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July 10th, 2020:

The real “Trade Union Update” – beware HR spin

Please do not be misled into thinking the Staffnet “Trade Union Update” from the Director of HR, Karen Heaton, on Monday about current talks between the unions and the Senior Leadership Team in any way reflects the positions of UCU or the other campus trade unions.

Here is our response:

  • the heading “Trade Union Update” is misleading. The fundamental position of your union is to protect jobs and this Update should not be read to mean that UCU, Unite or Unison in any way endorse the management proposals. It is true that the campus trade unions, supported by our Regional Officials, are involved in talks about these proposals but the Update is a report and attempted justification of certain management proposals.
  • the Redeployment Policy (which the Update for the first time openly admits management want to abolish) is not an unsustainable luxury. It was negotiated five years ago as a result of our campaign against compulsory redundancies in IT Services. Up till then, the University had leaders who believed that no university claiming to be world class could entertain mass compulsory redundancies. Today, the Redeployment Policy provides much-needed protection against the current senior management of the University who have repeatedly threatened large-scale compulsory redundancies – including the ongoing Student Experience Project restructure affecting hundreds of staff. Is our University now world leading in its constant attacks on the job security of its staff?
  • the statement by the employer that the Policy “severely hampers the ability of the University to progress work to deliver our strategic plan, Our Future, and recover from the current crisis” very disturbingly indicates that the University has no intention of altering its “strategic plan” in the face of the crisis and is instead planning a large number of compulsory redundancies. The protections within the Policy which they wish to remove are only invoked in a redundancy situation and can only “hamper” the university if that is its real intention.
Senior Management says that “pausing salary increments and temporary, graded pay reductions” are under discussion. The union position is that it is far too early to consider such draconian steps and that we would first need greater certainty about the financial position and strong confidence that all reasonable other cost-saving measures have been exhausted. While we have been provided with some of the information we require, we have asked further detailed questions. In particular, the announcement on June 27 of a government package to compensate research-intensive universities for up to 80% of the loss in overseas student fee income has changed the financial situation considerably, as has last week’s House of Lords amendment to the government’s Pension Schemes Bill, which vindicates UCU’s criticisms of the methodology used by USS and the Pensions Regulator to value “open” defined benefits schemes and undermines management claims of a huge USS deficit.

Under previous leaderships, the University has always followed a “No compulsory redundancies” approach. It has weathered many financial crises in this way. The Redeployment Policy and related security of employment policies continue that tradition and ethos; they are essential to protecting collegiality as well as a highly skilled workforce. The employer’s Update tries to argue that these policies are too good, and are even bad for staff. On the contrary, everyone in the University should be proud that we have sector-leading policies – not use the excuse of a crisis to try to get rid of them.

We must and will defend the Redeployment Policy.  Our fundamental position is “Jobs First” in accordance with the national UCU  “Fund the Future”  campaign and the branch’s own  “Towards a Better Normal” manifesto

Bottom line: 

  • there is no need for the University to panic and force through drastic policy changes,
  • September student numbers are the crux of the situation,
  • more certainty is required before considering draconian cuts to pay or jobs,
  • do not believe management spin.

In solidarity,

The UMUCU Executive Committee