COMpassion

Bradford LA is pleased to note that following UCU representation further clarification was issued to IT staff concerned about the prospect of already booked leave being revoked on business continuity grounds.

Staff can now be assured that they are under no obligation to agree changes to their leave plans.

This is welcome news indeed, although UCU remains disappointed that the University continues with its policy of a leave embargo for those who have yet to submit an application.

One can only hope that managers use their discretion and give due consideration to individual circumstances before rejecting applications out of hand.

CONpassion

In a week when the VC presentation included her desire to reaffirm the principles of compassion, it is perhaps disappointing to learn from some colleagues that they are not only being subjected to an embargo on any new applications for leave over the forthcoming period of strike action, but also that leave already booked is at risk of being revoked.


The embargo clearly discriminates against non union members who are by definition unlikely to consider striking, but also those with caring responsibilities, and has already caused consternation for some who have leave booked to coincide with half term.


In practice, it is difficult to imagine how managers will be able to revoke leave on the grounds of service disruption when there is no way of knowing who will be on strike until after the fact. One can only conclude therefore that the threat is designed primarily to set employees against one another in the run up to the strike period.


This tactic was used in the last period of striking, where managers actively sought replacements amongst their work colleagues for striking staff who were protesting for the rights of those colleagues.


It appears that workplace harmony and well being comes a poor second in some quarters!

Let them eat cake!

Those of you who have renewed your parking permit for the coming year may well have been relieved to see that standard parking charges for staff for the coming session are held at last years rate of £235.


The more observant however may have noted that at the same time reserved parking, previously set at £828 per annum, this year plummets to £300, just £65 more than a “licence to hunt” permit – it is by most measures “a good deal”.


All well and good until one realises that to qualify for a reserved space one must be categorised as “eligible senior staff”.


It is with a sense of irony that one compares what is in effect a boost in the salary of the highest paid staff to the tune of £528 in the middle of a national campaign for a fair pay rise for everyone in HE! That derisory 1.8% will be nicely cushioned by this back door bonus.


A freeze on charges for the hoi polloi seems less than generous in this context – the equivalent deduction would reduce that to £85 – but then that would be contrary to the University’s Green Transport Policy……..

Real Stories

In a recent letter to the Vice Chancellor, Bradford LA appealed once more to our employer to spread pay deductions in the next phase of industrial action, scheduled for late Feb and into March.

Our appeal made specific mention of the disproportionate impact of their punitive approach after phase 1 on certain groups – to the point that it may even be considered discriminatory.

Those observations were based on experiences at other branches, but since initially making those comments prior to the December pay run, Bradford LA has received a detailed account of a member for whom the deduction of pay in one lump did indeed lead to serious financial disadvantage, overdraft charges and emergency loans just to get through the festive period.

Taking industrial action is a legal right, and those who withdraw their labour do so in full knowledge that the consequence of that is loss of pay.   What they do not expect is for their employer to seek to vindictively maximise the punitive effects of that loss of pay, a course of action that unlike Bradford most institutions elected not to do.

You Win Some, You Lose Some

As staff wait with bated breath for the results of the recent UoB Staff Satisfaction Survey, it might be interesting to take a look at our performance in another national league table.

Hot on the heels of claiming top spot on the ‘ratio of Greggs to students’ index, and the euphoria that brings, it’s back down to earth with a bump!

The UK Higher Education Senior Management Survey gauges satisfaction with senior managers and university governance, but makes grim reading for UoB with a disappointing score of 8% placing us 41st out of 78.

It will be interesting to see whether our own investigations reveal similar levels of dissatisfaction.

Those of a statistical (or just plain nosey) bent can study the detail by following this link:

https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/03075079.2020.1712693

Customer Relations?

Perhaps the most animating of topics for which UCU is fighting is the ever-increasing workload that academic colleagues are faced with, which many would argue is of greater concern than pay despite the 20% loss that we have suffered over the last 10 years.

A well-executed awareness campaign at Sheffield Hallam successfully persuaded students that staff workload had a direct and detrimental impact on their own academic outcomes.   In particular, students were shocked to hear how little time was allocated for the marking of their work, in stark contrast to the hours that they had spent producing it.

Students were as a consequence hugely supportive of industrial action.

We may not like it, but in what is an increasingly marketized environment, such a lack of commitment to proper scrutiny inevitably leads to accusations of poor value for money.

UCU believes that workloads must properly reflect the importance both of supervision and assessment processes, and be flexible enough to recognise the needs of particular cohorts and indeed individual students to ensure the best possible outcomes.

Reducing them to production line processes completely misses the point!

Many a True Word…

Has the truth finally been revealed in a recent email to all staff highlighting the University’s laudable focus on mental health and its programme of events to raise awareness, when it refers to “lie managers”?

One might suspect that managers will on occasion attempt to “manage” the truth, but that’s a bit harsh!