Comms staff to be slashed at government-backed research body

The comms team at UK Research and Innovation (UKRI), a government-funded umbrella body representing nine research councils and organisations, is to be cut by almost a quarter as part of a restructuring programme already under way.

A researcher working with cells kept in ice after storage in sub-zero temperatures in a liquid nitrogen cryopreservation chamber (pic credit: Jonathan Pow/Getty Images)
A researcher working with cells kept in ice after storage in sub-zero temperatures in a liquid nitrogen cryopreservation chamber (pic credit: Jonathan Pow/Getty Images)

Its 134-strong comms team will be reduced to 102 under the plans.

UKRI, an executive non-departmental public body sponsored by the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, insists there are no planned redundancies, as people will be offered other roles within the organisation.

The move to reduce the size of the comms team is part of a wider "transformation programme" in which the organisation is looking to cut costs through "the integration of common business services".

Breaking the news

UKRI was established in April 2018 as the new national funding organisation for research and innovation. PRWeek understands that UKRI staff learned of the job cuts at a meeting chaired by Katrina Nevin-Ridley, the organisation's director of external relations, communications and public engagement, last month.

In a statement, UKRI said: "We are currently strengthening the way we work to take full advantage of the opportunities that working as one organisation creates."

It added: "This means changes to some functions and roles across the organisation, including the creation of a single communications and public-engagement structure that will be reduced in size."

The aim of the restructuring is to bring together the nine existing comms teams "to share best practice, reduce duplication and to provide the best communications support for staff and for external audiences".

Staff under pressure

UKRI said: "We are providing support to all our staff impacted by this process. We understand that organisational change is challenging and we want to thank our exceptional staff for their dedication and hard work during this period."

A representative insisted "there are no planned redundancies as a result of the changes to communications and public engagement", and remarked that "overall, the changes will result in more roles across UKRI as a whole than we have today to ensure we can deliver the significant increase in government investment in research and innovation over the coming years. Trade unions have been consulted on our plans."

Union concerns

However, Tony Bell, national secretary of trade union Prospect, told PRWeek: "The fundamental problem is that we’re not being properly consulted. We’ve not been given numbers, but we gather from our members that there will be jobs going."

He added that union officials will be meeting with UKRI in two weeks, where the "absolutely dire consultation over the comms area" will be one of the issues discussed.

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