We are writing with reference to the ‘Strategy Review’ (referred to as such by Martine Carter in her 19th October blog post on Surreynet) being undertaken by the University. As you will understand, the prospect of a ‘Strategy Review’ raises questions regarding job security and staff working conditions, especially given the history and roll out of institutional restructuring programmes over recent years (for example, Operational Review 2016, Vision 2020, Continuous Improvement Programme 2019).
We would like to stress, from the beginning, our appreciation of the more consultative approach that the University has taken this year to union involvement, with particular reference to your acceptance that staff/union input should be a key component of this review. As you may be aware, UCU is currently conducting a wide-ranging survey on institutional operation, and we will be presenting both the data and various recommendations which arise from it to senior management.
Further to this, at a recent joint fortnightly meeting with Provost and HR Directorate [26.10.20], we reiterated our request for more granularity on the institutional non-staff expenditure figures, and we place this request at a very high priority. No one could have foreseen the Covid-19 pandemic, and its subsequent impacts on our sector and our institution in particular, but it is vital that we do not see the staff body as a ‘cost’ that is compared negatively to other institutional expenditures. On the contrary, now more than ever, the staff body should be protected at all costs. This position is in line with the national UCU Jobs First / Fund the Future campaigns.
We are aware that ‘Strategy Review’ departmental consultations are taking place, and that staff have been advised that recommendations will go to Council early February 2021 for ratification. If this is the case, we are concerned that there may not be enough time for the staff voice to be properly heard and for full discussions to develop, particularly with the Christmas/New Year break. As a consequence, we are sending this open letter to formally seek reassurances that job security will be considered paramount and that compulsory redundancies and/or changes to staff contracts are not being considered as part of the current ‘Strategy Review’ process. This reassurance is all the more important as we have already lost staff to redundancy processes over the summer, including those who took enhanced voluntary offers in order to stave off the threat of compulsory redundancy.
We look forward to your response, and to working further with the senior management body on constructive discussions as to how we can all improve working conditions at our University; and therefore ensure the viability of the institution moving forwards. We hope you agree with us that these are inextricably linked.
Surrey UCU Committee
UCU has released further guidance to branches concerning negotiations and consultation with employers to ensure Covid-19 risk assessments are reviewed urgently and to ensure appropriate preventative and protective measures are in place. UCU’s position remains that the majority of teaching should be online unless risk assessments demonstrate that adequate control measures are in place to ensure face-to-face teaching can be undertaken with a low risk of Covid-19 transmission. In any event it is our view that a mix of face-to-face and remote delivery will be necessary as a minimum control measure.
In addition to the guidance on collective approaches to address Covid-19 health and safety concerns, we realise that individual members may also have particular concerns about the safety of a return to on site work and face-to-face teaching in light of their particular individual circumstances. We have also produced a series of template letters for use by members who reasonably believe that a request or demand that they return to on site working would place them in serious danger from Covid-19, in order to raise their concerns directly with their manager.
The letters are drafted for use by members in different circumstances; the relevant template will need to be tailored to the circumstances of an individual member and branches may need to support members to assist them in completing their letter.
There are two sets of templates – one for members working in higher education and one for members working in further education. For each sector there are nine template letters for use by members in the following categories:
-an employee who is clinically vulnerable or extremely vulnerable;
-an employee from a BAME background
-an employee with anxiety/depression related condition
-an older employee
-a pregnant woman employee from a BAME background
-a pregnant woman from a white background
-an employee with no particular relevant characteristics
-an employee with no particular relevant characteristics but with vulnerable household member(s)
-disabled staff at increased risk.
Each letter covers issues relevant to the circumstances/characteristics of the employee and includes reference to the employer risk assessment (or lack of one) to raise concerns with the member’s manager.
