Double challenge for climate science

Double challenge for climate science, unions warn

Two unions today raised concerns about the impact on climate science of plans to shed 18 specialist jobs at the British Antarctic Survey and a proposal to merge BAS with the National Oceanography Centre.

Prospect and the Public and Commercial Services Union said that government spending cuts have forced the research centres' owner, the Natural Environment Research Council, to:

  • save £3m a year at BAS to address the impact of a CSR 'flat-cash' financial settlement of £42m a year to 2014-15. To this end it is seeking 18 volunteers for redundancy in science areas, as well as cuts in facilities and support
  • consult on the merger of BAS and NOC with a view to reducing capital expenditure on research ships and other large infrastructure items covering both marine and polar research.

Prospect National Secretary Tony Bell, speaking for trade unions in NERC, said of the BAS redundancies: "It is a tragedy that such highly trained scientists will lose their jobs. At a meeting between management and the unions yesterday, NERC undertook to ensure that key areas of BAS science will not stop. But capacity will be diminished and in the areas being run down, it will be difficult to attract funding and rebuild vital work in the future. Furthermore, these redundancies will have a personal impact both on those leaving and those left behind."

On the wider issue of merger, he added: "Members fear these proposals, on which consultation finishes tomorrow, represent a fait accompli. There may be a logic in reviewing big capacity expenditure, but merger is not the only option and so far there is no evidence that it would save money. Members are also worried about the impact on their future ability to deliver both key global weather and sea system science. They want to see all the figures and for NERC to be open about all the possible options for the future."

Prospect and PCS are the recognised unions for 400 employees at BAS, whose headquarters are in Cambridge, and 540 at NOC, based in Southampton and Liverpool.