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