UCU response to the VC’s 10 March letter to all staff
In his letter to all staff, Vice Chancellor Michael Arthur inaccurately suggested that UCU had announced a strike. In fact, this was not the case until yesterday evening. The UCU is required in law to give the university 8 days notice of any industrial action, including precise details of that action and the numbers involved in each department. The UCU under its own rules is required to obtain permission from the leading officers of the national union for any industrial action and this process had not even begun when we received the letter from the VC. On Tuesday, the UCU had to make an important decision regarding the possibility of industrial action. Failure to take industrial action within the legally defined window would mean balloting again. This is a long and costly process. We informed Acas and management of this and proposed that the two sides assessed progress in the Acas talks and presented it as an agreed public statement for consideration by the UCU committee and membership, before taking a decision regarding industrial action. Following Tuesday’s discussions, and consideration of the joint statement from the UCU negotiators and university management by the UCU committee, the proposal for strike action was put to yesterday’s Emergency General Meeting. A further EGM had been scheduled for the following Tuesday. The intention was to keep the possibility of industrial action alive, whilst scheduled Acas talks continued throughout this week and the beginning of next. Agreement was quite possible and the strike could be called off by the Tuesday EGM. Unfortunately, university management jumped the gun. The Vice Chancellor has demonstrated once again that he favours conflict over dialogue, to force through his restructuring plans for this university.
Over the past few months it has become apparent that a considerable number of departmental, school and service level reviews have been initiated without any meaningful consultation with the UCU. These we believe are LIGHT, LIHS, Computing, Mathematics, ITS, Colour Sciences, English, ISS/UITD/IT, Learning and Teaching Support, Research and Innovation Support; in addition to: Faculty of Biological Sciences, Healthcare Studies, Joint Honours. As you can see from the papers released by the management side, there had been no progress in any of these areas under the Acas conciliated process.
UCU has been accused of limiting the time available in Acas talks. We have been talking now for more than 60 hours, formally and informally since January. The UCU negotiators all have day jobs and commitments which have been stretched to near breaking point. The scale of change in the university has set the UCU officers an unprecedented task, regarding the defence of our members jobs and conditions of service. On Monday management tabled papers at night time, just a few hours before your negotiators were expected to make very serious decisions up against an important deadline. These are the papers that management have now made public.
Voluntary Leavers’ Scheme
We have reason to believe that the Vice Chancellor expects up to 600 staff to apply for the Voluntary Leavers Scheme. If this is true, then it would seem that the university will easily achieve its aim of a £35 million saving. In this case, the restructuring policy that the Vice Chancellor seeks to impose on the UCU should be unnecessary.
This is at the heart of the current impasse.