On 19th August, members of UNISON at the University of Sheffield celebrated after senior managers announced a dramatic U-turn by rescinding their threat to fire & rehire 8,000 members of staff.    

The move comes after seven weeks of campaigning from the trade union UNISON, who represent non-academic staff on campus. UNISON was angered by the issuing of a Section 188 notice for every member of staff that could have seen workers being dismissed and re-engaged on inferior contracts. This is a tactic which has recently been used by employers such as Centrica, Asda and British Airways.   

At the time of the announcement, local union officials described the proposals as: “Premature and strategically naive.” They pointed out that the University of Sheffield enjoys reserves of nearly £1billion and remains one of the most popular destinations to study amongst students.    

The university had entered into consultation with unions in July with a view to reducing contractual terms and conditions in an attempt to save £100 million. The proposals included voluntary redundancies, pay freezes, cancellation of promotions and a reduction in hours and salary. 

Despite the threat to ‘fire and rehire’, the University of Sheffield UNISON branch entered talks in good faith with a view to finding a resolution. They also ran a superb campaign, utilising support from local MPs, students and the community. Despite lockdown restrictions, they spoke to members regularly as record numbers joined the branch. As a result of the campaign run by UNISON, on Wednesday 19th August the University of Sheffield dropped the plans.   

Leonie Sharp, Regional Organiser at  UNISON said: “As the recession starts to take hold, we have seen a number of high profile employers use the threat of ‘fire and rehire’ in an attempt to reduce workers’ terms and conditions. This victory at the University of Sheffield shows what can be done when workers stick together and campaign for the outcome they want. 

“All credit needs to go to the small dedicated team of UNISON activists on campus. They have run an amazing campaign that will be seen as a victory by the whole trade union movement.”