Posted on Wed 30 Nov 2016 at 13:04 by Jenny Killin
No Compulsory Redundancies in Medicine, Medical Sciences and Nutrition
The past two years have seen absolutely brutal department ‘restructuring’, course cuts and low contact time for students, and it’s been even worse for the hard working teaching staff at our university. Initially, as part of a financial restructuring program university managers threatened some staff positions with voluntary severance in 2015. Through hard work from UCU members and students at the university, we pushed back the management on these draconian cost saving measures and ensured that no one faced compulsory redundancy. It wasn’t an easy fight, but because we refused to back down, we learned how to win. This year they came for our staff again and, once more we managed to stop them.
This time, the management promised 25 compulsory redundancies (see 25 sackings) in the School of Medicine, Medical Sciences and Nutrition. It seems obvious to say that when there are fewer staff, students suffer: but the reality is that managers, pocketing six figure salaries, tried to claim that this was the best thing for the student experience. This meant that students in the medical science department would see vital support taken away from them mid-way through their degrees. No reasonable person would claim this was in the interest of students or of education. The suggestion that this wouldn’t negatively impact on students was hollow and convinced no one.
So we mobilised again. This time within one week Aberdeen University Student’s Association (AUSA), working with the University College Union (UCU) and Aberdeen Defend Education Campaign (ADEC), amassed over 1000 students who rejected these redundancies and demanded that the senior managers of our university reversed their decision. With the University of Aberdeen generating an annual operating surplus of over £2 million it was clear to everyone that these cuts weren’t about efficiency, they were about reshaping our university altogether. And it’s easy to see where they got the template. These ‘financial restructures’ and ‘efficiency savings’ are happening all over the country at the expensive of academics jobs, and students’ education.
With the support of their students our teaching staff balloted for strike action. The resilience of a united body of students and staff in opposition to their plan has seen senior managers back down on compulsory redundancies. It’s another victory for a student movement in Aberdeen which stands proudly beside staff and demands that our university is run in the interests of the students and staff that study and teach here. It assures us that compulsory redundancies are not inevitable, and that dodgy financial restructures do not have to be tolerated. The fight isn’t over though: after backing down from compulsory redundancies staff have been redeployed, the details of this are of course confidential, but it is likely these are insecure contracts and into significantly lower pay grades. It’s a blatant attack on the pay and working conditions of our staff and students at Aberdeen will not stand for it. Again we will fight it. Again we will win.