A UNIVERSITY union member has described IT staff job cuts as “indefensible” ahead of strike action.

Staff at the University of Brighton will form a picket line tomorrow morning in protest against IT support staff redundancies.

Students will join members of the University and Colleges Union (UCU) for the socially-distanced picket at the university’s Moulsecoomb campus in Lewes Road at 8.30am.

Mark Abel, chairman of Brighton University UCU said the decision to cut jobs during the coronavirus pandemic was “indefensible”.

He said: “Unlike pubs and restaurants, universities have not been forced to close down as a result of Covid.

“Universities are collecting fees from more students than ever this academic year and staff are run off their feet with work. There’s no excuse for job losses.”

Mr Abel believes the university’s plan to centralise technical support for IT “would be a mistake in normal times”.

“During a pandemic when most university teaching and learning is taking place online, it is potentially disastrous”, he said.

“Teaching staff will no longer be supported by dedicated IT technicians based in schools, but will have to log their IT problems in a centralised system and wait for them to be addressed, however urgent they are.

“This is bound to impair the quality of education staff can deliver and that our students have the right to expect.”

Brighton students have shown their support for the strikes on social media.

Psychology student Sam Bailey wrote: “Full support and solidarity with Brighton UCU. Ridiculous to enforce redundancies in IT especially now we are all learning remotely online.”

Another student wrote: “Are we really paying £9,250 a year to have online-based learning with no IT staff? Ridiculous.”

Tomorrow’s picket is the first in a series of strikes planned by the union for this month, with more action planned on December 7, 10, 15 and 16.

Labour MP for Kemptown Lloyd Russell-Moyle will speak at a Brighton UCU online rally at noon tomorrow regarding the job cuts, alongside UCU general secretary Jo Grady.

A spokesman for the University of Brighton said: “The University recognises the vital role IT provision plays in supporting teaching and learning, especially during the pandemic. But it also needs to ensure these and other services respond to user feedback.

“Our students and staff have told us they want more flexible frontline IT support that can be accessed remotely and which is available at times when they are most needed.

“We are pleased the majority of our current IT staff are being retained in the new structure and have already been assigned to new roles. Regrettably, a small number of roles are no longer required.

“Where this is the case the colleagues concerned are being supported through a formal consultation process.”