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RUCU AGM: 10th June 2021

Dear fellow RUCU members,

I hope you’ve all had a decent and thoroughly well-deserved break over Easter. As you will probably know, the Branch has an Annual General Meeting every June, at which there are reports on the Branch’s finances, membership and activity over the year. The AGM also sees the announcement of the results of elections for its Officers and positions on the Branch Committee.

This is the formal announcement, required under local rules (https://reading.web.ucu.org.uk/local-rules/), of this year’s AGM, which will take place on Thursday the 10th of June. I will circulate an agenda for the meeting 14 days beforehand, on the 27th of May, as also required under local rules, and so will need to have received any items for the agenda by 5pm on 26th of May. ​Any items for the agenda, including motions, received after 5pm on the 26th of May will not be included.

The Branch always needs more people to do the work that enables it to effectively represent, protect and promote your interests as members of staff at the University. That work is often very rewarding. I am very proud of the work we did last summer to protect jobs at the University and to get significant concessions from management over workload management and transparency. Similarly, those who negotiated an end to the worst excesses of casualisation among teaching staff that the agreement ratified before Christmas represents can justly be very happy with their efforts on the behalf of members.

If you would like to participate more in the Branch’s work, please consider standing for election as an ordinary Committee member or as one of the Branch Officers. According to local rules, our Returning Officer, Moray McAulay, one of our regional UCU officials, needs to receive nominations by the 13th of May. ​Please send your nominations to Colette Maxfield, our Branch Administrator, who will pass them on to Moray. Nomination forms are available on the Branch website at http://reading.web.ucu.org.uk/files/2020/05/RUCU-Nomination-form-for-Committee-and-Officers-2020-21.docx.

Each nomination should be supported by two members of the Branch. Please include the two members in your email to Colette, so that they can email her to confirm they support the nomination. Positions for which there is only one candidate will be elected unopposed, while any elections required will be carried out through an online ballot of members in the four weeks between the close of nominations and the AGM.

Please let me, Colette, Sally Pellow, our Branch President, or any other Committee member know if you have any questions.

Best,

Rob Jubb

RUCU Branch Secretary

Casework Orientation Session 27.04.21, 13:00

One of the most important services the UCU offers members is casework: if you have a problem in your employment, the union can allocate a specially trained caseworker to support you through it and attend hearings with you. But to continue providing that service after the retirement of certain key individuals, our branch needs more caseworkers. Would you like to join our team? Benefits include:

Membership in a strongly supportive, close-knit team who help each other as much as they help others.
The satisfaction of actively making the university a better place by protecting your colleagues against unfair treatment.
The availability of extensive training providing transferrable skills with applications well beyond casework — professional self-defence training, as it were.
For most caseworkers, complete freedom to accept or reject each case that comes up, with no obligation to take on work if you don’t have the time or the right skills.
For those able to commit to accepting cases on a regular basis, the possibility of a negotiated reduction in your regular workload to make time for the casework.

If you would like to find out more, we’ll be holding an orientation session on Tuesday 27th April, 13:00.

Current Reading caseworkers and representatives from the UCU regional office will be there to explain what the role is like and answer your questions. To register, please get in touch.

RUCU OGM 23rd March 13:00

Our termly General Meeting will take place in a fortnight’s time, between 1pm and 2 pm on Tuesday the 23rd of March. There are a number of issues to discuss, not least the difficulties the Branch’s health and safety officers are having in getting proper access to the University’s procedures to protect staff and students in the face of the pandemic that our Branch President highlighted in her email last week.

There has also recently been a new valuation of USS, which UCU nationally has described as relying on fundamentally flawed assumptions to endanger a healthy scheme (https://www.ucu.org.uk/article/11437/UCU-response-to-USS-trustee-update), and locally we are working to implement the agreement to improve and regularise the position of teaching-intensive staff at the University you overwhelmingly endorsed in the ballot before Christmas: (https://reading.web.ucu.org.uk/2020/12/18/rucu-claim-collective-agreement-ballot-result-18-12-20/ and https://reading.web.ucu.org.uk/2020/12/04/claim-agreement-ballot-enclosure/).

We will separately circulate an agenda and a joining link for the meeting closer to the time.

Reading UCU Survey Results: ‘New Grade 6 Job Title’

With reference to the Claim ‘Collective Agreement’, we now have the results of the ‘Reading UCU poll: New Grade 6 Job Title’:

Associate Lecturer 75.44%
Teaching Associate 15.79%
University Tutor 8.77%

Thank you for taking part in the survey.

