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SUCU Requests for information: Active Campus and University Finances

Over the past month SUCU has been asking for trade union representation on the high-level decision-making group ‘Active Campus’. The knowledge and expertise of TU H&S reps are invaluable and can help direct senior leaders in their discussions about how to open up our campuses safely. Our H&S officer, Adam Dunn, wrote to the Chief Operating Officer on 21st July to request, once again, for representation:

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SUCU received the following response from Richard Middleton on the 23rd July: 

“Dear Adam

Thank you for your letter of 21 July seeking representation of a UCU Health and Safety representative on the Active Campus Group, and in turn seeking representatives from the other trades unions.

This is a group of Executive Directors in Professional Services – my direct reports – meeting as a group of senior managers to make plans for the operation of the campus from September onwards, ensuring that we meet our obligations to students and fulfilling our managerial roles.   In doing so we are naturally utilising the experience of University staff working in Professional Services.  It is not a group to which I would invite trade union representation.

As you will know, I and the HR team and Health and Safety Director have been meeting regularly, mostly weekly, with representatives of all the campus trades unions for several months and I have committed to keeping those regular meetings informed of how plans for the Autumn term are developing.  I believe that regular discussion has been working well and is consistent with our mutual commitments to improving relationships.

Trades union representatives participated in the development of guidance and protocols for returning to work during May and June.  Those groups were very successful and I am grateful for the trades union contributions and the positive spirit with which that work was undertaken.  It was a good example of our cooperation.

The University consults with trades unions consistently on health and safety and of course most comprehensively at the Health and Safety Consultative Committee.  I am confident also that there are good daily working relationships between University staff, especially those working in health and safety, and the trades union health and safety representatives.

With best wishes,

Richard”

In a recent meeting, the COO agreed to share with SUCU officers a precis of the discussions which are taking place on Active Campus. While this development is welcome, we do not feel that this is equivalent to having TU reps actually present for these discussions.

SUCU has also been asking for more detailed financial information to be shared with the executive committee in order that we can be fully informed about the University’s financial situation. We are asking to see concrete evidence that there is a case for the ‘cost savings’ measures the Vice Chancellor has informed us might be required. On the 21st July we emailed the Chief Operating Officer again about this:

Dear Richard,

We are holding an EGM tomorrow to discuss UCU’s national Fund the Future campaign and we will be discussing the VC’s recent email. I am writing to follow-up on a request made at JJNC 25th June to provide full financial disclosure so that unions have a complete understanding of the parameters of the university’s financial decision-making. The actions state that this was fulfilled on the 8th July but in the finances meetings we have attended since then we have pressed for more detail. Specifically, SUCU would like data on the following:

  • The full overall budget for 2020/21 and predicted scenarios (not just the summary that has been submitted to Council for approval)
  • A breakdown of the projected loss to income, making it clear how much of this drop in income is offset by originals plans to run a surplus.
  • Full figures on the cash reserves the University has which may be able to absorb any projected losses.
  • Full figures on any liquid assets the University has which could be turned to into cash if needed.
  • What percentage of offsetting measures are being levied against staff costs, and have the University fully considered making cuts elsewhere?
  • What budget for capital expenditure is planned for 2020/21? Is this work essential?

We would also like answers to the following questions:  

  • Are management worried about breaching agreements made with lenders about how to run the institution? Do we have any covenants that stipulate that the institution should meet a certain level of business performance each year?
  • Has management considered how the proposed cuts will affect the ability of our institution to bounce back in future years? Have management modelled any changes to future income?
  • Has management researched the government business loans scheme to see whether the university if eligible for this support? 

More detailed information is essential if we are to contribute fully to discussions around cost-savings. We urge you to share this crucial financial information with us as soon as possible.

Many thanks,

Lucy Watson (SUCU President)”

On 23rd July, we received this reply:

“Dear Lucy

Thank you for your email.  I regret that I was not able to reply within the day of your request, but of course I want to respond before we meet this afternoon for our regular discussion.  I will address each of your questions in turn

1.       Full overall budget for 2020/21.  There isn’t yet a full budget for 2020/21 because of the uncertainty about our income for 2020/21. We expect to take a final budget to Council in November.  This will likely still retain a level of uncertainty because of the January international PGT intake.  We don’t have “predicted scenarios” – we model scenarios following the same sort of approach at IFS and London economics. The VC’s email of 1 July gave the headlines of this scenario work.

