Sure enough, it’s happened again.
Days after The Eye revealed that the only Welsh university in the elite ‘Russell Group’ was about to embark on another major staff redundancy programme, the mainstream media in Wales covered the same event.
On Monday WalesOnline ‘reported’: “Cardiff University is cutting jobs as it struggles to tackle a £21m operating deficit in the face of funding cuts and rising costs (and) has offered all 7,000 staff voluntary severance but is not ruling out compulsory redundancies”. The ‘news’ was also ‘covered’ yesterday by the Cardiff newspaper the South Wales Echo, in the same Media Wales stable as the website.
We stated then: “The Eye understand that the only Welsh university in the elite ‘Russell Group’ may be about to embark on another major staff redundancy programme”. This shock news was confirmed by Cardiff University officials in an email to staff the following day, which we also reported.
We informed readers of The Eye on Saturday: “Senior officials have confirmed the news first revealed by The Eye that jobs are to go at Wales’ only university in the elite ‘Russell Group’, in order to save millions of pounds. Internal documents passed to us show that staff are to be offered ‘a new Voluntary Severance Scheme to cover the whole University’ which will be open for applications from January 3 to May 31. The university says it wants to ‘move from a deficit position of £21m last academic year to a surplus position of £24m in two years’ time'”.
The university outlined its controversial cost-cutting plans, called ‘Transforming Cardiff’, in a video message emailed to all staff and since put on Youtube.
But in a joint-statement the Cardiff University branches of Unite, Unison, as well as the University and College Union (UCU) accused the institution of mismanagement and warned that although staff morale was at rock bottom they would fight any compulsory job losses. They said: “We are astonished that Cardiff University staff are facing their third voluntary severance scheme in six years, and we are very worried that the Vice-Chancellor (VC) still refuses to rule out further compulsory redundancies”.
Presciently we published the remarks of commentators on Friday who wondered whether news of more job cuts at Cardiff University on The Eye would also be ‘reported’ later by the mainstream media, as WalesOnline and the key publications in the stable, such as the Echo and Western Mail have form when it comes to covering our stories days afterwards. In September last year The Eye were the first to reveal that internal documents showed how Cardiff University had decided to offer “academic staff a time-limited opportunity to apply for severance under a Voluntary Severance (VS) Scheme”.
We showed how many at the university were deeply unimpressed by an internal note which advertised this programme of redundancies which we had disclosed.
It warned: “The University is under no obligation to approve any application.” Under “Achievement of savings target” the note stated: “The financial consequences of any agreement under this scheme must make a positive contribution to the achievement of the overall financial resiliance of the School…” At the time the UCU, told its members at the university: “… we remain highly critical of the culture of management and managerialism at Cardiff University”.
This news too was followed up days later by the mainstream media in Wales.
Meanwhile The Eye showed how the university as well as its controversial Vice-Chancellor (VC), Colin Riordan, who announced the post-axing programme, have hit the headlines for reasons other than cutting jobs.
Four years ago we divulged how Professor Riordan was paid more than £250,000, but was reimbursed £266.50 for a two-night stay in London, as well as £109 for a single night. In May 2015 The Eye revealed how Professor Riordan had made the news after racking up £1,010.98 on taxis, hotels, rail tickets and hospitality between June 2013 and May 2014. At the time The TaxPayers’ Alliance said: “… surely out of principle Prof Riordan could donate his claims to the hard-working taxpayers of the future and the people he should be serving, the students of his university”.
In April Cardiff University was forced to deal with a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request with money paid to academic officials at its heart. The question from an intrigued member of the public asked: “I would like to know the yearly salary of the pro vice chancellor/s and how much that has increased since 2012, year-to-year”.
But Professor Riordan’s juniors have long been in the news over payments. When Elizabeth Treasure was at Cardiff University she was dogged by controversy over expensive furnishings, which The Eye reported.
In May 2015 we disclosed how the cost for furnishing and equipping her room was more than £3,220 greater than the money spent on the office of her superior, Professor Riordan. Professor Treasure is now VC of Aberystwyth University where she has told workers that redundancies were “regrettable” at her institution, even though they may have been necessary to save money.
