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June 18th, 2020:

Correspondence with University management re postponement of sabbatical leave and promotions 2020-21

RESPONSE RECEIVED FROM THE CHIEF OPEATING OFFICER, RICHARD MIDDLETON, ON 25 JUNE 2020

Dear Mary,

Thank you for your email of 18th June 2020.  Please accept this as a joint response from both Alex and I.  As you will recall we commented on and explained the urgency of the decision made at the University executive concerning sabbaticals and promotions when we met at our regular weekly meeting.  We acknowledged that the announcement of the decision did not match the spirit and intent of the joint statement we are drafting.  I still hope and expect that we – University and trades unions – can sign the joint statement very soon.  I will take each of your numbered points in order:

  1. I can confirm that the changes (to both sabbaticals and promotions) that were  announced last week relate to 2020/2021;
  2. I can not predict what actions will be required in a year’s time to sustain the University’s financial position.  I can confirm that a decision about sabbaticals and promotions in 2021/22 has not at this stage been taken and that interrupting sabbaticals or promotions in 2021/22 would require a new decision.  The University will want to consider when it is appropriate to re-introduce both sabbaticals and promotions within the overall framework of the finances and economy of the University;
  3. In respect of sabbaticals, the possible impact on research expectations and outputs is acknowledged.  Deans will provide advice to line managers and staff affected within the faculties who had been relying on sabbatical leave  to deliver their objectives and outputs in 2020/2021;
  4. There were not formal prior EIAs in respect of this decision concerning suspension of sabbaticals and promotions, which would have involved consideration of the equality impact status quo in respect of sabbaticals and promotions arrangements.  EIAs can not be done retrospectively. We will consider equality issues in implementing the decisions; and we will review EIAs on other cost saving plans we may have in the future.

More broadly, you will be aware that a separate meeting with the Trades Unions has been set up and diarised by HR for early July to consider the University’s projections of probable income in 2020-21 and to discuss possible mitigations.  I asked trades unions at the recent weekly meeting to bring proposals for mitigation to the meeting so that we can fully understand our options.

Best wishes

Richard 

Richard Middleton

Chief Operating Officer (Interim)

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LETTER SENT TO THE CHIEF OPERATING OFFICER, RICHARD MIDDLETON, AND ALEX NEILL ON 18 JUNE 2020

Dear Richard, dear Alex

We have been attending the regular TU/COO meetings with you both, as it is at least a means of regularly discussing COVID-19 related items of interest to our members.  I had assumed this meant that there would be a degree of transparency regarding decisions which would impact UCU members and enable some advance discussion of the implications and possible alternatives.

Our members are, understandably, utterly appalled to read in the 17th June UEB blog (now followed up in letters from Deans) that sabbaticals and promotion rounds for 2020-21 have been postponed. We do recognise that COVID-19 poses many threats and the University needs to retain a degree of flexibility to allow for a possible resurgence in cases. However, it is very unfortunate that these latest drastic measures were not raised with UCU in advance of the announcement of these decisions with time for proper discussion. Giving us forewarning (of a few hours) is not consultation, and barely allows us to assess the situation.  

At our TU/ COO meeting last week on 10th June we raised the question of sabbaticals, as there had been reports of postponement by some members. I sought clarification and asked at a minimum that if this decision were to be taken that there would be a corresponding reduction in research output expectation. I also asked for confirmation that this was only for 2020/2021. You indicated you would need to seek the input of UEB, but then went straight to announcement.  

The additional decision to suspend the promotion round for 2020/2021 came completely out of the blue and will be a severe motivational blow to staff, particularly those who have also lost their sabbaticals. 

We would like to have constructive discussion and are confident that exploring a range of options may have enabled a fairer and more nuanced set of solutions to be developed and considered. After a long period in which many staff have made great sacrifices on behalf of the University (and will continue to do so), we wish to register our strongest possible objection to your course of action, and to your failure to consult with or even inform us as the recognised TU for affected staff before taking this action. 

In order to reassure members we would like to make the following requests: 

  1. Please confirm that these changes (to both sabbaticals and promotions) are for 2020/2021 only;
  2. Please confirm that sabbaticals and promotion rounds will return as normal in 2021/2022;
  3. Please confirm that research expectations will be adjusted accordingly for those staff who had been relying on sabbatical leave in 2020/2021;
  4. Please share with us the Equality Impact Assessments relating to both decisions (sabbaticals and promotions) that have been carried out for all grades of staff.