Our next step is to press forward in constituting the Joint Panel as outlined in Appendix 1 of the agreement (Page 8): https://reading.web.ucu.org.uk/files/2020/12/201204-RUCU-UoR-Claim-Agreement-Final.pdf

We will be updating members with further developments

Reading UCU

Our festive Reading UCU e-card this year. We hope you all have a relaxing break!

RUCU Claim ‘Collective Agreement’ Ballot Result 18.12.20

I’m delighted to be able to pass on some wonderful news to finish the year. Our ballot, on the casualisation and grade drift claim, closed at noon: we had a 95.6% acceptance of the proposal, on a 39% turnout. This is a huge endorsement of the work undertaken by the team who worked so assiduously on this for the past two years; and the work undertaken will benefit a great number of staff both now and into the future. Work begins on implementing this agreement now, and that’s a lovely thing to start the new year with.

Thank you to all those who contributed in so many ways.

Sally
RUCU Branch President

RUCU Claim Agreement Ballot Enclosure

The Reading University branch of UCU drafted a claim to the University management, which was endorsed by the membership at a general meeting in June 2018, and submitted to the University in September 2018.

The claim covered three areas: The Gender Pay Gap, Casualisation and Grade Drift.

The claim document can be found here: https://reading.web.ucu.org.uk/files/2018/09/Reading-UCU-Local-Pay-and-Equality-Claim-.pdf.
We encourage you to read the claim objectives against the agreement in more detail.

The full proposed agreement between UCU and University of Reading can be found here:
https://reading.web.ucu.org.uk/files/2020/12/201204-RUCU-UoR-Claim-Agreement-Final.pdf

The appendix to the agreement, can also be found here:
https://reading.web.ucu.org.uk/files/2020/12/201119-Appendix-6-Worked-Examples-_-final.xls

What follows is a headline summary of what we have achieved.

Negotiations started in November 2018 on the Casualisation and Grade Drift parts of the claim, due to their interrelatedness, and finished in July 2020, leading to the agreement for which members are now balloted.

The agreement acknowledges that the Gender Pay Gap part of the claim has not yet been addressed and stipulates that these negotiations will begin in due course, obliging the local UCU committee as well as University of Reading management to continue negotiating about the outstanding area of our claim (see point 1.3 in the agreement).

The main objectives with regard to casualisation were
– to dissuade casualisation
– to reduce the use of casualised staff in order to meet teaching provision needs
– to prevent unpaid work being done by casualised staff
– to improve the contracts issued to casualised staff.

The negotiators believe that we have met these objectives by
– setting out specific reasons for employing staff on a sessional basis and initiating a Joint Panel that will monitor the use of fixed-term staff at the University and consider conversion of casualised staff to permanent contracts (see points 2.1-2.6 of the agreement and Appendix 1 as part of the agreement)
– reducing the amount of time that teaching intensive staff can normally be kept on a limited teaching intensive role and fixed-term contract to 12 months, after which a more substantial contract needs to be offered if the need for the same work continues (see points 3.2 and 3.4 in the agreement)
– implementing a multiplicator of three hours for preparation and administration of every teaching hour undertaken by staff on sessional contracts and ensuring that any necessary training is included in the paid work hours and that time spent on assessment is calculated set out separately (see Appendix 2 to the agreement) rather than subsumed in the teaching hours (see points 2.7 and 2.8 in the agreement)
– agreeing that staff engaged on a sessional basis get fractional rather than hourly-paid contracts if their work equates to more than 0.2 FTE and ensuring they have access to professional development opportunities (see points 2.9-2.14 in the agreement).

The main objectives with regard to grade drift were
– to re-negotiate the remit of Grade 6 Teaching Intensive staff based on evidence of them working beyond what RUCU maintains to be a suitable level of responsibility for staff at Grade 6;
– to ensure that beyond the specific matter above, staff to not regularly undertake activities that are beyond their pay grade in the level of responsibility carried.
The negotiators believe that we have met these objectives by
– agreeing a new role profile for Grade 6 teaching intensive staff with a much more limited range of activities and responsibilities to prevent future grade drift for teaching intensive roles (see sections 3.1-3.4 in the agreement and Appendix 3 as part of the agreement)
– agreeing a process to ensure that current Grade 6 staff that are working beyond this limited range of activities and responsibilities are transferred to become Grade 7 Teaching Intensive Lecturers (see sections 3.5-3.7 in the agreement and Appendix 4 as part of the agreement)
– agreeing a range of criteria to provide binding guidance for line managers about which roles and activities should not normally be undertaken by staff below Grade 8 (see section 4 and Appendix 5 as part of the agreement).

