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Fixed-Term Contracts

Vote YES for a fair pay deal

Earlier this year UCU members were asked what they wanted to do about the derisory pay offer made by our employers. Responses from UCU members here more than cleared the 50% bar demanded by TU legislation – you said, overwhelmingly, that you want to take action on pay.

The Pay and Equality ballot closes 19th September at 12 noon. 

Senior managers have ‘implemented’ a 2% pay increase – but do not be fooled by this. The value of your wages has been going down. The last above-inflation pay rise was in 2014. UCU have asked for a pay increase of 7.5% or £1,500, whichever is greater.

We note that the VC’s pay was a whopping £433,000 (including pension) in 2016/17. Sir Christopher is paid more than double the head of our local hospital, although the hospital budget is larger than that of the university, and they have more staff. We note also that in 2007, the then VC, Bill Wakeham was paid ‘just’ £242,000 (including pension) so Sir Christopher’s pay represents an increase of 79% over 10 years. It is time that University senior managers showed front line staff that they are valued too.

UCU also want a nationally-agreed framework for action to close the gender pay gap by 2020. The most recent gender pay return for University of Southampton shows a mean gender pay gap of 20.2%. Women here are paid, on average, 20% less than men. Women continue to be under-represented at the highest levels of the pay scale and little effective action has been taken to address this inequality.

The 2018 pay claim asks for a nationally-agreed framework for action on precarious contracts. We have a small army of staff employed on fixed term and hourly-paid contracts. This ‘disposable’ labour force deserves a better deal.

Finally our UCU negotiators have pointed out that increases in workload and excessive hours also contribute to the decline in pay of University staff. We have had a year of more cuts to staff and yet no decline in the work to be done. The work of all the people who have left and the vacant posts deliberately left unfilled has been redistributed. During the strike at the beginning of the year people kept saying how good it was to ‘go home on time’ and to spend weekends with family and friends. Staff here routinely take work home after their working day is over. Most work more than their contracted hours. Many of us are bombarded with work emails at all times of the day and night. We have put up with almost constant restructuring, moving from 3 to 8 to 5 Faculties, facing the cuts associated with “INEX”, “Hartley” and “Wellington” projects. We have delivered more and more for this University and yet we are not recompensed. Our pay claim asks for a payment to recognise these excessive workloads. 

There is still time to avoid a dispute this year. Sir Christopher, as a key voice in Universities UK,  could represent us and use his excellent contacts to press for a better deal for University staff.

In the coming weeks we will be working to “Get the Vote Out” and will be visiting workplaces to encourage members to vote and asking non-members to join UCU. If you can help – please contact Amanda (ucu@soton.ac.uk).

You should receive your ballot papers over the next few days. We must achieve a turnout of at least 50% to take lawful industrial action so your vote is vital.

You can read the union’s full claim here and click here for further information and the latest in the campaign.

Please Vote YES to strike action and YES to action short of a strike (ASOS).

 

*this blog was updated on 6/9/18 to add details about hospital chief, and previous VC pay (thanks to our member for reminding us of these comparisons). We also added the date that the ballot closes.

It ain’t what you do, it’s the way that you do it  – our problem(s) with senior management at University of Southampton

We recently posted the ‘correspondence’ between your recognised trades union and the VC/President regarding the upcoming dispute on pensions on this blog. It will be clear to members that the VC is no longer in responsive mode, as least as regards UCU; we have received one-line acknowledgments to all our recent emails.  The VC also has access to the medium of SUSSED and all staff email lists where he has chosen to criticise individual members of UCU, and most recently to provide  a very particular view of the position regarding the USS pension situation.

This does not feel like meaningful dialogue.

In the run up to strike action it is common for the respective sides to become ever more polarised, and we are not hopeful that communication between senior managers and UCU will improve in the coming weeks. We are about to withdraw our labour, following an overwhelming vote by UCU members, signalling that they will not accept cuts to their pensions. Understandably much of the attention, in emails from the branch and from UCU headquarters, has been on the pension dispute and the coming strike action.  But the pension is not the only area of concern for members of Southampton UCU. Locally we continue to represent our members on a number of other issues, not least of which is the proposed restructuring of the University and cuts to staff.  On these other local issues the senior management appears unwilling to engage in meaningful communication.

