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Future Ways of Working – UCU concerns

UCU  has raised concerns with senior management about the potential changes to terms and conditions of staff as part of the Future Ways of Working project.  As the recognised trade union for staff at L4-6, any changes to staff contracts are subject to negotiation with UCU under our recognition agreement with the University.  Please see below our recent email communication and response from the Chief Operating Officer.


From: Chief-Operating-Officer
Sent: 28 June 2021 09:02

Dear colleagues,

As some of you heard at our latest meeting on Thursday 24 June, the Future Ways of Working (FWOW) project is still very much in its infancy. I believe during the meeting, Mandy reiterated that the desire of the project is to consult effectively and hear from all colleagues across the University, including the trade unions. However, at this time the mechanisms and timelines for doing so are yet to be established.

The project is currently in the process of recruiting a dedicated Programme manager, as well as a post focusing on communications. These posts are likely to be in place between August and September and once recruited their priority will be establishing the next steps. As explained, the project encompasses many elements and will consist of different work streams, some of which will naturally lead to more discussion and input than others. Our communication to present has been focused on providing both unions and colleagues with an early overview of the project, given these are questions many colleagues are soon to be asking, if not already.

In the past when there has been a specific and fully-described goal, we have engaged more directly at the beginning.  With this project the level of change has yet to be determined and therefore needs a different approach. We envisage that this starts with co-design, which then leads to some overarching goals. Once the project goals begin to take shape we would expect a similar level of union involvement and engagement as previously experienced.

I note and understand the points UCU raise in this email and I assure you that the University will of course adhere to its recognition agreements and negotiate and consult where appropriate. The sole purpose for setting up a standing agenda item at our regular meetings, which was welcomed at the time, was to ensure a constant link between our meetings and communications and that of the overall project. As above, once Mandy and the project team identify and develop their thinking and approach, the mechanisms for effective communication and consultation will become clear for the various work streams across the project, which will of course include appropriate and meaningful consultation with the unions.

For now, I suggest that we keep communication lines open on FWOW within our regular meetings.

Best wishes,


Richard Middleton

Chief Operating Officer


Thu 24/06/2021 13:11
To: Chief-Operating-Officer
 Mandy Fader

Dear Richard (cc Mandy),

Thank you for your recent communications in response to our enquiries about the Future Ways of Working project. Your most recent all-staff email (15/06/21) mentions a desire to proceed ‘to consider the longer-term change and support framework required around our people […] in discussion with our campus trades unions’. We have also received a response to our enquiry from Luke Kelly, indicating how you propose to proceed in this regard: to have ‘a standing agenda Item at our regular meetings to update and allow union input and discussion with project representatives’. We had the first of those updates at a meeting this morning (24/06/21).

We welcome the initiation of a project dedicated to thinking through future ways of working. However, we are concerned about the ways in which working with campus trade unions is referred to in these recent communications.  As I mentioned in the meeting this morning, the statements from University of Southampton do not seem to fully take into account the University of Southampton’s existing agreements with UCU which cover all matters affecting the terms and conditions of our members:

  1. A project dealing with future ways of working will inevitably, if it is to have any effect at all, impact upon our terms and conditions of employment. As I stated this morning, the University is obliged to negotiate with UCU on changes to terms and conditions of employment. UCU has a clear recognition agreement with University of Southampton, and it is established practice that University of Southampton negotiates terms and conditions of level 4+ staff with UCU.  We are concerned that no reference to these existing agreements is included your recent message.
  2. Luke Kelly’s email seems to indicate that making this project a ‘standing agenda item at our regular meetings to update and allow union input and discussion with project representative(s)’ is sufficient. This is not the case where changes to our ways of working are under consideration. We would draw your attention to the University’s prior practice in managing large projects of this kind. Prof. Fader, who we understand will be leading this project, will remember Project Wellington in 2018, in which the University consulted much more extensively with Trade Unions for its ‘Reshaping the University’ organisational change programme through a series of dedicated meetings. One standing item in the more informal setting of the regular TU meetings will clearly be inadequate to allow for meaningful consultation on the issues raised by such a project.
  3. We further note that the Future Ways of Working project has the potential to impact on the contracts of employment for some or all of the staff, for which University of Southampton recognises UCU as the sole agent for collective bargaining.  It is also a matter of record that the last significant change made by University of Southampton to contracts of employment in 2016 was negotiated and agreed with UCU.

We suggest that, if this is an important project, it is surely important enough for the University to convene a dedicated meeting with all three campus trade unions to discuss it, including setting out a schedule for dedicated consultation meetings with campus trade unions on matters that affect our terms and conditions of employment.

Any changes that may be proposed at the end of this process, will need to be tabled at a full meeting of the JJNC or JNC that is a part of our established employment relations processes.

Any agreement that UCU enters into that could amend the terms and conditions of our members’ employment will be subject to a full ballot of UCU members, before UCU can approve of any changes.  UCU has worked with University of Southampton on a series of large projects, in areas under which University of Southampton is obligated to negotiate with UCU.  The successful conclusion of these projects provides a clear demonstration that the university honouring its agreements with UCU should not prove to be an impediment to University of Southampton making changes to terms and conditions.

Can you please confirm that University of Southampton is happy to proceed on the basis that we have suggested?

We look forward to hearing from you.

With regards

Lucy Watson, President

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