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Southampton UCU General Meeting – 19th October 2023

The following motion was overwhelmingly passed at the our General Meeting on 19 October 2023.

Motion: MyEngagement Concerns

This branch notes that:

  • The University DPIA review panel brought the need for a Data Protection Impact Assessment to the attention of the MyEngagement project team in December 2022.
  • No DPIA was received until mid-September 2023, after the go-live date had been announced.
  • An acceptable DPIA has yet to be submitted to the University DPIA review panel.
  • Failing to carry out a DPIA before go-live does not meet our legal obligations under Data Protection Act 2018 c.12 s.64(1), and is a violation of the University’s internal governance procedures.

This branch believes that:

  • The system as implemented presents a risk to staff and students from unintentional data breaches. Even if these are not reportable to the Information Commissioner’s Office, they are likely to result in student complaints.
  • Using the system imposes a significant additional workload on staff even in normal use, and staff may need to manually record attendance.
  • The management communication to staff has been inadequate, and insufficient and incorrect guidance has been provided regarding the practicalities of using MyEngagement.

This branch resolves to:

  • Instruct the SUCU Executive Committee to call on the University to pause the roll-out of MyEngagement until a full DPIA has been successfully completed and adequate instruction and guidance has been published in consultation with staff.
  • Advise members to seek reassurance via line management structures using a template that the branch will provide before using or continuing to use MyEngagement.

For:  87.5% (28)

Against:  0% (0)

Abstain: 12.5%  (4)

32 responses

Correspondence with University regarding MAB-related Grievances

Members may be aware that the University of Southampton is refusing to hear Grievances from members concerning pay deductions arising from the UCU Marking & Assessment Boycott (MAB). As a result of this, the Branch passed a motion at our recent Emergency General Meeting on 19/09/2023, stating that we have ‘no confidence in the University’s ability to apply its grievance procedure in a fair, reasonable and unbiased manner.’

As this is now a matter of considerable interest to our members, we publish below the relevant correspondence we have had with the University to date, comprising:

  • An email and attachment of 17/08/2023, from UoS to SUCU, advising us that the University will not be hearing MAB-related grievances.
  • A letter (sent by email) of 18/10/2023, from SUCU to UoS, setting out our concerns about this decision.

We will update members when we receive a reply.

Email from UoS to SUCU, 17/08/2023

Dear [SUCU President],

I am writing to you following receipt of a number of individual grievances received across the University in relation to UCU’s industrial action, and more specifically the marking and assessment boycott (MAB).

In response to the grievances received, the University has sought legal advice (the legal privilege in this advice is not waived) on the matters raised by colleagues in respect of the University’s position on partial performance and withholding pay. In summary, the University does not believe these grievances are matters that can be reasonably dealt with in accordance with the University’s Grievance Procedure.

The Grievance Procedure (at Part II ¶4) states that it is concerned with grievances raised by members of staff concerning their employment, which relate to themselves as individuals.  The grievances raised in relation to MAB are about the University policy which applies to all of its employees, and is only affecting these particular employees because they have chosen to participate in the MAB.  Therefore, these grievances do not relate to the employees as an individual in accordance with the application and scope of the procedure.

Further, the University has a clear, consistent and lawful policy on withholding pay where there is partial performance of the contract of employment through participation in ASOS. The University has a discretion to pay a proportion of an employee’s pay when they are engaged in ASOS, but no right for the employee to be paid a particular amount (on the basis of proportionality or quantum meruit). As reiterated to Southampton UCU on 3 May 2023, the University’s policy on withholding pay in these circumstances has been clearly brought to the attention of employees and explained prior to them participating in the MAB.

The University intends to write to each individual outlining the above position. A copy of that letter is attached.

With best wishes,

[HR Director, Client Services]

Attachment: template letter sent to members who had raised Grievances

Dear colleague,

Your grievance dated xx

I am writing in response to your email of DATE 2023, in which you stated that you wish to raise a grievance regarding the withholding of your pay in respect of your participation in the UCU marking and assessment boycott (MAB).

While the contents of your grievance are noted, the University does not agree that its approach to withholding pay from those taking part in the marking and assessment boycott is unlawful, unreasonable or disproportionate. Employers are legally entitled to withhold pay from an employee who chooses to breach their contract by taking part in action short of strike (ASOS). Further, the withholding of pay for participation in ASOS, constituting a breach of the employment contract, is a matter of policy and not one that is an issue for negotiation or consultation.

The Grievance Procedure (at Part II ¶4) states explicitly that it is concerned with  grievances raised by members of staff concerning their employment, which relate to themselves as individuals.  The grievance you have raised is about University policy which applies to all of its employees, and  it is only affecting you as an employee because you have chosen to participate in the MAB. As your grievance does not relate to you as an individual in accordance with the application and scope of the procedure, the University has decided that these are not issues which would be appropriate to address under our  grievance procedure.

I will nevertheless make clear the University’s position below.

Upon receiving notice from UCU of its dispute in relation to the 2022-23 pay round, the University published its relevant documentation in response to any proposed strike action and/or any action short of a strike (ASOS), these included the Withholding Pay policy, ASOS guidance, and the Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs). These resources have been available to staff since November 2022 (the start of industrial action on the 2022-23 pay offer) and were available at the start of the marking and assessment boycott, on 20 April 2023.

The University clearly outlines in these documents and resources that it rejects partial performance, as outlined in Section 3.2 of the Withholding Pay policy:

‘The University does not accept partial performance and this will normally result in the withholding of pay. It is within the University’s legal rights to withhold 100% of pay for partial performance. The University also reserves the right not to pay staff for any other work they voluntarily choose to do while participating in action short of a strike’

Therefore, the approach taken by the University to withholding pay is entirely consistent with our legal rights to do so. Where an employer rejects partial performance, the employee taking part in action short of a strike (ASOS) is not entitled to receive any pay, including work they choose to voluntarily undertake.

The University however, took the decision in the first instance to exercise its discretion and withhold a proportionate amount of pay, 50%, without prejudice to its right to withhold 100% of pay in relation to the marking and assessment boycott. Whilst not a decision taken lightly, the decision was based on the impact, disruption and harm the industrial action would potentially have upon our students.

The fact that you may or may not have carried out some of your contractual duties does not mean that the University has waived its policy of non-payment for partial performance of the contract. The determinative factor is that you were not ready and willing fully to perform your contract. Case law makes clear, that where the University exercises its discretion to pay a proportion of your pay, that does not amount to an acceptance of partial performance.

In summary, the University has a clear, consistent and lawful policy on withholding pay where there is partial performance of the contract of employment through participation in ASOS. The University has a discretion to pay a proportion of an employee’s pay when they are engaged in ASOS, but no right for the employee to be paid a particular amount (on the basis of proportionality or quantum meruit). As reiterated to the Southampton UCU branch on 3 May 2023, the University’s policy has been clearly brought to the attention and available to all employees prior to the commencement of the MAB and further explained through FAQs. As such, the University believes colleagues knowingly decided to participate in the industrial action accordingly.

For the above reasons the University does not agree that it has acted unlawfully and no further action will be taken under the Grievance Procedure in relation to the complaint which you have raised.

Your Sincerely,

[HR Director, Client Services]

Letter from SUCU to UoS, 18/10/2023

Dear [HR Director, Client Services],

Thank you for your email and attachment of 17/08/2023, entitled ‘University Response to MAB Grievances’, in which you advised the Branch that the University is denying UCU members access to the Grievance Procedure. The branch objects in the strongest possible terms to the University’s decision, which we regard as wholly unjustified, without precedent, detrimental to local employment relations, and a breach of the trust that staff have placed in the leaders of this University. We also draw your attention to Motion 2, passed overwhelmingly at a Branch EGM on 19 September.

