UNITE, the largest union in Britain and Ireland, reacted to the news that Sheffield University has decided to sack over 8,000 of its employees and re-employ them on wage-cutting contracts, by blaming the University for having a ‘lousy business model.’
Responding to the decision to force staff to go down to a four-day week, with no pay rises, no incremental pay rises and no promotion prospects, 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.’
Eisner went on: ‘The announcement is predicated on a shortfall in students this coming academic year – which necessitates this call for a £100 million in savings. The university’s management are panicking that their top fee-paying Chinese students will defer, but we have not seen any evidence of this.’
Eisner goes on to complain that: ‘Instead of working with unions to create a more sustainable strategy for the future, the university intends to strip back the terms and conditions of its skilled workforce.’
She ends by pledging that ‘Unite will be challenging any cuts to terms and conditions. We will work strenuously to protect the jobs of our members and wish to engage constructively with the university to chart a positive way forward.’
Unite may be ‘appalled’ at this slashing of jobs and wages but it certainly shouldn’t come as a surprise.
Even before the coronavirus lock-down that closed all the universities there was a massive attack on staff wages and conditions.
Sheffield University is not alone in facing massive debts. The latest figures show that universities face £2.5 billion of losses from tuition fees next year as domestic student, along with overseas student, numbers plummet.
The University and College Union (UCU) forecast that 30,000 jobs will be lost in higher education as a result. All Unite can do in the face of this, is moan about ‘lousy’ business models while pledging to work ‘constructively’ with the employers to manage this catastrophe.
Higher education has been turned over the years into businesses with students forced to pay £9,000 plus and run up huge debts while university bosses award themselves massive pay rises and act like CEOs of large companies.
When the massive loans accumulated on the backs of forecasts of an ever-increasing number of students turned overnight into massive debts, they respond in the same way as every capitalist business – by slashing jobs and cutting wages.
Unite knows this full well; it’s exactly what happened to its members in BA which sacked 12,000 workers and brought in proposals to force 30,000 onto new contracts under threat of the sack – contracts that contain massive pay cuts. Not once has Unite called for any action to defend jobs and conditions.
A poll commissioned by Unite this week found that the working class has no illusions about the crisis or that their jobs will be protected once furlough ends.
The poll found that the majority believed Tory chancellor Rishi Sunak’s measures announced last week would do nothing to protect jobs.
Unite general secretary Len McCluskey said: ‘Up and down the country, redundancy notices are raining down on workers. People are really fearful that decent jobs and industries will collapse as the jobs retention scheme comes to an end over the summer.’
Workers will be demanding to know what Unite are going to do about this crisis situation to defend their jobs and wages. The working class is heartily sick of union leaders saying how shocked they are, while at the same time offering themselves up as collaborators with the bosses and Tories to implement the cuts capitalism is demanding.
More and more workers consider that the time has come to throw out these leaders and build a new leadership in the unions that will defend every job by a mass campaign of strikes and occupations of universities and business threatening jobs and wages.
They must join the WRP to build a leadership that will organise the working class in a general strike to kick out the Tories and bring in a workers government that will expropriate the bosses and bankers and replace the capitalist ‘business model’ with a planned socialist economy. This is the way forward for workers and young people today.