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University of the Highlands and Islands (UHI) staff back strike action over cuts plan

By Gregor White

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Staff protested outside university premises last month. Picture: Callum Mackay
Staff protested outside university premises last month. Picture: Callum Mackay

UHI staff have overwhelmingly backed industrial action in a row over £4 million of cuts and job losses planned at the institution.

Staff at the University of the Highlands and Islands (UHI) have backed strikes in a dispute over plans to slash £4 million from the university’s staffing budget and cut up to 44 roles.

In the ballot of University and College Union (UCU) Scotland members, 77 per cent of those who voted backed strike action on a turnout of 86 per cent.

The university is proposing to cut up to 44 roles in its Executive Office function – affecting jobs across the colleges that make up the UHI partnership.

The union says the proposed job cuts are rushed and alternative savings haven’t been properly explored adding that losing so many staff in such a short timescale was bound to impact on both the student experience, the university’s reputation and the future of tertiary education in the Highlands and Islands.

It said it wants to work with UHI to avoid the need for compulsory redundancies and to find alternative savings. The local branch is due to meet later this week to consider its next steps.

UHI branch president, Dr Heather Fotheringham, said: “By voting in these numbers UCU members at UHI have made it absolutely clear that the university needs to think again about its plan to cut jobs. The ballot result is a clear mandate for industrial action and to oppose job cuts.

“UHI is an important employer in the Highlands and Islands and cuts of this scale will have a disastrous impact on the local economy, the student experience at the university, and the future of tertiary education in the region. It’s not too late for university managers to work with UCU, and others and to find alternatives that don’t involve such drastic cuts and job losses.”

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