We note the following text on the University’s Grievance webpage (emphasis added):

All members of University staff should be treated fairly and with respect. There may be times when you are unhappy about the treatment that you have received or about any aspect of your work.

If attempts to resolve the situation informally have been unsuccessful, it may be appropriate for you to raise a formal grievance. Our procedures provide a fair and consistent way of dealing with situations where a formal grievance is raised.

All University procedures are underpinned by the principles of natural justice and the ACAS code of practice.

As a statement of intent, this is adequate, if lacking in ambition: it is a basic expectation of employment law that procedures treat staff fairly and consistently, and that grievance and disciplinary procedures follow the relevant ACAS Code of Practice and observe principles of natural justice. We suppose that a member of staff reading the words above might at least be confident that the University of Southampton understands and commits to uphold these basic minimum standards, yet any such confidence would be misplaced.

We request answers to the following questions:

  1. The University of Southampton states in the 17/08/2023 email/attachment that the complaints of our members are not within the scope of the University’s Grievance Procedure as they do not relate to themselves as individuals, citing paragraph 4 of the pre-August 2023 Procedure. This assertion is factually inaccurate as it is a matter of record that staff members were individually sanctioned by the University based on individually calculated deductions. More importantly, we are concerned that the University’s position effectively excludes all policies, procedures and practices, and indeed all management decisions made with reference to policies, procedures and practices, from scrutiny via the Grievance Procedure. Please can you point to where in the ACAS Code of Practice it states that grievances cannot be raised about employment policies, procedures and practices?
  2. Do you believe the University of Southampton’s refusal to hear MAB-related grievances is consistent with the letter and spirit of the ACAS Code of Practice? (Note that paragraph 47 of the Code does not apply, because the grievances were raised by individual employees.)
  3. Why was paragraph 8 of the University’s pre-August 2023 Grievance Procedure, which appears to contradict the University’s position set out in 1 above, ignored?
  4. It is unclear who the Stage 1 managers were, or indeed if any were appointed at all. Were Stage 1 managers (i.e., decision makers) appointed in accordance with paragraph 25 of the Procedure, or was the decision not to hear the grievances decided centrally? Why did complainants learn from you that their grievance was being dismissed, rather than the Stage 1 manager, as required by paragraph 27 of the Procedure?
  5. Given that the University appears not to have followed its own Procedure and past practice in appointing Stage 1 managers (decision makers), and given that the grievances relate to decisions taken by the University’s leadership, there is understandably a concern among our members that the decision not to hear these grievances may have been taken or unduly influenced by the University’s leadership. Does the University of Southampton regard its refusal to hear MAB-related grievances as consistent with its stated support for the principles of natural justice, in this case the principle that decision makers must be, and must appear to be, unbiased?
  6. UCU notes that the 17/08/2023 email/attachment suggests that the University took its decision on the basis of arguments and evidence it procured, including legal advice, whereas complainants were not allowed the opportunity to present their arguments and evidence. In this context, does the University believe its refusal to hear MAB-related grievances is consistent with the principle of natural justice that all sides should have the opportunity to present their arguments before a decision is taken?
  7. Further, it now appears to be accepted practice that the University can have a grievance immediately decided in its favour (as this is the effect of its refusal to hear these grievances), simply by claiming to have obtained a supportive legal opinion. When did this practice begin? Will the University of Southampton waive its legal privilege to share such legal advice with the other parties?
  8. Has UCEA issued advice (including legal advice) or instruction to the University in respect to (i) its MAB pay deduction policy and (ii) how it should handle MAB-related grievances?
  9. During Modernising the Governance negotiations, UCU raised concerns that the University could simply choose not to consider or respond to a grievance, but the University reassured us that such a situation would never occur. Was the University negotiating in bad faith?
  10. Does the University of Southampton consider denying UCU members access to its Grievance Procedure to be an example of ‘best practice’?

We look forward to receiving the University’s explanations, and we would like to know what action it will be taking to build staff trust and confidence that it will operate its procedures in line with the University of Southampton policies, the ACAS Code of Practice, and principles of natural justice.

Please note that as this matter is of significant interest to our members, we will be posting this chain of correspondence on our blog.

Yours sincerely,

Southampton UCU

Please be very careful if you use MyEngagement

The branch has received multiple concerns from members about the introduction of the MyEngagement student tracking software. Several of our colleagues have been trying to work with the team who are rolling it out, but the results have not been reassuring.

The university has established information governance processes which include the need to agree a Data Protection Impact Assessment with a panel the university has constituted for this purpose. It is our understanding that this panel has not yet received appropriate information about the MyEngagement project to be confident that the University is meeting its legal responsibilities regarding the handling of personal data. It is also important to conduct an equality impact assessment before rollout to ensure that we comply with the public sector equality duty; we have been unable to find evidence that any characteristics other than disability have been addressed.

Advice for staff

The staff interface allows any member of staff who teaches or has tutees to view detailed information about every student in the university. Not only is this unwise, and likely of concern to students, it also puts colleagues at risk.

In a recent disciplinary case of alleged misconduct, one of the matters alleged was that our member “displayed his work emails/ Teams chat on the main screen in front of the students”. Even though no specific confidential items were alleged to have been shown, this was claimed to be a violation of the compulsory GDPR training he had received. Sadly, the situation with the MyEngagement staff interface is much worse; we understand it immediately displays personal student information when it is opened.

For now,  is essential that you only access the MyEngagement software in private and where you cannot be overlooked. Do not use the software during any sort of student contact. You should not risk trying to
access the per-session codes (numeric or QR) during student contact.

We have been told that this problem will at some future time be addressed by the supplier.

The university has issued dangerous advice about this problem in the MyEngagement – Getting started guide for academics and administrative staff guidance at:
It contains a section How to change the default home screen when you log into SEAtS. We have tested this advice and found that the system stores the new Landing Page preference in a local browser cookie; it is not saved to the underlying server. The consequence is that, when you next access SEAtS from a fresh browser instance with new cookies, it reverts to the old dangerous landing page.
Do not rely on this “fix”.
Since we first posted this warning, the knowledge base article has  been corrected by adding the phrase Please note that changing this settings sets a cookie in your browser. This means that the filter may need to be set up again if that cookie expires or is not available on the computer you are using.”
Sadly, the article still contains the misleading phrase “This means that if you load up the SEAtS website in public, there is no danger of displaying that information to others” which is not true as the first indication most users will get that their cookie has gone is the display of the original landing page with student details. Users will not be able to restore the cookie without first visiting this page.

If you do accidentally find yourself showing personal information to students by using the software in front of them, you are required to report it using this form:
You might want to consult a UCU caseworker before filling it out; UCU members can obtain a caseworker by emailing

It is possible that you would be committing a data breach merely by viewing the MyEngagement landing page yourself. If you are worried about this, you should instead be able to request QR and numeric session codes by emailing

You should already be aware that, while you are enabled to access personal information about all our students, you are only permitted to do so on legitimate university business. The lack of role based access controls also makes the overall system vulnerable to accidental changes by individual colleagues; it seems that each of us can change, create, or delete any module in MyEngagement.

Please let the UCU Branch know if operating the MyEngagement system generates significant additional workload for you. There are manual “over-rides” that allow staff to add individual student attendances to the system; if this facility is used extensively, it is likely to create a considerable additional burden on colleagues.

We would also warn you not to offer students any assurances about the privacy of their data or the security of their devices in connection with MyEngagement.
Refer them to the student hub at

Advice for students

It is our understanding that participation in this system is optional for students who are not subject to Home Office visa monitoring. If you are not required to use MyEngagement, you might prefer not to do so.

