A message from the Vice Chancellor 28th February 2019
UCU members and the wider University community are extremely concerned at the content of your message to staff. Job security, workload and increased precarity are three of many areas highlighted at our very well attended meeting held on the 4th March.
The presenting reasons provided for the programme of cuts of ‘reduced income due to Brexit and an ever more competitive student recruitment environment, significantly increasing pension costs and a national review of tuition fee levels’ are far too vague to convince staff they are necessary. We expect a much more data driven and evidence based economic, technical and organisational case to justify such swingeing cuts. For this reason we expect full and meaningful consultation with the trade unions and a transparent examination of the employer business case over the coming period. An early meeting with Michael Kearney and Anne Poulson is therefore necessary.
However, the main purpose of this letter, notwithstanding our view that the business case for cuts has not been made , is to seek some early assurances so that staff do not have the spectre of uncertainty hanging over them. Firstly, you raise the issue of the potential for ‘compulsory redundancies’. We therefore request that you provide a categorical assurance that no member of staff that UCU has bargaining rights for will be made compulsory redundant this calendar year.
Secondly, we request that no member of staff currently on a fixed term or hourly paid contract will suffer a detriment this calendar year as a result of the programme of cuts proposed.
Thirdly, we recognise that an EVS scheme has to fully incentivise applicants in order to reduce the risk of compulsory redundancies. As this is our paramount goal we ask that you keep the EVS application process open until at least the end of this academic year. This would allow those considering this option the time to make financial decisions which could involve checking pension data, considering reducing hours on a permanent or temporary basis, unpaid sabbatical etc. A three week period is not long enough for such life changing decisions nor to get the feedback required on the various options.
Finally, a 6 month period, after which an employee can be made compulsory redundant without an unsuccessful application for EVS being honoured, is far too short. We request that this period should be extended to a year after application for EVS.
I look forward to a positive and speedy response from yourself.
Regional Official HE & FE South East Region
Surrey UCU opposes any move of the University of Surrey towards Compulsory Redundancies, because there is a lack of financial transparency and argument based on data.
This Branch resolves to:
1) action a letter to the University from UCU formally requesting that
– the University rules out future Compulsory Redundancies as part of its Continuous Improvement programme Stage 2
– the University recognises the vital contribution made by staff who have been employed on fixed-term or hourly-paid contracts, and provides reassurance that those on such contracts shall continue to participate at the University as valued employees, and be protected from any change in policy relating to recruitment.
2) formally request that the University corrects its recent public press statements which misrepresent the University’s financial position and which have negatively impacted on the University’s reputation
3) work closely with other campus unions by
– organising a joint open meeting
– drafting and printing a campaign leaflet outlining campus union positions
– opening dialogue with USSU
4) formally request changes to the terms of the current EVS scheme in the form of
– an extension to the three week open application period
– an extension from 6 months to 12 months for which members will be covered by the EVS terms
Please do not hesitate to contact us with your views, we are committed to remaining in touch with all our @ucusurrey members.
Thanks all, more updates to follow.
UCU HQ In the News
Staff at the University of Surrey were told on Monday to prepare for a shortfall between income and expenditure of at least £15m per year for the next few years. The message from their vice-chancellor Max Lu said the university had implemented tighter controls on all staff recruitment and would shortly be announcing details of a voluntary severance package. The Independent reported that Lu, one of the best-paid vice-chancellors in the country, spent £1,600 of university money relocating his pet dog.
Refusing to rule out compulsory redundancies, a university spokesman told Surrey Live the university would reduce staff “through a recruitment freeze and an enhanced voluntary severance scheme. While we can never rule out the possibility of compulsory redundancies, we will seek to avoid these wherever possible.”
UCU members at the university are holding an emergency meeting on Monday to discuss the situation and how to respond. A UCU spokesperson said that it was vital the university avoided any knee-jerk cuts and worked with the union to explore all options.
We all get used to it. The dripping tap scenario.
It could be the leaky gutter outside your bedroom window. Brambles growing over your garden wall. The mounting bill pile perched on the mantelpiece.
It could be your pay.
Higher education pay, in fact, which has declined in real terms by 21% since 2009.
In general however, perhaps a few percent a year is hardly noticeable, or perhaps only a momentary annoyance when you notice your commuting cost has risen out of line with your pay packet.
Now imagine you had lost that 21% overnight, or that your pay was a lot more complicated. For some HE staff, on a precarious contract, pay may not be certain. Or manageable. Or enough. UCU needs a mandate in order to pressure UCEA into negotiating nationally on this issue.
The Trade Union Act 2017, designed to frustrate direct action, is not just a hurdle, it is a high jump. Expecting Branches to reach a 50% turn-out threshold although not required for any council or government election, stacks the odds against establishing a strong hand in UCU negotiations.
