Staff at an Aberdeen university are set to walk out this week in a dispute over job security.
Members of the University and College Union (UCU) Scotland at the University of Aberdeen will walk out on Wednesday.
The move comes amid a bitter dispute over job losses and job security, centering on four members of staff at the university’s medical school who, according to UCU Scotland, following protracted negotiations, have been offered the choice of either being made redundant or accepting new contracts on reduced terms.
The union branded the jobs offered as demoted posts with three guaranteed for no more than two years. It said if the affected staff don’t accept the reduced terms, the university is expected to begin making redundancies on December 16.
UCU also raised concerns over racial discrimination, pointing out that all four members of staff under threat are of Asian ethnic origin.
In a ballot for industrial action, three quarters of those voting backed taking strike action over the job losses.
Ahead of the strike, UCU Scotland members will join students at the university on tomorrow to hand an petition with 1,800 signatures against the job losses to the university’s governing body.
Aberdeen UCU spokesman Derek Dawson said: “It is hard to comprehend why the university is pleading poverty and going ahead with these job cuts while recruiting staff in other areas. The strength of feeling amongst staff was clearly reflected in the ballot, and UCU will continue to fight any job cuts or the erosion of members’ terms and conditions.
“Making people redundant should always be a very last resort but for the university to be doing this now, just before Christmas, while inviting 400 people to a free Christmas dinner is enough to make you choke on your turkey.”
A University of Aberdeen spokesman said: “We are disappointed that the UCU has decided to take strike action, and that they have chosen a date for the strikes which occurs during the student exam period. We will not allow our students exams to be disrupted and have made arrangements to make sure this does not occur.
“Of the staff that were placed at risk of redundancy as a result of restructuring in the School of Medicine, Medical Sciences and Nutrition, the remaining four have been offered alternative employment on their current salary and grade. As a result we no longer believe there will be a need for any compulsory redundancies.
“Regarding the concerns of UCU over the process that was followed, it is important to point out that the University of Aberdeen is an equal opportunities employer and takes this responsibility very seriously. The posts at risk of redundancy were identified according to a strict and fair criteria applied consistently across the entire School.
“The university employs around 3000 staff, of whom only 206 UCU members voted for strike action.
“We recognise this has been a difficult time for some colleagues in the school, but it was essential to secure the school’s financial position for the future. This is part of a strategy to enable the institution to concentrate on its strengths so that it continues to attract research funding and make discoveries which improve medical care.
“We have consulted with the UCU throughout this period, both on the clear financial reasons for the redundancies and the posts identified.”