The UCU disputes
In the current climate of unprecedented uncertainty and upheaval, staff and students are understandably worried about what lies ahead. We have set out below a summary of issues under discussion.
Jobs at Leeds are among the most secure in the country because our finances are sound and we have sector-leading policy and procedures for change management and restructuring.
The University has never made any compulsory redundancies; while the possibility cannot be ruled out completely, we remain committed to avoiding compulsory redundancies if at all possible; they are a last resort.
The UCU's first demand is: "Placement of all staff displaced during restructuring into posts of at least the same grade." In other words, it's looking for a cast-iron guarantee that nobody will ever lose their job - or their grade - at the University. We cannot offer jobs for life; we have provided the next best thing.
Although there have been claims from the UCU head office of '1,000 jobs under threat', we believe this claim to be misleading and likely to cause unnecessary concern.
For more information, see
The March 2010 agreement
This 18-point 'umbrella' agreement covers the whole range of issues raised in the course of the dispute with the UCU last year, from very simple proposals (such as increasing the number of elected members of Senate) to the new policy on organisational change itself.
The vast majority of these have been implemented; all remaining issues are under detailed discussion and close to final agreement. Claims that the University has 'failed to honour' the agreement are little more than empty rhetoric.
Following agreement reached to end the UCU dispute last year, Council and Senate have variously agreed changes in governance relating to collegiality, staff meetings, the code of practice on corporate governance, elected members of Senate and terms of office of heads of school (see the University Secretary's blog on Managerialism, collegiality [and revitalising school meetings]).
Another UCU demand is 'agreement on fixed term staff'. Following discussions over five months, new procedures for managing fixed term and project-dependent posts were discussed by the Employment Security Review Group on 16 February and will now go to the Joint Committee of the University and the UCU for further discussion.
The University and unions are equally committed to staff engagement and revitalising school collegiality. Formal discussions about school constitutions began at the end of October (not July, as the UCU claims). Both sides hoped to reach agreement more quickly; diary pressures (on both sides) have held things up; allegations of a conspiracy behind the scenes are fanciful. The ad-hoc governance group will meet on 3 March to discuss the proposed model for school constitutions.
The UCU claims that the University has failed to implement school constitutions in a timely manner. This is disappointing, given the efforts to resolve this issue as described above.
More information on school constitutions can be found in University Secretary Roger Gair's blog.
Reviews are part of the ordinary business of the University. They are set up to ensure that schools and services are academically and financially sustainable, with appropriate resources and a strategy.
The agreement of March 2010 noted that seven reviews had been instigated by the planning round in 2009. It was noted that proposals to reconfirm the need for these reviews would be brought under the new procedure to Senate. The agreement did not say that this was an exhaustive list and that other reviews would not be initiated as and when Senate agreed they were required.
Since March 2010, another nine schools and service units have gone into review and three have come out; the total number now in review is 16.
The UCU has demanded a halt to five of the 16 reviews currently in progress. Not only has Senate agreed to these reviews, but in each case the majority of staff concerned have agreed that a review is necessary. The processes governing reviews afford the best possible protection to staff and their jobs; halting the review process is not in the interests of the staff concerned; this is a demand therefore the University cannot accept or accede to. We have, however, undertaken to formulate proposals about ways in which the ESRG'S attention might be prioritised.
For more information see the Reviews section
Academic Activity Profiles
Teaching, learning and research data for individual staff members has been produced as a matter of course for many years to help heads of school plan and manage academic activity.
Following two debates on the issue, Senate has agreed that this information should be produced consistently and made available to all academics in each school.
The point is transparency - staff will now see this information; beforehand they did not.
Academic profiles have been raised several times over the last 18 months in meetings with UCU; the union's officers were even included in a working group at the outset, and UCU were invited to join the subsequent pilot steering group. It is not true that there has been no consultation.
The charge that these profiles are being generated to 'pre-select for redundancy' is nonsense; if that was their purpose, then why make them public?
The UCU has demanded that we abandon academic activity profiles, as they claim that we have introduced them without consultation. This is simply not true, as detailed above. We are not convinced that they should be abandoned, as this would not be in the interest of transparency, but we have offered further discussions with the UCU about the use of profiles, including safeguards.
See Deputy Vice-Chancellor John Fisher's blog on Academic Activity Profiles
A pay rise of 0.4% (backdated to 1 August 2010) will be in February pay packets. Some 3,000 staff - the vast majority of those who have not reached the top of their scale - will also receive incremental increases of 3% this year on their incremental date.
Pay is negotiated nationally on behalf of all universities; this was the maximum affordable by the sector. The settlement has been kept in place in spite of dramatic cuts in higher education funding announced last month.
Elsewhere in the public sector, civil servants and NHS staff are facing a two year pay freeze, many without incremental progression. The University's senior management team has not taken a pay rise (voluntarily) for two years.
Full details of the national position can be found on the UCEA website.
The Universities Superannuation Scheme is - and will remain - one of the best contributory schemes in the UK. As the UCU accepts, changes to the scheme are required to protect the scheme and safeguard the pensions of its members now and into the future.
Two major issues of concern arose in the consultation with all USS members about the proposed changes. The same two issues were highlighted by the UCU in its own survey. Both these issues have now been addressed by the USS board, which has agreed to:
Raise the proposed annual cap on annual inflation increases from 5% to 10%
- Increase from 6 months to two years any break in employment while retaining membership of the final salary scheme.
Posted in: UCU disputes