STAFF at Queen Margaret University in Musselburgh have backed strike action in a dispute over plans to axe 40 jobs.

In the ballot of University and College Union (UCU) Scotland members last Wednesday, 64 per cent of those who voted supported industrial action on a turnout of 72 per cent.

The union says 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 local branch is considering its next steps.

The university employs 480 staff.

Mary Senior, UCU Scotland official, said: “UCU members at Queen Margaret University have made it absolutely clear that they have no confidence in the university’s plans.

“The ballot result is a clear mandate for industrial action and to oppose plans for compulsory redundancies.

“Axing 10 per cent of the workforce would have a huge impact on the student experience and on the university’s reputation.

“Strike action is always a last resort but, unless the university is prepared to reconsider its approach, disruption is a real possibility.”

A university spokesperson said: “”We have been engaging with our staff and our trade unions on this for several months and continue to engage with them and to consider fully all options.

“The university has not declared compulsory redundancies, committing itself to seeking to achieve the required reductions in staff costs voluntarily, and is making good progress on achieving this.

“We are disappointed that UCU members have voted for strike action, and will continue our consultation with staff and trade unions.

“We have let our students know about this development, highlighting the fact that a vote for strike action means that a union has an option to take action but does not commit it to this course of action. We have also assured them that, in the event that there is action, the university will do everything in its power to minimise disruption to their teaching and learning.

“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, and thus ensure we can continue to lead in providing relevant teaching and research.”