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Strike ballot opens at Falmouth University over 2-tier workforce

A strike ballot opened on 11 July at Falmouth University and will run until Friday 19 August. A successful result will pave the way for strikes to begin in the new academic year.

The ballot aims to stop management forcing new members of staff onto employment contracts with a wholly owned subsidiary company with worse terms and conditions that ignore national bargaining agreements made between UCU and universities.

Last month a packed UCU Falmouth branch meeting with over half of members in attendance voted by 98% to move to an industrial ballot to force the university to end its two-tier workforce.

Wholly owned subsidiary company Falmouth Staffing Ltd. has been used by the university to employ staff since September 2021. So far it has not allowed any of its employees to access the industry standard Teacher’s Pension Scheme, instead pushing academic staff onto a vastly inferior scheme that drops the employer contribution to staff pensions by around 50%.

Falmouth tells job applicants “there couldn’t be a better time to work with us” and that the university “will give you the platform you need to thrive”. Surprisingly, there is no mention of being employed by a private subsidiary.

UCU said it is concerned other cuts to nationally agreed terms and conditions may now be on the cards. The union added that employers should not be cutting pensions whilst staff face a cost of living crisis and that prospective staff may now look elsewhere, which would damage student learning.

UCU regional official Nick Varney said: ‘Falmouth University is facing a strike ballot because management has ignored concerns over its employment of new staff through a wholly owned private subsidiary company, creating a two-tier workforce. This could well be the thin end of the wedge for members at Falmouth and we refuse to accept nationally agreed terms and conditions being side stepped like this.

‘All workers now face a cost of living crisis, this is a time for employers like Falmouth to give assurances that long-held conditions of service will be honoured.  Pensions are deferred pay and members worry about their futures. Worse terms also make Falmouth less attractive as an employer. The university risks losing talented, creative academics to other institutions, this would be a disaster for local students.’