21 May 2014
The Dundee University branch of UCU has today begun balloting members for strike action over the university’s plans to cut staff numbers by up to 120. The ballot closes at noon on Monday 2 June.
The union had agreed to a voluntary severance scheme on the condition that it was strictly voluntary and did not target specific posts. However, at the most recent meeting of university court, senior management pushed ahead with plans for a programme of targeted job losses.
The union said the university’s job loss plans sat awkwardly alongside the principal’s praise for staff and students last week as he accepted the credit for Dundee’s proud showing in the Times Higher Education Student Experience Survey. Speaking after Dundee was voted as offering the best student experience in Scotland Professor Pete Downes, said the award was ‘a credit to all staff’.
Janice Aitken, Dundee UCU branch representative, said: ‘Strike action is always a last resort, but we have exhausted all other avenues and have been left with no other option. We have offered to support efforts to increase income and suggested alternative ways forward that do not involve staff being made redundant. However the university seems intent on rushing through plans to cut posts, which risk damaging the university’s reputation and students’ education.
‘Last week the University of Dundee was named the best in Scotland for student experience and, when accepting the tribute, the principal said that the award was a credit to all staff. With that in mind, it is extremely surprising that he is in the process of cutting around 10% of staff, but still presumably expects the same quality of experience.
Mary Senior, UCU Scotland official, added: ‘A number of staff at the university have approached us to say that they are losing confidence in the current management team to lead the university. We have real concerns about the timing of consultation that has been undertaken by the senior management team. We understand that the cuts were being planned as early as September 2013, yet the trade unions were only made aware of them in February 2014. Given the agreement we have on avoidance of redundancies, the employer should have spoken to us as soon as it was planning for cuts, to give more time to deal with the situation.’
The ballot runs from Wednesday 21 May until 12pm on Monday 2 June. The ballot asks members whether they are prepared to take industrial action consisting of strike action and action short of strike action. The Dundee UCU branch recommends that members vote ‘yes’ to support industrial action in defence of jobs. The independent scrutineer is Electoral Reform Services