All posts by Colette Maxfield

190404 Open Correspondence from the Surrey UCU Committee

Dear Professor Lu

We are formally communicating with you ahead of your Town Hall Meeting on Friday 5th April as we welcome your move towards direct engagement with University of Surrey staff members.

Based on the indicative figures presented to the unions earlier this week, it is clear that over 80% of the £15m savings target that University of Surrey has set itself could potentially be achieved as a result of the recruitment freeze and approved EVS applications.

Notwithstanding that a business case has not been presented for the necessity of such savings, we believe that to restore confidence, it is important that the University now focuses on non-staff cost savings.

As a consequence, we request that staff are reassured at the Town Hall meeting on Friday that no compulsory redundancies are currently planned or intended in the second stage of the Continuous Improvement Programme.

We sincerely hope that restoring confidence is now your primary objective and priority.

Kind regards

Surrey UCU Committee

Report Back on Open Meeting 22.03.19

First of all, the Lecture Theatre was *packed*, with over 250 attendees.

1. There was a brief introduction to the three campus trade unions: UCU, UNISON and Unite.

2. An update was provided on current concerns:

– The lack of detailed data to justify the need for saving £15M

– The dubious use of uncertainties such as Brexit and the Augar review in order to justify knee-jerk reactions

– The terminology used which designates staff as a cost and not as an asset

– The lack of guidance for line managers during the EVS Scheme

– A rush forward to implement changes with no apparent plan

3. An update was then provided on current restructuring processes and the lack of information and appropriate consultation provided to individual departments. It was noted that the University of Surrey’s mode of moving forward at this point is causing a very real, and very serious, welfare issue to staff. A member of the Welfare Team kindly invited any distressed member of staff to get in contact if they wish to talk through current events.

4. The USSU President gave a presentation on the current position of the Students Union. It was stated that four years on from the last time the University declared 200 job losses, student satisfaction has decreased, organisational cash has doubled, and Executive pay has risen. There is a clear lack of planning behind the current announcement of cuts.

The USSU have formally endorsed our UCU letter to the VC.

USSU are also intending to hold a referendum for students in a Vote of No Confidence in the VC, Senior Management Team and governing bodies.

5. There was much discussion from the floor, some of which was heated, some content was upsetting, and we thank all those that spoke for their willingness to share their views. Staff spoke from right across the University. Concerns raised include:

– The hard sell directed at certain persons and certain departments, pressurising staff into EVS

– The fixation of the University to prioritise vanity projects over staff

– The threatening of course closures without due process

– Anger from students as to a lack of transparency in governance

– The hypocrisy of the University espousing the five core values, whilst simultaneously treating staff with disrespect

There was a call from the floor as to an all-staff Vote of No Confidence, facilitated by the trade unions. Unite, UNISON and UCU agreed that this action could be considered by the trade unions.

Further Open Letter from the Surrey UCU Committee

Dear Professor Lu,
Thank you for your response to the UCU Open Letter, which the University forwarded to our Regional Official on 11th March. We would also like to thank your team for a positive and frank JNCC meeting.
In response to your letter, firstly, Surrey UCU does not consider the ‘further financial information’ that was provided on the 4th March as sufficient. As a world-leading institution, pioneering evidence-based research and teaching, the University Senior Management will understand what is meant by granular, detailed data, which the trade unions have repeatedly requested.  Simple pie charts and graphs without substantive background data are not sufficient evidence to justify potential staff cuts. For staff to have confidence, greater and better data need to be produced.
Secondly, it would be helpful if you could clarify what you consider to be ‘full and meaningful consultation’. Providing a series of briefings for trade unions, where suggestions or recommendations are not incorporated into University planning, does not constitute consultation. An example of this is strikingly illustrated by your reference to asking trade union committees to endorse the EVS scheme, a request which took place four days before opening this scheme to all staff across the University, without time to consult union members or recommend alterations.
We urgently request that you review and revise the nature of the consultations between University of Surrey Senior Management and the three campus trade unions. We look forward to assurances and action on your part. In the event that there is no alteration, Surrey UCU will vigorously and publicly oppose assertions that genuine consultation has taken place, or that University of Surrey has provided figures that constitute a proper business case.
For the absolute avoidance of doubt all three campus unions oppose compulsory redundancies. Therefore, we request, notwithstanding our disagreement with the business case presented, a reopening of the EVS scheme, should the current scheme not yield sufficient savings. Allied to this, joint working on non-staff cost saving measures including the use of consultants, University Executive Board pay and current business ventures and partnerships.
We look forward to a prompt, positive response from yourself.
Thank you
Surrey UCU Committee
With formal support from
Surrey Unite

UCU Open Letter to the VC

Dear Max,

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.

Yours sincerely,

Michael Moran
Regional Official HE & FE South East Region

Surrey UCU Branch Position

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.
Surrey UCU

UCU HQ: University of Surrey refuses to rule out compulsory redundancies

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.

The HE Pay High Jump

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.

Quick thoughts on the Pay Ballot result 2018

Dear members

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.

Surrey UCU

Pay is not about Pay

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.

Surrey UCU