UCU wants to talk with senior managers about what they are doing. Below we list just five of the pressing local issues that we’d like to discuss properly with our senior management: the University restructure; staff cuts; appraisal; casualisation; and equal pay.

1. Restructuring the University

 To be clear, UCU members don’t necessarily have a problem with restructuring, but we remain deeply unconvinced that reconfiguring to five instead of eight Faculties is the best way forward. Staff and students here are already suffering the ill effects of ten years’ poorly managed organisational change – the INEX project, Transition, the move from three to eight Faculties, the Pay and Reward review are just a few of the large-scale changes we have endured in recent years. Staff numbers have been cut, teams formed and reformed, people moved in and out of Faculties, with little or no thought to organisational culture, wellbeing, or morale.

Successive staff surveys have revealed low trust in senior management and deep concern at their failures to listen to staff, and yet we are about to embark on yet another top-down major organisational reconfiguration. Staff and students need to be supported and listened to before and during significant change. Genuine engagement with staff requires meaningful negotiation and consultation with recognised trades unions, and strong organisational development support – both missing in the early stages of this restructuring. The recent announcement that Mathematics will remain as a single academic unit and not be split into two different Faculties is a small step in the right direction, but this came rather late in the process and only after sustained lobbying.

2. Staff cuts and saving money 

Again, UCU is prepared to listen to arguments about cutting staff.  Of course, we must take a hard line against the threat of compulsory redundancies, and we have been angered by the so-called protected conversations with targeted individual staff, pressuring some to leave the University.  But when the voluntary severance scheme was announced, we asked if it could be opened up beyond the six publicly identified areas, not least because this appeared more likely to achieve cost savings and would have spread the losses, thereby reducing negative impacts on education and research. The University Executive said no to this.

Moreover, whilst imposing cuts to academic, administrative, and support staff to save money, the senior leadership of the University have studiously ignored widespread commentary on senior staff salaries. So we are cutting staff after a bumper year when the University spent approx £700,000, paying off the outgoing VC and making our incoming VC one of the highest paid University leaders in the country.  Little wonder that former education minister, Andrew Adonis, singled out these pay packages for criticism, but the University accounts also show that the salaries and benefits for 15.2 members of the top tier (‘key management personnel’) totalled £3.723m (ave. £245K each) in 2016-2017. Perhaps if Southampton wanted to take a consistent approach,  while we are cutting student-facing staff to save money we could consider a little prudence at the top end of the salary scale.

3. Misuse of appraisal

UCU is becoming increasingly disturbed by the misuse of appraisal and the introduction of increasingly draconian performance review measures. Our current case work includes examples of inappropriate conversations with staff, bullying and harassment. In some cases ‘Performance Improvement Plans’ have been imposed in a very one-sided, unhelpful manner – a case of “you will deliver more with less, but don’t expect any help from us”. The lack of staff development resource (following the closure of ILIaD and the loss of key staff) and the withdrawal of budgets for staff training supports the conclusion that PIPS are less about improvement and more about dismissal.

All staff at the University at some point went through a recruitment and selection process that deemed them worthy of appointment: why then do we refuse to develop and support them? Many colleagues already tell us that they pay for conferences, research materials, and business-related travel out of their own salary – now it seems they have to add training and development to these expenses. Are we really saying that the University of Southampton cannot afford to develop its own staff?   Southampton UCU simply wants senior managers to adhere to the negotiated appraisal process and to start supporting staff to deliver to their highest potential.

4. Casualisation 

We have always been critical of the reliance on short-term contracts and the damage that job insecurity does to education and research. We have an army of early career staff delivering research and education who struggle to make ends meet and are constantly at risk of contract termination. These staff are typically enduring high living costs whilst paying off debt incurred from years of study.  Many commute, either because partners work elsewhere, or because they can’t afford to move for a short temporary contract, or just can’t afford to move, full stop. Some will have been hit by the rise in train fares in January and those who drive already tell us how punitive the car parking charges are here.

Precarity damages education and research. Hourly-paid lecturers on short term contracts cannot engage in team meetings or curriculum development – this is bad for their development and students’ education and support.  Researchers on fixed-term contracts are preoccupied by their contract end date, and may find it impossible to get a mortgage, find they are not eligible for enhanced maternity pay, and so on, all to the detriment of our research. Alongside them, academic-related colleagues also find they too are increasingly offered only temporary contracts – and thus we regularly lose organisational memory and capacity.

