Please leave disagreements, items for discussion or support for the 700 job cuts on this page
The discussion so far:
A Nonymous PERMALINK
I am very unhappy with the cuts, but I am also very unhappy with the alternative vision.
This was an opportunity to offer a realistic and (dare I say it) bold vision of how we can get past the current situation and deliver the very best L&T and Research for our University. Instead, it seems to rail against reality and offer absolutely nothing but denial.
Let’s assume that the £20M is a certain shortfall even if further cuts are likely (they aren’t yet certain). Let’s further assume that we can’t (or shouldn’t) see a reduction in staffing levels. What are the solutions?
Cash down the back of the sofa: assuming that there isn’t some hidden cache of money that everyone’s forgotten about, we aren’t going to suddenly find the money. I assume that researchers are bringing in all the money they can (or they’d be bringing in more). I assume L&T brings in as much as it can bring in too. Where does the money come from?
Mortgage our future: assuming the money doesn’t currently exist, the University could look to borrow to escape the shortfall, but that’s seriously short-term thinking and unsustainable. Add to that HEFCE rules on maintaining balanced budgets (which would further compromise income), and it’s a non-starter.
Lobby government: this is a key requirement, but isn’t mentioned once in this “vision”. At least part of this assumed £35M shortfall is a projected cut in government funding. Surely, we should be countering this by directing attention to all of the parties, particularly Labour and Conservative parties as the ones most likely to be in a position to help after the election. Cutting staff should never be plan A, but if the University didn’t have a plan B in place should funding be cut (as seems likely), we would rightly deride them for failing to look ahead. This vision seems to assume that if we ignore the shortfall, it will go away. It is full of what we shouldn’t do and little of what we should.
Negotiated settlement: assuming all else fails and the money isn’t there, there are alternatives to job losses within the University’s control which I haven’t seen mentioned by UCU or anyone else. We could push for freezes (or even cuts) in pay to reduce the overall staff cost. It’s an unpleasant suggestion for anyone and, as a parent with many responsibilities, not one I make lightly. Any such suggestion needn’t be across the board, given that this would hurt the least-paid more than the highest-paid. Instead, UCU has stuck with a minimum 8% demand for this year. We are in recession, and we think that 8% is the absolute minimum?
As a Union, fighting for our members is important but, unless we find a solution to the shortage of cash, hard decisions need to be made. Do we deny there is a problem and watch as staff lose their jobs or do we work to find a solution that is if not good, is least bad. Are staff willing to accept lower pay but more secure jobs? I think that’s a question that should be asked.
Unlike Robert, I think this vision isn’t sound and isn’t sane. I think it’s full of bland platitudes which, whilst broadly right, don’t actually address the issues that exist. And that doesn’t help any of our members.
Fight for funding, fight for our staff, fight for education, fight for our students – these are all key union issues, but we have to do it in ways that actually address the real situation. Burying our heads in the sand and pretending that by denying the need for savings might feel better than facing reality, but it won’t protect jobs.
2009 NOVEMBER 22
We’re happy to receive critical responses, as we believe that through proper consultation we can improve our vision.
2009 NOVEMBER 23
Robert Sansam PERMALINK
Odd to be commented on anonymously, though I can see that many have more to lose than me by being visible, though prob. not for views like his/hers! Perhaps A Nonymous could contact me directly – in confidence, of course, but identifiably.
2009 NOVEMBER 23
A Nonymous PERMALINK
I merely explained I didn’t agree with your assessment. As for anonymity, I have no interest in attracting the wrong sort of attention – and I’m not happy to be a punch-bag for those who just want a fight. Take even the start to the vision:
> If you agree with us please leave a comment, or just your name, below this statement.
So, what if you disagree? Too often at meetings, a discussion starts with those at the front insisting “…I know no-one will want to disagree…”, and I don’t think that open debate is being encouraged.
Right now, I don’t think that people are in the right frame of mind for a proper debate – and it doesn’t surprise me that I have had several ratings (vast majority negative) whilst no-one has bothered to tell me why they disagree.
For the record, I don’t have a problem with your point of view but I don’t entirely agree. As I said, my main concern with the vision is that the vision was/is an opportunity to put a way forward, whereas this one reads as a series of things that shouldn’t be happening.
That’s all well and good, but we can’t attack the University for bad leadership if we show none ourselves.
That’s all I meant by the comment.
2009 NOVEMBER 23
To show that, unlike the university’s management, the UCU are open to debate and respond quickly to constructive criticism, or otherwise, we’ll open a page for disagreement, and these comments will be moved to that page so that Mr A Nonymous can continue his discussion. In the meantime, we’re happy to improve our vision to respond to the comments he, and any others, offer. It is this level of transparency, and responding to consultation, that should offer leadership to the University. Let us remember that the University is sitting on cash reserves of £80,000,000 or so, has surplus which is 4% of income (national average 2%) and many Schools not in deficit taking a hit. Times are certainly set to be hard, but making cuts now – including job cuts – before we even know the level of HEFCE cuts coming forward, is irresponsible management. It’s guesswork. Almost as bad as not realising you had £80 million in your spreadsheets through to 2013 that shouldn’t be there (the £20 million was recurring over four years). Unlike many universities, this University can afford to consider economies without taking any drastic action before the HEFCE cuts are known, and be in a fit shape to respond to them when they do know. There can be no doubt that other agendas must be at play. Unless we are prepared to accept that the recession, growing public debt and the threat of HEFCE cuts were not considered in the IPE in June, even though all these were well documented months before the IPE, then we have to be suspicion. And yet, these were the reasons given, and are still given, for tearing up the IPE in October and launching the economies exercise.
