, the university intends to write to the at-risk staff next month and make eight of them redundant at the end of August.

UCU general secretary Jo Grady said: 'To push ahead with job losses during this current crisis is the wrong call from Portsmouth. Staff are doing all they can to adapt to these unprecedented circumstances and telling some of them that they may lose their jobs is tone deaf to say the least.

'The threat to axe staff flies in the face of the vice-chancellor's pledge to support staff and students, and his call for people to pull together and support one another. The case for these dismissals had not been made anyway, so the university should now press pause and reassure its staff that it won't be getting rid of them as they try to deal with the challenges from the coronavirus crisis.'

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