Last year, we signed a partnership charter which committed all parties to treating each other with respect and consideration, and to be transparent in communications and behaviour. I know that the current VC was very supportive of this initiative so I have copied him in here, to remind you all that we are prepared to uphold our side of the charter and ask you do to the same. And in addition to the specific requests above, and in the light of the partnership charter, we would welcome the opportunity for a full and open discussion about University finances to engage more effectively with the reasons for these decisions.

We will be sharing this email with our members later this week.

Regards

Mary Morrison

President

On behalf of Southampton UCU

UCU support for #BlackLivesMatter

In recent weeks, peaceful protests have taken place around the world calling for justice and equality following the brutal murder of George Floyd. Here in the UK people have taken to the streets in their thousands in all major cities under the banner of ‘Black Lives Matter’. The parallels between the murder of an African American man by law enforcement in the US and our violent colonial past and racist present are clear. In Bristol, protests culminated in a statue of Edward Colston, which had long been a controversial landmark and the subject of numerous petitions, being pulled down and thrown in the river. Britain’s colonial history is being taught via these acts of resistance and there is a sense that something different is happening. 

There is hope that honest and difficult conversations about racism in the UK are happening at last. On social media, people have been calling for recognition of the UK’s own record of police brutality (Christopher Alder (1998), Sean Rigg (2008) and Mark Duggan (2011)). Black people account for 3% of the population, but 8% of deaths in custody. Articles in major newspapers by black public intellectuals, politicians and activists have called out the hypocrisy of claiming that the UK’s racism is more ‘subtle’ and less violent. Although many people have voiced concerns about protesting during a pandemic, the connections between Black Lives Matter and the current health crisis are also being brought to the fore. BAME people in the UK are dying in far greater numbers from Covid-19, not because of genetics but because of socio-economic inequalities and racism. These same inequalities were brought home by the Grenfell Tower tragedy, which saw its 3rd anniversary this week – 72 deaths and still no prosecutions

For our part, universities around the country are showing their support for Black Lives Matter through public statements, hashtags and even by illuminating their buildings. But the suspicion remains that such expressions of solidarity are often nothing more than window dressing, and form part of a broader strategy within UK higher education where universities speak of ‘promoting diversity’ whilst failing to challenge the systemic racism that is embedded into the very heart of our institutions. The fact remains that across UK Higher Education institutions fewer than 1% of professors are black, and there are even fewer black female professors. Additionally, the race attainment gap in education continues throughout higher education. 

Student groups have being drawing our attention to racism in universities through campaigns such as #RhodesMustFall. Students at Manchester University painted over Rudyard Kipling’s poem ‘If’, which adorned the newly refurbished Students’ Union, with Maya Angelou’s ‘I Rise’.  At Southampton, the Black Students Solidarity Network have called upon senior management to do more to address systemic racism and have written their own anti-racism charter for student clubs and societies. We are grateful to the Black Students Solidarity Network for supporting SUCU’s recent industrial action. They saw that two of the ‘four fights’ which called on universities to end casualisation and pay inequality were explicitly linked to systemic racism and the disproportionate number of BAME staff who are on casual contracts. During the action, the Disputes Committee and the Black Students Solidarity Network organised a teach out with SOAS in support of their #preventingprevent programme. We are aware that as a branch we need to better support BAME staff and students and fight against institutional racism in our university and HE more broadly. To this end SUCU pledges to support our colleagues in Shine BME Staff Network in furthering their anti-racism work, including their commitment to the Race Equality Charter. We also support the Black Students Solidarity Network in their initiatives to end discrimination at the University of Southampton. 

This branch reiterates UCU’s stand against racism. We stand in solidarity with Black Lives Matter, but we do so whilst recognising that so much work still so urgently needs to be done.  We stand in solidarity against everyday acts of racism, microaggressions and harassment that black staff and students face across UK Higher Education institutions, including our own. We stand in solidarity with movements seeking to resist hostile environment policies on our campuses. We stand in solidarity with the disproportionate number of black workers at our institution who are paid only slightly above the living wage. All our members have a role to play in eradicating racism. Messages of solidarity are not enough. We need to do so much more.

DONATE:

We encourage our members to donate to the UK Black Lives Matter fundraiser: 

https://www.gofundme.com/f/ukblm-fund?utm_medium=referral&utm_source=unknown&utm_campaign=comms_h4hk+ukblm-fund

LEARN:

We encourage members to learn about anti-racism work already being done:

https://www.stephenlawrence.org.uk/

https://www.runnymedetrust.org/

https://www.ucu.org.uk/action-against-workplace-racism

https://www.southampton.ac.uk/diversity/how_we_support_diversity/harassment_contacts.page

FOLLOW:

Members who want to learn more can follow these social media campaigns:

#BlackintheIvory

#decolonizethecurriculum

#BlackLivesMatter