The negotiators for the Reading UCU branch therefore recommend that branch members vote to accept the agreement reached with the University management.

UCU recommends that members vote to agree to the proposed agreement between UCU and University of Reading.

We believe that this is a significant offer from University of Reading that will provide considerably more security of employment for many of the hourly paid lecturers in the University and the agreement on grade drift will see an increase in grade for many UCU members.

We urge you to vote YES in this ballot.

This ballot closes at midday on 18th December 2020. We will notify members of the result as soon as possible after the ballot has closed.

UCU Approval to ballot members on Claim Agreement

I’m forwarding, below, an email which I was delighted to receive yesterday from Moray, the Regional Official, to confirm that the details of the branch Claim have now been approved by the UCU Ratification Panel. When a branch enters into a formal claim against the employer, then reaches an agreement, this must be scrutinised by the team at UCU to make sure that all aspects have been considered and covered: you will see that Moray has listed, in his email, the very positive comments received on the claim documentation.

This has been a huge amount of work, led by Melani Schroeter, and assisted in particular by Rita Balestrini and Karin Lesnik-Oberstein. Their commitment to getting the very best deal for all members has been immeasurable and I know the whole branch will be deeply grateful for all their efforts. This agreement makes a huge step forward in the working conditions of those who have been employed on part time and precarious contracts: this is a massive achievement. To remind you, the details of the claim can be found at https://reading.web.ucu.org.uk/2018/09/25/local-pay-and-equality-claim-2018-19/, and the agreement to date covers items 2 to 6 on that list.

To get this far, it took a considerable number of meetings, and the resolution of the issues that have arisen will take a number more meetings. You will note that we have not yet agreed anything in relation to the gender pay gap: this is the final element of the claim, and we will pick up the threads of that in the new year.

As this is a formal agreement, we will now need to ballot members for acceptance of the proposed agreement: we’ll be getting that ballot underway as soon as possible and will aim to have it completed by the end of the month. Moray has already notified the University that the proposal has passed the ratification process.

As soon as we have details of the timing of the ballot, we’ll call an open meeting to talk through the implications of the agreement, and we’ll confirm the full details.

Sally

Branch President

Dear Sally,

I am writing to you as Chair of Reading UCU to give you an update on the Ratification by UCU of the draft agreement negotiated by Reading UCU with University of Reading in response to the claim from the Branch.

I have been notified by Paul Bridge, UCU National Head of HE, this morning that the Claim Agreement has been approved and ratified by UCU.

There was some feedback from the Ratification Process, and this was all positive. It was welcomed that the agreement had the following features:

· The clear statement that sessional contact should only be used in very defined circumstances;

· The multiplier being used (x3);

· The proposal to assess all current sessional staff roles for fractional contracts;

· The offer of a fractional contracts for staff working more than 0.2 FTE

· The very clear limits of responsibility for grade 6 roles;

· It should also be noted that the grading structure in Reading is more ‘generous’ at Grade 6 than most institutions (point 27 – 37).

I was also asked to convey thanks and congratulations to the colleagues from Reading UCU that had developed the claim and worked on the negotiations.

I would be grateful if you could pass on this email to colleagues on the Reading UCU committee.

I will be working to schedule a ballot of all members at Reading UCU, but I am mindful that there is a considerable demand from members to move ahead with the agreement. I will therefore seek to organise the ballot as quickly as possible, with the objective of completing the ballot process by the end of November 2020.

I hope that this is a useful update.

Update on COVID proposed agreement with the University

Ian Bland and Sally Pellow attended a follow up meeting with the Staff Forum and the University on 3rd November as part of the process of implementing the proposed agreement that members voted to accept earlier last month.

It’s good news: the current student numbers, as we all know from our own assessments, are better than expected, and the losses of student fees/cost of accommodation resulting from withdrawals are less than anticipated. This means that on the current figures, we agreed this afternoon that there is no need to plan to implement the tiered pay cuts. This is a cautious promise: the decision will be reviewed formally in early February, as agreed in the University’s proposal, and we’re all keenly aware of how events are changing daily. It’s worth adding that if any pay cut from February onwards were to be put in place, the HR team would have to start now with contacting staff and agreeing that temporary change to contracts. They are not planning to do this.

The situation with the proposed pay freeze is more complex. The implications of the national 0% pay offer for this financial year mean that we have a de facto pay freeze anyway, although nationally UCU continues to campaign for a meaningful pay rise. This also means that there are no current plans to withdraw temporarily from the JNCHES process of national pay bargaining next year.

Discussions will be continuing through the term on the other aspects of the agreement. This will include a number of additional measures, including specific proposals on governance reforms. We will obviously review these and consult with you as these emerge.