Yet The Eye had also reported how raising money through means other than reducing the headcount with redundancies has become more difficult recently. Cardiff University had its credit rating slashed following the Brexit vote and Moody’s changed the outlook from stable to negative.
Cardiff was one of eight top British universities which had their credit status downgraded amid concerns that curbs to free movement would hit recruitment of academics and students. Among the others were Leeds, Liverpool, Manchester, Keele and De Montfort in Leicester.
Oddly, this shock news was NOT followed up by WalesOnline, when other key issues have been after they were first revealed on our website.
But WalesOnline has rarely been far from the headlines – and it has not only concerned covering stories days after they appeared on The Eye.
Only yesterday we had explored how it had reported evidence at a trial concerning the Cardiff bar Coyote Ugly, while omitting to say it had been a keen supporter of the nightclub in the past. It had said: “Bouncers at a Cardiff nightclub attacked rugby star Shane Williams and his friends while ejecting them from the venue and left his brother unconscious, a court has heard”. Adding that Cardiff Crown Court had also been told: “Door staff working at the venue ejected the four-man group from the premises but an altercation outside Coyote Ugly, which was caught on CCTV, culminated in Dean Williams lying unconscious on the floor”.
On November 19 Wales Online reported that two of the doormen, or ‘bouncers’, had been found guilty of affray, while a third was found not guilty.
But in 2016, 17 ‘stories’ of a very different kind were published on the WalesOnline website about Coyote Ugly, where women dance for customers. One, in December of that year, was headlined: “Watch the Coyote Ugly Cardiff girls practise their moves ahead of opening night”.
An earlier item said: “The girls will start their ‘Coyote Bootcamp’ on Monday ahead of the venues (sic) grand opening… Following a weekend of auditions, owner’s (sic) at Cardiff’s new Coyote Ugly bar have finished their ‘Coyote Search’ and have recruited a number of girls…Nobee, Sally, Rio, Lauren and Chloe have all been chosen to work as Cardiff Coyotes.”
Readers though were unimpressed. One noted sarcastically in the comments section: “Scantily clad women dancing on a bar, serving drinks in-between, whilst men look on but can’t touch? No sexism there. At all”. Another said: “I think someone needs to look up what sexism is, because this is exactly that.”
But accusations of an old-fashioned and sexist attitude towards women have consistently dogged WalesOnline.
Three years ago, ironically on the eve of International Women’s Day (IWD) which celebrates the movement for women’s rights, the website promoted the Miss Wales beauty competition offering readers pictures of “gorgeous girls” and “stunners”.
The headline in WalesOnline advertising a piece about it declared: “Miss Wales 2015: Meet the 34 finalists hoping to wear the crown”. Underneath, a strapline stated: “These are the gorgeous girls hoping to be named Miss Wales … and you’ve got just HOURS to vote for your favourite”.
The previous month WalesOnline had run pictures of “The women aiming to win the title” with Elizabeth Jenkins one of the contenders in the beauty contest. In a nod to earlier times, the website reported that she had told it she was striving to “build a better world (which) is always a beautiful mission”.
Yet sexist ‘stories’ like this are not unusual for WalesOnline. Beauty contests in Wales are ‘reported’ by the website, along with the opening of bars such as Coyote Ugly, which as its reader noted, feature scantily-clad women dancing for a largely-male clientele.
Perhaps the website should stick to covering stories on The Eye days afterwards. At least they’re not sexist…
Also on The Eye – the dirty tricks campaigns underway as key officials at another Welsh university jockey for position to take over permanently from the man in charge who has been suspended. Perhaps this news too will be followed up by the mainstream media!
Tomorrow the lies of a crooked Welsh property ‘expert’ exclusively exposed by us, who had his legs broken when a drug deal soured, and now wrongly claims legal action is underway and a story about him on The Eye has been removed – https://the-eye.wales/bar-fly/