To be most effective the letters should include reference to the employer’s risk assessment, to highlight deficiencies in that and the reasons why the member considers it to be unsafe to return to onsite working in the current circumstances, until deficiencies have been removed and adequate control measures implemented
Members may not have seen the employer risk assessment and this element of their letter is likely to be the one that they will need assistance with. The key point for branch reps who are supporting members with drafting a letter is to encourage the member to identify specific factors that concern them in terms of risks to their safety, and to link these to elements of the risk assessment (e.g. If an employer’s risk assessment specifies that in-person interaction in enclosed indoor spaces should be limited, and yet a member is being told that their timetable involves hours of face-to-face teaching in rooms without ventilation or social distancing measures, then these elements should be highlighted in the letter).
When completed, member’s letters should be sent to their line manager, copied to their local branch for information.
Please log into the UCU website to download the template letters here:
Angela Richardson MP
House of Commons
Dear Angela Richardson,
We are writing on behalf of staff and students working within University of Surrey to ask for your help in ensuring that the Government protects post-16 education and provides much-needed stability for staff and students in the face of the current Covid-19 crisis. Specifically, we would like to ask that you engage with the Secretary of State for Education and the Treasury to ensure that financial support is available to both higher- and further-education providers, and to clarify the Government’s plans to strengthen the UK’s post-16 education sectors following Conservative commitments in the 2019 manifesto.
At the University, we’re grateful to be a large part of the Guildford community; of the 77,729 voters in Guildford, it is estimated that 10,183 are students in further and higher education, and approximately 4,300 staff work in post-16 education within this constituency.
We believe that the post-16 education sector is a critical part of the social and economic fabric of the UK and will be crucial to our country’s recovery from the current crisis. UUK states that, in 2014-15 (the most recently available data), UK Universities contributed £95 billion gross output and supported almost 944,000 jobs.
In the early days of the pandemic, staff in the sector responded magnificently and continue to do so today. Unsurprisingly, though, the crisis is still causing huge uncertainty. Without urgent action from the Government, we risk losing vital educational capacity just when it will be needed most. The country cannot afford to push tens of thousands of teachers, researchers, and education professionals into unemployment at a time when we will need education to be a key driver of recovery.
The education unions have already called on government to take action and whilst there appears to have been recognition in Westminster of the importance of further and higher education, the very limited proposals and actions taken so far have been inadequate to the challenges the sector faces and to the crucial task of maintaining the confidence of students and staff: https://www.gov.uk/government/news/government-support-package-for-universities-and-students
The inadequacy of the government package is illustrated by the report by London Economics, which highlighted a potential £2.5bn loss of income from tuition fees and teaching grants for UK universities, an estimated loss of 30,000 sector jobs, with a further 32,000 jobs threatened throughout the wider economy. This analysis has been confirmed by the recent large scale study of international students’ intentions undertaken by the British Council. In the worst case scenario, the Council predicts losses to the sector of around £2bn from international students alone.
The sector needs a clear and coherent plan aimed at retaining capacity and maximising the positive impact that further and higher education can make. As part of a key community-based institution within your constituency, we would be grateful if you could, on our behalf, urge both the Secretary of State for Education and Treasury to take more action to protect these important sectors.
We look forward to hearing from you.
University of Surrey Students Union Committee
Surrey UCU Committee
Surrey UNISON Committee
Surrey Unite Committee
The Surrey UCU Committee appreciates that the situation over the last two weeks has been unprecedented and fast-moving.
As a result, on behalf of our members, we wish to seek immediate clarification, reassurance and guarantees on the following points:
1 That to protect those remaining on campus, the University will use all appropriate safety measures across workspaces as outlined in point 6.
2 That all staff should be given the time to learn the processes required for working at home, without requiring excessive hours of work or undue expectations being placed upon them, and that the University ensures that students are made aware of the constraints within which staff are operating during this period.
3 That the University should not penalise staff members because they cannot complete the normal responsibilities of their job remotely, due to either the nature of their duties or due to personal circumstances including distress and stress caused by Covid-19 related concerns, caring responsibilities, or the fact that staff do not possess adequate access to personal technology or internet facilities. Staff are doing the best they can.
