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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

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