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Academic pay and reward

It couldn’t happen at a university?

Apart from the UCU web site, we have a number of valuable sources of information. Wonkhe is building a considerable reputation, and of course many of us buy the Times Higher Education Supplement. For wider employment issues, there are the Labour Research Department publications, and the Hazards Campaign on health and safety; this has strong involvement from our old friend Jon Bamford.

Among the press, we have worryingly few friends. I read the Guardian most days, but recently the news is sometimes so bad that I can only face the Sudoku. By far my best source of news is my subscription to Ian Hislop’s Private Eye. They do some really good Christmas cards too; unfortunately, you are now too late to either buy or post them.

As Ian almost never wins in court, I feel safe in attaching a tiny sample from last week’s edition. It couldn’t happen in a university, could it?

Denis A Nicole
Southampton University UCU Branch President

Summer casework: why we all need to be in UCU

Over the summer, we have been approached by several university employees who have needed independent support and advice. The University regulations allow union caseworkers to support employees in a variety of situations, and generally the independent support provided by union is very well received. In some cases, they were long-standing employees who had just joined the union because of their problem. In others, they were non-members who approached us asking “if I join, what can you do for me?” Yet other non-members asked if they should hire a lawyer.

These approaches all suffer from a lack of understanding of the university’s (and most other employers’) processes. Let’s deal with them one by one.

Can I join if I have a problem?
Yes, you are very welcome to join at any time. The union would, however, be completely unable to balance its books, or supply volunteer caseworkers, if large numbers of staff were allowed to join, and pay membership, only while they have an employment issue. The union’s legal service imposes a strict, but short, waiting period on new members before offering support. Similarly, within the branch, we are unlikely to be able to offer support for pre-existing issues with new members.

If I join, what can you do for me?
As I say above, we can support you with your next problem. We may be able to offer informal local assistance with your current difficulties. All the while, you will be helping to improve pay and conditions for all of us.

Should I get a lawyer?
This is the big misconception. A lawyer will be of almost no use to you until it is too late. You can take your problem to him or her, and they can offer you advice. But they cannot accompany you either to an investigation or to a disciplinary hearing. You will be on your own. And they probably will not know much about local conditions at the university. Your lawyer can come to an employment tribunal, but by then, after you have been sacked, it is almost certainly too late. Even if you win, you will almost certainly not be reinstated. The chances of winning are about fifty-fifty; if you win, you can expect a cash settlement of perhaps several thousand pounds, but no job to go back to.

Almost all of the good outcomes we achieve for members are the result of dedicated work by our trained team of volunteer caseworkers. They meet with members and come to investigation and disciplinary meetings. Their accreditation training is supplemented by wide experience of what actually happens at Southampton. And, within the limits of confidentiality, they share experiences at regular meetings. In most cases, we are able to prevent problems escalating. For the more intractable cases we can call on paid union professionals, who (unlike lawyers) are also entitled to come with you to meetings. Finally, if all else fails, we are able to offer support at a tribunal. But, as I said, by then it is probably too late to keep your job. Here is what the university writes:

The member of staff has the right, if they wish, to be accompanied by a workplace colleague or a trade union representative.

The representative/companion is permitted to address the hearing in order to put forward the member of staff’s case; they can sum up the case and respond on their behalf to any view expressed at the hearing.

The representative/companion is also permitted to confer with the member of staff during the hearing.

It should be noted that the representative/companion has no right to answer questions on behalf of the member of staff, to address the hearing if the member of staff does not wish him or her to do so, or to prevent the employer explaining its case.

Representatives/companions have an important role to play in supporting a member of staff and are allowed to participate as fully as possible.

There are other important reasons for you to be in the union. If, say, a student complains about you, you will be judged according to the university’s policies. University HR won’t be much help; their role is to protect the institution, not the individual. If the policies are unfair, you don’t have much hope. We are a recognised trade union, and the university has to negotiate these policies with us before adopting them. We are able to use our experience of casework to develop policies which work for both university and staff. Our effectiveness depends on how seriously we are taken by the university; we have far more influence when we have a high membership. Indeed, for matters affecting only level seven staff (Professors, etc.), we are not yet recognised and the university declines formal negotiation. So, if you join as soon as you arrive here, you are helping to protect yourself from policies that might later be used against you.

