As many as 700 staff at Salford University are expected to unite today in protest at the ‘unfair dismissal’ of two colleagues back in December.
Three-quarters of the university’s 211 staff members belonging to the University and College Union (UCU) voted to strike today over the sackings of the pair, with a picket taking place across the Crescent campus.
Helen Ghaly and Sam Bowker, the two senior members of staff who belonged to the university’s marketing and student recruitment department had their employment unexpectedly terminated just before Christmas.
After raising concerns about a restructure to the department, the pair were suddenly put on forced gardening leave the day before the new reshuffle was announced, then sacked and refused any appeal.
A description of the events on December 4 by the UCU recounts the conversation between one of the pair and their line manager, explaining how after being sacked with no opportunity to speak to a trade union representative, the employee – having been forced to immediately pack her bags – drove away and broke down in tears.
“No institution should be allowed to ride roughshod over agreed procedures and violate its employees’ rights in this way,” UCU regional official Martyn Moss said.
“The vote in support of the strike shows that staff at Salford find the contemptuous treatment of their colleagues completely unacceptable.”
By 10.30 this morning, a petition launched by the UCU online had racked up almost 350 signatures from fellow union members, ex and current employees and students all keen to share their opinion.
Retired Salford University staff member Andy Hamilton commented: “The two university staff in question have exemplary work records. Not only is their sacking unlawful, it is severely detrimental to the reputation of the university.”
Sheffield-based Hannah Read had a personal connection: “My brother worked with these hard-working people. We also need to keep human rights at the forefront of employers’ mind-set.”
Blackburn College’s Ian Bruce said: “I used to work at Salford and have followed the draconian measures employed by the senior management for some time and am appalled by the treatment meted out to a large number of the staff.”
But not everyone was so supportive of the strike, however, with University of Lincoln student newspaper editor Chris Gray tweeting this picture from outside the College of Health and Social Care on Frederick Road:
Truly terrifying scenes of a strike outside Salford University. pic.twitter.com/yvyAiRdD51
— Chris Gray (@6ShadesofGray) April 23, 2015
Yet Manchester Trades Union Council secretary Alex Davidson had a different opinion, tweeting his organisation’s support for the UCU strike:
— Alex Davidson (@AlexDavidson82) April 23, 2015
UCU North West Regional Official Martyn Moss tweeted this picture of the picket at the university’s Maxwell Building on The Crescent:
UCU members on strike supporting unfairly sacked colleagues at the University of Salford pic.twitter.com/2fp5VZlFU8
— Martyn Moss (@UCUMMoss) April 23, 2015
A University of Salford spokesperson said: “We have been trying to resolve this dispute with the individuals concerned and are therefore disappointed that a day of strike action has been called. We expect all student lectures to run as normal today.
“We hope that a resolution can be found but, as this is an ongoing legal matter, we are unable to comment further.”
Image courtesy of Anthony P Buce, with thanks