Representing individual members: an introduction to casework, 13 January 2017, Reading
This is a course for reps who are new to representing individual members or those who are considering becoming more involved in the direct representation of individual members. The course is designed as an introduction and you should look to completing the Rep 1: Induction post this course. More experienced reps may find this course useful in order to update their skills and look at current best practice.
Date: 13 January 2017
Duration: 1 day
Location: University of Reading
Please click here to register using the online form: https://www.ucu.org.uk/caseworkreading
Please note: this event is for Southern region branches only. Please ensure you can commit to attend for the whole day prior to submitting your application. Thank-you.
This course will enable you to:
- understand UCU’s legal support scheme
- identify the benefits of the Education Support Partnership charity
- review how to communicate effectively with members seeking advice and representation
- understand the importance of individual cases for collective organisation
- develop a collaborative approach with the member and manage expectations
- recognise the importance of confidentiality
- assert your own rights and take care of your own well being when handling personal cases
- increase you understanding of your workplace’s own policies and procedures
- outline systems for dealing with individual casework in your branch
The RUCU Committee ran a series of activities this week for UCU National Recruitment Week, including
- a recruitment stall in the Palmer Building (blown in by the rain!) on Tuesday 22nd November
- a recruitment stall in the Agriculture Building, Thursday 24th November
- an all staff drop in session within the School of Archaeology, Geography and Environment lunchtime on Thursday 24th November.
Thank you to all the members and non-members who stopped to chat and take information!
For anyone who missed the BBC documentary ‘ Who’s Spending Britain’s Billions?’ please click the link here: http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/b0803b0s/whos-spending-britains-billions
As Britain continues to spend less on the public sector, do we really know where our taxes are being spent? Peretti uncovers what is happening behind closed doors in cash-strapped Britain and finds that local councils across the UK are signing contracts with management consultancy firms who can take a percentage of any savings they find. This documentary also reveals that hundreds of the millions of taxpayers’ pounds spent on these contracts are covered by confidential deals meaning very little detail is known about them. PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) features within this documentary. In this revealing insight Peretti asks if the public deserve to know more about how those charged with managing Britain’s billions are spending it.
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: email@example.com
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.
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
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.
We will keep you updated as to the next steps in this process. Please let us know if you have any questions.
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.
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.