Many of us are uncomfortable with the installation of tracking software on our personal devices. There is the risk that it might compromise the use of other personal software, it might leak information about us to third parties, or it might lead to financial loss through banking applications. As an example of what can happen, Android users who installed the Teams app. have had had difficulty making emergency calls.

Our ideal choice would be to obtain a cheap Android device to use exclusively for MyEngagement. We are told that the version of SEAtS used at Southampton does not need an actual phone and will run on a basic internet-connected “tablet” running Android version 5 or later; there is no need for Bluetooth or GPS support. Once you have identified an appropriate device, confirm with the student hub that it is supported by emailing Keep it turned off when you are not using it to register your attendance, to discourage it from accumulating tracking data via GPS or local WiFi hot-spots.

It is possible that the university might be required to pay for this device. Many of the protections for students are matters of consumer law; this is one of the effects of “marketization”. It seems likely that it is unlawful for the university to force students to pay for an Android/Apple device for the purpose of installing the app:

other extra costs you are likely to incur, for example field trips, bench fees or studio hire. Universities should also indicate how much these extra costs are or are likely to be. Where they are unknown or uncertain, universities should set out how they will be calculated and whether they are optional or mandatory for undertaking or passing the course.

[This blog was updated on 2023-10-02 to accommodate recent changes in staff access.]
[It was further updated on 2023-10-04 to insert additional information.]
[Yet another update was on 2023-10-06, clarifying the risks of changing your default landing page.]

Southampton UCU Emergency General Meeting – 19th September 2023

On 14 August the Higher Education Committee (HEC) called for 5 days of strike action from 25th September.  On the back of membership feedback, a majority of the Higher Education Committee (HEC) called for a meeting to be held to consider options around the forthcoming 5 days of strike action.

The HEC commended the sacrifices that members have made to get us to this point, and also the need for the union to develop a clear national strategy. However, they also had received evidence from numerous branches of mixed levels of support for the forthcoming strike action.  On this basis, the HEC agreed to give individual branches the option of calling off the forthcoming 5 days of action.

To engage members of Southampton UCU on this issue, an Extraordinary General Meeting (EGM) was held on Tuesday 19th September for members to decide if they wished to participate in the 5 days of action.

The meeting was quorate, and it was also attended by the Southern Regional Official, Moray McAulay.

The following motion was passed at the University of Southampton UCU Branch Emergency General Meeting:

Motion 1

Branch resolves to request an exemption from the national strikes planned for 25-29 September 2023.

For:  73% (106)

Against:  26% (38)

Abstain: 1%  (1)

145 responses

Notification of this result has been submitted to UCU Head Office where elected HE Officers will make the final decision regarding Southampton UCU’s withdrawal from participating in the coming 5 days of action.


The meeting also discussed and passed a motion on moving to a formal dispute over the University’s unprecedented decision to refuse to hear members’ grievances about pay deductions resulting from participation in the Marking and Assessment Boycott.

Motion 2

Branch expresses its astonishment and disgust at the University’s unprecedented decision to refuse to hear members’ grievances about pay deductions resulting from participation in the Marking and Assessment Boycott.

Branch believes that employment procedures should be applied fairly, consistently, in an unbiased manner, and in accordance with ACAS guidelines. The operation of such procedures should be free of partisan interference from senior leaders and external organisations such as UCEA and UUK.

Branch resolves that it has no confidence in the University’s ability to apply its grievance procedure in a fair, reasonable and unbiased manner.

Branch instructs the executive to move this matter towards a formal dispute.

For:  96% (117)

Against:  2% (3)

Abstain: 4 % (5)

122 responses


The Executive Committee has been approached by the University of Brighton UCU branch requesting a donation to the Brighton UCU fighting fund, and therefore, the following motion was passed at the EGM.

Motion 3

Branch notes that the University of Brighton has proposed to sack up to 130 members of staff, with c. 400 staff being at risk of redundancy. UCU members at that university are currently taking indefinite strike action in protest at these plans.


Branch expresses its solidarity with members of staff facing redundancy at the University of Brighton and its support for UCU members involved in this action.


Branch calls on the University of Brighton to negotiate with UCU and to remove the threat of compulsory redundancies.


Branch resolves to donate £500 towards the Brighton UCU fighting fund.


For: 96% (114)

Against: 0% (0)

Abstain: 4% (5)

119 responses



Data Breaches, Fraud, and USS

Further advice from a real expert

I was at the Cambridge Cybercrime Conference in June and I had the opportunity to discuss the USS breach with Richard Clayton . His research interests are much closer to cybercrime than mine; he is an acknowledged leader in this field. His key takeaways are:

  • This is a very large breach: consequentially, your individual risk is very low. It is not easy for a criminal to do much with the stolen data. In practical terms, the data loss is not likely to lead directly to an attack. Even your National Insurance number, which is alleged to be confidential, does not present a serious risk.
  • On balance, you probably should take up the free Experian offer, but there are two important caveats:
    • Do not be frightened by the warnings they send to you. Experian’s business model for this product depends on scaring you into continuing with a paid subscription after the free period.
    • Make certain that the sign-up process does not embroil you in “inertia selling” with a requirement that you actively cancel at the end of the free year.
      As you will see below, it does!
  • The benefits of the Experian product are limited; it is probably not good value for you to continue with the paid-for service after the free year. UCU negotiators should confirm with USS that there will be no “inertia selling” or “scare tactics” to induce members to pay for ongoing Experian service.
  • Think hard before you “freeze” your credit; it may have unexpected consequences. For example, it will likely prevent you hiring a car.
  • As always, watch your bank and credit card statements for anything unexpected.
  • There has been frightening publicity about unauthorised student loans or property transactions through the Land Registry. These are not widespread; in most cases you will be sent a physical letter to your home before anything seriously bad happens.

Experian sign-up

I signed up for the “free” Experian “Identity Plus” membership. After I turned off cookies, the site asked for my title, first and last name, date of birth, email address, contact phone number, and mother’s maiden name. At the bottom of this page, it displayed the worrying small print:
The next page wanted my current address, a password, and a memorable word, along with agreement to the Experian terms and conditions. It then made a rather crude identity check, asking me to confirm a credit card supplier I use, and how long I have had it. After that, I was in, with the promise of a Daily Experian Fraud Report.

It encouraged me to enter extra information, including driving licence, passport, credit card and bank account numbers along with additional emails, phones and addresses; I declined. I was then presented with my report. I might be rather boring, but mine contained just five entries, with nothing older than three months. Three were associated with insurance renewals in April; the other two were because I had signed up to this service. They were all marked Won’t impact your credit score. Experian also knew about my credit card (and credit limit) and gas/electric account.

Oddly, they then presented a list of “useful addresses”. These were mainly organisations with whom I used to have some sort of account many years ago; it was not clear why they might still be helpful.

Overall, I did not learn anything useful, and the report seemed more interested in my credit rating than my security. Richard Clayton’s concern seems justified; it looks as if Experian really do hope that I will forget about this “offer” by next year, and find myself paying them nearly £180 per year for a service which appears to be of very little value.

I will post them a letter asking them cancel my membership automatically when the year is up, and to confirm that they will be doing so. It would be good if our USS negotiators could make sure that none of our members are tricked into this substantial annual payment.

Yet another data leak

If you have used MyView recently, you will have seen that it now hosted by Zellis; the URL is now and we are no longer required to enter a “favourite colour” or any other second factor authentication. Sadly, Zellis have also suffered a data breach as part of the wider problem with the MOVEit file transfer software.

