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Branch negotiations on impact of COVID: excellent news

Excellent news: at our most recent review meeting this week we negotiated the lifting of this year’s pay freeze, and you will receive your pay rise and accrued back pay in either the November or the December pay packet (details to be confirmed).

Last year, you voted for a Jobs First negotiating strategy, when the University was proposing up to 500 compulsory redundancies, and you voted to accept an agreement which showed your willingness to make a sacrifice in exchange for saving those jobs. The major sacrifice in that agreement was a potential pay cut – which we have since been able to avoid – and also to a pay freeze for three years – last year, this year and next year. This was a hard decision for everyone to have to make, but the reality is that we’ve now reached a stage where there has been no personal financial sacrifice to date, and the jobs were saved. Please congratulate yourselves on showing that solidarity and standing firm in support of jobs: you should be very proud.

In return for the sacrifices made by staff, we were able to negotiate that the VR scheme should be reopened, and a number of staff did take advantage of that. Critically, though, we negotiated some key items: one is that we now have greater transparency on governance, in particular that staff can all now request to see the papers which are being distributed to Council, and which offer a massive insight into the functioning of the University. We are also now being advised of spending proposals over £10m and this is a system which is already working. And we opened up negotiations on workload: this is a wider ranging discussion which is morphing slightly into the Phase 2 negotiations, and which is ongoing work. These gains are still ours, even though we are not having to make the sacrifices that had been called for. There is a lot of work to be done on workloads, and thank you for your input on this to date.

There are still rocky steps ahead. We’ll be aiming to avoid a pay freeze next year, which still falls under the agreement. Phase 2 is identifying a target of £10m in savings and £10m in revenue increase: we’ve had assurances on a number of occasions, though, that there are no plans for any forthcoming redundancies and the management are keen to work with us to maintain that position, whatever happens. Please rest assured we will continue to negotiate and fight on your behalf.

Lastly, of course, we all know that the pay rise is derisory and that our salaries have been devalued in real terms. We are not taking part in the Four Fights ballot, only the ballot on USS: this is because the University chose not to join JNCHES this year having argued that there was a temporary local pay agreement. Most other branches, though, are taking part in the Four Fights ballot, and their solidarity will support us in due course: this is another example of all of us working together for the benefit of all. Please do what you can to support the union in its fights.


Sally Pellow

Branch President, Reading UCU

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