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August, 2015:

A big thank to everyone who made the lunchtime demonstration a huge success

Thank you to everyone who attended the lunchtime demonstration – it was great to see such a brilliant turnout, we certainly sent a clear message to the Senior Leadership Team.  We will keep you posted on developments and if you have any feedback or ideas about the campaign please contact us.

A final reminder, if you haven’t participated in our survey, then please do.  We appreciate that it’s sometimes difficult to get along to meetings, so running a survey like this ensures that we are representing your views.

Just click on the following link: https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/PPNDJNW

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UMUCU Executive Committee

Lunchtime Demonstration Against Compulsory Redundancies – Thursday 20th August

We will be holding a lunchtime demonstration this Thursday, 20th August at 12.30-1.15pm outside University Place.

For those of you who would like to get creative, blank placards will be available from the UNISON Office, William Kay House, Oxford Road (next to The Holy Name Chaplaincy) from 12.00-2.00pm on Wednesday afternoon.

WE NEED YOUR INPUT – if you haven’t already done so, can you please ensure that you have taken part in our survey via the following link: https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/PPNDJNW

For further information please see the following link for our FAQs: 

http://manchester.web.ucu.org.uk/2015/08/07/redeployment-severance-and-compulsory-redundancies-faqs/

We have also produced information for GTAs and Postgraduate Students, which can be found at the following link: http://manchester.web.ucu.org.uk/2015/08/17/compulsory-redundancies-important-information-for-gtas-and-postgraduate-students/

Look forward to seeing you on Thursday.

Compulsory Redundancies: important information for GTAs and Postgraduate Students

What’s happening to staff at your University?

  • Over 100 job losses
  • Privatisation of IT services
  • More staff cuts expected!
  • Post-graduates and early-career academics ought to be more worried than they might think…

What’s going on? The University of Manchester is in the process of making a growing number of staff redundant across the University – so far over 250 people have been told that they are ‘at risk’ of compulsory redundancy. At the same time, the University is attempting unilaterally to push through a change in the Redeployment Policy. This change will mean anyone on the redeployment register after 3 months will face compulsory redundancy.

What does this mean? I.T. is the first department to have been targeted with upheaval. With 67 redundancy notices called, putting 219 staff at risk. This will mean cuts to vital IT services. The outcome will be that these services will now be outsourced to a private company, who can pay their staff lower wages: a move which contradicts the growing evidence that privatisation actually results in increased cost.

Why should I be worried? Such moves also represent a risk to academic workers, with an increased threat of out-sourcing. Where in the past, academic staff have usually been accommodated into new structures, in future similar schemes aimed at compulsory redundancy could be applied to academic departments: a prospect made more likely by the current political climate. The TEF (Teaching in Excellence Framework) proposed by Minister for Universities and Science, Jo Johnson, and its accompanying metrics of graduate earnings, makes the threat to certain departments seem all the more imminent. Just like in some cases following the assessment of the REF (Research in Excellence framework) management may target staff whose research is not within arbitrary ‘priority’ areas, or which is currently unfashionable, or, in the case of the TEF, whose students simply do not go on to high-earning careers. These changes make a move in that direction both more feasible and more likely.

Another potential threat is the increased and very likely use of out-sourcing in the case of re-structures like this one. In the current case, the disproportionate targeting of mid-career, middle-aged staff, suggests an increasing separation between senior posts and agency-covered work. It is this sort of work-force pattern that has seen schemes introduced like Warwick’s Teach Higher, an out-sourcing programme for teaching.

Although not necessarily apparent at first, such changes do represent a considerable threat to early-career researchers and post-graduate teachers. Unlike staff employed on a permanent or ‘core-funding’ basis, those on fixed term contracts are already in a precarious position. In that sense these changes may not immediately threaten them. However, this is also precisely the group aspiring to attain those mid-career posts that are currently being erased. These sorts of changes are aimed at undermining long-term job-security and in effect threaten all those ‘more secure’ permanent positions with the University that already casualised workers are demanding.

