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Notes on the Review of the Post Covid Recovery Plan Agreement

You, like us, will have received an email from John Brady. Following this there are a few matters which it would be helpful for us, as UCU members of the Consultation Group, to clarify.

As you will know, the University, UCU and Staff Forum came to an agreement with respect to measures to mitigate the impact of the Covid pandemic on the University’s finances. In return for a guarantee preventing compulsory redundancies, we agreed an element of potential pay sacrifice from all staff. This was either a three-year pay freeze or, if this is not sufficient, a graduated and time-limited pay cut. The agreement, as set out in the Memorandum of Understanding, includes regular review of the agreement, and, critically, requirements for these pay-related measures to be enacted only if and only for so long as is necessary.

Following the first review of the agreement in February, the updated financial impact on the University was assessed. The University had recruited home students in much stronger numbers than had been feared but there were still weaknesses in overseas recruitment. It was generally agreed that the proposed pay cut was not believed necessary at that time however all parties understood the need for prudence in the matter. The pandemic was still ongoing and a second wave, largely unanticipated last summer, was unfolding.

We have met the University on two occasions since February – in April and again in May. The May meeting was requested by UCU so it could properly respond to the financial information it had been provided previously. At these meetings it was again reiterated that a pay cut was unlikely, but again, rather than explicitly ruling this out, the principle of prudence was followed. In the matter of the pay freeze, it was noted that two important factors had impacted this. Firstly the 2020/21 national settlement for pay had been 0%. The proposed settlement for 2021/22 had been made for 1.5%, and although this had not been formally accepted by the trade unions, the imposition of this was thought likely.

TABLE 1 (Click here to enlarge)

Both of these facts impact directly on the financial justification for a separate, local, pay freeze. This can be shown in the Table 1, provided to us by the Chief Financial Officer as part of the review. It is important to note that the figure of £21M John Brady quotes comes from an assumption of a 2% pay increase for each of the three years from 2020. The impact of the 0% pay increase for 2020 and then 1.5% for 2021 (as opposed to the 2% figure budgeted), both compounded out over the three-year period, shows most of the ‘heavy lifting’ has been done by these nationally imposed pay awards. They have, as far as Reading’s financial forecasts go, already reduced the impact on the University by £13.5M without any local element of the pay freeze being required at all. John’s suggestion that the pay freeze has resulted in savings of £21M need to be understood in this context.

TABLE 2 (Click here to enlarge)

So a key question is as follows: With approximately £13.5M of ‘saving’ already accrued as a consequence of the prevailing national situation, will the remaining £7.5M still be required (second half of Table 1)? This was a matter we pushed the University on extensively. At the meeting we were advised the current projection for the direct financial impact for Covid stands £80.979M. Table 2 was also given, which shows the agreed mitigations updated with the April figures. This is taken from the Review paper which is available to all staff on the University website. We have changed the ordering of the mitigations here to better reflect the preferred order of application (pay cuts last) and a column has been added showing the shortfall after each mitigation has been applied. Where the figures go negative (and highlighted in red here), the mitigation has left a surplus. As it happens, the surplus left when the pay freeze is applied currently nearly equals this £7.5M. This means if we were to not implement local the pay freeze then we would still have mitigated the estimated £80.979 in full.

So why have we not done this you ask? Well the answer should probably not surprise you – prudence. It must be accepted that this is a very marginal call. We collectively agreed that it would be much more damaging to staff to give them assurances the pay mitigations were not needed, only to find they were. Crucially all eyes are on the 2021 recruitment round and its implications once both home and overseas student numbers are known. This is less than three months away.

Why has the University written to you now to inform you your contract has been changed? As we understand the situation, the University is only changing the contract to preserve the possibility of imposing a pay freeze, rather than the University having conclusively decided to actually impose the freeze. That possibility does form part of the agreement after all, so we are not really able to object to it. We did ask them to consider using other mechanisms to at least delay this step, such as using the facility in the JCNHES agreement to delay paying a pay increase for up to 11 months. The University were not prepared to do this and it is not clear it would be the sensible thing to do anyway. Even if some pay freeze is needed, we will ensure it is delayed as long and is as small as necessary and we have scope in the agreement to foreshorten the period if we are able.

Sally Pellow and Ian Bland

EGM 29 June at 1.00pm

The voting results from Congress and the Higher Education Sector Conference (HESC) 2021 have now come through, and you can see the full details at https://www.ucu.org.uk/Congress2021?utm_source=Lyris&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=reps&utm_term=broff-he&utm_content=UCU+branch+update:+pay+and+USS+campaigns

At both Congress (which is for FE and HE) and the HESC a number of motions were carried in reference to our response, as members, to the USS dispute and to the disputes over pay and conditions. For the full details of these motions, the ones I’d particularly draw your attention to would be the first dozen motions in the link to HE Motions on the above webpage. The Union is now preparing for balloting for industrial action, with a proposal that balloting should take place soon for action to begin in the Autumn. The Campaigns team is now starting to build a campaign. Please watch out for the Friday emails as usual, and also any other emails coming through from UCU as they will contain more information.

Our first task as a new committee for 2021-22 is to hear and gather your views on how we move forward on these disputes. We need to provide feedback from Reading to the next HEC meeting (which Deepa and I will be attending as usual): this will help to inform and shape the campaigns. We’ve been specifically asked to get answers to the questions below, and we will need to provide a summary of the branch responses by 30 June.

• as a branch are your members ready to take action?

• what type of actions are members ready to take?

• what does a win look like for members?

• what questions do members have about either the USS pensions dispute or the 4 Fights dispute to get campaign ready?

• what issues do members have and how can we help address them in the campaign?

• in what ways do members think we should combine issues of pay, casualisation, workload, inequality pay gaps and the USS pension dispute?

• what are members’ views on the best timing for a pay, casualisation, workload, inequality pay gaps campaign, and a USS pension campaign?

• are there any other issues in your branch which members consider important?

Timing is tight of course in giving this feedback, so we’re calling an EGM on Tuesday 29 June at 1.00. We won’t take motions at the EGM: this meeting will be for discussion only. At the EGM, we’ll work through that list of bullet point questions above, raising any member queries that have come through in the meantime in the relevant sections. Please consider the questions above, and let us know your responses. There are three ways to make sure your thoughts are heard: at the EGM itself, or via your department rep, or direct to me. I’ll collate all email responses and I’ll circulate any key questions and discussion points in advance of the EGM.

EVERY view is important. Please make sure your voice is heard.

Sally
RUCU President

RUCU AGM: 10th June 2021, 13:00

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 at 13:00. 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.