Finally, a body of staff comprised largely of short- and fixed-term, hourly-paid, and fractional contracted staff will struggle to form a cohesive and supportive community, among themselves and with the students. This may be the intention of senior management, of course, but it is to the detriment of the institution, both currently and in the long term. We are all damaged by the reliance on casual teaching staff. UCU nationally and locally has continuously pointed to the damage wreaked by casualisation in higher education. We believe the University of Southampton should deliver on the commitments that it has given to UCU to reducing its reliance on casualised labour, in the interests of everyone.

5. The gender pay gap and equal pay

Senior managers are currently preparing the latest local pay review. UCU expects that that this will once again demonstrate a very significant gender pay gap at the University.  While much is made of the ‘equal pay’ for men and women within job grades (e.g. at level 4) the average gap between men and women’s pay in higher education is 12% – in 2015,the mean gap across all grades at Southampton was 22.9%, whereas in HE nationally it was 18.9%. Women continue to be clustered lower down the pay scale and in part-time jobs. The four most senior academic roles, some of our highest paid positons in the University (the VC/President and three Vice-Presidents), are all white men.

The new JNCHES Equal Pay Reviews and Gender Pay Gap Reporting Guidance for Higher Education Institutions (HEIs) – published as part of the Pay Settlement for 2016/17 – calls attention to gender and diversity issues in our Universities, but this University does not seem to be at the forefront of those tackling these inequalities.  While the University of Essex took action and moved  female professors up three pay points to bring their average salaries in line with male counterparts there is no talk of such a move here. UCU has repeatedly called attention to pay gaps – not only gender, but also race and disability. Locally, we have asked for greater transparency in promotion and for better staff training on unconscious bias, but we see little evidence that senior managers wish to address this problem.

What is the branch doing? And how can you help?

Members of UCU can rest assured that this branch will continue to push senior management here to address these issues; your branch representatives take every opportunity to press for improvements to the working lives of staff here, and to defend education and research.  We do this alongside significant individual case work (and thanks are due to all our volunteers who support members in case work). We have pressed senior managers to improve the wording of redundancy and severance agreements, to improve their processes for consultation with staff, and to stop bullying and harassment. We will continue to make the case that the University will prosper if senior managers listen to staff and students. We will continue to do all this whilst pursuing the strike action to defend pensions that you have mandated. As ever we ask members of the branch to volunteer to help us take forward our work on these issues. If you can help – even for half an hour a week, we can use you.

UCU Anti-casualisation Open meeting – 23 November 2016

Are you or your colleagues employed on a fixed term/hourly paid/zero hour contract? Do you feel treated less-favourably than permanent staff?  Do you face difficulties planning your future career development?  Or even face financial problems through insecure contracts?  If so, we would like to invite you to attend a meeting to discuss your concerns.

The campaign against casualisation is one of UCU’s national priorities and we are delighted that Jonathan White, UCU’s Bargaining Policy and Negotiations Official, will address the meeting to discuss the work UCU is doing to improve working conditions, and to help move staff onto contracts that give them stability and continuity of employment.

You do not need to be a member of UCU to attend this meeting.

Please join us at:

12:30 to 13:30

Wednesday, 23 November 2016

Room 58/1007 L/T C (Murray Building)

Highfield Campus

Dr Jenny Rohn and the Science Is Vital Campaign

We were pleased to host Dr Jenny Rohn of the Science Is Vital Campaign for our Anti-Casualisation Day of Action on 6 March.  Dr Rohn gave us a stimulating and enlightening presentation on the Campaign’s work on academic job security and their current push for protecting research funding in the UK.

For those of you who missed the event, Dr Rohn has given us permission to upload her presentation slides herePlease note that these slides should not be re-used without her permission, nor are they intended for general public dissemination!

6 March – Anti-Casualisation Day of Action

On Wednesday 6th March UCU is holding an Anti-Casualisation Day of Action. This day will be a platform for publicizing the issues associated with the growing over-use of fixed-term contracts and the proliferation of poorly-paid and poorly-valued casualised positions in UK academia. We will be spending the day holding information stalls and running events to raise awareness of these problems, and to inspire colleagues on casualised contracts to join our union and help us in our local bargaining efforts.

