Page last updated at 15:54 GMT, Wednesday, 28 October 2009

Strike fears at two universities

Glyndwr University and Swansea University
The University and College Union is representing lecturers in Wrexham and Swansea

There are fears of strike action at two universities, with a dispute over the sacking of a lecturer at one and worries of job losses at the other.

The University and College Union (UCU) at Glyndwr University, Wrexham holds a ballot over claims a lecturer was sacked for exposing alleged bullying.

The university "strongly denies" any dismissal related to union activity.

Swansea University lecturers are to ballot on industrial action over the setting up of a "redundancy committee".

A meeting of the UCU branch at Swansea was held on Wednesday.

Afterwards, UCU president in Swansea Chris Whyley said, "Our members are very worried about what the university is doing, they're very anxious for their jobs and the overwhelming majority of those who attended today's meeting indicated that they wanted a ballot on industrial action."

For years the university failed to deal with the problem of bullying and harassment of staff
Margaret Phelan, UCU

It follows the creation of a redundancy committee to look at cost cutting which the union says breaks a 90-year-old agreement not to make compulsory redundancies.

The university said it is financially sound like all publicly funded organisations, but it is going to face major financial challenges.

It added that if some departments are not demonstrating distinction in research, or if they are not bringing in enough money, they might not be sustainable in the long term.

It last set up a redundancy committee in 2006 and no compulsory job losses were recommended.

In Wrexham, the dispute centres on the dismissal of lecturer and union official Hamish Murphy three weeks ago.


The union claims Mr Murphy's dismissal followed "a long-running dispute between between UCU and the university over management bullying and harassment".

It claims Mr Murphy, a union branch chair, was "instrumental in exposing the serious problem of management bullying and harassment of staff at the university".

The UCU said he was dismissed from his post as a principal lecturer in youth and community studies on 7 October and was escorted from the premises.

The UCU is appealing against the decision, and claims a recent report by the conciliation and arbitration service (Acas) "vindicated" Mr Murphy's claims.

Acas said such reports were confidential between the parties involved, and it could not comment.

Margaret Phelan, of UCU Cymru, said: "For years the university failed to deal with the problem of bullying and harassment of staff.

'Financially sound'

"Hamish was instrumental in bringing these issues to light and we believe that he was targeted for dismissal for this reason.

"His reinstatement would help both sides to draw a line under the problems of the past."

A Glyndwr university spokesman said: "The university can not comment on this case as it is still subject to the appeal process.

Swansea University door
Swansea University said it was committed to avoiding compulsory job losses when possible

"The university strongly denies however that it has ever dismissed any member of staff for undertaking trade union activities."

In June 2008, the UCU announced plans to ballot members at the university (then known as the North East Wales Institute), after claims it failed to tackle alleged staff bullying.

At the time, the UCU said at least eight members of staff had complained of bullying.

Management responded then by saying it did not tolerate bullying and took staff welfare seriously.

Meanwhile, a Swansea University spokesperson added: "Overall Swansea University is financially sound, and intends to remain so.


"However some areas of activity that fail to demonstrate distinction in research or to generate sufficient income from student numbers or other sources may not be sustainable in the longer term."

"It said it was committed to avoiding compulsory redundancies whenever possible, and was actively exploring redeployment and voluntary severance options with affected staff."

Swansea University had more than 9,300 undergraduates in 2007/08 as well as around 2,400 part-time students. Glyndwr University has around 6,000 students, with about a third of these from overseas.

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