UNITE members march outside Senate House Cambridge UNITE

Downing College has recently made 27 non-academic staff redundant; this represents 15% of their total non-academic workforce of 182 staff.

A further 56 non-academic staff have reduced their hours, taken a career break, or moved to alternative employment in the College.

Downing employ 182 staff across 16 departments. According to their website, these workers are “tasked with overseeing every aspect of our College and beautiful grounds, they’re a fundamental part of our continuing mission”.

Downing is the 12th richest Cambridge college with an endowment of £49.8 million and consolidated net assets of £191.6m. In terms of assets per student, Downing is the 15th richest college with over £235,000 per student.

Downing employs seven members of staff with salaries over £60,000 with three earning between £80,000 and £90,000 and one member of staff earning over £110,000.

The Downing Master Alan Bookbinder told Varsity:“Downing has suffered very substantial losses due to the Coronavirus pandemic” with “almost all student rent lost in Easter Term” and Downing’s “conference business losing £3 million in cancelled bookings”.

Bookbinder added that Downing was “grateful to its staff for the flexibility they have shown” and that they would “seek to restore as many of these posts as possible” when its “financial position eventually recovers”.

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The Cambridge University Justice 4 Workers Campaign, a rebrand of the Living Wage Campaign, told Varsity: “A promise to ‘restore’ jobs is awful. Instead of cutting the six figure salaries, wine budgets, and fancy, candle-lit dinners, they sack their lowest paid staff or pressure them into worse contracts. These are the luxuries the college can ‘restore’ when their financial position recovers.”

“This all highlights how little Downing values its workers. Their vague promises will not ‘restore’ the stress, anxiety and financial strain placed upon its lowest paid staff by making then unemployed in the midst of a global pandemic”.

“It is equally horrifying that Downing talk of these workers as ‘fundamental’ but when money must be saved they sack staff or force them to accept worse working conditions, whilst keeping their own bloated salaries and wine budgets”.

The news comes a week after Varsity obtained leaked documents revealing that 93 members of staff at Queens’ are at risk of redundancy, with 32 of these workers being laid off if the college follows through on the proposals.

A ‘Stop Queens’ Layoffs’ campaign was launched by the Queens’ Solidarity Campaign along with the trade union UNITE.

The Cambridge University UNITE branch told Varsity: “Once again, a wealthy Cambridge college has shown no mercy in their brutal treatment of the hard working and faithful staff that are the backbone of the institution.”


Mountain View

Leaked: Queens’ plans to make 32 staff redundant

“This cynical action will cause distress and hardship to the sacked staff members, whilst also leaving a feeling of uncertainty for the future of all the staff who have been flexible in reducing their hours, taking career breaks or new roles.”

“UNITE condemns the colleges’ actions and calls for all the posts to be reinstated. We urge all Cambridge University college workers to join UNITE so that together with students, we can fight against all redundancies and erosion of working conditions in colleges.”