Nineteen employees to leave DPU in large-scale cutbacks: eleven voluntary and eight involuntary redundancies

Last week, eight employees at the Danish School of Education were told by management that they were under consideration for redundancy. Another eight employees have already accepted a voluntary redundancy package, while three employees have resigned. This comes after the Danish School of Education announced cutbacks and a savings requirement of DKK 15 million in the autumn. “The redundancies are a disaster, and everyone is affected by them,” says Bjørg Kjær, joint union representative for academic staff.

Photo: Archival photo: Lars Kruse, AU Photo.

On Tuesday morning last week, all employees at the Danish School of Education were asked to be ready to check their email between 9:00 and 9:15. During this fifteen-minute period, a disheartening message appeared in the inbox of eight employees at the school, with a consultation letter informing them that the management was planning to let them go.

The redundancies follow an announcement in September that the school will have to save DKK 15 million and that this will entail having to cut up to 22 positions.

The Danish School of Education needs to save DKK 15 million – 22 positions to be cut

Since then, 11 employees have accepted voluntary redundancy: The Danish School of Education has signed eight voluntary redundancy agreements with academic staff, while three academic staff and one technical-administrative employee have decided to resign their positions at the school.

The eight employees who received consultation letters about their planned dismissal now have a 14-day consultation period in which to raise objections. After the consultation period, on 16 December, the Danish School of Education will send out dismissal letters to the employees whose dismissal is final.

Joint union representative: It’s a disaster

On Friday, Claus Holm, head of the Danish School of Education, could not reveal how the eight planned dismissals are divided between TAP and VIP staff. However, Henrik Skovlund, associate professor at the Danish School of Education, announced through his Facebook page that he is one of six academic staff at the school to have received notification of planned dismissal.

According to Bjørg Kjær, associate professor at the school and joint union representative for the academic staff, the employees are shocked; not just those who are directly affected but also their colleagues.

"This comes as an utter and devastating surprise. It’s a disaster. People are shocked. This is a huge loss for the school. And of course it’s affecting those who are being considered for redundancy the most. But the news has shaken everyone at the school," says Bjørg Kjær.

Head of school unable to comment on individual cases

Head of School Claus Holm says that he cannot go into detail about the individual dismissals because of confidentiality concerns. For the same reason he will not comment on the critique voiced by several of the employees who have been notified about their possible dismissal, and who have been open about this.

Associate Professor Thomas Aastrup announced on his Facebook page that he is among those who have received a notification email. He believes it is an “unfair dismissal” and writes that he will be using the consultation period to do everything in his power to prevent “this - in my opinion - political and unfounded attack on the freedom of research and pedagogics from being realised.”

Associate Professor Henrik Skovlund, who has also been notified about his planned dismissal, writes on his Facebook page that he has been unable to obtain access to the criteria applied by management to identify him as one of the staff to be made redundant.

"We were offered an interview with our manager Claus Holm but he didn’t want to comment on the individual reasons for our dismissal and kept saying that he had made an overall assessment on the basis of the scorings," writes Henrik Skovlund.

Claus Holm: assessment on the basis of objective criteria

Claus Holm stresses that the dismissal notices are a consequence of the school being forced to cut back on its payroll budget, and that the eight employees who have received the letter about their planned dismissal are being dismissed because of the savings requirement and on the basis of an overall assessment with established selection criteria.

"I can only say that the selection criteria are official, objective criteria that have been reviewed and discussed by the local liaison committee. The criteria have nothing to do with the specific academic approaches that any particular researcher might have. The Danish School of Education has more than a hundred skilled academic staff with various academic and theoretical approaches to pedagogy. Of course there will be disagreements between researchers at a university department. Including here at the Danish School of Education, now and in the future," says Claus Holm.

The head of school says that he has told the relevant employees everything about the decision that he is legally entitled to.

"I cannot give a more detailed individual reason other than that the planned dismissals are due to the savings requirement and that the employees in question have been selected on the basis of an overall assessment after applying the selection criteria set out," he says. 

Furthermore, it was his assessment that it was better to keep the school's departments and study programmes as intact as possible instead of shutting down an entire area at the Danish School of Education, for example. 

Difficult consultation period ahead

The consultation period for the notified employees, which runs until the 13 December, will be tough," says Bjørg Kjær, who is the joint union representative for academic staff.

"Because although the notifications have been issued, a consultation period means the decision is not final. There doesn’t seem to be much hope, though. And if there is hope for those who have been notified about their planned dismissal, it only means that others will have to be found instead," she says.

The 11 employees who chose to leave the Danish School of Education voluntarily saved DKK 8 million on the payroll budget. And with a further DKK 2 million saved on rented premises and increased student FTE funding, the school needed to find an additional DKK 5 million in savings. Thus the eight dismissal letters.

Bjørg Kjær believes that the redundancies were political, because, according to the Danish School of Education, they are a direct consequence of the relocation reform agreed by the Social Democratic government together with the Danish Liberal Party, the Socialist People’s Party, the Conservative People's Party, the Danish People's Party, New Right and the Christian Democrats.  

"All eight redundancies are politically motivated in the sense that we have been through several cutbacks and forced relocation, not to forget AU's own internal prioritisations, which have also hit Arts hard. It’s the result of AU’s overall financial situation and all sorts of other prioritisations and political decisions by Christiansborg [the Danish Parliament]," says Bjørg Kjær.

A huge loss for the school

Claus Holm stresses that the situation is definitely not something the Danish School of Education had asked for, and had it not been for political decisions, the school would not be in this situation.

"This is a very unfortunate and unhappy situation. All our employees are talented, and we never wanted to say goodbye to any of them. This is a huge loss for the school," says Claus Holm.