We have not been notified that any Southampton staff have been affected.

Fair treatment

To further protect yourself, you might think about moving to a bank which prioritises fair treatment in the event of a loss. The TSB is one of Matin Lewis’s top bank accounts for new switchers. At the Cybercrime conference, Ross Anderson told us that the TSB, uniquely, offers the TSB Fraud Refund Guarantee. Many other banks will routinely accuse customers of “gross negligence” and refuse a refund. These decisions are hard to fight.

USS as an activist investor

UCU HE Sector Conference has passed motions seeking to influence USS investment strategy in 2022, 2021, 2020, 2018 and 2016. Our ethical concerns have included climate change, armaments, and international conflicts. We have made little progress in influencing USS’s behaviour.

While we may not believe that the public water supply should be in private hands, such utilities would, under normal circumstances, be typical of the safe, long-term investments that would be made by a fund such as USS. USS has holdings in both Thames Water and South West Water: the latter through Pennon Group PLC. Sadly, our water and sewerage services are neither the safe custodians of our national infrastructure, not the steady investments for which we might hope.

In this sector, USS is an activist investor. Bill Galvin has said:

We remain of the view that, with an appropriate regulatory environment, the long-term objective of repairing important UK infrastructure and paying pensions to our members are in strong alignment.

Now what can that mean? Is he asking Ofwat not to be too rigorous in cleaning up our rivers? Something similar has come from Thames Water itself:

Shareholders have also acknowledged that delivery of the Turnaround Plan will require the provision of further equity support in AMP8, significantly in excess of the current AMP7 commitment. Indicatively, the AMP8 equity support is expected to be in the region of £2.5 billion, but the nature and level of such medium-term support will depend on the finalisation of the business plan and the regulatory framework that will apply to the AMP8 period.

The USS JNC met last Friday, but our negotiators were unable to learn much:

We pressed USS on Thames Water on Friday at the JNC including on our views on good governance, ethical investment and nationalisation particularly given that USS had invited the former Thames Water CEO Sarah Bentley as their poster-child for successful investment/intervention to the institutions meeting. We did not make much headway, and due to the concerns about requirements under market abuse regulation etc, they were unable to comment on their position. But we will press again at the next JNC as things unfold.
[report by Deepa Govindarajan Driver]

We may feel fortunate that here in Southampton we are not in Thames Water’s area. Sadly, Macquarie Asset Management, who did much to put Thames Water in its current position, have bought a majority stake in our Southern Water.

Denis Nicole

Southampton UCU 2023 AGM – Motions

Southampton UCU held its Annual General Meeting on 14th June 2023 and the following motions were proposed:

Motion in support of Ukraine

SUCU branch notes that 2023 Congress Motion 5:

  • misrepresents Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, turning the focus away from the sole aggressor, Russia, and presenting a false moral equivalence between the invasion of Ukraine by Russia, and the defence of Ukraine by the Ukrainians;
  • calls for the ending of military support for Ukraine, which, rather than leading to peace, would leave Ukraine at the mercy of continuing Russian aggression and long-term military occupation;
  • includes an antisemitic dog-whistle, by selectively reporting Volodymyr Zelensky’s remarks on Israel without contextualisation or explanation;
  • passed without any substantive consultation with Ukrainian people, and has since been condemned by many Ukrainians;
  • has since been discussed as a ‘great initiative which should be welcomed’ by pro-war commentators on the programme Watch on Russian state media;
  • is in irreconcilable conflict with the spirit and letter of 2023 Congress Motion 6, carried with a much larger majority, which explicitly recognises Ukraine’s right to self-determination and tasks the International Working Group with engaging in practical solidarity work with Ukrainian activists.

SUCU branch:

  • strongly condemns and disassociates itself from Congress Motion 5;
  • believes that the motion has brought the union into international disrepute;
  • calls on the General Secretary to make a statement calling for the UK to continue to support Ukraine’s right to self-determination;
  • calls on the General Secretary and NEC to urgently explore all options for overturning or repealing the motion, up to and including a special online congress;
  • calls for the General Secretary and NEC to prioritise the fulfilment of Congress Motion 6 in the meantime, as outlined in Bijan Parsia’s NEC motion ‘Nothing About Ukraine without Ukraine’.

Voting outcome:

Yes:          52

No:            0

Abstain:   1

Motion carried.

Future Congress Arrangements

Branch recognises the considerable efforts undertaken by UCU staff and elected officers to try to make Congress 2023 an inclusive event. Despite these efforts, concern was expressed by delegates about the impact of speaking styles on other delegates. It also remains problematic for many prospective delegates to set aside up to five contiguous days of travel and debate in order to exercise their Branch’s democratic rights. Only around half of the delegate entitlements were taken up.

Furthermore, it is now difficult to justify the carbon (environmental) and financial costs of a large residential Congress , especially when it attracts so little positive national publicity in support of UCU’s causes.

Branch calls for future Congresses to be conducted hybrid or online only.

Voting outcome:

Yes:          45

No:            0

Abstain:   2

Motion carried.

Clarity Business Travel

Southampton UCU Branch notes:

  • That Clarity Business Travel is now wholly owned by a Saudi Arabian company, Seera.
  • That Saudi Arabia’s sovereign wealth fund (the ‘Public Investment Fund’), chaired by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, has agreed to purchase a substantial stake in Seera.
  • That the Saudi Arabian dictatorship has a long history of appalling abuses of human rights, and that Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman has been accused of personal involvement in some of these, such as the murder of Jamal Khashoggi.

Branch believes:

  • That business relationships with oppressive regimes with abysmal human rights should not be normalised.
  • That the University of Southampton aspires to the highest ethical standards for itself, and that it should hold the business it works with to similarly high standards.
  • That working with business owned by oppressive regimes is incompatible with the aims of the University’s Strategic Plan – Equality Diversity and Inclusion 2020-2025, which states that ‘[w]e all actively take steps to understand the impact of our own actions and behaviours’.
  • That while Clarity Business Travel may initially have been an appropriate business partner for the University, following changes to its ownership, this is no longer the case.

Branch resolves:

  • To call on the University to engage in negotiations with Southampton UCU on (1) bringing about the end of the University’s relationship with Clarity Business Travel as soon as is feasible, and (2) mitigating any damage caused in the meantime.
  • To call on the University to engage in negotiations with Southampton UCU on the introduction of new ethical guidelines for future contractual relationships between the University and third parties.
  • To inform UCU’s National Executive Committee of the passing of this motion.
  • To call on the university to make alternative travel booking arrangements available for colleagues who feel that their data security would be prejudiced by sharing personally identifying information with Clarity and, potentially, its owners.

Voting outcome:

Yes:          48

No:            0

Abstain:   0

Motion carried.

Call for joint statement from VC and UCU branch of University of Southampton

Southampton UCU notes:

The VCs of Sussex, Cambridge and Queen’s University Belfast have written joint statements with their universities’ union branches calling on UCEA to return to the negotiating table.

Southampton UCU calls on:

The Vice Chancellor of the University of Southampton to sign a joint statement with SUCU below to call UCEA back to negotiations and end the Marking and Assessment Boycott in good faith.

Draft statement:

It is regrettable that the national pay and conditions dispute has reached a point whereby a marking and assessment boycott has been called. Very sadly, and as things stand, it is likely to have a significant impact on students at Southampton, and across the country.

This cohort of students have already been hit especially hard by the pandemic; now, many are facing the possibility that the completion of their degrees and their graduation may be delayed. The boycott also means that some international students may not be able to apply for post-study graduate visas on completion of their course. No-one wants students to suffer further, and we are deeply sympathetic to the strength of feeling in our student body. For many, including staff, this is a stressful and anxious time.