It is essential that UCU is not paralysed and rendered ineffective. We really do need members to post that ballot paper. We need to keep reaching for that bar—and over it.
As the summer months have swept by, you should by now have received your National Pay & Equality Ballot paper through the post. If you have not received a ballot paper and/or need to request a replacement, please fill out the online form here: https://yoursay.ucu.org.uk/s3/Replacement-postal-ballot-HE-pay-2018
As with the USS ballot, we are asking members to let us KNOW WHEN YOU HAVE VOTED (you do not need to tell us how you have voted!), please reply or email: email@example.com with the single word ‘voted’ so that we can climb our way towards that ALL-IMPORTANT, ALL-ENCOMPASSING, 50% LEGAL THRESHOLD.
Members may also find this article yesterday of interest – USS crisis: can the pension system be reformed?
As always, please do not hesitate to get in touch with any questions –
It is very important that we get the word out and that we are ready for the formal Pay ballot, so please make an effort this week to check with at least one colleague:
1. Do they know what the 50% threshold means?
In March 2017 the Govt introduced a 50% turn out threshold for any UK union which wanted to take legal strike action. ‘Ballots have to achieve at least a 50% turnout of eligible union members, with a majority voting in favour of strike action’. It is therefore essential that members post their ballot paper, whatever their actual vote.
2. Do they know the significance of the 2% Pay offer in real terms?
The employers’ latest pay offer of 2% does nothing to restore ground lost against inflation which, as measured by the Retail Price Index (RPI), is currently 3.4%. UCU estimates that HE staff have taken a cut in real terms of 21% since 2010) when pay settlements are cumulatively compared to rises in RPI.
3. Do they know why it is a Pay & Equality dispute?
You may not be aware but HE employers are increasingly resistant to national bargaining. Apart from senior pay, in higher education the only aspect of salaries that is getting bigger is the gender pay gap. The employers are currently not willing, at a national level, to address gender inequality or precarious employment in the sector.
Please forward on, or knock on a door and ask a colleague!
Remember when our lives were dominated by USS related emails and the never-diminishing-uncovering-of-information on the USS pension dispute? Many members recounted how their lives had suddenly become dependent on the twitter accounts of active pre-92 UCU Branches and UUK.
Naturally, since UCU voted to accept the UUK offer and the Joint Expert Panel (JEP) was established, most members have taken a step back, returned to work, and are hoping for the best out of the discussions taking place behind the scenes.
For those looking for a quick update as we head towards the first JEP report in September (who hasn’t got their fingers crossed?), please see this breakdown of news, bite-size.
From USS itself:
– a 1 minute read on The Story So Far.
Includes ‘next steps’ from the USS perspective, introducing a secondary plan of proposed increases for staff and employers in contributions under the cost sharing rule.
– a 1 minute read on the USS account of the JEP
UUK does not seem to hold any interesting nuggets on its website but does hold the (very brief) notes from the summer JEP meetings
, as does UCU
. Mostly, these notes report that the JEP has been reflecting on various forms of evidence submitted, most (if not all) of the evidence submitted to the JEP so far is available on USSbriefs
briefs 25-28, 30, 32-37), as part of the OpenUPP (Open USS Pension Panel) series.
For an alternative member-led perspective on the cost-sharing exercise, a snap-shot is available for those with twitter as well as for those without, in this thread here
During the period in which UCU have been consulting about the Captured Content Policy, there have been some important and positive changes. These include that recordings cannot be used without consent, including during strike action, and that there is no staff appraisal metric associated with the use of captured content.
Feedback shows that members are prepared to use captured content in their modules, but concerns remain about time constraints; availability of support; and “enforcement” of teaching approaches. Although the Policy stipulates that Panopto use is not compulsory (this is not legal) it is anticipated that teaching staff may be under huge pressure to provide recordings of their lectures.
What the policy means for you depends on what your Department or School decides to do.
• There may be meetings amongst your Heads of Department / Directors of Learning and Teaching / Programme Directors, so approach the relevant people for information and find out what is being planned for you
• The policy is to be decided by the Staff-Student Liaison Committee (SSLC) which reports to the Board of Studies. As any changes to the delivery of teaching on a module needs to go through the Board of Studies please engage fully with your Boards of Studies meetings
• The policy states that every module should include captured content for the next academic year (2018-19) and beyond. Bear in mind that there are hundreds of modules across the entire University, but finite resources. If your Department proposes something that seems unrealistic ask for confirmation that the time and resources are guaranteed before agreeing
• The Policy aims to develop local practices that are acceptable and realistic. All teaching staff should have some input into these decisions – however if staff in your department are being frozen out of such discussions then please let us know – this is not the intention of the Policy as we understand it from meetings with TEL.
We hope this helps, we will continue to be in touch on this issue.