2.       Breakdown of projected loss to income.  The baseline budget is an internal planning document worked up according to our strategic plan which is to deliver a surplus each year to generate cash for investment.  In the VC’s email he referred to a drop of £70m in income, in a moderate to severe scenario.  We think it is prudent to prepare plans consistent with that figure; but, as I say in the first point, we also expect that to change as we gain more information about actual enrolments.

3.       Full figures of cash reserves – are available in 2018/19 financial statements, which are published and those have not changed materially.  The extent to which these “may be able to absorb any losses” depends on their intended use – capital investment remains a strategic priority.

4.       Liquid assets – this information is also available in the financial statements, represented by cash and investments.

5.       Offsetting measures levied against staff costs – We are looking at offsetting potential losses against non-staff and staff costs as well as cash.  Until we understand the actual impacts of student recruitment and the length of the challenge we have not yet got firm plans yet on any specific percentage in each of those areas.  We are as you know maintaining very strict controls on non-pay spend and are holding down recruitment and replacement of staff.  As we have shared with you, we hope to achieve further reductions in staff spend through voluntary measures if at all possible. 

6.       We also have not currently set a budget for capital for next year, again we are awaiting November.  Nevertheless planning for capital investments, especially in the estate, continues, consistent with the University’s strategy.

As the VC said in his email:

“This loss of income would need to be mitigated in three ways: through significant reductions in our planned operating expenditure by maintaining the same level of rigorous control and scrutiny as we have done since March, including scaling back our planned capital expenditure; through reducing our staff costs – our single largest investment; and through careful use of our cash reserves. Our intention will be to use a balance of all three in order to maintain our prospects for recovery, which is likely to take more than a single year.

“I know there is a considerable appetite for information and detail. I want to be open with you about what we are doing, and why. The levels of uncertainty are immense, and I know that is frustrating for all of us. However I am confident that our approach is sensible, and that we will ensure we regularly test our assumptions against what turns out to be reality and adapt our planning accordingly, and that we will neither take action before we need to, nor leave it too late to take action.”

In response to your final three bulleted questions:

We do have covenants on borrowing which we are monitoring and modelling.  We are looking at longer term impacts and the VC email makes clear the high-level principles we are using to govern our decision making. We are exploring actively all the options Government is making available and assessing their benefit to our long-term sustainability.  

Best wishes

Richard”

SUCU will continue to press for more information on the current and projected financial situation at the University so that we can better represent all staff in our discussions with senior management.

 

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)

—————————-

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

COVID-19 Communications with the University

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UCU trustee, national officer and NEC elections – ballot now open

Members should have received their ballot material for the election of some of UCU’s national officers and national executive committee positions, including the Vice President, Trustees, and members of the National Executive Committee. These are very important roles in our Union; however, the turnout in these elections is typically very low. We thus strongly encourage you to take part to this democratic process of our Union. We have reported below a brief description of the function of each elected position, and a list of candidates for each position (CLICK on a candidate’s name to open their election statement). The ballot is conducted on a single transferable vote (STV) basis; you should thus rank candidates in order of preference by placing a number next to each candidate’s name. Your ballot papers should arrive by February 10th; do not hesitate to email us at ucu@soton.ac.uk for additional information.

Note that not all regions or sectors have candidates being elected this time round.  This is because periods of office for some positions are staggered.

 

VICE PRESIDENT

This is one of the most important and influential elected roles in the Union. The Vice President (VP) is elected annually, in alternating years from Further Education (FE) and Higher Education (HE), but always by the whole membership. Once elected, the VP serves four years: the first as VP, the second as President-Elect, the third as President, and fourth as Immediate Past President. They are strongly involved in UCU’s decision making. For instance, they are members of the pay negotiating teams for their sector, along with various other sub-committees, and they chair their Sector Committee/Conference for two years.

Candidates (1 seat available):
Margot Hill (Croydon College)
Janet Farrar (The Manchester College)

TRUSTEES

The trustees have oversight of the union’s property and funds. They may attend meetings of Congress, the National Executive Committee, and finance committees.

