UNION members at Musselburgh's Queen Margaret University are being balloted for strike action in a row over job losses.

The ballot, organised by the University and College Union (UCU), opens tomorrow (Wednesday) and closes on Wednesday, January 16.

The union says that the row centres on cuts that would put more than 40 jobs at risk.

It argues that alternatives to the current plans, including resource sharing, management savings and extending the period of restructuring, have not been sufficiently explored.

The university, which employs about 400 staff, plays a central role in training NHS staff across Scotland in key areas such as nursing, mammography, radiography, physiotherapy, audiology and occupational therapy. It is also about to launch a course in teacher training.

The union adds that cutting a tenth of its staff is bound to have an impact on the university’s ability to deliver high-quality education.

Mary Senior, UCU Scotland official, said: "This is a really worrying time for staff in the university, especially in the run-up to Christmas.

"Nobody wants to take industrial action and we believe the best way to deal with these issues is round the negotiating table.

"However, by threatening these cuts and refusing to rule out compulsory redundancies, the university has left us with no choice other than to ballot for strike action."

A spokesperson from Queen Margaret University said: "Along with the rest of the higher education sector, QMU faces financial challenges with grant funding falling in real terms over recent years and rising costs such as pension and National Insurance contributions.

"Despite a positive growth trajectory overall at QMU, with costs increasing faster than our income, we have had to take action to reset the balance.

"We have been engaging with our staff and our trade unions for several months and continue to consider fully all alternatives.

"We remain in consultation with our trade unions and have expressed disappointment that UCU should choose to ballot their members for potential industrial action when discussions continue to take place.

"The university has not declared compulsory redundancies but has committed itself to seeking to achieve the required reductions in staff costs voluntarily.

"We already have secured sufficient interest to achieve 50 per cent of the required savings voluntarily and hope to make further inroads.

"The university’s proposals do not directly affect 90 per cent of the staff and every support is being offered to those who are affected directly or indirectly."