Finally, we negotiate, and occasionally go into national dispute, over pay and pensions. We improved the employers offers on each in the last round of changes. The current round of pay negotiations is under way and pensions are again under threat. We need your support now.

Join here.
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† See Struck Out, by David Renton.

Denis Nicole

Flexible retirement: get it while you still can

I wrote about flexible retirement a while back. Several of us have been able to take an 80% flex, and collect our USS pension, without difficulty over the past couple of years. It seems that now, however, management attitudes are starting to harden. We have heard rumours that Welsh universities have been denying flexible retirement; now we have an example of Southampton making it more difficult than it should be. Guidelines have been circulated in FPSE that

FEG would expect staff with no research funding to retain teaching commitment

In other words, however much you retire, you will still be doing a full FTE of teaching. I think that is unreasonable. And surely it is research quality, not funding, that should drive decisions? The guidance also carries the unsavoury implication that teaching is an activity which colleagues have to be pressured into doing; how will that benefit students or deliver better NSS scores?

If you are thinking about flexing, it would a be good idea get in touch with the union before starting negotiations.

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† I love this term. It seems that, whenever the university wants to create policies without bothering to negotiate with the recognised trade unions, they call them “guidelines”.

Denis Nicole

Workload, “Time Off in Lieu” (TOIL) and Unusual Hours

We are receiving a number of enquiries and complaints about changes to workload and patterns of work for staff in levels four to six, where UCU has collective bargaining recognition. At present, this problem particularly affects academic related staff in the MSA, TAE and CAO job families. This paper is an attempt by the Southampton branch to set out what we believe to be the proper approach.

Within the University, there are some established job titles, such as “lecturer” which are automatically appointed at a minimum of level four. Other jobs are graded by “job evaluation” panels, according to the Hay Job Evaluation process, against role profiles negotiated and agreed by UCU. Trained union representatives sit on these Job Evaluation panels. While the detailed scoring process is confidential, important elements of the Hay process are “thinking environment”, which includes the level of direct supervision, and “accountability”, which includes “freedom to act”. Academic and Academic Related staff at levels four and above should expect a substantial degree of autonomy in defining their immediate goals and their work patterns. This principle is included in the role profiles for all roles at level four and above, including job roles in the MSA, TAE and CAO job families.

Your workload over the year is defined by the goals set for you during annual appraisal; this includes the PPDR system currently used for MSA, TAE and CAO job families. The appraisal outcomes should clearly and completely describe what the University expects you to do in the coming year. These goals are not “extras”; if a piece of work is not contained within a goal, then the University does not want you to perform it as it is not aligned to the institutional goals. Some goals may be a bit broad, e.g. “take a full part in supporting the management of teaching”; it is up to you as a professional (with support from UCU if necessary) to identify goals which may, over the year, be insufficiently defined and liable to uncontrolled workload growth. Such goals need to be more clearly defined in the appraisal process. It is essential that you insist on the appraisal describing in sufficient detail all that you will actually do over the year. If your goals need to change during the year, further meetings and update to the appraisal document may be appropriate.

You should also negotiate with your manager about your own “professional development” goals. For Academic staff, the University now offers teaching, research, and enterprise progression pathways in addition to the traditional balanced pathway. It may, however, take some time before teaching is truly as highly valued as research. External funding, research publications, and international “networking” are still the keys to outside promotion offers. You may also find it helpful to serve “the academy” by external examining, refereeing, and organising conferences; negotiate workload to allow for these. If you want advancement through teaching, you may need to be innovative (e.g cloud-based learning) and to develop status within the HE teaching profession (e.g. PFHEA). For academic-related staff, take all the training, broadening, professional qualifications, and travel you can get; keep up to date. All colleagues will need to set aside time for training and personal study if they are entering a new area of teaching, research, or administration. Take the opportunity to discuss promotion with your line manager and seek goals that will help you progress.

