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FAQ: RUCU Ballot on the Proposed Settlement to the Dispute on Contracts and Procedures. Sept 2016

 

RUCU have received numerous queries related to the current ballot on the proposed settlement to the Dispute on Contracts and Procedures, and we thought it would be useful to share the answers with all members.

Q. Is it possible to see the documents relating to the proposed settlement to the Dispute on Contracts and Procedures?

A. The University has agreed to host the documents on its website, and RUCU will send members the link as soon as we are able to. You can also request these documents directly from RUCU by emailing our RUCU Branch Administrator: cmaxfield@ucu.org.uk

Q. Does RUCU think that it has reached a working compromise with the University over procedures?

A. RUCU considers that although the University has not agreed to make procedures contractual, the compromise reached gives members the same protection as if they were. The University was apprehensive about making procedures contractual as any small omission on their part would mean that they could technically be taken to court over breach of contract. The fact that the university has agreed to negotiate (rather than simply consult) RUCU on changes to procedures means that any changes would now be a two way process requiring RUCU agreement, and there is a disputes procedure in place in the annex to the recognition procedure to facilitate this.

Q.Does RUCU believe that the members who cast a No vote in the July ballot will now consider their objections to be resolved, as a consequence of the compromises in the proposed settlement?

A. The compromises represent a considerable move on the part of the university. For example, the gross misconduct list has been completely revised by us, with University agreement, and made much clearer. Members have been understandably worried about the contents in previous versions, and clauses have been refined to enforce how serious the nature of the case must be before the behaviour can be deemed to be gross misconduct. The protection that staff will gain from the proposed settlement as to procedures is the same as if procedures were contractual. Statutes have gone, and RUCU have worked hard to make the new contracts and procedures as protective as possible for its members.

Q. What happens next if there is a NO vote?

A. If there is a NO vote to the current ballot then a member’s meeting will be called. A vote will be held for a Trades Dispute, which will be served on the university. A ballot will then need be organised officially through Electoral Reform Services for Industrial Action. The trigger point for Industrial Action will depend on the actions of the university at this point. There are a number of legal responses the university could take to enforce new contracts.

 

Keep Up to Date with JNC Meetings!

Please note that the page dedicated to  JNC Meetings on the Reading University website has now been updated and Minutes are available up to February 2016. RUCU will let you know when the Minutes for the recent Exceptional JNC Meeting are uploaded, as this will contain information relevant to the recent RUCU Ballots on Contracts and Procedures: this meeting took place on the 18th July 2016.

Please visit the JNC page here for more information: http://www.reading.ac.uk/internal/imps/FOIA/Publicationscheme/Committees/imps-FOIA-publication-scheme-JUUCU.aspx

 

Ballot – What Next?

First, many thanks to all of you who voted over statutes, procedures and contracts. There was an overwhelming no vote to all the questions, and as a consequence we are now formally in dispute with the University. This triggers the Dispute Procedure, as agreed under our Recognition Agreement.  The first stage of this is a special meeting of the Joint Negotiating Committee (JNC) to discuss the issues.  This has been called for the afternoon of Monday 18 July. Should this meeting not resolve the issues then the next step is to convene a special Disputes Committee, made of up University Council members and UCU officers and reps not involved in the original negotiations.  This will then hear the issues and make a decision.

Also I should mention that at present we are in a dispute with the University through our Recognition Agreement. This is different to a formal Trades Dispute, and at present we are not in a Trades Dispute with the University. However, we shall be in discussion with UCU officials about the procedure for calling a Trades Dispute with the University, should an unsatisfactory outcome of the Dispute Procedure make this necessary.

Paul Hatcher
RUCU Branch President

RUCU Ballot Results: Contracts and Procedures

Dear Members,

Thank you to all those who voted in our recent Ballots. It was very important to send out a strong message to the University regarding these issues; making your voice heard does make a difference!  
We are now able to give you the results of the RUCU ballot over Contracts and Procedures, which closed Tuesday 12th July at 5pm.
Three questions were asked: the first two were asked of all members; the third question was asked of academic staff only.
1   Do you accept the removal of Statutes covering academic staff and the replacement of them by new procedures?
YES: 19.0%          NO: 81.0%
2    Regardless of where they are placed, do you agree with the wording of the new procedures?
YES: 23.3%          NO: 76.7%
3    Do you accept the new academic contract?
YES: 34.3%          NO: 65.7%

We will keep you updated as to the next steps in this process. Please let us know if you have any questions.

 

 

FAQ: Contract and Procedure Ballots July 2016

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.

 

RUCU Ballots on Contracts and Procedures 2016

Thank you to those who have already voted on the Contract and Procedure Ballots. It is essential members engage with this process as the changes will have direct – and long-term – consequences for staff at Reading University. Please read through the commentaries attached to your original voting emails and take time to consider your stance on what is being proposed by Senior Management.

