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Plans by University senior management to establish a Standing Redundancy Committee were dealt a severe blow yesterday, when academics voted to urge University Council to reconsider its proposals.
The proposals, if forced through, will create a committee in anticipation of the need for lay offs, that could expedite the process of making university staff redundant. Members of the Universities and Colleges Union (UCU) see such a move as undermining staff and student morale and confidence unnecessarily.
A motion that called for university bosses to rescind their decision, was passed yesterday with the help of LUSU representatives at University Senate, which is the top academic decision making body in the university. The motion passed with 35 votes to 26.
Speaking before the meeting, LUSU president, Michael Payne, said: “The threat of redundancy will impact on staff morale and work ethic, which may in turn impact upon students’ learning experience.”
The motion, which calls the setting up of a standing redundancy committee “premature in the light of the university’s current academic and financial performance,” was proposed by Furness Dean and University and Colleges Union organiser, Dr Chris Grocott. He summarised the motion, saying: “We are not convinced that we have seen evidence that would support the idea that [setting up this committee] would be good for the university.”
Principal of Bowland College, Joe Thornberry, seconded the motion. “If the Standing Redundancy Committee is established… it will be a signal to staff that redundancies are going to happen,” he said. “It will affect morale, it will affect the very thing that makes this university so successful.”
“There are people who think that fear is a great motivator… but I believe fear has no place in our university.”
He went on to outline the possible effect that rumours of redundancy may have on students: “Students are worried about their job prospects, and worried for their families’ jobs… so what do you think is going to be the impact on [students] when they hear that a teacher… may be made redundant?”
Lancaster UCU’s branch secretary, Rory Daly, said: “We acknowledge the challenges that the university community will face in the coming years, but believe that the setting up of the committee would cause more harm to staff and student morale and our external reputation than it would bring benefit to senior management.”
Speaking to the Vice-Chancellor immediately after the meeting, SCAN asked what his reply was to those who claimed setting up the committee would damage staff and student morale. “I don’t think it will… The idea that somehow just having a committee sitting there will damage morale is really quite wrong,” he said. “The committee itself is not going to wander round looking for redundancies… Redundancy is the bluntest tool you can use; it’s a very expensive thing to do. The university is not going to be running around saying ‘lets have lots of redundancies.’”
“I don’t think that it will be as dramatic and draconian as some individuals might want to make out, I don’t think that would be the case at all.”