Great marketing for the University? No to the ‘covid blip’ redundancies in Creative Media

University of Birmingham looking to make up to 10 design, print and admin staff redundant

Covid-19 pandemic as a reason for redundancies?

In a worrying sign that the University of Birmingham is looking to use the Covid-19 pandemic as a reason to justify outsourcing and redundancies, we have now been informed of a proposal to make up to 10 staff redundancy in the University’s Creative Media unit.

The Creative Media department at the University handles a broad variety of print, design and other creative work for the institution. In the past year staff have worked tirelessly preparing all of the signage, display stands and other essential safety material we see around the University’s Edgbaston campus, with staff often working long hours to meet short immovable deadlines. 

Recognising our hard work during the pandemic?

The University’s way of recognising all of this hard work? By putting almost the entire department at risk of redundancy in a bid to cut up to 10 jobs from the print, design and administrative teams that were so critical in producing essential safety materials in the early days of the pandemic. 

The restructure also comes at a time when many staff are working from home and the University itself remains under restricted in-person operations. This is significant because vague and poorly-explained financial concerns are the stated rationale for the restructure, with senior managers claiming that the department doesn’t return enough of a “surplus” to the University’s institutional coffers. 

The numbers don’t make sense!

The most obvious counterargument to this is the fact that Creative Media gets most of its work from other University departments and so to make a “profit” they need to overcharge them. However any “profit” Creative Media generates is then reinvested in the University, meaning we are just talking about the internal circulation of University funds. The more “profit” they charge the departments, the more money Creative Media makes to be put back into the university in a financial money-go-round. However, and unsurprisingly, the essential H&S signage for the pandemic isn’t being billed in the same way as the typical marketing campaigns and bulk print jobs they undertake, meaning that they could not capitalise on their own busy workload.  Underquoting for pandemic-related jobs has prevented Creative Media from exploiting the revenue opportunities that an outsourced company would have done. An external company would have used the opportunity to maximise their income at this time charging the university as much as possible.

Even if you accepted the rather flawed rationale for putting posts at risk, the proposal makes little financial sense. Creative Media was making a tidy “profit” of over £200,000 only two years ago, and the only sensible explanation for the impact on their income streams is the disruption caused by the pandemic.  The projections for future income and expenditure also beg more questions than they answer, and it is highly unclear. 

No to a knee-jerk move to redundancies!

We are calling for the University of Birmingham to end this consultation and to consider alternative ways to adjust to the post-Covid context – without simply moving directly to making staff redundant.

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