What can I do? This is only the beginning. Future reorganization of faculties is set to put lots more staff at risk this year. The staff who will be affected by this issue really need your support. At the moment the University is making it as difficult as possible to negotiate by denying there is any dispute, leaving open the possibility of strike action. This is a very difficult action for staff to take and our support can make all the difference.

Join the action! Join your Union!  You can help to raise awareness of the issue, by spreading the word in person and on social media. If you are or you become a member you can also help by partaking in action short of strike and joining your colleagues on the picket line. You must be a member of the union to take part in industrial action, this is a legal requirement. So join your union now!

UCU (University and College Union) has an on campus branch that represents all academic and related staff, including lecturers, researchers, professors, administrative staff, computer and library staff, teaching assistants and postgraduate students. Throughout the year they campaign for improved quality of education and research, salaries, working conditions and pensions, as well as support individuals in any employment dispute. Joining the Union is the best way that you can show your support and solidarity with your colleagues, as well as protect yourself from these changes.

Free Education Manchester will also be organising student solidarity actions, so like their facebook page to find out how you can help: https://www.facebook.com/freeeducationmcr

You can also find out more information by following the on campus Trade Union: Unite, Unison, UMUCU and their blog: http://manchester.web.ucu.org.uk/

To find out more about the fight against casualisation in general, visit:

http://fightingcasualisation.org/

 

Support the staff on your campus!

 

 

 

 

 

Redeployment, Severance, and Compulsory Redundancies FAQs

What exactly is going on?

The University is seeking to dramatically erode job security and make it much easier to get rid of staff wherever and whenever they want.

In a dramatic departure from previous practice, right now the University is in the process of making a growing number of staff redundant – over 250 had been told they are ‘at risk’ at the time this document was drafted, but possibly more by the time you read it. At the same time, the University is attempting unilaterally to push through a change in the Redeployment Policy so that in future people will no longer be able to remain on the Redeployment Register until an alternative position can be found for them. Instead anyone who has been on the Register for 3 months will face compulsory redundancy. In effect the University is flagrantly departing from the existing Redeployment Policy in order to make redundancies while simultaneously trying to change the Policy to make this easier in future.

What has happened so far?

In April the University announced that 37 staff on the Redeployment Register were ‘at risk’ of compulsory redundancy. They have since been issued with compulsory redundancy notices, and told to choose between taking a voluntary severance option by mid-September or face compulsory redundancy on much poorer terms.

Their decision is made more difficult by the University’s refusal to openly admit that these people will almost certainly be made redundant if they don’t take the severance, claiming instead that the final decisions in each case will only be made in individual meetings with HR and senior managers that will take place after the voluntary severance option has expired. So their message is: jump now, or it is very likely that you will be pushed in the near future, although technically that decision has yet to be made.

On July 30th, a further 219 staff in IT Services were informed that their jobs were at risk, and similarly given the choice between a time-limited voluntary severance option or the risk of compulsory redundancy. The University has stated that it intends to shed at least 68 of these 219 staff, or one in three, and that if this target is not met by the time the voluntary severance option expires then there will be compulsory redundancies. Again this means that none of those affected know whether or not they will be among those made redundant if they don’t take the severance, and consequently they must make their decision entirely in the dark.

I am not on the redeployment register or in IT Services, so how does this affect me?

This affects everyone. The willingness to use compulsory redundancies and the proposed changes to Redeployment represent a dramatic change in the University’s approach.

In the past Manchester has always ruled out compulsory redundancies as a tool to reduce costs or achieve organisational change, even when the University has been going through significant financial challenges or large-scale restructurings such as the merger with UMIST. It was always understood that compulsory redundancies are not appropriate for a University because they create an atmosphere of fear and anxiety that is corrosive to the whole culture of a higher education institution, undermining collegiality, goodwill, academic freedom, job security, and the objective of being seen as a highly attractive ‘world class’ employer.

The recent abandonment of this approach potentially affects all staff, whether immediately or in the future. The changes to Redeployment that are being pushed through will effectively remove job security for everybody, and mean that in future restructurings – several of which are planned after those currently taking place in IT Services and the Life Sciences – anyone will be liable to be made compulsorily redundant at short notice.

