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Strike Deductions

Members have raised concerns about strike deductions and there has been correspondence between UCU and the VC and senior management.  See below.

Email received from Anne-Marie Sitton, Weds 4 December 2019

Dear SUCU Branch Executive Committee

Thank you for your letter received 3rd December 2019.  As was stated in our correspondence on 21st November 2019, the University respects the rights of UCU members to take strike action, and appreciates the collegial manner in which the industrial action has taken place to date.

 In respect of withholding pay due to strike action, the University has taken the clear position that pay should be withheld in the first available payroll run following the action. On this occasion, given UCU set the strike dates ahead of our December payroll run, all eight strike days fall within December pay.  The dates on which payroll will be run this month have not changed at all and staff will be paid on the originally scheduled day.  Given the extra work for some local colleagues in needing to collect information on colleagues absent through strike action HR and Finance have worked to populate core information so that it does not put unnecessary strain on managers.

In your letter you state that some universities are spreading withheld pay over several months. Having spoken extensively to other universities it is clear that a significant number do plan to make all deductions in December, or all deductions in January. A few Universities have indicated they will spread deductions over two months, some due to the fact their cut-off dates for payroll fall on different days to ours and some due to changes they are making in their HR or payroll systems. A minority have decided to spread deductions over more than two month.

We are aware that UCU has  promoted the provision of hardship funds to support striking members. We trust, that given UCU set the dates for action, these payments will be made expeditiously to anyone with pressing needs.

We hope the local branch also recognises positively that the University has decided initially not to withhold pay for partial performance (although we of course reserve the right to change our position), unlike most other Universities who have, from the outset, taken a different line.

 We appreciate this is not the response your members would prefer, but it was the UCU nationally that called the strike and set these particular dates and not the University. If local UCU members have concerns over when pay should be withheld, we suggest the local branch influences national UCU on the duration and timetabling of strike action.

Kind regards

Anne-Marie Sitton

On behalf of UEB

 

Text of email sent by Southampton UCU Exec committee, Tuesday 3rd December 2019

Dear Vice – Chancellor,

We write in open correspondence following instruction from our General Meeting today (2/12/19). We want to convey our disappointment that UEB has decided to deduct both November’s and December’s strike days in colleagues’ Christmas pay packet.

We naturally accept that such deductions will take place – though we note that some employers have chosen to spread them over further months (Cambridge, Durham, Royal Holloway, Sheffield among others).

It appears to Southampton UCU that the University of Southampton payroll process is being expedited. We are concerned that the rush to push this quickly through payroll will cause unnecessary stress for HR business managers and the payroll team, given that we understand the standard deadline for payroll would be the 4th of December 2019. We are also concerned that the University putting pressure on line managers to rush through reports to enable swift pay deductions will put an unnecessary strain on staff which will further undermine collegiality in our University.  Indeed, many casualized members of staff have expressed dismay that the management is able to prioritize the processing of deductions, when their own routine monthly pay claims are, as the University knows, often held up by management or HR/Payroll delays.

We feel that the decision risks damaging the wider reputation of our University. We therefore urge you to reconsider it.

We note in particular the effect this deduction may have on some of our most precarious and lowest paid staff – coming at Christmas, and prior to the extended January pay period. Again, UCU members fully expected these deductions when we agreed strike action, but we did not (and do not) expect our institutions to alter their payroll processes in a punitive way.

All best wishes,

SUCU Branch Executive Committee

 

Email response from Anne-Marie Sitton , 21 November 2019

Dear UCU Executive,

Thank you for your e-mail dated 19th November on the matter of strike deductions to the Vice-Chancellor, I have been asked to respond to this matter on behalf of the Executive Board (UEB).

I would like to start by saying that we fully respect the rights of your members to take strike action, and we recognise that your members feel strongly about some issues.

The matter of strike deductions was raised at the UEB meeting held on Monday 18th November 2019. The outcome of the discussion was to deduct the strike monies as activities are undertaken.

This decision took into account the dispute in 2018, whereby some institutions, including the University of Southampton, ameliorated the impact of strike deductions on individuals over a number of pay periods. This action was met with a negative response by several elements of UCU across the country at the time, who made clear they had fully understood the potential impact on their members’ pay when determining the period of action. The decision by UCU to take strike action over a consecutive period of eight days commencing on 25 November 2019, was clearly therefore a conscious decision at a national level, and the impact and consequences will have been a known consideration of the UCU executive at the time it made that decision.

Payroll cut-off dates and operational objectives will have been a determination on the timing of deductions in other institutions, and it is clear that the majority of Universities affected by the dispute intend to collect contributions in one single pay period following the industrial action.

In line with the partnership agreement, we are keen to continue to have a constructive dialogue with you about those issues which are directly in our own control, to ensure that we continue to be a supportive employer who works together with local trade unions to improve the employee experience here at Southampton.

With kind regards

Anne-Marie Sitton

 

Email sent to Vice-Chancellor – 19 November 2019

Dear Vice-Chancellor

We are writing to express our concern about recent communications where we were informed that the University plan to deduct strike payments as soon as possible, with all 8 days coming out of the December pay packet.

From discussions with other UCU branches we have found that a number of Universities have already agreed to deduct payments across a number of months (and much like last time, it seems clear that many others will follow). We are therefore writing to ask you to spread the pay deductions across 3 months, in recognition that some of our most precarious temporary staff will be taking part in this action. We would also like a guarantee that pension contributions will not be withheld. An agreement to spread the deductions over a number of months would send a really strong message to all staff that our new University senior management is taking a constructive approach to the leadership of our University (especially in light of the recently signed partnership charter). During the last period of strike action senior management took a very inflexible approach to the strike, and were quick to condemn the actions of those taking strike action, even though the initial valuation that led to the strike was found to have many shortcomings and proved that staff had legitimate causes to take action. This resulted in increasing tensions between staff and management (as you will have no doubt seen in the recent staff engagement survey).

As you noted in communications to all staff and students, this dispute is a national dispute. However, strike action also has the potential to significantly disrupt local relationships between unions and management, and we would like to maintain productive working relationships with senior management through this difficult time for all of those in our University community. Clearly communicating to staff that deductions will be spread across three months would be a small concession to make, and one that would no doubt help foster mutual understanding and trust.

We really do hope this request will be considered.

Yours sincerely

Southampton UCU Executive Committee

 

 

 

 

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