University Responds to UCU Letter

Colleagues will recall that a letter was issued to University Management 23rd February 2017.   UCU Committee received a formal response by email on 3rd March 2017, which we include herewith:

Dear UCU Committee,

Thank you for your letter/email of 23 February 2017 regarding the failure to agree in relation to grade protection and matters of concern in relation to the StAAR review.

The BEP programme is an important and significant undertaking for the University and vital for the University’s continued success.  We are fully committed to maintaining a constructive dialogue with the recognised trade unions throughout the BEP process. This has been evidenced by our commitment to weekly meetings throughout collective consultation and beyond together with informal monthly catch ups with myself.  The trade unions have also been invited to join an extensive programme of staff consultation meetings which have been taking place over the past several weeks specifically for the StAAR.

I recognise that the StAA Review is a complex piece of service redesign affecting a large group of staff. In the light of this we have also agreed additional activities to assist you including HERA training and additional meetings with Nikki Piece to address specific areas of concern.

As has been my practice, I and my team operate an open door policy for the trade unions to discuss queries and concerns.

With regard to the concerns raised in your letter we have invited you to put forward your views on grade protection, given that the University believes it is operating in line with and in some cases more generously than many other universities. Over the past few years the university has in all cases provided redeployment with pay protection to one grade only with the exception of an isolated case. Accordingly pay protection to one grade only has been the custom and practice.

I am unclear what you mean by the University’s apparent decision to unilaterally review the Organisational Change Policy.  The policy was agreed collectively following negotiation with the Trade Unions on 12 May2016.  I note your views on the production of personal names but this does not constitute a unilateral review of the policy.  We remain committed to the planned review of the policy as agreed in May 2016 and recognise that the APRs and some of the service reviews have entailed long lead in activities and processes, sometimes by external consultants, which the Organisational Policy does not accommodate. However we maintain that we have followed the Organisational change policy.

We are arranging a separate meeting with Nikki Piece to discuss your concerns in relation to the aims of the StAA Review.  The need for an extension of collective consultation will be considered following this meeting, as the potential impact of any extension on staff wellbeing is also a key concern.

In the meantime you are welcome to join any further staff consultation meetings which Nikki has planned.

Kindest regards,

Joanne

One can see that much of the letter is devoted to meaningless platitudes rather than tackling directly the issues that were raised in our correspondence of 23rd February.

On the matter of our Failure to Agree in respect of pay protection, there is insistence that the Organisational Change Policy (OCP) supports their stance on this matter.   They further go on to claim that UCU have been unable to supply evidence to support our position.

Two facts are undeniable:

  1. Section 10.4 of the OCP states that “Protected pay will apply where a substantive employee is to be redeployed into a post of a lower grade due to organisational change resulting in their existing role being removed from the new service structure.”   It DOES NOT state “…..into a post of ONE lower grade…..”.
  2. Interpretation of 10.4 of the OCP in the manner as described above constitutes a unilateral revision to OCP – something that the Head of HR appears to find it difficult to recognise.

Moreover, it is interesting to note that whilst HR are keen to affirm that there was only one instance (a “special case” where more than one grade loss was subject to pay protection, they are less keen to confirm how many instances of more than one grade loss did result in instant pay reduction.

UCU maintains that pay protection for all grade loss is consistent with the agreed OCP and that any deviation from that is unacceptable.

On the specific issue of extension to StAAR consultation to accommodate campus union concerns, this was clearly too difficult to rule upon without further consultation – it was in the event a flat “No” to that request!

Our concerns over deskilling were virtually ignored save for vague comments about the mechanism of HERA and the training that was offered to union officials.   The specifics of a deskilled role and lack of recognition for skill and experience was frankly ignored, as were our comments on the resultant lack of opportunity that flows from a structure devoid of middle grades.

Equally conspicuous by its absence was any response to our request for empirical evidence to support the contention that the new structure will improve service of student experience.   UCU believes that it is only by first implementing the technology that is constantly being referred to as providing the necessary efficiency gains and service improvements to deliver this “nirvana-esque” future that a new structure can be made to work.   The alternative is less people doing more work for lower pay – which could be the OED definition of workplace stress and dissatisfaction.

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