The changes are very serious. As regards Statutes, we believe the main reason the University wishes to get rid of Statutes is to enable changes to be made much more quickly in the future to the employment procedures.

Under the new procedures – let us be clear – the University is seeking to make it easier and quicker to restructure areas and to make staff redundant. For example, it is clear that the new procedures for restructuring groups which involve fewer than 20 staff at risk of redundancy are variously streamlined, with less oversight from management, and potentially will take place more quickly.

It will also be easier to dismiss Academic staff. Under the current Statute 33 three academic staff from Systems Engineering were made redundant earlier this year.  All three appealed against their dismissal, and all their appeals, heard by a barrister, were upheld on legal grounds. THIS WOULD NOT HAPPEN UNDER THE NEW PROCEDURES: it is unlikely that the appeals would have been won, as the University repeatedly said, when UCU challenged the University on exactly the same grounds as the barrister, that the process was fair and legal. The appellant would be left to take the university to an industrial tribunal, a costly and difficult process.

In relation to the new Contracts, should the University remove employment procedures from Statutes and place them in new procedures, the academic contract will need to be reformulated to reflect this.  Thus, the University has prepared new academic contracts and they have also taken the opportunity to modernise and alter the contract in other ways to reflect current University practice. We continually requested that the procedures (the material constantly referred to as being in the ‘staff handbook’) be made contractual, to safeguard against unagreed changes, but the University has refused to move on this.

The RUCU Branch believe this is as far as negotiations can go in relation to Contracts and Procedures. The next step, if members resist these changes, would be to enter into a formal dispute with the University, which has its own negotiation procedure. Then, if that is unsuccessful, to go to industrial action. It is all the more important therefore that members engage now so that their voice is heard.

Industrial Action: Pickets 22nd June 2016

reading pickets

RUCU had busy and cheerful pickets yesterday on the extra day strike called by UCU. The event also generated positive local press:

”University of Reading staff who are locked in a bitter dispute over pay returned to the picket lines today and boycotted their employer’s 90th anniversary celebrations.

Members of the University and College Union (UCU) took industrial action on Wednesday, June 22, claiming the real terms pay cut they have been offered is no cause for celebration.

Disgruntled members picketed outside the three main entrances to the Whiteknights campus on Pepper Lane, Shinfield Road, and Earley Gate, throughout the day….”

Read the full article here! http://www.getreading.co.uk/news/reading-berkshire-news/watch-university-reading-staff-boycott-11512648

 

Reply by Staff Against PAS Committee to letter from Christopher Fisher, 29 April

Staff Against PAS Committee
c/o Chris Drake

TOB1, Earley Gate
Mr Christopher Fisher
President of Council of the University of Reading

Delivered via Richard Messer
cc RUSU
29th April 2016
Dear Christopher,
Many thanks for replying to our letter dated 15th August, via Dr Paul Hatcher. The Vote of No Confidence is not a UCU initiative, though we are grateful for their assistance in conducting it. Our address for correspondence is shown again above.
In response to your points, firstly, it is incorrect to imply that we have maligned the person of Sir David Bell ad hominem. It is clear in all our communications that the poll concerns Sir David in his capacity as leader of the senior management team. As incumbent of this role he is responsible for the decisions of the management. We therefore invite you to substantiate your accusation of unpleasant and unprofessional attacks by Staff Against PAS.
Secondly, we invite RUSU to respond to your claim that their concerns over PAS were adequately discussed in the March meeting of Council, such that the outcome of the meeting was an endorsement of the Vice Chancellor’s approach.
More importantly, we are dismayed that an emergency meeting of Council to address the deep and widespread concerns over PAS has not been organised, as requested. This decision will most likely be recalled if our fears about future performance are realised. We also find disturbing your suggestion that the outcome of the Vote of No Confidence has no bearing on the relevant issues. This seems to imply that it is a matter of complete indifference for the University management to have support from its staff when undertaking such radical change.  If the outcome is inconsequential as you suggest, it also seems incoherent to then assert that the VC’s approach has the “full confidence” of the “wider university community”.
Given the overwhelming evidence to the contrary, with over 1000 staff expressing No Confidence, and the student protests on campus, we ask you to explain your belief in widespread confidence: what grounds can there be for it? Further, if the poll is “tokenistic” and “self-styled” as you assert, it is open to the University management to organise their own, official poll, and perhaps also to insist that staff complete it. We strongly urge them to do so. In addition, to gauge the mood of the University community, the President of Council may consider coming to the University and conducting meetings with staff and students. We are confident this would be a valuable experience on both sides.
With kind regards,
Staff Against PAS
c/o Chris Drake
Nick Bardsley

Nikos Georgantzis

Karin Lesnik-Oberstein

Sue Mott

Sally Pellow

and 38 further members of the Staff Against PAS Committee

on behalf of 1071 members of staff at the University of Reading
.
 

