Colchester Labour Group, notes with great concern the recent open letter from Essex University UCU Anti-casualisation Working Group to Councillor Mark Cory, Will Quince MP, and Bernard Jenkin MP.

Whilst the Labour Group understands the difficult financial position the University of Essex is facing, we are extremely concerned at the decision to allow the cost of balancing the budget to fall on those least able to bear it, through cuts to the jobs of hundreds of employees on insecure contracts.

We are also concerned that the union branches and staff at the University, have not been given full access to the financial information underpinning this decision so that they can properly scrutinise and influence it.

The Colchester Labour Group supports the working group’s call for the Vice Chancellor, Anthony Forster to share this information with staff and unions at Essex, and to consult openly with them on the possibility of alternative budgetary solutions which might avoid job losses.

We note the extremely difficult circumstances facing UK universities, given the expected drop in student numbers due to COVID-19. We also, support the University and Colleges Union’s (UCU) view that “the government must underwrite funding lost from a fall in domestic and international student numbers”. This is essential for the long-term wellbeing of our local university in particular, given its wonderful tradition of welcoming a large and diverse cohort of international students.

Given the vital contribution that the University of Essex makes to our local economy, both as an employer and as a centre of innovation, it is essential to the interests of Colchester’s residents that a solution is found to give Essex University, its staff, and the wider sector the support they need to get through this crisis.

Colchester Labour Group, therefore join the working group in calling for the Leader of the Council, and particularly Will Quince MP and Bernard Jenkin MP, to lobby their colleagues in the Government to produce a comprehensive package of support in line with UCU’s recommendations, so that our universities can continue to thrive.

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