Students on VC Pay

Interesting results of a survey of student views by The Living Wage Foundation. Most believe that VC pay should be cut to bolster the pay of Security and Cleaning staff – particularly timely as both groups face staffing reductions and changes to terms and conditions in the current round of BEP.

See the story at http://www.livingwage.org

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Stress Balls

UCU LA continues to hear distressing stories of how the current climate of uncertainty, and yes in many cases real fear, is having a serious and adverse effect on staff mental and physical health.

Members will be aware that one of our sister campus unions Unison has balloted its members for industrial action following the refusal of management to accede to a request for a slowing down of the BEP programme to allow proper consideration of the plans.

From our own perspective, we agree that the process is being pushed through in an unseemly manner, manifested most obviously by the fact that unions rarely see documentation more than a day or so before a meeting to consult, and in some instances are presented with huge volumes tabled at meetings.

Pleas for more time to consider documentation prior to a meeting (5 days would seem reasonable) are met first with an apology and then with the counter that HR staff are working long hours to get the paperwork together.

UCU agrees with the head of HR that staff in that department equally deserve their free time – which is precisely why the process should take a manageable pace, not one that exposes our HR colleagues to unreasonable workload and damaging levels of stress.

Beware The Rumour Mill

In times of heightened stress such as we are all now experiencing at Bradford, it is inevitable that rumours will circulate about everything that is going on.

Latest “silly season” gossip is suggesting that the recent vote of no confidence being run by Bradford UCU LA was delayed in exchange for an agreement between the branch and management that the axe would not fall on academics.

Those in attendance at the AGM will note that the delay was specifically designed to avoid a negative impact on clearing; the “turkeys don’t vote for Christmas” argument.   There most certainly was NOT a deal as the rumour suggests. Rather, the careful timing was aimed at cooking a particular goose!

UCU Bradford LA is committed to operating on a fair and equitable basis for all of its members, whether academic or non-academic, with Co-Presidents from both staff groups.   Our committee is equally populated by representatives from both groups to further reinforce that commitment.   We also continue to work as a union and also closely with other campus unions to seek the best outcomes for all staff.

JEP Report Published

Glad to see that the Joint Expert Panel established to consider the 2017 valuation and look at robust methodologies for future valuation has published its first report.

USS pension members will have seen briefings from the trustees proposing an increase to 36.6% joint employer/employee contribution in order to maintain benefits at current levels.

The JEP review indicates that a more realistic valuation of the scheme suggests a 29.2% joint contribution.

For more details please see the UCU General Secretary’s briefing where you can read the Chair’s launch statement and find a link to the full report.

Pieces of the Jigsaw

It occurs to your local association that a service may well be considered as a complex jigsaw where ideally all the pieces fit together to create a seamless and coherent whole – that “bigger picture” that is so often referred to.

Service re-design requires a new “bigger picture”, with the jigsaw pieces re-crafted to make sure that coherence is maintained.

What seems to be happening now is that those responsible for re-design are being asked to fit some pieces of the old jigsaw into their fresh and carefully crafted new one.

Recent announcements from the VC suggest that in crafting those new jigsaws a few pieces were left out – those posts that are now being described as critical regardless of having been sacrificed – which implies that those carefully crafted re-designs were always full of holes and less than coherent.

Unions of course welcome the news that more jobs will be saved, but will continue to argue that a sensible approach would be to know what the recruitment position is BEFORE undertaking service re-design to avoid the very situation that we now find ourselves in.

We Could Have Told You So!

The recovery plan that led to the current BEP round is founded on three key planks:

·         Success in Clearing

·         Job reduction through restructuring

·         Overseas student growth

It didn’t take a crystal ball to recognise at the very earliest stage that our performance at Clearing could not be allowed to fail, and that regardless of actual performance there would be “good news” to tell.   Our belief was that all possible contingencies would be brought to bear to ensure that this was the case.   To do otherwise would discredit the whole plan.

Fast forward to Clearing “post flurry” and those prophecies are looking pretty accurate.

The VC is keen to trumpet our better than expected performance, even though it is below “more realistic and achievable” targets.   Outcomes are “so encouraging” that the VC is prepared to authorise the release of financial contingency to secure jobs.   There is however precious little evidence to support this bullish announcement.

Saving jobs is of course welcome, but we remain concerned that unions were expressly advised that the budget contingency was necessary to cover one of a number of eventualities (increased pension payments and salaries being the others), but that there was not sufficient to cover them all.

One has to wonder what will happen when the inevitable increases in pension contributions and salaries emerge – now where IS that crystal ball??

Crisis Management?

Staff in Planning, Legal & Governance (PLG) and Estates & Facilities (EF) learned from their respective Directors over the past couple of days that their areas are to be dismantled, with line management responsibilities for the various parts redirected to the CFO and Director of HR & OD.

Directors of PLG and EF were equally as shocked to have heard the news just hours before communicating it to staff. Both Directors are casualties of this reorganisations and suffering like many colleagues the ignominy of “role removed”.

In addition, we learn that the DVC Operations will not be replaced.

Perhaps of most concern is the fact that these significant changes, and particularly the implications for the University Secretary role, have not been scrutinised by full Council, the VC preferring instead to opt for a cosy chat with the Chair of Council.

One can but speculate on what event is triggering this ill thought out clamour for further salary savings.