Candidates (3 seats available):

David Limb (North West Regional College)
Martin Ralph (University of Liverpool)
Mike Barton (London retired members’ branch)
Dr Angela Roger (University of Dundee)
Angie McConnell (Open University)

NATIONAL EXECUTIVE COMMITTEE

Members of the national executive committee (NEC) of UCU, include HE and FE members, some of whom are elected regionally, some on a UK-wide basis, plus equality seats and officers of the union. The NEC is responsible for conducting the Union’s business between Congress meetings, and interprets/implements policies decided by Congress. The NEC comprises a number of sub-committees which cover specific areas of work: higher education committee, further education committee, strategy and finance committee, education committee, recruiting, organising and campaigning committee, and equality committee. The higher education committee (HEC) in particular makes key decisions about the conduct of industrial ballots and disputes involving HE institutions.

Candidates (these are divided in categories):

Northern Ireland HE (1 seat available)
Philip McGowan (Queen’s University Belfast)
Linda Moore (Ulster University)

North East HE (3 seats available)
Ariane Bogain (Northumbria University)
Bruce E. Baker (Newcastle University)
Ruth Holliday (University of Leeds)
Dr Steve Lui (Dr Sun Chong Lui) (University of Huddersfield)
Joan Harvey (Newcastle University)
Dr Edward Yates (University of Sheffield)
Matilda Fitzmaurice (Durham University)

North East FE (1 seat available)
Rachel Minshull (Leeds City College)
Saleem Rashid (Sheffield College)

London and the East HE (4 seats available, to include at least one woman)
Roddy Slorach (Imperial College London)
Holly Smith (University College London)[woman]
Annie Goh (UAL Central Saint Martins)[woman]
Sarah Brown (Anglia Ruskin University)[woman]
Dr Stan Papoulias (King’s College London)
Professor Paul Anderson (Queen Mary University of London)
Dr Claire Marris (City, University of London)[woman]

Midlands HE (1 seat available) (casual vacancy)
David Harvie (University of Leicester)
Alan Barker (University of Nottingham)
Dr Teresa Forde (University of Derby)

UK-elected members HE (5 seats available; to include at least one post-92, one academic related)
Ann Swinney (University of Dundee)
Mark Abel (University of Brighton)[post-92]
Chloé Vitry (Lancaster University)
Dr Adam Ozanne (University of Manchester)
Shereen Benjamin (University of Edinburgh)
Michael McKrell (University of Central Lancashire)[post-92]
Jo McNeill (University of Liverpool)[academic related]
Ann Gow (University of Glasgow)
Sunil Banga (Lancaster University)
Dr Mark Pendleton (University of Sheffield)
Mike Finn (University of Exeter)
Dr Leon Rocha (University of Lincoln)[post-92]
Julie Hearn (Lancaster University)
Jamie Melrose (University of Bristol)
Dr Chris O’Donnell (University of the West of Scotland) [post-92]
Sarah King (University of Sussex)[academic related]
Michael Carley (University of Bath)

UK-elected members HE (casual vacancy) (1 seat available)
Chloé Vitry (Lancaster University)
Dr Mark Pendleton (University of Sheffield)
Sunil Banga (Lancaster University)

UK-elected members FE (3 seats available; to include at least one ACE and one woman)
Lauren Mura (Blackburn College)
Saleem Rashid (Sheffield College)
Richard McEwan (New City College Tower Hamlets [Poplar])

UK-elected members FE (casual vacancy) (1 seat available)
Nina Doran (City of Liverpool College)
Kevin Lynch (Sunderland College)

Representatives of women members for Higher education (3 seats available)
Rhiannon Lockley (Birmingham City University)
Dr Joanne Edge (University of Manchester)
Marian Mayer (Bournemouth University)
Pura Ariza (Manchester Metropolitan University)
Madhu Krishnan (University of Bristol)
Dr Rhian Elinor Keyse (University of Exeter)
Julie Wilkinson (Manchester Metropolitan University)
Dr Joanna de Groot (University of York)
Dr Renee Prendergast (Queen’s University Belfast)

Please note that some NEC positions were uncontested, and have not been reported in the list above. You can find the names of candidates who have been already elected (as uncontested) HERE.