We jointly want this dispute to be resolved as quickly as possible and for students to have their exams marked on time. Any dispute plainly requires negotiation. The ACAS negotiations on pay and working conditions were interrupted earlier this year. It is regrettable that these talks ultimately failed to resolve the dispute. We therefore call for negotiations between UCEA and UCU to restart without preconditions to reach an agreed settlement. This needs to happen urgently, for the sake of our students, staff and members.

Voting outcome:

Yes:          43

No:            0

Abstain:   1

Motion carried.

Affordable and Equitable Industrial Action (IA)
[Motion for submission to the next Special Sector conference.]

Conference notes that

  • In the 2022-23 pay dispute, UCU called more days of strike action than any other UK trade union
  • UCU confirmed limited financial compensation for punitive deductions a month after the MAB commenced
  • Lengthy, uncompensated or partially compensated IA disproportionately affects staff on part-time and fixed-term contracts, more likely to be women and ethnic minorities.
  • The unsustainable cost of lengthy periods of IA creates a risk of disengagement among members

Conference resolves that

  • UCU commits to conduct an affordability assessment before calls for IA, assessing the likely cost of proposed action to members and support available from the strike fund, and to circulate it to branches
  • UCU commits to conduct an equalities impact assessment before calling IA and to plan mitigations against any disproportionate impacts on specific groups
  • HEC must consider the outcomes of affordability and equalities assessments when calling IA

Voting outcome:

Yes:          40

No:            1

Abstain:   3

Motion carried.

Call for the University of Southampton to end marking mitigation and pressure on staff.

Southampton UCU notes:

  1. The University of Southampton has responded to the impact of the Marking and Assessment Boycott by expecting colleagues not participating in MAB and/or not in the union to take on significant extra marking. By adding to colleagues’ already excessive workloads at a particularly busy time of year, UoS is thereby exacerbating one of the central issues of the dispute.
  2. The University of Southampton is using mitigation procedures to graduate finalists whose marks records are incomplete due to the MAB by contravening the quality assurances and standards that the university has long claimed are integral to the value of a Southampton degree instead of calling on UCEA to end the MAB by returning to negotiations.

Southampton UCU believes that using mitigation procedures in this way, which allows for awarding degrees with missing marks and with Pass/Fail marks for dissertations, devalues a Southampton degree and potentially brings the university into disrepute.

We also call on the university to stop requiring staff to take on additional marking at this busy and pressurised time of year.

Voting outcome:

Yes:          42

No:            0

Abstain:   0

Motion carried.

Motion: MAB salary sharing

Southampton branch notes:

  1. that the financial impact of the marking and assessment boycott varies significantly according to job role, career stage and personal circumstance
  2. that the burden of the MAB is currently being carried by a small number of staff, who are therefore subject to undue pressure and are losing 50% of their pay for a sustained and indefinite period
  3. that all members will gain from any progress brought about by the MAB.

The branch calls on all members who are not participating, or who are unable to participate, to donate one day’s pay per month, or whatever they can afford, from now until the boycott ends, to the local fighting fund.

Voting outcome:

Yes:          37

No:            2

Abstain:   1

Motion carried.

Rejection of “Modernising the Governance”

The Branch notes that:

  1. Without either a vote at University Senate, or agreement from the campus trade unions, University Council sent a proposal to the Privy Council on 29th November 2022 to modify the University Charter and completely eliminate the University Statutes. This was approved by the King on 8th March 2023.
  2. At an eBallot in May 2023, 87% of voting UCU members rejected the Modernising the Governance proposals, in full knowledge that rejecting the proposals would lead to an industrial dispute if they were to be unilaterally imposed.
  3. At their meeting of 24th May 2023, Council noted that management had been unable to reach agreement with the campus trade unions on either the governance (Charter, Statutes, and Ordnances) or procedural aspects of the Modernising the Governance proposals, but proceeded to impose their implementation them without union agreement.
  4. Substantial points of disagreement with the proposals remain unresolved, including:
  • The revised charter, ordinances and policies water down Academic Freedom protections, including by eliminating reference to the UNESCO Recommendation concerning the Status of Higher-Education Teaching Personnel; this is the internationally recognised definition of academic freedom.
  • The revised policies substantially reduce Council’s effective oversight of matters relating to the dismissal of staff at levels 4-6, potentially including where multiple redundancies may substantially impact the work of an academic department or professional service unit.
  1. Throughout the process, Council members have not engaged directly with the Trade Unions.

This Branch resolves to ballot our members to enter a formal dispute over Council’s imposition of the Modernising the Governance proposals.

Voting outcome:

Yes:          25

No:            0

Abstain:   1

Motion carried.

Freedom of Speech at the University of Southampton

Branch notes with concern:

  1. An incident in October 2022 at which a student presentation in building 54 about Taiwan was disrupted.
  2. An apparent physical attack last Sunday afternoon on Burgess Road against young people who had been promoting civil liberties in Hong Kong.

Branch calls upon the University, SUSU, and the Confucius Institute to agree a joint statement calling for calm and reasserting the right of free political expression by all members of the University.

Voting outcome:

Yes:          36

No:            0

Abstain:   0

Motion carried.

USS data breach

USS, who manage our pensions, have written to many of us reporting that some of our personal data has been compromised.

Capita first became aware of a data breach on 31st March; it seems that a well-known Russian ransomware team had been manipulating their systems, and their customers’ data, since at least 22nd March.

Capita first announced the breach on 3rd April, saying: The issue was limited to parts of the Capita network and there is no evidence of customer, supplier or colleague data having been compromised.

On 11th May, however, they told USS that details of their members were held on the Capita servers accessed by the hackers. The information potentially accessed was claimed to include: title, initial(s), and name; date of birth; National Insurance number; USS member number; and retirement date.

Capita have a terrible track record; search Google for breaches and other performance issues. Here in the UK they run armed forces recruitment and TV licensing.

There are typically three things that “hackers” may try to do with your personal data.

  1. If they get passwords, they will immediately try using them to access popular financial  or payment sites such as Amazon or major banks, using related names and similar passwords. That should not be a problem for the USS data; Capita/USS say that login details were not taken.
  2. They might try to impersonate you, to claim tax refunds and government subsidies, to get control of your property, or to take out loans in your name. For some of these attacks, date of birth and NI number are potentially useful.
  3. They will use the information to make “phishing” emails, texts, or phone calls seem more plausible, and to “sucker” you into giving away more information or authorising payments and account changes. Again, NI number and date of birth are useful.

Today (25th May), more than two months after the “hack”, I was told by USS that my data was amongst that which had been stolen. My best guess is that this has happened to all USS members current in 2021; they are just staggering telling us about it. The mitigation offered by USS is to give  free access to a 12-month membership in Identity Plus, a monitoring service provided by Experian—one of the UK’s leading Credit Reference agencies. That seems a very mean offer, and I guess it isn’t costing USS much; initial free or cheap trial periods are common when companies want to “suck you in” for the long term; Experian currently offer one month free to anybody who asks. If it were a good offer, I think three years would  be a reasonable minimum free period.

