UCU defiant in face of job cuts at University of Leicester

Written by Toby Cray

The University and College Union (UCU) Leicester branch voted unanimously to oppose all compulsory redundancies, which are part of the University’s disinvestment proposals.

The meeting, held on 25 January, was in response to the email sent to staff, on the first day of term, announcing the start of the formal redundancy consultation and had a record attendance of over 200 people

Dr Joseph Choonara, whose job is under threat, stated that they want to send an: “extremely clear message from this meeting to senior management, that we are prepared to do whatever it takes.”

Dr Choonara added: “In my own opinion this will involve at the very least the threat of strike action.” The proposed compulsory redundancies come as part of the university’s disinvestment strategy, affecting several different schools, and has faced widespread criticism.

The university defended these planned cuts by stating: “These changes underpin our future strategy by focusing our efforts where we can demonstrate excellence.

“It is important for the long-term success of the University that we continue to look ahead and plan, especially during such a challenging time.Not taking the action we need to now, may result in further, larger changes in the future.”

Members were unhappy with the way the proposed cuts had come about, with Dr Choonara stating:

“This has been done with no genuine consultation, no real negotiation with staff at the university.”

The university responded to this by stating: “342 colleagues were involved in pre-change engagement process which took place last October and November.

“We advised staff that that we would notify them of next steps after Christmas and we have done so as soon as it was possible to do so.”

The UCU unanimously passed another motion which expressed a vote of no confidence in the University Executive Board. It will also seek to achieve an all staff vote of no confidence.

Dr Emma Battell Lowman, whose contract with the university is ending, spoke out in favour of this motion, stating:

“Last Thursdays Executive Q&A did really bring things out into the clear, it was evident that the VC is hostile to any critical attention to what I call the upstairs corridor.”

The urgency behind these motions were apparent as Dr Choonara stated:

“As of tomorrow, when the first business cases are heard, the clock will start ticking, we have a 90-day process to move to compulsory redundancies.”

Jo Grady, general secretary of UCU, offered her support at the meeting with a rousing speech: “This is the third time we’ve seen this uncaring and vandalistic [sic] type of redundancy measures. With superhuman effort you pushed back in 2016 and 2018.

“This branch is better placed than any branch to do it again. You have all the tools at your disposable. I want to remind everyone of the collective strength you’ve wielded before.”

Toby Cray is a second-year journalism student at the University of Leicester. You can find him on Instagram here: @toby5.c

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