UCU meets V-C to discuss current strikes

Officers from Southampton UCU met on the morning of 8 January with Vice-Chancellor Professor Mark E. Smith and Anne-Marie Sitton, Executive Director of Human Resources to hand over our petition (of 1242 signatures), asking for a proper settlement on the current pension and pay disputes. During a 45-minute meeting we discussed a range of issues relating to the ongoing industrial action, including casualisation/precarity, workload, and the Joint Independent Panel (JEP) reports. From SUCU’s perspective, the meeting was positive and productive. The VC and Exec Director of HR indicated willingness to consider a range of options for tackling casualisation and excessive workloads, and there was a clear recognition on the part of the VC that you as members had communicated to him on the picket lines that these issues need to be a priority. Both were open to address staff concerns. They are open to exploring ways of replacing future fixed-term contracts of more than two years with permanent contracts (triggering redundancy when the funding ends) and turning zero-hours contracts into permanent contracts with annualised hours, reviewed annually.

While we were not able to cover all aspects of the dispute within the time available, we took the opportunity to ask for the VC’s views on the JEP 1 and 2 reports. Speaking in a personal capacity, Prof. Smith indicated general agreement with the main recommendations of JEP 2, as well as recognising the importance to UCU and to the sustainability of the scheme of keeping individual members’ contributions to affordable levels. He has also agreed to take the issue of the University’s position on JEP 2 to University Executive Board very soon once an analysis and paper could be prepared. SUCU hopes that this will lead to a public statement of commitment to its aims on the part of the University. We also hope that the VC will take the concrete ideas discussed at the meeting to inform national discussions, in his capacity as chair of UCEA.

SUCU looks forward to further constructive engagements with Senior Managers to help turn these positive aspirations into concrete actions.

 

Campaigns Officer Dr Claire Le Foll hands SUCU’s petition for action on pay and pensions to Vice-Chancellor Prof. Mark E. Smith.

 

 

You can read more about the HE disputes on USS here and Pay & Working conditions here , and via the UCU Twitter account.

Strike Deductions

Members have raised concerns about strike deductions and there has been correspondence between UCU and the VC and senior management.  See below.

Email received from Anne-Marie Sitton, Weds 4 December 2019

Dear SUCU Branch Executive Committee

Thank you for your letter received 3rd December 2019.  As was stated in our correspondence on 21st November 2019, the University respects the rights of UCU members to take strike action, and appreciates the collegial manner in which the industrial action has taken place to date.

 In respect of withholding pay due to strike action, the University has taken the clear position that pay should be withheld in the first available payroll run following the action. On this occasion, given UCU set the strike dates ahead of our December payroll run, all eight strike days fall within December pay.  The dates on which payroll will be run this month have not changed at all and staff will be paid on the originally scheduled day.  Given the extra work for some local colleagues in needing to collect information on colleagues absent through strike action HR and Finance have worked to populate core information so that it does not put unnecessary strain on managers.

In your letter you state that some universities are spreading withheld pay over several months. Having spoken extensively to other universities it is clear that a significant number do plan to make all deductions in December, or all deductions in January. A few Universities have indicated they will spread deductions over two months, some due to the fact their cut-off dates for payroll fall on different days to ours and some due to changes they are making in their HR or payroll systems. A minority have decided to spread deductions over more than two month.

We are aware that UCU has  promoted the provision of hardship funds to support striking members. We trust, that given UCU set the dates for action, these payments will be made expeditiously to anyone with pressing needs.

We hope the local branch also recognises positively that the University has decided initially not to withhold pay for partial performance (although we of course reserve the right to change our position), unlike most other Universities who have, from the outset, taken a different line.

 We appreciate this is not the response your members would prefer, but it was the UCU nationally that called the strike and set these particular dates and not the University. If local UCU members have concerns over when pay should be withheld, we suggest the local branch influences national UCU on the duration and timetabling of strike action.

Kind regards

Anne-Marie Sitton

On behalf of UEB

 

Text of email sent by Southampton UCU Exec committee, Tuesday 3rd December 2019

Dear Vice – Chancellor,

We write in open correspondence following instruction from our General Meeting today (2/12/19). We want to convey our disappointment that UEB has decided to deduct both November’s and December’s strike days in colleagues’ Christmas pay packet.

We naturally accept that such deductions will take place – though we note that some employers have chosen to spread them over further months (Cambridge, Durham, Royal Holloway, Sheffield among others).