Who is “leedsucu”?
‘leedsucu’ is Leeds UCU executive. In most instances on this blog, this will be Mark Taylor-Batty (as it is here and now).
> Or if you oppose it, wish to make proposals for its improvement or are in support of
> University managements job cuts threat
It’s a shame that what was intended as some positive suggestions for improving the vision need to be separated out and lumped in with those who “…oppose it…” or “…are in support of University managements[sic] job cuts threat…”. How does that help develop a useful debate?
As it happens, I think the “leedsucu” follow-up is very informative and, had I known more of that information, would have meant a very different initial post.
That said, it does reinforce (IMO) the need for a proper discussion of the issues. If the shortfall is not real (in part or in full), we should properly expose that. Personally, I didn’t know about the large cash reserves or the level of the surplus, so perhaps that’s something that should be properly explained to the membership.
Thanks for the typo alert.
There was nothing facetious intended in putting both the positive and the negative together in the ‘all other categories’ section that is this page.
Critical engagement is useful, and we can certainly improve our vision statement as a result of it. The statements above will help us hone it.
We agree that we need proper discussion. The reasons we went into dispute (http://wp.me/pFqYn-3f) were principally due to failure to consult, as required by law and as written into the charter and protocols of the University. Dispute is not about picking a fight, but about blowing the referee’s whistle on bad and potentially unlawful practice.
We have been trying to get the message across, with full facts and figures, in every UCU school and Faculty meeting taking place across campus in recent weeks. Not all members can attend all these meetings.
There will be financial uncertainties and restricted income streams now and ahead. We don’t believe it is sensible to cut jobs – of professionals who are good at their job and contributing to world-class Schools – based on guesswork. We are in a healthier financial position than many of our ‘competitors’. We should therefore be in a better position to have proper consultation using the appropriate channels, and be fit to respond in a nuanced and sensible way when the nature of the financial restrictions – HEFCE money especially – is known. A motion to Senate this week will propose that. We hope all senators will lend it their support.
On another note. The VC has been arguing for an allocation of research funds that favours an elite group of universities, including our own (http://wp.me/pFqYn-2j). There is evidence that something of that has in fact been been brokered, and that he may be in the know. See the second to bottom paragraph of his leader’s column (our annotated version – http://www.leeds.ac.uk/ucu/content/reporter/rereporter.html ). So it seems he is using guesswork to come to the £35 million figure, but knows something about positive income forthcoming that he’s keeping under his hat. And all the while talking of the recession as a way to silence dissent or obviate alternative approaches. And then treating himself and his team to five star hotels when they have meeting rooms less than 18 months old in the Ziff building.
He also is quite likely to be pushing for a lifting of the cap on tuition fees (It is most probable that he was the source of the quotation in the Times Higher last week “We cannot avoid [lifting the cap on fees] if UK higher education is to remain world-class.” – it has his diction all over it, two subjects (‘we’ then ‘UK HE’) cascading and leaving the conceptual morsel until the end of the sentence, both characteristic of his writing, and the phrase ‘world-class’ is one of his favourites (yes, even discourse analysis is part of our campaign strategy!). As chair of the RG, he would also certainly have been approached for a quotation, so one of the unattributed ones on that page is quite possibly his, unless you believe he will hold out, as chair of the RG, against a cap lift – surely unlikely. UCU are opposed to removing the fees cap, but if it is to occur under a Tory government, it would also impact upon the very budgets that are being used to justify the current cuts.
Another note, but perhaps with less force, is the fact that the budgets being used have a 3.5% pay increase built into them (with 1% built in this year, I believe). Let’s hope they support that 3.5%! They certainly don’t support that 1%.
The 8% is old news, pre-recession.
It’s a bit disappointing that this move appears to have killed the debate, but I suspect that was inevitable.
Anyway, what is the official Union position on pay right now if the 8% is now obsolete? I assume that the 8% demand has now been withdrawn – is that correct? I can’t find that information on the UCU website, but it’s not the easiest site to search through efficiently.
As I hope I’ve made clear, my own position is that we should be lobbying MPs and government (and prospective government) about HE funding right now. I have to admit some disappointment that (at least from the article) that Greg Mulholland wasn’t pressed to make (at least) his own commitment clear. Okay, many might cynically suggest that the Lib Dems aren’t the people to ask, but I think that all prospective candidates for the next General Election need to be lobbied and made to admit their own position. After all, in the next few months, we’ll all be thinking about where to put our “X”, and knowing where they stand would help. Does that interview make it clear? We now know that “He listened carefully and expressed concern.”. Great. Does that mean he’d feel he had to frown as he voted for cuts or that he’d oppose cuts? The public (or at least this part of the public) would like to know.
Overall, though, I am worried that there appears to be a great deal being discussed that’s rumour and speculation (on both sides) and I think we should focus on distilling fact from fiction. Where they are using speculation, that must be exposed.
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