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August, 2020:

Update – Message to Members 14/08/20

The last few days of negotiations have been very intense, but I am now able to confirm that the negotiating team has reached a point at which we believe that we can win no further concessions from the University. The UCU negotiators have concluded that these proposals are the best achievable in negotiations. We believe that, through negotiations, UCU has managed to considerably change the proposals from those first tabled by University of Reading in June 2020. UCU succeeded in getting the University to agree to a number of points which they had previously been unwilling to concede.

We are now in a position where we will be putting the University’s proposal to you for your decision. Their proposal, along with a Memorandum of Understanding, were scheduled to be released at 3.30 today on the University website and you will find these documents on our blog at and

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.

Through our negotiations, we gained concessions on involvement in and scrutiny of the decision-making processes of the University. A voluntary redundancy scheme will be opened – details to be confirmed – along with an offer to cut working hours in exchange for that tiered pay reduction.

We have confirmation that money coming in will be paid to staff as a priority over any repayments to banks, lenders or other liabilities. We have confirmation that if the numbers are better than anticipated, then the proposed pay reductions will be lessened or removed.

Despite what the VC initially implied in his talk today, this has not been agreed.

Nothing can be agreed by UCU until there has been a ballot of all UCU members employed at University of Reading, the result of which supports UCU entering into an agreement with the University.

We’ll be sending out plenty of information over the coming weeks, including details of what the consequences will be of a ballot result which either accepts or rejects the proposal.

Ultimately, though, this is a decision which you, individually, will need to make for yourself: and we will be exhorting you to make sure that you do vote. If you have colleagues who are not in the union, please encourage them to join ( in order to have a say in this process: new members will of course be entitled to a vote. As we are the only recognised union for grades 6 to 9+ in terms of collective representation, our ballot result will affect all staff in those groups regardless of their union membership. You are welcome to forward this email to colleagues.

We won’t ask you to make a decision on the proposal until the situation is clearer. So we will be launching a secure e-ballot on this, with a timetable (to be confirmed) that the ballot would commence on Wednesday 16 September, closing at midday on 9 October 2020. This will mean it straddles the first week or so of term, and you will have a very clear picture of student numbers and the impact of the pandemic at that point.

Thank you for the feedback you’ve been providing so far. Keep passing on your comments.


Sally Pellow

Branch President, Reading UCU

Latest news on negotiations 11.08.20

We are now at a critical stage in negotiating with the University. You will recall that the statutory consultation period of 45 days expired on 31 July: but the negotiating team were able to convince the University that there was sufficient reason to continue with constructive discussions, on the basis that these would be condensed, and with the aim of reaching a point at which a proposal could be put to you, the members. The University was willing to continue for a very short period with talks if these were likely to end in an agreed position. No further meetings took place last week but so far we have had three and a half hours of intense meetings this week with a further three hours scheduled. These are fast moving. We have tabled a range of additional demands, based on your feedback. The University has now revised its ‘final’ proposal twice.

Nothing has been agreed. As a negotiating team, our duty is to hammer out the detail of any proposal from the University to understand every element of that proposal, challenging each assumption made. If we get to a position where we believe we can put a ‘jobs first’ agreement to you, and when we believe we can achieve no further concessions, we put that proposal to you. Only you, the members, can agree to it.

The basis of the University’s case is their predictions of potential shortfall in income over the coming months, based on wider national predictions on what may happen in relation to student numbers. Just to be totally clear: at no point have we accepted the University’s financial predictions or their modelling. We have challenged the underlying financial assumptions made, which has resulted in a number of changes to their projected budgets. We have challenged the predictions, too, drawing attention to other reports which counter the narrative of a decline in student attendance, such as today’s reports that the CEO of UCAS is expecting Clearing to be the biggest ever. We have also emphasised our requirement that if the University’s student numbers and financial position prove to be better than predicted in the Autumn term, then the University’s first priority must be to reverse or reduce any proposed job losses and changes to our terms and conditions and pay. We have made it crystal clear that it would not be acceptable to use any additional funds to pay banks or other lenders – including the University’s Trusts – whilst still asking staff for any sacrifice at all.

The current position is that the University is further rewriting its proposal with an aim of presenting it again tomorrow to us. Until that proposal is delivered to us in writing we cannot confirm exactly what is in it: but it sets in outline a series of measurement points, the earliest of which is at the end of October, which are designed to assess the actual position of the University versus its current forecasts, and which then lay out the next steps to be taken. The proposals will indicate which steps might be necessary as a result and those steps would be put into place if required with effect from 31 January. The measurements being used are externally verifiable – we’re not relying in any way on internal calculations which we can’t replicate. In other words, we will know how bad or good the University’s position is before we have to make any sacrifices. Meanwhile, however, it is proposed that voluntary measures can be implemented from October, including the reopening of a voluntary severance or voluntary redundancy scheme.

We have made it clear that we expect to be able to offer you, the members, the security of knowing what the position will be for the coming months. None of us can predict what will happen next with the Coronavirus. We know that the University is on an unstable financial footing even without the pandemic affecting things: but this is a different topic of conversation. The University has shown a willingness in these meetings to move to greater transparency generally and to improve its governance processes, its change processes and its decision-making processes. These are changes which we want to ensure will take place regardless of anything which may or may not happen in relation to the current negotiations.

Some members have expressed concern that a school, department, function or area of focus might be being targeted. Even at today’s meeting, the Vice-Chancellor confirmed that there is no intention to take any such action.

I’ve had a few emails which have queried my speed of response to emails from individual members. I’m sorry that I haven’t yet been able to reply to every email. I have had over a thousand emails relating to the branch since the EGM on 20 July, from about 150 different members: some have sent a number of emails. I will reply to everyone but it may take me a while longer: the negotiations themselves are taking up a lot of time and some emails have specifically asked that I reply personally rather than asking a fellow committee member to reply on my behalf. If you are one of the people waiting for a reply from me, I apologise. Please know that I do read every single email very carefully.

I’ve also received concerns from members which suggest that as staff we should be escalating the dispute at this stage. You will remember that the motion to the EGM called for me to engage in “direct negotiations [which] 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.” I hope you feel that we’re delivering on that: and I want to emphasise that the final decision on any agreement does rest with you, the members. You will have the choice whether to accept any proposal – or to reject it and escalate a dispute accordingly.

We hope that we will be in a position later this week to give you a further update.

Sally Pellow, Branch President