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August, 2015:

More on the PwC review

We have received a reply from Adam Wheeler, our DVC, to our offer to assist with the review:

Finally, regarding your question about the Business Model Review, UCU have received a number of briefings [I think these were verbal reports at JNC/JJNC: Denis] from management on the purpose and scope of the Review and the progress of this work. UCU members have also been involved in the work by virtue of being staff involved in the review. The University will in time seek to engage with the Trade Unions on next steps, once PWC has finished its report.

Meanwhile, I have been chosen as one of the sampled staff to provide data for the review. There is a pretty obvious bias in the way data is requested. There is just one box for time spent teaching; there is another single box for time spent on research. On the other hand, there are 49 boxes allocated to detailed ancillary, administration, and support activities. We are asked, at short notice, to distribute our average monthly hours amongst these tasks, with a granularity of no less than one hour per activity. As I calculate it, based on the University’s assumption of a 35-hour week, we should have 134 hours to distribute. So we will have to scatter ones and zeros around the support boxes. Given that there are lots of such boxes, I can only assume that the purpose of the data gathering is to generate high apparent support costs to justify the purchase of Watson and other expensive outsourced products. To be paid for, presumably, by a further reduction in academic-related staff.

There are, however, a few free-text boxes. Perhaps colleagues might use them to explain the amount of time they spend “fighting” managed print? Or struggling to get a timely and effective response from our already shrunken central services—counselling, legal, and HR come to mind. Or dodging the alarming number of rats that are scurrying across campus.

Denis Nicole

Update on university action against a union representative

As our Southampton members will know, the university recently initiated disciplinary action against a union representative over the way he supported members during a disciplinary enquiry. All three campus unions were deeply concerned; our caseworkers are trained and accredited by their unions and, if there are any issues about their performance, the appropriate behaviour by the university would be to approach a full-time official of the union. In the last resort, the union can withdraw a caseworker’s accreditation. We know the university understands this; not long ago the Chief Operating Officer wrote to union officials querying the conduct of union health and safety representatives. On that occasion, the representatives were promptly vindicated when the system whose safety they had been querying failed spectacularly—think of an indoor version of the Emperor Fountain at Chatsworth.

This casework is a trade union duty protected in law; our caseworkers are entitled to time off with pay while dealing with matters of discipline. Our understanding is that, during this time off, the caseworker should be answerable to their union, not to the employer. We put this to the university in an “Emergency Joint-Joint Negotiating Committee” meeting on 28th July, but the meeting was adjourned without agreement.

I am now able to report some moderately good news. The accused representative has been told that there is no case to answer. They have not, however, been told anything about the accusation; they don’t know its content, who made it, or whether, with no case to answer, the complaint has been judged vexatious. We have been given no assurances that such unjustified complaints will not again be used to harass our representatives in the future.

Our trained representatives are a very precious resource; almost all of our successes in resolving the problems of members depend on their skill and their willingness to give time to support their colleagues. We cannot allow inappropriate accusations by the employer to discourage them from coming forward, nor can we allow a chilling atmosphere of fear to discourage them from pursuing their role tenaciously.

We are thus continuing to press the university to give decent guarantees of protection to our volunteers through a formal undertaking that an incident of this sort will not happen again. We will let you know what happens when the EJJNC reconvenes.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Final thoughts:

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

PwC Business Model Review

The University is currently conducting a Business Model Review in partnership with PricewaterhouseCoopers. Your UCU branch has offered to provide input to the review, but our offer has not yet been taken up. Meanwhile, as part of the process, survey questionnaires have been sent to a number of staff. The first version for Academic staff did not have ethical approval and was withdrawn on 22nd July. An amended version was approved in August. Meanwhile, another survey has been sent to MSA staff. That too does not seem to have ethical approval, but it has not been withdrawn. Both ask staff to estimate, at very short notice, the proportion of their time that they spend on various activities.

We are rather concerned about the likely trajectory of this review. PwC have an agenda of their own, The 2018 university, which envisages outsourcing a number of support activities. They also say: Gone are the days of lecturing, tutorials, reading library books and then exams. Disruptive digital technologies are and will transform education forever.  We understand Deakin University in Australia was advised by PwC to invest in IBM Watson to deliver student advice. Yes, that’s the IBM Watson that won the American Jeopardy quiz show. Coming to a student services near you. Meanwhile, Manchester University are cutting 68 IT staff; we have contacted the UCU branch there to check whether PwC are involved.

Denis Nicole