On 22 March 2019 the three campus trade unions (Unite, UNISON and UCU) held an open meeting for all staff. The level of attendance was unprecedented, with standing room only in the lecture theatre.
The issues raised included:
- The lack of detailed data to justify the espoused need for saving £15M,
- The dubious use of uncertainties such as Brexit and the Augar review in order to justify this knee-jerk reaction,
- The terminology used which designates staff as a cost and not as an asset,
- A rush forward to implement changes with no apparent plan or appropriate process (e.g. equality analysis),
- The threatening of course closures without due process, and
- The serious implications for staff well-being, including stress and workload concerns as a result of staff reductions.
At this meeting, there was a call from the floor for an all-staff vote of no confidence, to be facilitated by the trade unions. Unite, UNISON and UCU agreed that this action could be considered by the trade unions. USSU informed staff that they are holding a referendum for students in a vote of no confidence in the VC, senior management team and governing bodies in May.
Based on the indicative figures presented to the unions in April, it is clear that over 80% of the £15m savings target that University of Surrey has set itself could be achieved as a result of the recruitment freeze and approved EVS applications. The unions raised questions as to ‘Phase 2’ and what it will encompass, but were not presented with a clear direction for the ongoing ‘Continuous Improvement Programme’.
As a result, in order to protect staff, the three campus trade unions subsequently wrote to Professor Lu requesting that the University rule out compulsory redundancies of staff until at least 31 July 2020, to allow time for a period of reflection and to alleviate the spectre of job insecurity.
This reassurance has not been provided. In the reply, Professor Lu wrote only that: ‘The outcome of our recent Enhanced Voluntary Severance scheme, together with other measures we have taken, means that in all likelihood we will not be looking at wide-ranging compulsory redundancies across the University as part of the Continuous Improvement Programme…….I cannot categorically rule out the need for local action involving redundancies in some areas’.
Further outsourcing of University services also remains a concern for staff and formal requests have not produced categorical assurances: Professor Lu has stated ‘I do not envisage any significant changes here in the foreseeable future’.
Therefore we invite you to participate in this all-staff vote of no confidence.
Please note your participation will be kept completely anonymous from the University (payroll numbers are requested to verify that staff members have only voted once).
This vote will close at 12pm on Friday 17 May 2019.
Please share the voting link with other staff members so that they also get their say: https://yoursay.ucu.org.uk/s3/surreynoconfidence
You will have seen the ballot results sent round by UCU HQ. Only 7 out of 147 Branches made the 50% legal threshold (it’s hard work!).
HOWEVER, if you aggregate the results, there was a 42% national turnout with a nearly 70% vote for strike action. This is the best result that UCU has ever achieved in a national pay ballot.
@ucusurrey got very comfortably over this national average with its 44% – something to be proud of.
Thank you to all our members who voted.
Why do we keep emailing about Pay?
Pay is not really about Pay. Pay is about the race to the bottom.
We saw it with USS. Employers argued that other organisations in the private sector have pushed their employees into gambling their pensions on the stock market, so why shouldn’t HE institutions?
A dangerous logic.
As for the current 2% Pay offer – if you are paid a lot less than inflation for 14 years, you are in the race to the bottom. At some point, this race has to stop.
Other hurdles as HE employees lap the downward track – contracts that are increasingly precarious, casual, insecure. The gender pay gap drags on. Workloads are increasingly stressful.
All of these issues were raised in the 2018/19 UCU Pay and Equality claim. They are the reasons we are now in dispute, and they ARE OUTLINED ON YOUR BALLOT PAPER.
Why do we keep talking about 50%?
If we do not reach the legal threshold of 50% voting turn-out as a Branch we will probably be RE-BALLOTED. We can not take any legitimate action without reaching this figure. We will not be able to join the other 147 balloted Branches who will be strengthening our collective negotiating power in an attempt to improve the employer’s offer.
So Pay is not really about Pay. And your vote really does matter.
Please vote and let us know today.
The JEP Report is out! If you went on strike, if you braved those cold pickets, if you were the lone member in your department not in work during the dispute – read the exec summary of the JEP Report (it is a lot shorter, accessible, and very well written). This is your document, an outcome of your action, and remember, if it wasn’t for the action – you would have a defined contributions pension scheme winging its way into existence instead of a report that validates the original UCU arguments against the proposed changes to the scheme. Tide-turners include: the unique position of HE as a sector and the need for long-term thinking as a consequence, the strength of USS as a scheme, the faulty consultation process with employers, and the need for more cohesive consultation with members (i.e. you!).
A sigh of relief. And the first important step in a long process. We still have further to go in Phase 2 of the current JEP remit. However, it is time again to thank all those who made sacrifices last Spring so that voices could be heard and staff provisions defended. Get in touch with your views and let us know what you think.
We have shown UUK that collective action works over pensions, now let’s show UCEA over Pay!
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.
UCU calls on University of Surrey senior management to drop 100% deduction for action short of a strike.
As you may know, university staff at 64 institutions are currently engaged in industrial action to defend their pensions against the drastic cuts proposed by UUK. University of Surrey is one of these 64 universities. Unfortunately, as far as UCU is aware, the University of Surrey is one of only a tiny handful of universities planning to deduct 100% for action short of a strike.
The proposed 100% deductions for Action Short of a Strike (ASOS) are unfair. This punitive measure seeks to deduct wages twice for the same thing – once for being on strike, and then again for not subsequently doing the work not done owing to being on strike. Requiring staff to reschedule in this way is unprecedented, highly impractical, and would be a cause of both staff and student work overload, contrary to the principle of duty of care.
The vice-chancellor at a prestigious Scottish University, who has recently changed her mind and adopted a much less punitive stance, has labelled such measures as “unfair and clearly counter-productive” and that such a policy would be “inconsistent with this university’s values and the store we place on our shared sense of community”.
UCU is calling on the University of Surrey senior management to drop their punitive plan to deduct 100% from wages for refusing to reschedule lectures or classes, or to cover the work of absent colleagues as industrial action short of a strike (ASOS).
An additional concern is that the University of Surrey will continue to make pension payments on the understanding that colleagues taking action will respond to the university’s requests for notification in advance of action taking place. This pressure to declare strike action ahead of time is designed to mitigate the effects of industrial action, forcing the rescheduling of work, which in effect makes the the action meaningless. UCU members are already taking a cut in their pay in order to take a stand, they have not made the decision to take strike action lightly.
Within this dispute, University of Surrey is proving to have one of the most punitive management cultures in the country. These punitive measures affect early career staff the most, particularly those on hourly paid contracts, and we urge alumni, students, external examiners and staff working within academia to sign this letter to urge the University of Surrey to reconsider its position.
Strikes will begin on Thursday 22 February
UCU has written to the 61 universities* to inform them of an escalating wave of strikes over a four-week period that will begin with a five-day walkout either side of a weekend. There will then be four days of strikes from Monday 5 – Thursday 8 March and a full five-day walkout the following week (12 – 16 March). The strike dates are:
Week one – Thursday 22 and Friday 23 February (two days)
Week two – Monday 26, Tuesday 27 and Wednesday 28 February (three days)
Week three – Monday 5, Tuesday 6, Wednesday 7 and Thursday 8 March (four days)
Week four – Monday 12, Tuesday 13, Wednesday 14, Thursday 15 and Friday 16 March (five days)
Surrey UCU reached the 50% turn out threshold and will be participating in strike action.