All posts by Collette Maxfield

Template letters for individual members with COVID-19 safety concerns – branch guidance

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:

Open Letter to Angela Richardson MP, from all Campus Unions

22.06.2020

Angela Richardson MP

House of Commons

London

SW1A 0AA

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.

Yours sincerely,

University of Surrey Students Union Committee

Surrey UCU Committee

Surrey UNISON Committee

Surrey Unite Committee

Open letter from the Surrey UCU Committee to the Director of HR, 26.03.20. For the attention of the Senior Management Team.

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.


Thank you


Yours sincerely


Surrey UCU Committee

Open letter from the Surrey UCU Committee regarding the USS Pension and the ‘Four Fights’ [Pay and Equality] disputes

6th March 2020

Dear Vice-Chancellor,

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.

Thank you

Yours sincerely

Surrey UCU Committee

191127 Talks with UCEA on Pay and Equality resume

Dear colleague

Yesterday, UCU negotiators met with UCEA for the first time since our ballot on pay and equality opened, despite our repeated requests to meet before the beginning of industrial action. It is clear that it was UCU’s strong ballot result and the prospect of solid industrial action which have brought UCEA to the table, and we thank our members for your strong and vibrant support which has had – and will continue to have – an impact on these discussions. We know exactly what it means to each of us to be called upon to withdraw our labour.

In the meeting, we made it clear that UCU members expect progress on all aspects of the claim, and pressed the employers’ representatives to improve their offer on each of the four interconnected areas of pay and working conditions. UCEA have agreed to return to their member institutions, and have committed to a written response early next week.

We wish to reiterate that while we are pleased that this consultation is occurring, the fact that it is happening against the backdrop of ongoing industrial action is a sign of a significant disconnect between university management and the staff who make up our higher education institutions. We have advised UCEA to strongly encourage their membership to engage with staff on the picket lines, and to listen to what working conditions are truly like in our sector, in order to inform their response about the progress to which they are willing to commit in this dispute.

We will communicate again when we are in a position to do so.

Vicky Blake
on behalf of UCU HE pay and equality national negotiators

Surrey UCU Statement of Solidarity: UCU Branches taking action in the Pay & Equality and USS Pension disputes 2019

The Surrey UCU Branch did not reach the 50% voting threshold imposed by the Trade Union Act (which took force 1 March 2017), we missed this barrier by only 5 votes.

As a result, Surrey UCU would like to make this statement of solidarity with the 60 UCU Branches taking part in the strike action that starts on 25th November and continues for eight consecutive working days.

We encourage our @ucusurrey members and the wider community to donate to the UCU Hardship Fund in order to financially support those taking part in the action: https://www.ucu.org.uk/fightingfund

We thank our colleagues at other universities making sacrifices to defend the Pay and conditions of all HE sector staff, as well as continuing to defend the pensions of those staff members in USS.

In solidarity and much gratitude

@UCUSurrey

Surrey UCU Member Report Back: ‘Vision’ in HE

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.

190909 Surrey UCU ‘Vision’ in HE

Surrey UCU Open Letter to USSU 23.08.19

Dear USSU,


We are writing with an invitation to our Branch Meeting on 16th September, 13:00, LTL.


We feel that this is particularly important as UCU is about to enter into a double ballot for strike action over the staff USS pension and Higher Education Pay – and we would like the student body to
be informed of developments.

The UCU represents academic, academic-related staff as well as PGR students who are employed by the University. We took fourteen days of strike action in the Spring of 2018 in order to save the guaranteed benefits of the USS staff pension after a drastic change was to be imposed which would have seen future staff pensions gambled on the stock market. The guaranteed nature of the USS pension is at this point no longer under threat – but trust in the scheme is very low especially as USS is radically increasing how much staff members have to pay into their pensions. UCU believes that the increases are unfair and unnecessary – unfortunately, UCU does not feel that the employers have seriously challenged the USS stance and supported its staff members. Since the 2018 dispute, all parties have been taking part in a Joint Expert Panel, but USS is refusing to fully implement the panel recommendations.


There is a lot of information online, please click here:
https://www.ucu.org.uk/strikeforuss
https://www.ucu.org.uk/article/10255/Open-letter-to-USS-members?list=9041


Some quicK figures for you:


PAY 2019-2020


The unions submitted a pay claim this year of 3% plus retail price index (RPI) – the RPI to keep up with inflation and the 3% to override some of the pay-erosion that HE staff have experienced over
the years (UCU estimates that staff in HE have experienced a real terms cut of 21% since 2010) . Plus the unions requested joint working on key issues (gender pay gap, workload and precarious
contracts).The employers have offered 1.8% and minimal joint working. 1.8% meets the current consumer price
index including housing (CPIH) measure of inflation but not retail price index (RPI).


USS


UCU has a policy of no detriment. Due to the lack of serious challenge from the employers to the USS stance, UCU have requested that the employers pay any increase on the 26%
contributions instead of staff members (total contributions should be no higher than 26%, as they were before the dispute in 2018 started).
USS is currently proposing rates well above 30%, climbing as high as 34.7% after 2020 as a replacement for the rate of 35.6% that is already being imposed (members contributions are set to go up to at least 9.6% of salary from this October, and at least 11% after 2020, compared with 8% if the Joint Expert Panel’s recommendations were implemented now).
If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to get in touch –


Thank you for your time


The Surrey UCU Committee