In other words, after the threat earlier this year of up to 500 redundancies, we have succeeded so far in both avoiding redundancies as a result of Covid, and in having any impact on staff pay; and in the process we have agreed a range of measures which we feel will strengthen members’ involvement in the decision making of the University. Thank you for all of your help in reviewing the initial plans, pointing out the strengths and weaknesses, and supporting your negotiators.

Sally and Ian

Reading UCU: Ballot Enclosure


Background to ballot of UCU members at University of Reading

The University of Reading issued a Section 188 notice of redundancy to staff on 16 June 2020. This triggered the statutory period of meaningful consultation about potential redundancy dismissals which ended on 31 July 2020. The University of Reading had set forth notice to either dismiss or re-engage staff on reduced terms and conditions and/or to make 500FTE staff redundant from the University, or making large scale cuts to the pay, terms and conditions of University of Reading staff.

At a very well attended Reading UCU Branch EGM which met on 20 July 2020, members passed the Branch policy, “A Jobs first approach for Reading UCU.” This mandated the Reading UCU Branch President as follows:

To move to direct negotiations in order to protect members against those threats. These direct negotiations will take a ‘jobs first’ approach that stops or dramatically reduces the scale of redundancies of UCU members. This objective would be balanced against minimising the cuts to members pay, terms and conditions, with preventing redundancy.

At the end of the statutory period of consultation, the University agreed to extend that consultation for a further two weeks. The University also agreed to enter into direct negotiations with UCU, in addition to a consultation process involving UCU and the Staff Forum. This extension was on the basis that both management and Reading UCU believed that the University’s proposal could be refined to a degree which could be put to members of Reading UCU for their consideration. That proposal was issued on 14 August 2020.

The ‘Consultation Group – final proposal’ and ‘Memorandum of Understanding’

The ‘Consultation Group – final proposal’ can be found here:

https://reading.web.ucu.org.uk/files/2020/08/200813-University-of-Reading-CG-final-proposal-13Aug20.pdf

The Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) can be found here:

https://reading.web.ucu.org.uk/files/2020/08/200813-MoU-University-of-Reading-UCU-Staff-Forum.pdf

Reading UCU strongly encourages all members to read the full proposed agreements before making a decision on your vote. Further information can also be found on the Reading UCU Blog at https://reading.web.ucu.org.uk/ and the University of Reading has also made information available through the University of Reading consultation group website.

Your Reading UCU Branch Negotiators believe that they have secured as many concessions as the University is likely to make, and that this proposal is ready for your decision.

In particular, Reading UCU negotiators believe removing the threat of hundreds of forced redundancies represents significant progress over the University’s position at the beginning of the consultation.

In broad terms, the proposal involves a pay freeze for three years and a tiered pay reduction for one year to take effect from February 2021 if the University’s losses, as a result of COVID-19, are so high that they cannot be covered by reserves. Importantly, it eliminates the University’s previous threat to cover the costs of COVID-19 by making staff compulsorily redundant and makes any cuts contingent on the actual position of the University, once student numbers have been confirmed.

There are some critical points which your Branch Negotiators are asking you to bear in mind before voting:

The University of Reading proposal is intended to remedy losses which it has calculated may be incurred in the event of a drop in incoming student fee income as a result of COVID-19. But as the Vice Chancellor confirmed in his talk on 9 September 2020, the student numbers are currently expected to be better than had been feared.

If members accept the proposal, and the University’s losses which can be attributed to the pandemic turn out to be significantly less than the £104M modelled by the University, then the pay cuts and/or pay freeze will be reduced in scale, and other cuts to budgets will also be relaxed.

However, the other elements of the proposal, including the voluntary measures such as the Voluntary Redundancy scheme, will still be implemented. If the University of Reading exceeds its projected outputs, then the pay cuts, pay freeze and other measures will be reduced or even removed.

This proposal relates to the immediate impact of COVID-19 and not to any other issues that may be facing the University. The Vice Chancellor has stated the intention of the University, in Phase 2 of its Post-COVID-19 Restructuring Programme, to set out a pattern for the future for the University which will allow the University to weather any vicissitudes, ensure security for staff and build towards the future. The University of Reading has not categorically ruled out the possibility of redundancies as a result of Phase 2 although it has also stated that there are currently no redundancies planned. Negotiations on Phase 2 have not commenced and will be separate from these Phase 1 COVID-19 negotiations.