What is happening at Southampton:

1. 11:00 to 14:00 – We are running two information stalls to be run at the Highfield and Avenue Campuses, at these stalls you will be able to ask about national UCU policy and current local branch priorities with respect to Fixed Term Contracts.

We will also have a large variety of campaign materials, flyers, posters, and stickers available which we encourage you to pass along to colleagues and put around your workplace to show your support. If you’d like to become involved in our anti-casualisation campaigns, we will be happy to advise you on how to join our efforts!

2. 15:00 to 17:00 – We will be running a workshop called Casualisation and Academic Careers, to be held in building 34/3001. The workshop will feature several different speakers:

Dr Joe Viana, Southampton UCU Fixed-Term Contract Representative, will explain why you should get involved in our anti-casualisation efforts and the challenges we face in this area;

Dr Eric Silverman, Southampton UCU President, will talk about our extensive local bargaining agenda on this issue and will give a summary of the national picture;

Dr Julie Reeves, from the University of Southampton Professional Development Unit, will detail how the University aims to support the career development of researchers and academics on fixed-term contracts;

Dr Jenny Rohn of the Science is Vital Campaign, our special guest speaker, will discuss the Campaign’s grassroots efforts to promote the importance of a strong science base to the UK’s economy and international reputation. For more information, please visit the Campaign’s website. In particular, we recommend reading their report titled Careering Out Of Control, which does a fantastic job of summarising the current unsustainable nature of the academic career path.

Please do come and join us for the Day of Action! The issue of casualisation affects all of us — it forces thousands of our colleagues to endure job insecurity, poor work-life balance, and high stress levels; it reduces the productivity of our academic teams and causes us to lose promising talent and valuable expertise; and it splits academia against itself, creating inequality and animosity between permanent staff and casualised staff.

The academic career structure is becoming increasingly dominated by casualised contracts, and we must act now to protect our friends and colleagues!

We will be using the attached poster (AntiCas Poster) to promote the event and encourage academics on casualised contracts to join us on the day. If you feel able, please do print out a copy and place it on your door so that your colleagues can see what we have planned.

The national UCU office has also provided a lot of excellent flyers and other materials for the Day of Action, which you can find here.

Southampton UCU will have plenty of hard copies of these materials available closer to the day, so please contact us if you require any copies to distribute in your workplace.

In solidarity,

Eric Silverman (President) & Joe Viana (Fixed Term Contract Rep)

Article about casualisation in academia from The Guardian

There’s a good article in The Guardian today about job insecurity amongst younger academics.  It provides some personal stories from young academics on insecure contracts (including myself!) and mentions the Anti-Casualisation Day of Action on 6 March, organised by Ed Bailey and the national UCU campaigns team:

The University and College Union (UCU) is holding a national day of action for casual workers next month. It says that higher education has become one of the most casualised sectors in the UK – second only to the hospitality industry. Edward Bailey, who is leading the protest for the union, says: “We are seeing an increase in people who are on successive fixed-term contracts for years on end. There is a feeling that universities are calling all the shots and they should be grateful just to have a job, but these places shouldn’t be sausage factories.”

Please give it a read and spread the word to your colleagues.  The more attention drawn to this issue, the more chances we have to enact change!

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Eric Silverman

Southampton UCU President

Researchers, Fixed-Term Contracts, and Universities

Vitae, an organisation supporting the development of researchers in higher education, released an interesting report in 2010 describing the current state of the laws around fixed-term contracts and their implementation in higher education.  The Foreword gives a good summary of the intent of the report:

 

“We believe that a positive management culture which supports the development of staff is essential to building a successful higher education institution. To make the case that a well- managed workforce is a productive workforce it is important that we are able to provide institutions with high quality, evidence-based information to benchmark themselves against. This Vitae report represents a major contribution to the evidence base about how to successfully manage researchers to ensure positive outcomes for researchers, their managers, the  institutions where they work and the sector as a whole.”

 

The report stresses the importance of productive, cooperative communication between institutions and researchers, in order to ensure that the arrangements in place take into account the needs of both parties.  For those members on fixed-term contracts, or for those who manage fixed-term contract staff, please take a look at this report and spread it around to anyone who may find it of interest.

 

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Eric Silverman (President) and Joe Viana (Fixed-Term Contract Representative)