Open Letter from Surrey UCU Committee re ‘Strategy Review’

Dear Vice-Chancellor,

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.

Kind regards

Surrey UCU Committee