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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 https://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