The ‘Consultation Group – final proposal’ and ‘Memorandum of Understanding’ are agreements that, should UCU members approve UCU entering into these agreements, will involve a considerable amount of further work. These further actions, and the agreed timetable for these actions are set out in the ‘Memorandum of Understanding.’ Branch negotiators would like to particularly highlight the interim review in November 2020, and no cuts to pay terms and conditions can be implemented until Reading UCU has completed this first joint review.

Reading UCU Branch Negotiators acknowledge and would like to highlight to members that some details of the proposal have yet to be finalised: for example, the fine tuning of the adjustments to pay to differing groups of staff, the impact on those on maternity leave and, the terms and conditions of the voluntary redundancy scheme.

Reading UCU members should understand that only the forecasted worst case scenario would result in the actions and measures set out in the ‘Consultation Group – final proposal.’ So the question to you as a member is whether you are willing to agree to the proposal on the understanding that it is based on being implemented if losses – as a result of COVID-19 – being as bad as have been predicted. If the proposal is accepted by members, then the nuancing of the proposals will commence, but the proposed cuts and savings measures cannot exceed the measures as stated in the Consultation Group – final proposal.

The University of Reading has stated that it anticipates making a loss in the coming financial year. The details of this have been widely discussed. The proposal ensures that Reading UCU will be given a greater oversight of the decision making processes of the University and will be in a position to raise concerns at a much earlier stage – before the University commits to action that could impact on the security of employment of UCU members.

We recognise that many UCU members have raised concerns about some of the projections and financial information that have been put forward by University of Reading, for example the consultation paper of 16 June 2020. Some of these concerns are well founded, and UCU has sought to test the assumptions made by the University, rather than simply to accept the claims of the necessity of proposed cuts at face value. If the proposals are supported by UCU members, this puts Reading UCU in a position to have considerably greater scrutiny and oversight of the Finances of University of Reading. The University has also agreed with UCU to implement a programme of governance reform involving UCU and other stakeholders, such as looking at the role of Senate.

Consequences of Reading UCU members’ votes

If a majority of UCU members employed at University of Reading vote to ACCEPT the proposed ‘Consultation Group – final proposal’ and ‘Memorandum of Understanding,’ Reading UCU will enter into a collective agreement with University of Reading, which would authorise any changes to the terms and conditions of all staff on grades 6 to 9+ at University of Reading. This would also empower Reading UCU Branch Representatives to take forward the other actions specified in the agreement and timetable in the Memorandum of Understanding.

UCU requested clarification from University of Reading about what actions it would take if a majority of UCU members employed at University of Reading vote to REJECT the proposed ‘Consultation Group – final proposal and ‘Memorandum of Understanding.’ The University of Reading has provided the following statement:

“The University is very grateful for the intensive efforts made by UCU and Staff Forum colleagues to reach this difficult but necessary agreement.

We are hopeful that local UCU members will recognise this and vote positively in the current ballot. We have been asked what will happen if there is a “no” vote. In the first instance, the absence of a positive ballot outcome will make it more difficult for the University to progress those elements of the agreement relating to greater involvement with key University business.

Furthermore the University’s financial position requires this level of intervention, and if there is no collective agreement the University will have no choice but to proceed to seek individual agreement from colleagues (as is required in any case for all colleagues on Grades 1-5).”

Reading UCU does not endorse the statement from University of Reading about the possible consequences of members voting to reject the agreement. University of Reading, having completed the consultation at 31 July 2020, would not necessarily have to undertake further consultations to enact cuts, and would not be obligated to involve UCU in the oversight measures agreed as part of the ‘Consultation Group – final proposal’ and ‘Memorandum of Understanding.’

If Reading UCU members reject the proposed agreement and memorandum of understanding, there is no established alternative policy determined by the Branch Committee or a Branch general meeting. Reading UCU members will be able to determine the next steps for the Branch, through the democratic structures of Reading UCU.

Recommendation and Vote

Reading UCU Branch Negotiators are unable to recommend this email to members, as the University of Reading ‘Consultation Group – final proposal’ and ‘Memorandum of Understanding’ would result in a temporary reduction in the pay, terms and conditions for UCU members employed by the University of Reading.

Reading UCU Branch Negotiators believe that the final proposal from University of Reading is the best that can be achieved through negotiations in the present circumstances. It is important that the proposal is also read with the ‘Memorandum of Understanding.’

We note the key differences between the University of Reading final proposals, and those tabled by the University at the commencement of the consultation process. Examples include that there are no planned redundancies resulting from COVID-19, the oversight processes that should ensure that no cuts are made based on projections, and that there are arrangements for restoring any temporary cuts to pay and conditions.

We urge you to use your vote in this ballot, and please encourage other UCU members to participate in this vote.