Personally (and for my sins I am a co-lead of outreach at our NCSC (part of GCHQ) Gold Academic Centre of Excellence in Cyber Security Education I would turn down the Experian offer as I think it is likely to expose more of your personal data to attack; Experian themselves do not have a good track record in protecting personal data:

So what should we do? Three things:

  1. Be aware that somebody who contacts you knowing your NI, DoB or retirement date is a likely fraudster. Don’t engage with them, and certainly don’t tell them anything. These people are likely to claim to be from USS, Experian, or the “pensions department”.
  2. Protect yourself against identity theft. For example, think about putting a “restriction” at the Land Registry on any property you own, to make it harder for a fraudster to transfer title. See:
  3. Treat this as a “wake up call” to adopt better personal cybersecurity practices. Sadly, the advice in today’s USS email

    Use strong passwords and change them regularly. Try to keep them at least eight characters long and use numbers, upper case, lower case and symbols.

    is not regarded as current best practice; you should instead read, and act on, the NCSC infographics. This is the one on passwords:
    and here are the rest:

After I’d dealt with all that, I’d write a “stiff” letter to USS, asking them to justify their use of Capita who are a known poor performer and, if you chose to restrict changes of title for the home you live in, asking them to pay the £40 land registry fee.

Denis Nicole

Modernising the Governance Consultative Ballot


The Modernising the Governance project is the most recent iteration of the University of Southampton’s Senior Management Team’s attempts at governance reform; previous ones ended inconclusively. We were introduced to the current project in July 2021 and Andrew Serdy, Vince O’Connor, Conor McHugh, and Marianne O’Doherty volunteered to work on the project for the branch. We were at the time led to expect that it would conclude in April 2022. However, the project has proved much more complex and time-consuming than initially proposed and negotiations between TUs and the project leads in HR, Employee Relations, and the VP Operations continued until January 2023, when a set of documents that HR considers final was shared with the Trade Unions. Since then, UCU negotiators have carefully gone through the documents to understand the interactions between them in order to enable us to write recommendations for the Branch.

Project scope

The project, which took place in two phases, involved rewriting the core documents that set out the ‘aims, powers and governance framework’ of the University []. UCU refused to agree to the changes under Phase I of the project until we had seen the final documentation for Phase II, because we believed that the two phases were too closely interrelated to separate, and so it proved. The two phases of work involved:

  • Rewriting the University’s Royal Charter (Phase I). The University insists that it is not obliged to negotiate on this with Trade Unions. The revised Charter has been shown to Senate, but Senate was not asked for approval. Nevertheless, it was sent to Privy Council in mid-2022; Privy Council postponed approving the changes until they could see the revised Ordinances, but earlier this year approved them on the strength of the drafts of the ordinances as they then stood, unhelpfully cutting short the negotiations on the Charter which from our perspective had not yet run its course.
  • Removing all the University’s statutes; this is incorporated in the Charter changes (Phase I). In particular, Statute 7, which covers Academic Staff: Dismissal, Discipline, Grievance Procedures and related matters disappears. The significance of this is that the Statutes are effectively part of the constitution of the University. They can only be changed by Council using a special resolution passed with a three-fourths majority at two Council meetings at least a month apart.
  • A rewriting of ordinances which involves elimination of most of the Employment Ordinances and conversion of these into employment procedures (Phase II). The significance of this is that while changes to Ordinances must be signed off by Council, changes to HR procedures can be made by HR following negotiation with UCU, Unison and Unite, but without Council input or signoff.

The changes are broadly similar to those that have recently been pushed through (sometimes acrimoniously) at several other universities.

The project had a number of stated aims that can be read on University web pages [;]. As recognised Trade Unions, UCU, Unison, and Unite have participated in the negotiations. The employment procedures in Phase II apply only to level 4+ staff represented by UCU, but these policies influence the processes used for staff on levels 1 to 3. UCU negotiated only on the changes that impact upon our Terms and Conditions of Employment [For instance, while the SMT project sponsors established a Modernising the Governance Project Board, TU reps’ requests for a seat at that table were refused, though we do receive reports of its (infrequent) meetings].

Within this area, the key aim of the project appears to be to remove responsibility from University Council for involvement of employment procedures that can result in the dismissal of members of staff at L4 and above. The removal of employment matters from Statutes and Ordinances (where changes require Council approval) is also intended to make it easier for the University to change these procedures. The University, however, highlights that the project proposal elevates the status of some Academic Freedom protections for staff by enshrining these in the Charter, which can only be changed following signoff by Privy Council.

Below, we highlight the broad implications of the proposed changes under Phase I and Phase II to Charter, Statutes, and Ordinances for our employment protections, before setting out our assessment of each individual revised employment policy.

University of Southampton Documents

The University of Southampton has made available all the documents produced as part of the Modernising the Governance project to University of Southampton staff via a SharePoint site, which can be found here:

There is also a covering letter from Wendy Appleby, the Vice-President (Operations) which you can find here.

Southampton UCU encourages members to review and consider the documents produced by the university.

The Royal Charter

The part of the Royal Charter that pertains most closely to our Terms and Conditions of Employment is the newly written section on Academic Freedom.

This has been brought ‘up’ from its previous position in Statute into the Charter, which must be approved by Privy Council. A feature of the new Charter on which we negotiated extensively is a paragraph intending to protect Academic Freedom:

The Council shall have regard to the need to ensure that employees engaged in teaching or research, or in undertaking other academic activity, shall have freedom within the law to question and test received wisdom and to put forward new ideas and controversial or unpopular opinions, without placing themselves in jeopardy of losing their jobs or any privileges which they may have at the University.

Following our input and discussions in Senate, this clause now protects all academic activity and all staff undertaking such academic activity; our current Statutes and Ordinances were changed in 2008 to restrict such protection to ERE staff only.

However, it is still weak in some ways, using “shall have regard to the need to” rather than the simpler and clearer “shall”. Its text is derived from recent UK legislation, whereas we had proposed retaining the reference to the UNESCO formal Recommendation concerning the Status of Higher-Education Teaching Personnel [] that is in the Statutes. This recommendation expressed “concern regarding the vulnerability of the academic community to untoward political pressures which could undermine academic freedom and considered that the right to education, teaching and research can only be fully enjoyed in an atmosphere of academic freedom and autonomy for institutions of higher education and that the open communication of findings, hypotheses and opinions lies at the very heart of higher education and provides the strongest guarantee of the accuracy and objectivity of scholarship and research.”


The Statutes

The proposal involves the complete revocation of all the Statutes of the university; this is incorporated in the Charter changes. In particular, Statute 7, which covers Academic Staff: Dismissal, Discipline, Grievance Procedures and related matters disappears.

This is particularly significant for staff engaged in academic activities who may need Academic Freedom protections, because it contained the only reference to the UNESCO Recommendation on Academic Freedom, as noted above:

Where there is any issue as to the meaning of “academic freedom” in any proceedings under Parts II, III, IV, V or VI of this Statute, regard shall be had to Sections VI and VII of the Recommendation concerning the Status of Higher-Education Teaching Personnel adopted by the General Conference of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) in Paris on 11 November 1997.


The Employment Ordinance

The SMT’s intention is to eliminate completely part 3 of the Ordinances: those about Dismissal, Discipline, Grievance Procedures and related matters, effectively moving ownership of the policies and procedures contained in these from Council to Human Resources. This includes the high-level guidelines about how the university makes decisions about making academic and academic related staff redundant. These Ordinances are replaced with a single short Employment Ordinance that signposts to a negotiated set of employment procedures and to a set of Overarching Principles. Future changes to the Procedures would have to be negotiated with the recognised trade unions, including UCU.

The Procedures

Phase II of the project involved a set of eight HR policies, along with a set of “Overarching Principles” that provide the framework for their implementation and must be read alongside them. It is these nine documents that management has asked us to approve or reject at this time.