4 That the University will develop a working from home allowance to cover increased use of phones and other utilities, where necessary.
5 That the University will ensure there is no financial detriment, in terms of loss of contractual pay, hourly paid work, or regular overtime, to any member of staff, regardless of
contract type or visa status, as a result of COVID-19-related closures, cancellations, or self-isolation.
6 That the University confirms that any period of COVID-19 related sick leave or self-isolation, regardless of contract type, will be covered by paid leave and will not count towards either occupational sick pay entitlement limits or any trigger points.
7 That the University will ensure staff who are unable to complete the normal responsibilities of their job due to additional care duties caused by COVID-19 (such as caring for ill family members or children who are at home during this pandemic period) will not be required to take unpaid leave or suffer any financial detriment.
8 That the University recognises that altering course delivery methods and moving course content online increases staff workload. It is not a simple substitution or ‘alternative’ process.
9 That changes to online delivery will be done on a ‘without prejudice’ basis: (i) without prejudice to future course delivery (ii) without prejudice to future collective bargaining on institutional recorded delivery policy
10 That the recorded content requested will not be used in future, for other purposes, without the consent of staff members.
11 That staff members can adopt and use alternative online delivery options to recorded lecture delivery.
12 That staff will retain all rights in relation to any materials prepared for online delivery.
We look forward to your response, which we will be circulating to Surrey UCU members.
Surrey UCU Committee
6th March 2020
Open letter from the Surrey UCU Committee regarding the USS Pension and the ‘Four Fights’ [Pay and Equality] disputes.
We are writing to you with a formal request for information. We believe that the present position of University of Surrey, in relation to the two national disputes, should be communicated as transparently as possible.
As you will be aware, the employer representatives have returned to national negotiations with UCU but with the caveat at present that they do not have a mandate from enough Vice-Chancellors to make improved offers. This is particularly relevant to the pay element of the Four Fights dispute, and the UCU position that the employers should cover member contributions increases in the USS dispute.
Please could you answer the following questions:
(1) How did this University respond in the recent USS consultation?
a) Did this University agree to increase contributions by 1%?
b) Did this University agree to increase its share by 0.5%?
c) Or was the University one of the 84% which are still unwilling to take on any more contributions?
(2) If the University is unwilling to pay RPI +3%, what improvements to the headline pay offer of 1.8% is it willing to make, in order to reverse over a decade of real terms pay cuts?
(3) Can the University commit to providing a workload model based in hours to all of your staff? If not, why not?
(4) Given that over a decade of data – gathered by, among others, yourselves – has repeatedly shown a systemic differential in pay, based on gender & ethnicity, is the University willing to commit to developing a concrete action plan to close these equalities pay gaps?
(5) Is the University willing to reduce the number of fixed term contracts it currently uses? What targets about when and how this will occur will you/the University set?
(6) We do not as yet have a formal agreement governing the contractual conditions of hourly-paid staff. What targets about when and how this will occur will you/the University set?
(7) Do you have a formal change management policy that involves meaningful consultation before announcing redundancies, either voluntary or compulsory? Are you willing to negotiate a redundancy avoidance agreement?
(8) Is there a staff or student representative on your remuneration committee that considers the salary of senior management including the vice-chancellor? Do you attend the meetings where your pay is established? If so, why?
We look forward to your responses, which we formally request to communicate to Surrey UCU Members and our UCU colleagues more widely.
Surrey UCU Committee
This form closes Tuesday 21st January at 12:00:
In July we ran a Branch survey asking you the following questions:
1, In light of recent events, what institutional changes or action do you think would restore the confidence of staff and students in the senior university management?
2, Please suggest some constructive, positive proposals for the University of Surrey that engage with the challenges that HE faces at present
3, What is your vision for the University of Surrey?
4, What is your ‘vision’ of a HE institution?
Please click below to view our pdf member report back.