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Last Updated: Thursday, 4 August 2005, 14:41 GMT 15:41 UK
Union fears over observatory jobs
The Royal Observatory, Edinburgh
The ATC is one of three organisations at the observatory
Union leaders have expressed fears about the impact of proposed job cuts in the Astronomy Technology Centre at the Royal Observatory in Edinburgh.

ATC officials said a final decision had yet to be taken, but the Prospect union said it was worried about the future.

Volunteers for redundancy are already being sought, amid fears that as many as 25 out of 85 jobs could be shed.

The Royal Observatory on Blackford Hill opened in the 1890s. The ATC is one of three organisations now located there.

Its experts design high-tech instruments for use in astronomy.

However, a drop in demand for the equipment and reductions in government funding have triggered job fears.

We're also concerned about the viability of the centre itself
Dr Suzanne Ramsay-Howat
Prospect union

Dr Suzanne Ramsay-Howat, of the Prospect union, said: "Our concern is for those staff and the fact they may be made redundant.

"We're hoping that won't become the case, but we're also concerned about the viability of the centre itself. Beyond a certain limit it won't function."

New laboratories and offices were opened at the centre less than three months ago.

'League table'

Russell Eberst, a former employee who worked at the observatory for 40 years, said a reduction in government funding could be contributing to the observatory's difficulties.

"If the observatory has to withdraw some of its staff, then it's going to pull it down the league table," he said.

A spokesman for the ATC declined to comment, but said it remained highly competitive and respected.

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