As originally presented to us, they were rather badly written; textual improvements continued up to the final days, and in UCU negotiators’ view are not all completed. Several of the procedures are significantly affected by the University’s desire to end Council involvement in various decisions that result in the termination of employment for staff at L4 and above. Generally, our view is that there is an attempt to push levels of authority for decision-making of this kind too far down the organisational tree. This view is shared by colleagues in Unite, who are concerned that colleagues on relatively low grades are being given disproportionately high levels of responsibility under these procedures.


Nonetheless, the negotiating team feel that a few of these policies could be accepted. The vote in March for further negotiations with the University’s senior leadership and with representatives of Council led to only perfunctory exchanges; in particular the meeting we sought with Council never took place. Problems applying to a number of the documents are:

  • Throughout the policies, the obligations on managers are not as direct as we might expect. For example, on equality diversity and inclusion, “the Appropriate Manager should consciously consider EDI principles at every stage and apply them where appropriate” (OP) rather than “the Appropriate Manager must apply EDI principles at every stage”. Similarly, management “may allow you to bring an additional companion” if you have difficulty with English or a disability (OP), but is not obliged to do so.
  • In several areas, management has refused to allow colleagues postponements beyond the statutory minimums.
  • Following the removal of panels including a lay member of council from these processes, in our view several policies involving dismissal of staff engaged in academic activity no longer incorporate sufficient protections to staff exercising Academic Freedom. While staff facing dismissal on Disciplinary or Managing Performance grounds would have the additional protection of an Academic member of Senate on their Dismissal Panel, this protection is not extended to staff facing Dismissal on Other Grounds (Expiry of FTC or SOSR) or non-confirmation of probation. We note that this does not comply with the spirit of the UNESCO declaration on Academic Freedom referenced above, which states:
    45. Tenure or its functional equivalent, where applicable, constitutes one of the major procedural safeguards of academic freedom and against arbitrary decisions. It also encourages individual responsibility and the retention of talented higher-education teaching personnel.
  • The principles and procedures (perhaps not surprisingly) cover only university employees and do not extend to UniWorkforce, through which some PGR members are employed. They certainly do not cover outsourced providers such as Cambridge Education Group’s “ONCAMPUS” who are now delivering some of our foundation year courses.


D Overarching Principles

These have significantly improved since the first iteration. However, there remain a number of problems. The most serious of these is the definition of ‘Nominee’ in the glossary (f), which allows a Head of School or Professional Service to nominate someone more junior to be the decision-maker in a procedure. Our reading of the current documentation is that through the use of ‘Nominee’, decisions about dismissal of L4 and above staff can in some instances (Dismissal on Other Grounds – Expiry of FTC) be delegated to Head of Department/direct line manager level.

In 11.2 ‘Should’ hold meetings within your work time unless agreed otherwise needs to be ‘will’, to adequately protect part-time staff.



E Grievance Procedure

We are concerned that management has not agreed to extend the “right to be accompanied” to the informal stage of a grievance. Colleagues raising a grievance are already highly stressed and they need the support of a companion when raising the issue with their managers; this should be embedded as a right in the procedure.

We are concerned that the word ‘usually’ in timescales (e.g. 6.1) allows undue latitude to managers to delay proceedings unreasonably; delays in handling grievances exceeding six months are regular occurrences to UCU caseworkers. We would like to explore adding additional wording that allows for necessary and reasonable extensions (e.g. in cases of sickness or part time working) but places an upper limit on any delay.

HR IS NOT PREPARED TO EXTEND THE RIGHT TO BE ACCOMPANIED TO THE INFORMAL STAGE AS THERE IS NO STATUTORY REQUIREMENT. THEY INSTEAD PROPOSE TO ADD GUIDANCE ON SITUATIONS WHEN INVOLVING HR AND TU COLLEAGUES IN INFORMAL DISCUSSIONS MAY BE APPROPRIATE, THUS THE FINAL WORDING HAS CHANGED TO: .2 of the Grievance Procedure is as follows – “HR can advise on any agreed early resolution methods. Early resolution methods are voluntary and will only take place if everyone agrees. We may involve Trade Union colleagues in early resolution methods to help resolve your grievance informally. You can find more information on early resolution measures here.”


F Disciplinary Procedure

The main change in this procedure is the removal of a panel involving a lay member of University Council to decide on the dismissal of employees at levels 4-7. The revised dismissal panel would instead comprise Head of School or Professional Service plus support from two other managers of sufficient seniority. Following negotiation on Academic Freedom protections, HR inserted a clause allowing a staff member facing dismissal on grounds they believe infringe their Academic Freedom to request that one panel member be an Academic Senate member.

Members will note that the policy contains a rather long “shopping list” of misconducts, which negotiators would have liked to see further reduced; for comparison, see the short “gross misconduct” list on page 52 of the ACAS guide []. However, we note that these lists are shorter than those contained in the current policies, and that because the lists are non-exhaustive, the removal of an item from the list does not remove it as a potential reason for misconduct.


‘WILL’ WILL REPLACE ‘SHOULD’ IN S. 6.7, TO: “Your Line Manager will carefully consider the suspension arrangements, so they do not impact your ability to make necessary communications, including contacting your trade union and/or your Companion.”

G Dismissal on Other Grounds Procedure

While we are not happy with the notion of Dismissal on other Grounds as it is clearly vague and open to abuse, it nonetheless reflects the “Some Other Substantial Reason” clause in UK legislation. There are some troubling examples in the reasons given for DoOG under 2.1: (d) which refers to “fundamental and irretrievable differences between you and another colleague or colleagues”, and (e), which refers to “breakdown in mutual trust and confidence” with no mechanism to try and sort out the rights and wrongs of the matter. We note, however, that this is a non-exhaustive list, so removal of these examples from the text would not remove them as potential reasons for dismissal.

A fundamental problem with this procedure is that it is currently not covered by the Academic Freedom protection provision available to those undergoing Stage 3 Dismissal under the Managing Performance or Disciplinary procedure. This leaves the procedure open to abuse; negotiators would like the Academic Freedom protections made available to those undergoing this procedure.

As we understand it, the use of ‘nominee’ at 11.4 potentially allows for a L4 or above member of staff to be dismissed by their immediate Line Manager or indeed anybody else more senior than the individual at risk of dismissal. We believe this clause also needs revision.

WILL WILL REPLACE SHOULD, READING: “Your Line Manager will carefully consider the suspension arrangements, so they do not impact your ability to make necessary communications, including contacting your trade union and/or your Companion.

AS WITH ‘GRIEVANCE’ ABOVE, HR IS NOT PREPARED TO MAKE INVOLVEMENT OF TUS IN INFORMAL/ EARLY RESOLUTION STAGES A RIGHT, BUT IS PREPARED TO PROVIDE GUIDANCE AROUND AREAS WHERE TU INVOLVEMENT IN EARLY RESOLUTION MAY BE APPROPRIATE. POLICY WORDING: We may involve Trade Union colleagues in early resolution methods to help resolve conduct issues/concerns about your performance informally. You can find more information on early resolution measures here.”



H Managing Performance Procedure

We are broadly satisfied with this procedure.

I Probation Procedure

Under the proposed procedure, the probation period is one year for all staff in levels 4–7 except for ERE level 4–6 staff on balanced or teaching pathways whose default probation period is two years. This can be shortened by their manager if they meet their probation targets early. We have not been offered any convincing reasons why the default probation period for ERE staff on balanced or teaching pathways needs to be 2 years, even if PGCAP (or equivalent) has already been completed and/or FHEA is already held. We believe that applying extended probation to staff involved in teaching is an unreasonable detriment and propose that can be simply fixed by inserting a modified version of a clause from the existing policy allowing probation for such staff to be shortened to 1 year at the point of hire if the appointee has passed probation at another HEI or already has PGCAP equivalent or HEA fellowship. We further believe that the same principles should apply at L7 as for L4–L6.