It appears to Southampton UCU that the University of Southampton payroll process is being expedited. We are concerned that the rush to push this quickly through payroll will cause unnecessary stress for HR business managers and the payroll team, given that we understand the standard deadline for payroll would be the 4th of December 2019. We are also concerned that the University putting pressure on line managers to rush through reports to enable swift pay deductions will put an unnecessary strain on staff which will further undermine collegiality in our University.  Indeed, many casualized members of staff have expressed dismay that the management is able to prioritize the processing of deductions, when their own routine monthly pay claims are, as the University knows, often held up by management or HR/Payroll delays.

We feel that the decision risks damaging the wider reputation of our University. We therefore urge you to reconsider it.

We note in particular the effect this deduction may have on some of our most precarious and lowest paid staff – coming at Christmas, and prior to the extended January pay period. Again, UCU members fully expected these deductions when we agreed strike action, but we did not (and do not) expect our institutions to alter their payroll processes in a punitive way.

All best wishes,

SUCU Branch Executive Committee

 

Email response from Anne-Marie Sitton , 21 November 2019

Dear UCU Executive,

Thank you for your e-mail dated 19th November on the matter of strike deductions to the Vice-Chancellor, I have been asked to respond to this matter on behalf of the Executive Board (UEB).

I would like to start by saying that we fully respect the rights of your members to take strike action, and we recognise that your members feel strongly about some issues.

The matter of strike deductions was raised at the UEB meeting held on Monday 18th November 2019. The outcome of the discussion was to deduct the strike monies as activities are undertaken.

This decision took into account the dispute in 2018, whereby some institutions, including the University of Southampton, ameliorated the impact of strike deductions on individuals over a number of pay periods. This action was met with a negative response by several elements of UCU across the country at the time, who made clear they had fully understood the potential impact on their members’ pay when determining the period of action. The decision by UCU to take strike action over a consecutive period of eight days commencing on 25 November 2019, was clearly therefore a conscious decision at a national level, and the impact and consequences will have been a known consideration of the UCU executive at the time it made that decision.

Payroll cut-off dates and operational objectives will have been a determination on the timing of deductions in other institutions, and it is clear that the majority of Universities affected by the dispute intend to collect contributions in one single pay period following the industrial action.

In line with the partnership agreement, we are keen to continue to have a constructive dialogue with you about those issues which are directly in our own control, to ensure that we continue to be a supportive employer who works together with local trade unions to improve the employee experience here at Southampton.

With kind regards

Anne-Marie Sitton

 

Email sent to Vice-Chancellor – 19 November 2019

Dear Vice-Chancellor

We are writing to express our concern about recent communications where we were informed that the University plan to deduct strike payments as soon as possible, with all 8 days coming out of the December pay packet.

From discussions with other UCU branches we have found that a number of Universities have already agreed to deduct payments across a number of months (and much like last time, it seems clear that many others will follow). We are therefore writing to ask you to spread the pay deductions across 3 months, in recognition that some of our most precarious temporary staff will be taking part in this action. We would also like a guarantee that pension contributions will not be withheld. An agreement to spread the deductions over a number of months would send a really strong message to all staff that our new University senior management is taking a constructive approach to the leadership of our University (especially in light of the recently signed partnership charter). During the last period of strike action senior management took a very inflexible approach to the strike, and were quick to condemn the actions of those taking strike action, even though the initial valuation that led to the strike was found to have many shortcomings and proved that staff had legitimate causes to take action. This resulted in increasing tensions between staff and management (as you will have no doubt seen in the recent staff engagement survey).

As you noted in communications to all staff and students, this dispute is a national dispute. However, strike action also has the potential to significantly disrupt local relationships between unions and management, and we would like to maintain productive working relationships with senior management through this difficult time for all of those in our University community. Clearly communicating to staff that deductions will be spread across three months would be a small concession to make, and one that would no doubt help foster mutual understanding and trust.

We really do hope this request will be considered.

Yours sincerely

Southampton UCU Executive Committee

 

 

 

 

Southampton UCU EGM – 2 December

Southampton UCU members are invited to attend an Extraordinary Members Meeting to take place on Monday 2 December from 12-1pm in room 2/1085 (L/T C). 