I am an academic, so how does this affect me?

We are very concerned that the University’s move towards compulsory redundancies represents a threat both to the job security of academic staff and to our core principles of academic freedom and collegiality. Whereas in the past when Schools have been closed or restructured, academic staff have been accommodated in new structures and allowed to pursue their research interests, we fear that in future such situations will lead to compulsory redundancies. Management may target staff whose research is not within arbitrary ‘priority’ areas, or which is currently unfashionable. These changes make a move in that direction both more feasible and more likely.

I am on a fixed term contract, so how does this affect me?

Unlike staff employed on a permanent or ‘core-funding’ basis, staff on fixed term contracts or contracts based on fixed-term funding have always been at risk of redundancy when their contracts or funding expire. In that sense these changes may not immediately affect you. However, many staff on fixed term contracts aspire to progress to ‘more secure’ permanent positions with the University, and these changes will undermine that security. So although you may not be affected immediately, if you aspire to a long-term career at the University then it is likely that you will be detrimentally affected in the future.

Does the University have the right to do this?

The University claims that their dramatic change of approach does not constitute an official change in policy, because technically the Statutes and Ordinances always gave them the power to make staff compulsorily redundant at 3 months notice, even if this was never put into practice, and even if recent Presidents and Vice-Chancellors such as Alan Gilbert are on record as having stated that compulsory redundancies were not appropriate and were beyond consideration.

On this narrowly technical basis the University has claimed that it therefore does not need to negotiate with the campus Trade Unions on any of this, but is only obliged to engage in ‘meaningful consultation’. So far however the ‘consultation’ has not been meaningful, as there has been no willingness on the part of the University to seriously consider any change in their actions or substantial modification of their plans. The University has even announced that the consultation process is now concluded, when we do not consider meaningful consultation to have taken place.

Has the University conducted an Equality Impact Assessment?

Yes. The data on those staff who are affected, or ‘in scope’, raises some concerns about the impact on disabled staff and certain groups of BME staff – specifically Black African and Chinese staff, both of whom are overrepresented among those in scope. This is something that we will be carefully monitoring as the situation progresses.

I would like to take voluntary severance as it suits my circumstances: is the Union against this?

Not at all. For those who wish to take the voluntary severance option that is fine. But there are many who don’t want to take voluntary severance, or who aren’t in a financial position to be able to do so, and we believe that it is grossly unreasonable to offer ‘voluntary’ severance to people while at the same time holding the threat of compulsory redundancy over them if they don’t take it. So the Union does not oppose voluntary severance, but it does oppose compulsory redundancies and the proposed changes to the Redeployment Policy that will undermine job security for everyone.

What is the Union doing on my behalf?

We have consistently opposed the changes to Redeployment and will continue to do so, and we have consistently argued against the use of compulsory redundancies. We are offering support to those facing redundancy, and we continue to make the case for the University to pull back from its recent change in direction before irreparable damage is done. However, so far the University has not shown any willingness to compromise, and it increasingly seems to regard consultation with the campus Trade Unions as merely a formality.

For this reason, UMUCU, Unison and Unite are working together to mobilise for industrial action, and a ballot on industrial action will be sent to members in September, shortly after the start of semester. It is vital that we receive a powerful mandate for both strike action and action short of a strike, if we are to be able to exert the kind of pressure on the University that might compel them to engage with us more meaningfully. They have recently refused even to recognise this as an official dispute that should trigger recourse to the arbitration service ACAS, so it is clear that considerable pressure will be needed.

I am not a Union member, what should I do?

You should join the relevant Union now, using one of the links at the end of this document. This will ensure that you have union representation if your job is threatened and will also enable you to support your colleagues, bearing in mind that only Union members can legitimately take part in industrial action. The Union also represents staff negotiations over pay, terms and conditions, as well as supporting members with a huge range of individual problems. UCU represents academics and researchers at all levels as well as academic-related staff at PSS Grades 6 and above. Support staff at Grades 5 and below should join Unison or Unite.

