All out for USS

It's not too late! Universities UK can still commit to meaningful negotiations over pensions and end the strike action.

Shadow education secretary backs striking University of Manchester staff

20 October 2017

Ashton-under-Lyne MP and shadow education secretary Angela Rayner has told the University of Manchester to "get its house in order" and "give workers the respect they deserve", as a dispute over job cuts escalates.

UCU members will walk out on Monday and Tuesday in a row over up to 140 job losses at the university. They will then begin working to rule on Wednesday.

In her message of support to the union*, Rayner also said she was not convinced by the university's argument that it needed to cut costs by axing jobs, and that the dispute was a "concerning case, given the fact that UCU members feel as if management have not been clear, or provided any convincing rationale for job losses."

Staff will form picket lines at entrances to university buildings along Oxford Road from 7.30am on both Monday and Tuesday. There will be a rally at 11:30am on Monday at the University of Manchester Students' Union building on Oxford Road, where speakers will include UCU President, Joanna de Groot.

UCU regional official, Martyn Moss, said: 'We are delighted to have the support of shadow education secretary and local MP Angela Rayner. We hope her strong words will focus the minds of the University of Manchester management team.

'The proposals are the result of a management strategy that ignored staff and they lack a convincing rationale. Staff are not confident that the process will be fairly and consistently implemented.

'Striking is always a last resort and the university has had every opportunity to avoid it. The University of Manchester must take compulsory redundancies off the table.'

The proposed redundancies are in the university's School of Arts, Languages and Cultures, the Faculty of Biology, Medicine and Health and Alliance Manchester Business School and amongst some professional support staff.

The union has rejected the university's claim that it needs to create "financial headroom" in light of an increasingly uncertain climate for universities. It refutes the claim arguing 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.

In its initial letter to the union announcing the redundancies, the university cited new government legislation and Brexit as underlying reasons for the cuts. But then six days later it denied Brexit was a factor.

UCU has questioned the university's rationale for the job cuts. In a recent survey of staff conducted by union members, 88% of respondents said they did not believe they have been provided with a convincing rationale for the job losses.

The union says staff were not given the opportunity to have their say on the proposals which were drawn up by senior managers.

The strike follows a ballot that saw 87% of members who voted back industrial action, while 93% backed action short of a strike. After the two-day strike, staff will begin working to rule (from Wednesday).

* Angela Rayner's message of support: 'I would like to express my solidarity and support to members of UCU at the University of Manchester, who are to go on strike on Monday and Tuesday of next week. This is a concerning case, given the fact that UCU members feel as if management have not been clear, or provided any convincing rationale for job losses.

'The university has also claimed that it needs to create 'financial headroom' in light of an uncertain climate for universities. This is not a convincing argument when it recorded a £36m surplus last year, and is also sitting on £1.5bn of reserves.

'I hope that management will get their house in order and give the UCU workers the respect they deserve.'

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