Friday, 8 April 2011

Embracing Chipboard

Vagrants have just been informed that management at the University of Salford which includes the well paid Adrian Graves and handsomely remunerated Martin Hall* have just announced that they (as the employer) are seeking to divest themselves of (make redundant) an estimated 218 staff (two hundred and eighteen staff). The axing of these staff is said to affect staff from all staff groups apart from the immediate staff group of three comprising the Vice Chancellor (Hall), the Deputy Vice Chancellor (Graves) and the Executive Head of hr (Watkinson).

The reason for these redundancies is to make savings of around £7 million. It's believed £7 million would just about cover the rental costs for its four floors at MediaCity for the next three years.

Have past savings resulted in the widespread adoption of chipboard
shelving which is now bowing in the middle?

According to the Periodic Table, iron is heavier than irony

An anonymous source located somewhere adjacent to the University claimed with more than a hint of heavy irony in his tone that:

"A lot of people will naturally blame Martin Hall for these job losses, particularly the people being thrown on the scrap heap. He does after all head the University. But they couldn't be more wrong. I'll tell you who's really responsible. It's that allegedly defamatory bastard Duke with the wandering facial hair, loose morals and even looser tongue who is ultimately responsible for this jobs slaughter. If we weren't having to spend vast sums suing this quillard because of the allegedly nasty things he's said about our wonderful Vice Chancellor and Deputy Vice Chancellor, these jobs would be as safe as that terraced house we've built indoors."

Duke who is widely described as 'appalling', is a regular contributor to this non-defamatory, right of reply respecting website and has today stated that "It's patently ridiculous to assert that I'm somehow responsible for the loss of these jobs. I'll save up two weeks dole money and put it towards seriously counter-suing the person who goes so far as even to suggest that it cost 150 jobs under Project Headroom to pay for all the University's legal fees to take me through the Disciplinary Procedure, dismiss me and now pay for all their lawyers and barristers at the Employment Tribunal."

Is he hapless?

The hapless Duke went further:

"Look, I did say around the time of Project Headroom that if they got away with axing those 150 jobs, they'd be looking to axe more jobs in the future. I didn't use magic to work it out but carefully used something called sums. It's clear that the University needs to be at the cutting edge and needs to stay at the cutting edge -  the cutting edge of the use of libel laws against a former employee. They are having to make significant and pressing investments for the future. Take for example, the large sums of money that Professor Hall and Dr Graves are considering investing in this necessary libel trial for the next year or two. Realistically it's only likely to be the equivalent of at the most twenty academic jobs for one year."

When pressed Duke elaborated:

"This is not written in stone and the money to pay for these civil proceedings could come from a different income stream, and of course things could change dramatically. Obviously if the University are granted an injunction by the courts, this will have terrible implications for my right to exercise freedom of speech regularly. However, if I then win the libel trial or they decide to drop their case, I'll seriously consider saving up at least four weeks dole money and suing them for even more academic jobs for one year. I do have some rights you know under the European Convention on Human Rights."

Dr Graves in smiling mode: his job is safe but has he yet to 
make permanent the move from real looking wood shelving 
to its white chipboard counterpart?
No ballot for industrial action?

It appears that the loss of 218 jobs is in the first 'tranche' with more to come. Unlike other UCU branches facing job cuts across the country who think it's wise to ballot for industrial action as soon as job cuts are announced, according to a UCU bulletin to members, they're not considering balloting members yet. It's believed they'll only consider anything remotely contentious if management move towards compulsory redundancies. However, in the short and medium term, it's believed that much fiery militant rhetoric will be bandied around.

Is it a simple case of computers versus humans?

It's not clear whether anyone within either the UCU or UNISON branch executives has had the temerity to bring up the issue of the estimated £2.6 million pound overspend voted through by the University Council last year in order to complete the upgrading of the University IT and computer systems. However, rumours of the development of a super-computer that can do the job of every one except Graves, Hall and Watkinson have been called "absurd" by a former employee with IT skills. "You make it sound like something out of Demon Seed with Julie Christie. It's nonsense! Computers can't carry complex pieces of furniture like tables into the Old Fire Station.** Nor can they yet chauffeur senior executives around."

MediaCity UK

Some have argued that the figures quoted in the Salford Star of a conservative £50 million pound spend at MediaCity over the next nine years could be different. A spokesperson from Eccles Help the Aged stated that: "218 staff to save £7 million.... according to my 1970 decimal conversion chart, at that rate, in order to make the sorts of savings to cover £50 million they'd have to lay off 1556.52 staff and that's plainly silly. There's no such thing as 0.52 of a person. In old money it's just over half a person."

A Paradigmatic shift within the Salford sector of HE?

It's not clear if the University are planning a paradigmatic shift toward the use of chipboard based furniture products as a means to save money. A senior member of staff at Stoples who refused to be named has cautiously extended a pre-welcome to any moves by the University towards the wholesale adoption of compressed composite based office furniture: "I can only speak personally but personally speaking, I think any large orders of melamine coated MDF or mid-quality veneered chipboard - especially our range of book shelves - can only be a positive thing. However, I must hazard a personal warning to Dr Graves and Martin Hall. Unlike a bookcase made from solid wood, chipboard based shelving can tend to bow over time under the weight of academic tomes whose texts are much denser than ordinary books like the highly readable Harry Potter collection. Any move in this direction could ultimately prove to be a false economy and might come back to bite their metaphorical arses."

Dr Duke: it's questionable if he
has human DNA never
mind human rights
The last word

Dr Duke had to have the last word as usual: "I can't be held responsible for either rising fuel costs, the overall rise in the rate of inflation or the state of the Portuguese economy. I'm only partly human after all. If it meant saving these 218 or so jobs, I'd be happy to plead guilty to the disappearance of Flight 19 in 1945 over Bermuda. I would however like to say just for the record that I'm not guilty for the disappearance of Flight 19 over Bermuda in 1945."

*This is of course in relation to staff at the University of Salford. This comparison is not made against the pay of other Registrars and Vice Chancellors at Universities across the UK. 
** The Old Fire Station is where Dr Graves and Professor Hall the Vice Chancellor are principally based. It used to be an Old Fire Station.
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1 comment:

  1. Update: Mr Watkinson, Executive Director of Human Resources (hr) has provided an update on the Salford Star website which has clarified the situation no end. In the interest of fairness I'd like to draw your attention to it. I'm sure all academic and non-academic staff will be sleeping a little easier at nights because of his comprehensive elaboration. We Vagrants welcome any elaborative comments Mr Watkinson has. If he would like the right of reply on our above meanderings please contact the usual email address at