RUCU have received numerous queries related to the current Contracts and Procedures Ballots, and we thought it would be useful to share the answers with all members.
Q. Under Statutes, appeals against redundancy are currently heard by a Barrister. Would it be possible to still have a Barrister included in the process as part of the proposed Procedures?
A. Yes this is possible. Statutes are a ‘box’ to keep procedures in, so this is a point that could be negotiated. RUCU has continually requested the inclusion of external legal representation but this has so far been refused by the University. If members voted ‘No’ to Procedures then this would be a point that could receive further negotiation. We will continue to argue that a Barrister should hear appeals under Procedures.
Q. Why is the university pushing for the removal of Statutes when employment tribunals are a very public process that could tarnish the reputation of the University?
A. It will be much easier and quicker for the university to restructure groups and areas of staff under the new Procedures. However, due to recent changes, access to employment tribunals is also more difficult and the University will be aware of this and able to take advantage of the situation.
Q. Why would the University pursue the removal of Statutes when it will make contracts less internationally competitive?
A. Yes there will be reputational damage to the University if the removal of Statues results in more staff members being fired from the University. The University really needs to consider this.
Q. Is the University harmonising contracts?
A. The university is harmonising procedures and modifying contracts. The University is having to modify contracts because Statutes are mentioned in Academic staff contracts. As some staff are covered under Statutes and some are not, harmonising the procedures means that the procedures would then be relevant to all staff.
Q. If staff vote ‘No’ in the current ballots, what will be the consequences?
A. When staff voted ‘No’ in the previous ballots in 2015, negotiations were reopened. The negotiation process is now exhausted from the University and UCU perspective. A ‘No’ vote at this point would trigger an official Dispute Procedure. The Dispute Procedure will commence with a JNC Meeting that has a single item on the agenda: the dispute. It would be essential at this point for UCU negotiators to request specific and concrete amendments to the proposals; for example, the inclusion of an independent Barrister within procedures, or for procedures to be contractual so that they cannot be changed easily. If both parties fail to agree at this point then another meeting with different University and UCU representatives is arranged to hear the evidence. Potentially if no agreement is reached at this point, ACAS conciliation may be organised if both sides agree to this process. If the University did not agree to ACAS talks then there could be a UCU Ballot on whether to go forward with Industrial Action.
Q. What would the University make of a small turn out to the UCU Ballots?
A. It is essential that members vote in good numbers in order to present a strong case to the university.
Q. In the draft of the new contracts, is the sub-clause 12.1.3 (The University may, in certain circumstances, terminate your employment with immediate effect without notice…if -12.1.3- you cease to be eligible to work in the United Kingdom ) required by law or is it a UoR addition?
A. Unfortunately, such a statement is expressly required to be added by UK immigration law. It is a relatively recent thing (last 5 years or so), but does also apply retrospectively to existing contracts, such is the nature of the particular legislation. It is unsettling, especially in the light of current developments, but even if it were not mentioned in the contract, it would still apply.
Q. There have been some improvements to Clause 12, but the wording surrounding the issue of breaches is vague and it appears that any sort of possibility can lead to termination of employment.
A. Contractual inclusions cannot rise above law, and staff are still protected by laws such as the Discrimination Act and can act against Constructive Dismissal. The courts decide whether behaviour was Gross Misconduct and whether there has been a case for wrongful dismissal.