Sheffield University 'drops fire and rehire plans' to cut pay

The University of Sheffield has dropped controversial proposals to cut pay and put promotions on hold.

Thursday, 20th August 2020, 1:43 pm

The university earlier this summer invited staff to apply for voluntary redundancy, or to work reduced hours, as it revealed it expected to take a £100 million hit due to the coronavirus crisis.

Other cost-cutting measures on the table included sacking staff and rehiring them on reduced wages, according to Unite, though the university has insisted pay cuts were only ever being considered as a ‘last resort’.

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The University of Sheffield was seeking to save £100 million due to coronavirus

The union today revealed the university had dropped those proposals, in what it called a ‘victory for common sense’.

It is understood the move comes after the university learned more students than expected planned to come this year, with the Government’s decision to lift its cap on the intake proving a significant boost.

The university had feared fewer students would apply for places this academic year, especially from China, due to the pandemic.

Anger over the proposed job cuts and pay squeeze had intensified when it emerged earlier this month that the cash-strapped university had spent nearly £500,000 on pianos.

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.

"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.

A spokeswoman for the university said: “In July, the university began a consultation with staff around potential temporary changes to contracts in the event of significant financial loss.

"The potential measures discussed included a temporary pay freeze, a pause to incremental progression and promotion, and a temporary pay cut. These measures were only intended to be implemented as a ‘last resort’, but it was important that we were transparent with staff about our financial position and began discussions with our trade unions as early as possible.

"We are pleased that we are now in a stronger financial position and have been able to end the consultation around the temporary contract changes.

"We want to thank all of our staff for their hard work and dedication throughout a very challenging year. We are now working together to prepare for our upcoming academic year and we are looking forward to welcoming our new cohort of students to Sheffield.”