What can I do to help?

The effectiveness of Unions is determined by their members. We are a small team of people relying mostly on volunteered time, so please download and print off the posters and leaflets available on our website and put them up in your area.

Also please speak to colleagues about this, build solidarity, and encourage them to join the union if they are not already members. The better informed people are and the more support we have, the greater our collective strength, and the better our ability to defend our members.

If you have any ideas or queries, email us at:

How can I stay informed?

If you are not a UCU, Unison or Unite member, go to one of the links below and sign up (as appropriate) to receive regular emails.

You can also keep up to date by checking our websites, liking and opting for updates from Facebook, or following us on Twitter:

University announcement on Changes to IT Services – Setting the Record Straight

You may have seen the University’s recent announcements, in particular, that posted on StaffNet yesterday (July 30th) concerning ‘Changes to IT Services’. UMUCU considers the announcement to be seriously misleading in a number of ways, and wishes to set the record straight:

Firstly it is questionable whether it is appropriate to dress up an announcement that is essentially about job losses as a story about IT Services ‘making significant investment’. Investment implies spending more money, which is difficult to reconcile with the objective of shedding 68 staff, that is, one in three of the 219 who have been told that their jobs are at risk.

The announcement states that if the target reduction of 68 staff is not achieved through the Voluntary Severance scheme on offer then it will be achieved through a compulsory redundancy programme. It seems important to point out that a voluntary severance scheme where staff are informed that they may face compulsory redundancy under significantly inferior terms if they do not take voluntary severance by an imposed deadline, is not genuinely voluntary – it is coercive.

The announcement also states that any compulsory redundancy programme will be ‘in line with existing University policies and processes’. This is disingenuous. Until very recently the University’s explicit and established position for many years was that it would not use compulsory redundancies as part of restructuring exercises or as a way to reduce costs. It was widely understood that such measures would be counterproductive because they were inimical to collegiality, academic freedom, and the desire to be a ‘world class’ employer regarded as a highly attractive place to work. In April however, 37 staff on the redeployment register – who had previously been assured verbally and in writing that they were not at risk of redundancy – were issued with section 188 ‘at risk’ notices, effectively marking an abrupt change in direction on the part of the Senior Leadership Team.

The announcement further states that the campus Trade Unions will be consulted on both the details of the voluntary severance scheme and on compulsory redundancies, ‘should they be required’. Unfortunately none of this rings true. The University has not shown any willingness to consult or negotiate meaningfully with the Trade Unions on the 37 staff currently facing redundancy. On the contrary, at every stage the University has acted unilaterally, with UMUCU informed only post-hoc of major decisions affecting our members, and consultation meetings treated as nothing more than a formality. ‘Consultation’ implies a degree of genuine reciprocity and a willingness to engage meaningfully and in good faith, neither of which is the case here. It seems unlikely that the approach will be any different for this latest round of redundancies.

Finally the announcement states that ‘the University is committed to ensuring that this process is conducted fairly and transparently’. Unfortunately that has not been the case to date, far from it. For example, an FAQ document for staff on the redeployment register, which stated that they were not at risk of redundancy and could remain on the register until a suitable position could be found, was removed from the HR website only after 37 staff who had been on the register for more than three months were told their jobs were at risk. It was replaced with a different FAQ making no such assurance. When UMUCU pointed this out and requested a copy of the original document its existence was denied. Similarly, a document on the IT services website for staff involved in the planned ‘Transformation’, which also stated that there were no plans for redundancies or voluntary severance schemes, was removed just a week ago. These erasures and retrospective rewritings of University policy can hardly be called ‘fair and transparent’.

UMUCU remains committed to the University’s previously longstanding approach of avoiding compulsory redundancies with all of their detrimental impacts, not just upon those directly affected but upon the whole culture of the University. The Union also remains committed to engaging in a meaningful consultation process with the University in order to find more constructive ways to achieve targeted reduction of costs where necessary, and urges the University to pull back from its recent change of direction before irreparable damage is done.  

UMUCU Executive Committee