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Redundancy fears 'haunt our university staff'

By Rebecca Black

Published 18/09/2015

Student places have already been cut at Queen’s and Ulster University, and staff now face possible compulsory redundancies
Student places have already been cut at Queen’s and Ulster University, and staff now face possible compulsory redundancies

Staff at Northern Ireland's two universities are living in fear of compulsory redundancies, it has been claimed.

Both universities are facing significant financial cuts as a result of the budget crisis at Stormont.

The Department of Employment and Learning was one of the worst-hit in the Executive and these funding cuts are impacting our two seats of learning.

Both have slashed student places and announced voluntary redundancy schemes.

Queen's University announced in April it was cutting 236 posts in the 2015/16 academic year through voluntary redundancies.

However, the university said the pay savings have not yet been achieved; in other words not enough people have applied for redundancy and been granted it.

Earlier this week it reopened the voluntary redundancy scheme until October 9.

If it cannot achieve the savings this time, it may have to move to compulsory redundancies.

A spokesperson from Queen's said a strategic review is ongoing "to determine the future size and shape of the institution" and recommendations would be presented to the university senate this academic year.

Alan Harpur, president of the Queen's branch of the University and Colleges Union, which represents staff, said the mood was "one of uncertainty and anxiety".

Mr Harpur stressed it is important no staff member is pressurised into leaving.

"They don't know who will be targeted for compulsory redundancy if the university is intending to go down that route," he said.

"The union has not yet been provided with the necessary information in terms of staff numbers involved or indeed the amount of savings the university is short by."

He also called on the university to clarify the status of the voluntary redundancy scheme that is still open to staff.

Anthea Irwin, president of the UU branch of the University and Colleges Union, said while redundancies there have been presented as voluntary, the fact a number of departments and courses have been axed means staff feel pressured.

It emerged last month that UU had scapped all modern language and interior design courses.

It cut 1,250 student places and 210 jobs following an £8.6m cut in the funding received from DEL.

Unite the union, which represents non-academic staff at the UU, called on DEL Minister Stephen Farry to intervene.

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