A number of Cambridge University colleges, which are targeting some of their lowest paid employees for the jobs’ axe as they juggle their Covid-19 finances, have been urged to have an urgent rethink by Unite, Britain and Ireland’s largest union.

Unite said today (Wednesday 30 September) that Cambridge colleges – some of the richest institutions in the country – should go ‘the extra mile’ to safeguard the jobs of the lowest paid employees. Already 21 of the 31 colleges have pledged ‘no compulsory job cuts’.

A coalition of Cambridge groups have launched the Cambridge Against Job Cuts campaign, following revelations in the university student newspaper Varsity that Downing, Queens’ and Trinity colleges are planning to sack more than 100 non-academic staff.

It is understood that Downing would seek to restore as many of the threatened posts as possible as soon as finances allow. However, Unite firmly believes that there is no need for the jobs to be lost in the first place.

The coalition includes unions Unite, UCU and the Cambridge TUC, as well as Cambridge University Justice 4 Workers Campaign, Cambridge Defend Education, and the Cambridge Students’ Union. The campaign is also backed by the Cambridge Labour Party. 

Earlier this month, Varsity revealed leaked documents detailing Queens’ plans to make 32 members of the non-academic staff redundant.

Unite regional coordinating officer Ian Maidlow said: Varsityrevealed Trinity’s plans to make 45 housekeeping staff redundant. Trinity is the richest Oxbridge college, with a total endowment of £1,286,289,000. On its own, Trinity College is wealthier than every UK university other than Manchester, Edinburgh and Imperial College London.

“There is something morally repugnant that an organisation sitting on that mountain of cash is reacting to the Covid-19 crisis by throwing onto the scrapheap some of its lowest paid workers, many of whom have given years and years of loyal service.

“We understand that the colleges have been hit by the loss of student rental income and the collapse of the lucrative conference market, but we strongly believe that the colleges, some of the wealthiest institutions in the country, should go the extra mile to safeguard the jobs of their lowest paid employees as they navigate financially through the pandemic.

“We are happy to sit down with any of the 31 colleges that constitute the University of Cambridge to discuss ways to mitigate the impact of Covid-19 on their employees.

“However, they should be under no illusions – no way can we accept that college employees, especially those that are lower paid, should bear the brunt of any financial problems colleges may be facing.

“Twenty-one Cambridge colleges have committed to ‘no job cuts’, and we applaud them for that. If they can do it, all colleges can do it.”


Notes to editors:

The following colleges are not making compulsory redundancies: Christ's, Churchill, Clare, Clare Hall, Emmanuel, Girton, Gonville & Caius, Homerton, Jesus, King's, Lucy Cavendish, Murray Edwards, Newnham, Pembroke, Peterhouse, Robinson, St Catherine’s, St Edmund's, St John's, Trinity Hall and Wolfson.

Press coverage of redundancies: 

For more information please contact Unite senior communications officer Shaun Noble on 020 3371 2060 or 07768 693940. Unite press office is on:  020 3371 2065.

Ian Maidlow: Unite the union – [email protected] - 07768931310

Please note the numbers above are for journalists’ enquiries only.

Email: [email protected]

Twitter: @unitetheunion Facebook: unitetheunion1 Web: unitetheunion.org 

Unite is Britain and Ireland’s largest union with members working across all sectors of the economy. The general secretary is Len McCluskey.