Non-confirmation of probation is not covered by the proposed Academic Freedom protections.



J Redundancy Procedure

In our view, there are very substantial problems with this policy, and we have made problems with it clear repeatedly throughout negotiations. Our two major concerns are:

  1. There is still too little proposed engagement from Council when management wish to propose major restructures. Negotiations resulted in the late addition of clause 5.1 (c) which says “Where we are considering the closure of a whole academic discipline or department, UEB must gain endorsement from Council.” Nonetheless, this wording could allow for major detrimental changes without Council oversight, up to and including: the ending of Undergraduate or Postgraduate teaching in a department; the cessation of teaching or research in an entire field; turning balanced departments into teaching only departments.
  2. The Consultative Forum: we have made it clear since early in the negotiations that we cannot agree to this procedure without further information on the size, shape, membership, remit, meeting frequency etc. of this proposed Forum. This has not been provided. As a result, the current draft is still too vague, in the negotiators’ view, for agreement to be possible at this stage.



K Managing Sickness Absence and Ill Health Procedure

We are broadly satisfied with this procedure.

L Appeals Procedure

Our main concern with this procedure comes in section 2.8 where our Academic Freedom protections are restricted to only certain employment procedures. In particular, there is no provision for an academic Senate member to join the appeal panel in cases of the catch-all “dismissal on other grounds” or through non-confirmation of employment at probation.
As a more minor point, in section 2.3, we would like to see an undertaking to supply documents at least five working days before the hearing.




Our ballot

We are conducting an online ballot on the set of policies. The negotiators view the changes since the last vote was taken as both incomplete and too minor to recommend acceptance, so we are offering the same choice as in the recent UCU nationwide vote on the two disputes: reject or note.

We would be unable to accept the proposals at this time as they remain incomplete; some guidance is still in draft form and we have not yet seen the terms of reference of the “redundancy” forum; a vote to note would indicate broad acceptance and a will to conclude the final details.

If members vote to reject, the SMT may choose to negotiate further, or may try to impose these changes on us without agreement. If they take the latter course, we will ballot again to decide whether we wish to enter a formal local dispute. Such disputes have in the past been resolved through the involvement of the Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service.

The recommendation of our negotiators and branch executive is to reject the proposed changes; we will report the Branch’s decision to management at the Joint-Joint Negotiating Committee meeting on 18th May 2023.

Southampton UCU members are requested to choose between the following options in the consultative ballot:

☐ I vote to reject the proposals
☐ I vote to note the proposals
☐ I abstain

The ballot will close at MIDDAY on Wednesday 17 May 2023.

Report from today’s General Meeting

Here are the slides presented during the meeting.

A few highlights:

Marking and assessment boycott

We wrote to Prof. Smith, our Vice-Chancellor, questioning aspects of the 50% pay deductions that have announced for participation in the MAB.

We received a reply this morning. They have accepted several of our points and changed their announcement.

Motion on Gender Pay Gap

The University of Southampton UCU Branch notes:

That the latest published data for the University of Southampton reveals that the median gender pay gap has increased from 19.9% (March 2021) to 21.5% (March 2022), the mean gender pay gap has increased from 13.7% (March 2021) to 16.2% (March 2022), and that the median gender pay gap at UoS has increased every year since 2018. (Source: Gender Pay Gap Service)

That, by contrast, the UK gender pay gap for median gross hourly earnings (excluding overtime) for all employees is estimated to be 14.9% (2022), and that the trend is downwards (Source: ONS)

That the University of Southampton, despite previously publishing Equal Pay Reviews annually, has not published one since the 2019 report (Source: UoS), and that, consequently, there is no current published data on disability, ethnicity, migrant and LGBTQ+ pay gaps.

The Branch believes:

That the expanding gender pay gap at the University of Southampton represents a significant leadership failure of the University Executive Board and a significant oversight failure of the University Council.

That pay equality, unsustainable workloads and over-casualisation are linked, and that the University has demonstrated an unacceptable degree of complacency and lack of urgency in addressing these issues.

The Branch resolves:

To call on the University to issue an apology to women and minority employees for failing to ensure that they are paid fairly.

To call on the University to halve all equality pay gaps by 2026, and to eliminate them by 2029.

To call on the University to resume annual Equal Pay Reviews.

Passed: 37 for; 0 against; 1 abstention.

Motion on Amending the Branch Hardship Fund

For the period 3 May 2023 to 13 June 2023 only, the University of Southampton UCU Branch authorises the Executive Committee to make amendments to the eligibility criteria of the local Hardship Fund, to enable payments to be made to members participating in the Marking and Assessment Boycott. A report on any changes made must be given at the Annual General Meeting on 14 June 2023.

Passed: 37 for; 0 against; 0 abstention.

UCU Rising – Why are we in dispute and why you should vote yes in the reballot – members’ testimonies 

UCU members should have started to receive new ballot papers in the post. It is extremely important for members to send their completed ballots back as soon as possible. Our recent strike action has moved employers, but it is integral that we achieve a new mandate to keep the pressure on and ensure an end to this dispute that makes fundamental changes to the material conditions of staff. The closing date for the ballot is Friday 31st March, but the last safe posting date for your ballot is Tuesday 28th March.  

During the last round of strikes, we asked members on the picket why they were out, and why winning this dispute is so crucial for Higher Education.  Here are some of their comments:  


“I am on strike because precarity in the university sector is unsustainable. It means that casualised staff can’t make decisions about their lives. We deserve basic dignity and stability”
– Zosia Kuczyńska, English 

“I am on strike because it’s gone to the point where almost half the people at this university don’t have permanent contracts and that’s an outrageous working condition to be on. Some contracts are for less than 12 months which is insulting”
– Matthew Hunt, Languages Cultures and Linguistics 


“I always say that I am on strike because in all my 25 years at the university, I have never seen so many people in my department and other departments really stressed, overworked and unable to cope. There is too much work for the number of people who are employed, and it can’t go on. Something has to change. And we’ve been trying to change it for so many years. I think people are reaching the end of their tether and are basically ill with stress”
– Julie Herniman, Chemistry 

“I am on strike because I am sick of working 60 hours a week and only being paid for 35 of them.”
– Anon 

Pay and Pensions 

“There are lots of reasons why I am striking. I am on strike for myself, because my point on the pay scale is worth now about 25% less than it was worth a decade ago. What I am paying to my pension now is going to be worth about 35% less than it would have been worth 3 or 4 years ago. I am also striking for my younger colleagues, who come out of PhD and go from casual contract to casual contract. If they do get a job, they are getting paid less than what I was getting paid. Their entire lives they are going to pay into a pension that is going to be worth a huge amount less than mine. Women or various other groups are not going to have it as good as me either.”
– Nick Clarke, Geography 

“I want a decent pension when I retire. I want a living wage. I want less casualization and exploitation in the sector, that pay is more equal, and pay inequalities are taken more seriously”
– Jo Hope, Health Sciences 

In addition, we gathered quotes from supportive students who understand that staff working conditions have a direct impact on their learning experience at the university: 

“If the university’s lecturers are working in conditions where they can barely plan for the future and have no guaranteed pensions, it puts so much pressure on them that they are not going to be able to deliver people a proper education”
– Mac, Philosophy student 

The above are just a snapshot of the responses gathered, and we will be sharing more of these across the duration of the ballot period on Twitter. These problems persist, and we need to fight for a Higher Education sector that enables those working and learning within it to thrive, not just survive.  

Vote early, vote yes.