8,000 Sheffield University staff could be 'sacked and rehired on lower pay’, union claims

More than 8,000 Sheffield University staff could be ‘sacked and rehired on lower pay’ as part of cost-cutting measures because of coronavirus.

By Steve Jones
Wednesday, 15th July 2020, 6:02 pm
Updated Wednesday, 15th July 2020, 6:02 pm

Unite, Britain and Ireland’s largest union, which represents more than 350 university workers, made the claim following the news £100 million worth of cutbacks must be made by one of the city’s biggest employers as a result of a loss of income from the pandemic.

Staff have already been offered voluntary severance and the option to reduce hours or purchase more annual leave. The university said it has done “everything we can to identify savings in areas of non-staff expenditure first, including stripping back ‘planned capital projects.”

It is braced for a shortfall in students in the coming academic year, including a drop-off international students who pay more money in tuition fees. Normally the university attracts around 7,000 international students annually.

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The University of Sheffield Arts Tower.

Unite regional officer Harriet Eisner said: “We are appalled at the callous attitude that the University of Sheffield has displayed to its dedicated workforce. It is a wealthy institution with a lousy business model. It is clear from its proposal – to reduce pay and terms and conditions for its employees – that it has no strategy.

"The University of Sheffield has a hopeless business model which relies on attracting top fee-paying international students to prop up an institution which is a major employer in the city. The leadership of the university need to think very carefully about why it wants its staff to pay the price for the top management’s failure.”

The university confirmed a 90-day consultation is underway on “some potential temporary changes to some of our terms and conditions of employment.”

A spokesperson said: “This consultation does not mean that the University will definitely need to make these changes and we will do all we can to avoid compulsory action, but it is important that we begin honest discussions with the trade unions who represent our staff in case we need to do so in the future.”

Unite said it will challenge any cuts to workers’ terms and conditions of employment and “work strenuously” to protect jobs.