UCLan teachers plan strikes as university moves to axe more staff

Teachers at UCLan are planning strike action to protest plans to axe more jobs at the Preston-based university.

Friday, 5th March 2021, 10:22 am
Updated Friday, 5th March 2021, 2:42 pm

Staff who are part of the University and College Union (UCU) voted to take action after it emerged that university bosses were planning to axe six teaching roles in the "Culture and Creative Industries" department.

The union said the job cuts are "part of a wider culling of jobs across the university", which has seen more than 250 staff axed in the past 18 months.

UCU general secretary Jo Grady said: "UCU members at the University of Central Lancashire have made it very clear they are prepared to take industrial action to protect jobs in the Faculty of Culture and Creative Industries.

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Staff who are part of the University and College Union (UCU) voted to take action after it emerged that UCLan bosses were planning to sack six teachers in the "Culture and Creative Industries" department

"The university wants to sack six members of teaching staff in the Faculty of Culture and Creative Industries as part of a wider culling of jobs across the university.

"The university proposed axing 67 jobs altogether, despite 200 staff having already accepted voluntary redundancy over the past 18 months.

"The university needs to halt these cuts. It has already cut hundreds of staff over the past 18 months whilst seeing an increase in student numbers, and it talks about budget deficits whilst holding cash reserves of £100m and embarking on new building projects costing tens of millions of pounds.

"To destroy the livelihoods of staff who have kept the University going during the Covid pandemic is spiteful and unnecessary.

The union said the job cuts are "part of a wider culling of jobs across the university", which has seen more than 250 staff axed in the past 18 months

"‘We now have a clear mandate for action, and we hope the university halts the compulsory redundancies to prevent any further damage to its reputation.’"

The majority of the more than 250 recent job cuts at UCLan have been through voluntary redundancy, bringing current staffing levels down to around 3,000.

But last October, UCLan warned staff that it needed to axe another 69 posts by March 2021 in order to "maintain future sustainability" and "protect future operations".

What does UCLan say about the job cuts and potential strike action?

The university says staff reductions in the Faculty of Culture and Creative Industries are the result of a decline in market demand and is not tied to any government moves to reduce core funding in this area.

A UCLan spokesman said: "We are aware of possible industrial action by UCLan UCU members and will continue to do all we can to avoid it.

"While student applications and recruitment numbers have increased during the last few years, staff costs have also disproportionately accelerated.

"We therefore took steps to proactively correct this position through a restructuring process while continuing to support and invest in course areas of student demand.

"Our approach to the restructure has been carefully considered at every stage with over 250 staff having already left on voluntary redundancy terms from a staff base of 3,000.

"Now, as we near the end of this process, we have reduced the number of staff at risk to 6.5 FTE roles (all based within the Faculty of Culture and Creative Industries) from an initial 67 and we are now in active discussions with individuals to reduce this number even further.

"If industrial action is called we will put measures in place to minimise its impact on students by communicating any changes to the academic timetable in advance of any UCU action."

Union says UCLan has £100 million bank balance and job cuts are "spiteful and unnecessary"

The union says UCLan boasts a healthy bank balance, with reported cash reserves of £100m, and say further job cuts are "spiteful and unnecessary".

It adds that the university has already allocated £44 million for new buildings this year, as part of its 10-year and £200 million 'Masterplan" for its city campus.

This includes a new £60 million student centre in Fylde Road which is due for completion in April.

The union says 79% of its members voted in support of strike action, with 88% backing action short of a strike, which could involve refusals to do unpaid overtime.

It said the ballot result was a "ringing endorsement for action", but added that "it hoped the situation could be resolved without the need for disruption."

It has not said at this stage when the proposed strike action would take place, but has called on the institution to rethink its plans, saying it should be keeping hold of staff that students rely on, particularly during the current pandemic.

Student enrolment across the university has increased by more than 7% between 2017/18 and 2019/20. The union said it has also seen information showing that UCLan has seen a further 5% increase in student numbers between 2019/20 and 2020/21.