Proposed job cuts could lead to shop closure at Magee campus

A Derry councillor has said that it 'damages' the campus offering, particularly following the closure of the student's union bar a number of years ago and the canteen earlier this year

Proposed job cuts could lead to shop closure at Magee campus

The closure of the only shop at Magee could damage campus life and make it an ‘unattractive’ destination for young students, a local councillor has claimed.

It has emerged that a number of shop and restaurant workers at the Ulster University campus could lose their jobs.

As well as stocking everyday items the Student’s Union shop sells essential stationery supplies to students.

A UU spokesperson confirmed that 15 jobs would be affected in Derry and Belfast but would not specify the number impacted at Magee.

The Derry News learned earlier this year of a canteen closure at the campus due to ‘declining custom’ which left a large void in the most iconic building on site named after Martha Magee.

The student’s union bar also closed a number of years ago.

Student numbers at the Magee campus have dropped from 5,098 in 2014/15 (3,833 full-time) to 4,237 (3,456 full-time) in 2019/20.

The medical school which opens next year will add 70 students to the campus.

If the only shop on the campus were to close, a local councillor says it will turn Magee into a ‘ghost campus’, removing the social aspect of university life.

People Before Profit Cllr Shaun Harkin believes the college would lose facilities important to its role as an attractive place of learning.

“This sets a very poor precedent at a time when many in Derry are fighting for the expansion of Magee,” he said.

“The promised new medical school is scheduled to open next year. This is no time for cutting back on services.

“For years, the Students’ Union Bunker Cafe - remembered with affection by thousands of former students and staff - provided good food at reasonable prices and was an integral part of college life.

“With the loss of these amenities the campus would become a coarser, colder place, damaging Magee’s ‘offer’ to local and overseas students and staff.”

He added: “All staff are currently on furlough. We want to ensure that the jobs are there to go back to when furlough ends.

“Everyone who wants to see Magee prosper and become the sort of vibrant university which Derry deserves should take a stand against the destruction of these jobs and against the harm this would inflict on the college generally.

“The workers involved are not in a union. But that doesn’t mean that they should be abandoned or the injury to the college’s prospects and standing just accepted.

“We call on Ulster University Students’ Union management to withdraw this threat and begin negotiations with representatives of the workers concerned. Student Union representatives and students should also be properly consulted.

“We are writing to Mr. David Longstaff, chief officer of UU Student’s Union at his Jordanstown office, to Magee Provost Professor Malachy O'Neill, and to the president of UU Students’ Union, Ms. Collette Cassidy, asking them urgently to meet us to discuss these matters."

In response, an Ulster University Students' Union (UUSU) spokesperson said: "Like many organisations, COVID-19 has had an impact on UUSU and its commercial services on campus. 

"As UUSU prepares for what will be a different academic year ahead, we have made the difficult decision to undertake a consultation on the future viability of some of our commercial services, in the current context.  

"As such, we are consulting individually with the 15 affected UUSU commercial services staff across the Jordanstown, Magee and Coleraine campuses."

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