During the last industrial action, the University took the view that staff at level four and above work a nominal thirty-five hour week. We thus expect that the goals set during appraisal must be deliverable by a fully effective professional working an average of thirty-five hours per week, and taking their full holiday entitlement. Part-time staff work correspondingly shorter hours. Larger goals than this represent an excessive workload. The University is also bound by the working-time directive. Unless you have individually opted out, you cannot work more than forty-eight hours per week averaged over a seventeen week period, although there are some exceptions.

Most of us work most of our hours Monday to Friday between 09:00 and 17:00; within these hours, it is often necessary for us to be on University premises. Obviously, we need to be on-site for our teaching, for meetings, and to manage staff and students. Our presence may also be valuable at other times to support the working ambience of our professional colleagues. For a variety of reasons, some of our professional work may have to take place outside these hours. That is fine too; it should be recognised in your appraisal goals and, if substantial, your job description. You are not entitled to “time off in lieu” (TOIL) of these hours because they are not “extra” hours; they are part of your agreed duties which, overall, should not be taking up more than an average of thirty-five hours a week. It has been an informal practice in some parts of the University to offer TOIL at level four-plus as a way of managing workload and exhaustion; unfortunately, this runs contrary to the general principles.

It is doubly unacceptable for managers to impose fixed office hours on top of additional evening and weekend working. Firstly, your professional role is undermined by the imposition of fine-grained controls and, secondly, your overall workload is excessive. Even worse, we are starting to see instances in some professional services where paid overtime is being removed from level three staff and the work imposed on level fours because they are “free”. We must not allow this to happen; it is depriving colleagues (often Unison members) of income which they probably need more than us.

If you agree to work outside “core” hours, there are some additional things you should consider.

  1. Caring responsibilities: if you are a parent or other sort of carer, you will already have made arrangements to fit your caring responsibilities to your usual working hours. If you need additional paid child- (or other-) care when you work outside these hours, this should be raised with your manager when the new work is proposed. It would not be unreasonable for the University to pay for it. Other caring responsibilities may be more complicated, but you (we) should insist on them being addressed.
  2. Transport: bus and train services can be very poor at evenings and weekends. If you cannot reasonably get to and from your unusual-hours work by your usual method, the University should pay for taxis. Note that this might incur a tax obligation if the taxis are to your usual place of work. If you normally cycle, it may be unsafe to do so late at night.
  3. Personal safety: some University locations can be problematic late in the evening. You may need to be escorted to the car park, or have a taxi meet you at the door.
  4. Tiredness: it may not be reasonable for you to work the next morning after an evening or night “shift”. This is not “time off in lieu”, it is a matter of health and safety. Indeed, under the Working Time Regulations, staff are entitled to a rest period of not less than eleven consecutive hours in each 24 hour period when working. You might work in a hazardous area, you might be customer facing, or you might simply have to interact with colleagues. It is your responsibility to ensure that you only work when you are fit to do so, using your professional judgement. If you come in while over-tired and snap at a colleague, you can expect to be disciplined for your behaviour, not congratulated for working “heroic” hours.

All these matters should be considered in an equality impact assessment for the proposed “unusual-hours” work if it will become a substantial activity.

We are also finding some colleagues have difficulty arranging leave. It is the employer’s responsibility to ensure that you can take all the leave to which you are entitled; insist on getting it. And again, leave should not be micro-managed or arbitrarily controlled. Any constraints must be based on genuine operational requirements. Furthermore, the staffing levels must be appropriate to allow appropriate leave at times suitable for family life.

Final thoughts:

  1. All these things, including leave policy, should be sorted out at Appraisal time (levels four to six are appraised in January to May each year). They should not be coming up at short notice during the year.
  2. If a block of work is not in your Appraisal goals, the University does not want you to do it. It is not what they are paying for.
  3. If you need help, contact UCU: ucu@soton.ac.uk.

