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22/01/11 – Staff at Liverpool Hope University in strike ballot amid job cuts and ‘secret’ payments row

From Liverpool Echo 22 January 2011

STAFF at a city university are considering strike action amid plans to slash 100 jobs and “secret” payments to senior employees.

The potential walk-out at Liverpool Hope University comes days after the ECHO revealed how one in 10 staff are set to be made redundant as it attempts to slash annual costs by £6m.

Redundancies will hit across the board, affecting the university’s 300 academic staff, as well as administrative staff at its Childwall and Everton campuses.

And confirming staff are to be balloted in the coming weeks for industrial action – including a potential strike – the University and College Union (UCU) said Hope should “wait until its financial future becomes clearer before axing staff”.

UCU regional official Martyn Moss said: “The university does not know what is happening to teacher education, it does not know what grant money it is going to receive and it does not know, or is not telling us, what level of fee it will charge from 2012. You just cannot operate like this.”

And Unison, which combined with UCU and accounts for the majority of the staff in the firing line, condemned “secret” £5,000 payments made to nine senior staff at the university.

The union said the situation had left staff “feeling confidence in their employer has gone”.

Today, the university defended the payments which it said rectified the fact “some heads of academic departments were earning less than their colleagues on the same grade who did not have their responsibilities”.

A spokesman added: “This allowance only applies for the period they are a head of department; it is not out of step with practice across the sector and is not a bonus of any kind.

“The university has to apply seriously the principle of equal pay for equal work, and it was applied to only those heads in this anomalous situation.”

It said its proposed restructuring was “essential to ensure the university enhances its strong position as it faces the challenges of a market in higher education”.

“The UCU, in December, stated the Government’s funding plans for higher education put one in three universities at risk, and Liverpool Hope University has no intention of being in the group isolated as at ‘high risk’.”

A spokesman added that government indications on future higher education funding, rises in VAT, pension contributions and general inflation, meant “enough is known about the financial situation to enable consultation to begin on the university’s proposals for restructuring and making the necessary efficiency savings.”

Consultation on the redundancies, set to be made by September, is ongoing.

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