FIRE and rehire practices at the University of Glasgow have been condemned by union leaders.

The union Unite has raised concerns that catering outlets on campus were closed and staff under threat of redundancy.

The union Unite says the new James McCune Smith Building on University Avenue will have its entire catering operations staffed by a new wholly-owned subsidiary company "UoG Commercial Ltd" which it says solely profit-driven.

The union says that so  far around 100 have so far have opted for voluntary release, around 50 are still looking for roles and facing compulsory redundancy, with many more set to lose thousands of pounds in take home pay. 

The university said it has already committed that there will be no compulsory redundancies as a result of the catering review process.

Unite believes members should have been transferred to the new company, and their terms and conditions protected.

Instead Unite say staff are facing redundancy or being expected to sign-up to inferior terms and conditions if they want to continue in a job at the new company.

Unite has also slammed the University of Glasgow over there being no automatic recognition of trade unions in what it called "a clear breach" of the Scottish Government’s Fair Work First principles.

The practice of ‘fire and rehire’ is a way to end established staff contracts to start new ones on less favourable terms.

The practices is on the rise as companies seek to cut costs. It’s legal – for now – but unions and staff are looking to stamp it out.

HeraldScotland: The University of Glasgow

Unite’s University of Glasgow Branch is staging a demonstration at University Avenue on Tuesday between 12pm and 12.30pm.

Alison Maclean, Unite industrial officer, said: “The demonstration is a measure of the palpable anger felt amongst our members on campus. The University of Glasgow appear to be rolling out the appalling ‘fire and rehire’ practices that have scourged the economy since the onset of the pandemic. It’s a flagrant breach of the Scottish Government’s Fair Work First principles. Unite’s members have indicated a strong willingness to resist these new contracts and loss of earnings, and to take industrial action if necessary.”

“The workers are not going to go away quietly and we will challenge these unscrupulous practices every step of the way. We are demanding that the University do what they should have done from the start and transfer all catering staff on their protected terms and conditions. We also need an agreement to ensure there is no financial detriment to all staff as a result of the outcomes of the wider operational review. Many of these staff are the lowest paid and have continued to work on campus tirelessly throughout the pandemic. The thanks they get is a slap in the face from an employer who heavily relies on the public purse.”

A recent consultative ballot on the University of Glasgow’s review of catering and facilities services revealed that 88% of Unite’s members rejected the detrimental changes and by that same figure, 88% of workers are prepared to take industrial action.

Unite has severely criticised the contradictory position adopted by campus management over catering workers being able to carry over their continuous service but no other terms "as it is a separate company”.

The workers have now following legal advice lodged a collective grievance which will be heard by the University following the demonstration. There has also been a wider restructuring of the operational staff at the University of Glasgow which has meant over 500 jobs being examined.

Unite say this has led to many taking voluntary severance due to the new roles being detrimental while others face severe cuts of thousands of pounds in take home pay per year.

The university said it was "misleading" to represent this as ‘fire and rehire’ as no-one was being fired.

 A University of Glasgow spokesman said “We are currently reviewing our catering and hospitality operations in response to changes in footfall and the way customers access services so they can operate sustainably in the future.

“We have committed to delivering any change with no compulsory redundancies, and we are offering those affected the chance to work within our existing catering operations or be redeployed into another role in the University, both on existing terms and conditions.

“We continue to engage and support all those affected throughout the review process, which we hope to conclude in the near future.”