Pay Claim Consultation

The employers have made a “final” offer of a 1% pay rise from August 2015. UCU is conducting a consultative ballot of our membership to find out if we are willing to engage in industrial action to improve the offer. There is some further information here:

and the recommendation from the UCU HE Conference is that we should reject the offer. As I understand it, the core offer is a 1% pay rise. This roughly matches RPI inflation (1.1% in March) and might at first sight look reasonable. Changes to USS (up 0.5%) and NI (up 1.4% on roughly £40,000 of pay because of the end to the opting out discount) contributions mean that our take-home cash will actually be reduced. Allowing for inflation, the value of our pay would fall rather more than 1%.

Our recent industrial actions over pay and pensions have been to some extent successful. In both cases, the employers improved their offer once the action had started. I imagine that well-supported industrial action might improve this offer to maybe 2%, and allow us to stand still in real terms. Currently, the employers can afford it. And our VCs are seeing much larger pay rises.

There are a few extra features to the offer:

  • For most institutions, the lowest paid will receive an additional boost so they all earn a living wage. Not, however, Southampton as our lowest paid have to work a 36-hour week to earn what should be a 35-hour living wage.
  • The employers have backed away from insistence on performance-related pay. Incremental progression within a grade should continue to be routine.
  • The employers showed no enthusiasm for addressing the gender pay gap in the sector.

PLEASE, PLEASE DO VOTE IN THE BALLOT. It’s painless, and a low turnout would make us very weak in negotiations. Here at Southampton, the UCU Committee is unenthusiastic about most sorts of action short of a strike. Often, our management seems not to even notice we are doing it. Examination boycotts have been effective but, at any given time, the burden falls on a small fraction of our membership; boycotts also tend to upset students who should be our natural supporters.

For what it’s worth, I am going to vote for strike action but against action short of a strike.

PLEASE VOTE, BUT ONLY SUPPORT ASOS OR STRIKES IF YOU YOURSELF ARE ACTUALLY GOING TO TAKE PART IF CALLED UPON. We cannot win an industrial action without solid support; voting for action which we do not deliver would just make us look weak. The employers would laugh at us. And next year’s offer would be even worse.

If you are having trouble finding your ballot Email, it looked like this

Date: Thu, 11 Jun 2015 11:29:59 -0400
From: “University and College Union (UCU)” <reply@ucu.org.uk>
To: dan@ecs.soton.ac.uk
Subject: UCU consultative ballot: higher education (HE) employers’ final offer 2015-16

and the voting link was at the bottom of quite a long message. Several members have reported that their Email system incorrectly marked it as spam.

Denis Nicole

Branch President

University of Southampton refuses requests for information on V-C pay and perks

Colleagues may be interested to read this press release that was issued by UCU on 4 March 2015

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The University of Southampton has refused to answer basic questions about its vice-chancellor’s pay and perks, according to a new report released today (Wednesday).

The University and College Union (UCU) issued a series of FOI requests in order to try and learn more about the shadowy world of senior pay and perks in UK universities. The union contacted 155 institutions and the University of Southampton was one of only seven that didn’t respond*.

However, the university’s accounts show that Professor Don Nutbeam was the 23rd most highly paid UK university vice-chancellor in 2013/14. He received £320,000, which put him comfortably above the average vice-chancellor’s pay of £260,290.

The union’s report detailed university bosses spending up to £60,000 a year on luxury air fares and heads of institutions racking up hefty hotel bills and annual expenses. But no expenditure figures were received from the University of Southampton.

In an attempt to obtain more details of the rationale for senior salaries, UCU also requested a copy of the most recently ratified minutes of the remuneration committee – the committee tasked with determining the pay of the vice-chancellor. The University of Southampton also failed to provide a copy of its remuneration committee minutes.

UCU regional official, Moray McAulay, said: ‘The University of Southampton is one of only a few universities in the UK that did not provide any of the information we requested making it one of our most secretive. You do have to wonder what it is they want to hide.

‘Overall, it’s a chaotic state of affairs where some institutions are open and honest while others use whatever means they can to avoid revealing information of spending at the top. We need a national system that will bring in obligations for higher education institutions to be transparent about their spending.’ 

ends

 Local contact:

Moray McAulay m: 07766 251 863; e: mmcaulay@ucu.org.uk

National UCU contact:

Vicky Wilks t: 020 7756 2601; m: 07977 562 686; e: vwilks@ucu.org.uk 

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