Reply by Reading UCU president to letter from President of Council, 22 April

22 April 2016
Dear Christopher,

Thank you for your letter of 19 April about the outcome of the vote of no confidence. As you mention, the vote was not organised by Reading UCU, although we did lend support towards its organisation. Thus, I will share your letter with Sally Pellow, and ask her to share it with the Vote of No Confidence Committee, who may wish to reply to you in due course.
A vote of no confidence has, by convention, to be against a person, not an organisation or other more nebulous body. In this case the VC, as head of the University, is the appropriate person. I made it clear to the Vote of No Confidence Committee that this was not to be a personal attack on the VC but rather a vote of no confidence in the wider management of the university, which the VC, as head, represents. This was accepted by the committee and I have come across no cases of personal attack on the VC, and neither has the VC mentioned any such personal attacks to me. Should you be able to substantiate the allegations you make in your letter please take this up with the Vote of No Confidence Committee.
You will be aware that votes of no confidence are not commonly held in UK universities. They are not something staff run to over slight differences of opinion. Rather, they only occur over deep-seated and long-term grievances and where there is a sense that the valid and serious concerns of staff are not being listened to by management. That is why a vote of no confidence was the right and proper action of staff in this circumstance.
This is the first vote of no confidence held at Reading in its 90-year history as an independent university. Thus, I find your comments that ‘the outcome of such exercises has no bearing on the issues at stake and undertaking such exercises is not,
I believe, helpful to the wider interests of the University’ very disappointing. The fact that over 1000 staff members were prepared to vote against confidence in the University is surely telling, but should not be a surprise. Staff at all levels up to Deans, along with Reading UCU, have repeatedly expressed their grave concerns over this process to the UEB and you will recall that two highly experienced lay Council members strongly cautioned against such a wholesale reorganisation when the University first brought its proposals to Council.
Reading UCU remains ready and willing to respond positively to approaches from the University that recognise and seek to address the concerns of staff in this matter. We will not, however, respond positively to attempts to belittle or ignore these genuine concerns.

Yours sincerely,
Dr Paul Hatcher

President Reading UCU

Reply by President of Council to letter from Staff against PAS committee (19 April), addressed to President of Reading UCU

Dr Paul Hatcher
President of the Branch Committee
UCU

19 April 2016

Dear Paul,
I am writing further to a letter dated April 15 which I have received from your colleague Sally Pellow and others informing me of the result of a self-styled vote of no confidence in the Vice-Chancellor and asking me to call an emergency meeting of the University Council. If you do not have a copy of the letter, Richard Messer can supply one. In all the circumstances, I felt it most appropriate to respond to you, though I appreciate you are not the author of the letter. I am happy for you to share the content of this letter as you judge fit.
As I know from our discussion on March 21 and as was brought out at a meeting of Council later that day, there are concerns about the changes which are to be introduced in teaching and learning support arrangements, which fall within the professional and administrative support services component of the current efficiency and effectiveness programme. I fully accept the legitimacy of students and staff raising these concerns, and in turn management has accepted the validity of certain of the points made and has recognised the importance of change being introduced carefully and with appropriate transitional arrangements, the exact scope of which remains open to discussion.
I do think, however, that it is a matter of regret that differences on this matter have been overly personalised on the position of the Vice-Chancellor himself, which at times I understand have included unpleasant and unprofessional aspects. I do hope this will now come to an end. It is relatively easy to vote ‘no’ in a token vote of no confidence, but the outcome of such exercises has no bearing on the issues at stake and undertaking such exercises is not, I believe, helpful to the wider interests of the University. It does, however, prompt me to make clear that the Vice-Chancellor has the full confidence of the University Council and, I believe, the wider university community.
As to the possibility of an emergency meeting of the Council, I will not be taking up this suggestion. The efficiency and effectiveness programme, which was initiated some three years ago, was welcomed and endorsed by the Council in response to the need for the University to improve its core financial performance and to enhance the quality of its central services. This was and remains critical to the sustainability of the institution, and is part of a broader range of initiatives brought forward by the Vice-Chancellor which have been improving the position of the University and which continue to unfold. The Council and its committees have kept the programme under review and will continue to do so. There was proper consideration of the immediate concerns around the changes to teaching and learning support at the Council meeting on March 21, taking account of your views, those expressed by RUSU and the letter of March 15 from the Vice-Chancellor. The outcome was an endorsement of the Vice-Chancellor’s approach.
I know the Vice-Chancellor wrote to you on April 13 on the efficiency and effectiveness programme, setting out his views on the matters which have been raised as well as a framework within which he would expect to handle any outstanding issues. I know from our earlier conversation that you are genuinely concerned about serving the best interests of the University and, while inevitably there may be different views on specific matters as to where that best interest lies, I do hope you and your colleagues will respond positively to the approach the Vice-Chancellor has now set out.

Kind regards
Christopher Fisher
cc Sir David Bell, Vice-Chancellor
Dr Richard Messer, Chief Strategy Officer & University Secretary