The meeting will discuss the current industrial action and plans for future action.  Your feedback will then be taken to the HE Sector Conference on 6 December, which is being attended by your three elected representatives.  This will be your opportunity to raise any concerns/voice your ideas about future action so we would encourage you to attend.

(apologies that the meeting is being held on campus.  Unfortunately, we were unable to secure any suitable meeting rooms off site – the University has granted UCU members permission to enter University premises whilst on strike).

 

 

UCU Strike Action – A letter to students from a member of staff

Many members have asked us to post the text of the letter to students from a member of staff that was read out at today’s rally. We have posted the text below. Please share widely, and particularly with your students.

 

Imagine there’s a toxin in the air on campus. You can’t see it or smell it or taste it, but with every breath more accumulates within you. Not everyone is affected, but almost everyone will know someone who is. The physical effects are subtle at first — accelerated heartbeat, headaches, nausea — but the real damage is in the mind. The toxin is known to cause stress, anxiety, and both fatigue and insomnia. It frequently leads to depression. At its worst, the toxin can be fatal.

Like all poisons, the first to fall victim are those who are vulnerable in other ways. But over time the numbers affected grow. They include not only students but staff. No one is safe — from freshers to graduates, from technicians to Professors Emeritus — victims present in ever greater numbers. One in five students is diagnosed. Some universities see a 300% rise in cases amongst staff. Researchers begin to talk of an epidemic.

Suppose it then emerges that the toxin was known about all along. Vice-Chancellors’, University Executives — even members of the Government — knew what you were breathing. And like the tobacco industry in the 50s, they said nothing. And suppose we find out that they not only knew, but it was they who introduced the toxin to the airstream — milligram by milligram — in the knowledge of what it would do. Perhaps to you, perhaps to your friend, perhaps to your tutor. What do you do when you find this out?

The toxin in our air is marketization — the transformation of education from a social good, into a product. The move to administer centres of learning as businesses, within a competitive marketplace. Marketization is not a chemical, and it is not strictly in the air, but it may as well be. Marketization is the reason your degree costs £27,000. It is the reason universities must compete for funding, students and reputation or go bust. It is the reason your essays are marked by staff on zero hours contracts. It is the reason your lecturer works a 50 hour week. It is the reason you’re thinking about how you’ll make a living, not how you’ll change the world. It is the reason you cannot afford to fail. It’s the reason everything we all do is monitored, measured and turned into metastasizing targets. It is the reason you, I, we are all so tired.

All the research into mental ill-health — and stress in particular — highlights three culprits. These are financial insecurity, pressure and working hours. These factors are not side effects of marketization — they are its M.O. The story of the last decade of Higher Education has been the demand — year on year — for university staff to do more and more with less and less. But at a certain point, the only fuel left to burn is the health of the people in the sector. There is only so much a mind can juggle. Students and staff experience marketisation in different ways — but we suffer the same symptoms, from the same source.

The epidemic of mental ill-health in Higher Education is not a problem that can be fixed with yoga, or mindfulness, or awareness raising. It was important to raise awareness of asbestos when its toxic properties became known. But it was far more urgent for us to demand that it be ripped out of our homes, our schools and our workplaces. Before all else, we had to refuse to keep breathing it. And that’s what we’re doing with this strike.

It is also why it is not easy to explain. It is not one just thing — not only financial loss, not only working conditions and insecurity and not only the way these weigh on younger, female and minority staff disproportionately. It is the deeper sense that things cannot go on as they are. That there is something bad in the air around us. And that far, far too many of us — the people we work with and the students we teach, — are falling sick because of it.

On some level, we suspect all staff and students feel this. And so while we know acutely how much pressure you are all under, and how no one needs this disruption right now — we hope everyone can understand why we are not in our lecture halls, our offices and our seminar rooms. The reason we’re out in the cold is because of what happens to people who stay inside.

UCU Southampton strike action – branch guidance

UCU’s 8 days of strike action begin on Monday 25th November. Please support the strike and please come to take part in our pickets (see our email from last week).

You will find Branch guidance at this link on our local website at this link http://southampton.web.ucu.org.uk/local-documents-and-info/strike-action-and-action-short-of-a-strike-some-members-tips/

You will find UCU generic guidance at https://www.ucu.org.uk/he-action-faqs and more information about the strikes on linked pages.

Please ask if you still have questions!