'Victory for common sense'
Unite hails victory as University of Sheffield drops plan ‘to sack and rehire’ 8,000 staff on inferior pay
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The decision by the University of Sheffield to drop its plans to sack and reengage over 8,000 of its employees in a bid to cut costs has been hailed as ‘a victory for common sense’ by Unite on Thursday (August 20).
Unite, which represents university employees in key technical and professional roles, spearheaded the campaign, with other higher education unions, to protect jobs when the proposals were unveiled last month.
Unite said that the University’s bosses panicked when they claimed they needed to make £100 million in savings over fears about a shortfall in students in the coming academic year, including the much valued students from China, as a result of the pandemic.
Unite urged the management to work with the trade unions to formulate its medium and long-term plans for the University’s post-pandemic financial health.
Unite regional officer Harriet Eisner said, “The news that the controversial ‘fire and rehire’ plans by the University of Sheffield have been jettisoned is a victory for common sense, and the strong solidarity shown by our reps and members in the face of the panic-induced plans by the University.
“For the University’s 8,000 employees, there is massive relief that there is no longer a threat to ‘fire and rehire’ on inferior terms and conditions,” she added.
“However, the toll on employees’ mental health over the last month has been immense. Some have already left the University’s employment under the voluntary redundancy scheme – would they have taken this course if they hadn’t felt the recent intense pressure?
“Unite maintains that the University’s plan to ‘fire and rehire’ was a panic reaction to a hole in its finances which was symptomatic of an institutional lack of long-term planning.
“It was also a callous disregard for the employees who make the University such an attractive place for students to study.
“The University, which is fundamentally wealthy, needs to take a long hard look at its medium to long-term strategy. There was a built-in flaw in the University’s ‘business model’ which relied exclusively on the revenue from top fee-paying international students, especially those from China,” Eisner went on to say.
“As we move forward, trade unions need to be fully involved in providing the necessary counterbalance to the ‘we know best’ attitude of the University’s management. Unite is keen to work constructively with the management so the trauma of the last month never happens again.”
Unite said that the University had been looking for staff to go down to four days-a- week, with no pay rises, no incremental pay rises and no promotions – these proposals have now been abandoned.
By Shaun Noble