Dispute with Employer

Dear members

Following the last branch members meeting, we immediately informed management, formally, of our intention to enter dispute unless they commit to no compulsory redundancies and improved Voluntary Severance (Redundancy) terms.

We were able to do that because of the huge mandate that you as members gave us when passing the following motion:

Senate House UCU Motion

Branch notes

  • The University of London has begun a process of restructuring which they claim is part of realising the new strategy, the restructuring requires that the University of London produce a “balanced budget”.
  • This follows years of ‘planned deficit’, to allow UoL to set up projects such as Co-Sector, which have never delivered the financial returns promised. Unfortunately, this ‘planning’ did not include a contingency for this, and so money to plug the gap is being sought from a reduction in the staff budget.
  • The University of London plans savings of over £9m, with half of that coming from staff savings. We believe this puts over 100 members of staff across the organisation at risk of redundancy.
  • Departments have been asked to make savings of between 10% and 20% with little consideration(other than with change management procedures) on what that means for the running of the organisation, or reassessing Organisational priorities.
  • Two of the restructure consultations launched propose an increase in new higher graded roles.
  • The University of London continues to invest in property, in this time of ‘dire financial straits’ at the expense of its staff members, despite the future viability of this business model being at risk.
  • Despite making continued ‘investment’ in property, the University of London cannot afford a respectful Voluntary Redundancy package for staff, being made redundant in the worst economic situation in decades.
  • The University of London has actively WORSENED its Voluntary Redundancy scheme since the crisis, in direct contrast to many higher education institutions, including those in rose financial positions. VCEG tells us that this is all ‘they feel they can afford’ But a rumoured £1.5M seems to have been found to purchase back the lease of Faber & Faber buildings from SOAS.
  • UCU and UNISON attempted to find solutions to some of these issues through extraordinary JNCCs triggered by local dispute mechanisms.
  • Our branch participated in an indicative vote on a union response to these issues.
    • 96.7% of respondents said that it is right for us to go into formal dispute with our employer over the terms for voluntary redundancy.
    • 78.9% of respondents said that they would be prepared to consider Industrial Action in the event of compulsory redundancy in order to fight to protect jobs and ensure better VR terms.
  • The University of London UCU and UNISON branches have written to the University of London senior management on numerous occasions reiterating opposition to compulsory redundancies, requesting an urgent meeting with financial data informing course and job cuts as well as the measures the University of London intends to take to mitigate redundancies.

Branch believes

  • Academic and Professional service staff cuts will affect the ability of the University of London to achieve the goals set out in its strategy.
  • Cuts to and closure of world-renowned institutes will diminish the University of London and reduce its distinctiveness as a centre for excellence.
  • The current VR offering is not respectful of staff, many of whom have made great sacrifices to ensure the success of the University over decades, and recently, in the face of the pandemic.
  • The current VR offering is not the best the University can afford, and offering more favourable terms would, likely, avoid the need for compulsory redundancies through change management processes.
  • The restructuring process has been deeply flawed with departments given savings targets that are unattainable without significant redundancies. Detailed financial data, equality impact assessments, revised job descriptions, detailed plans, or populated structure diagrams for the overall process were not given to the recognised trade unions in advance of discussions, or indeed at the launch of change management processes.
  • The University of London UCU should continue to support campaigns calling for government intervention or to support higher education and institutions like the University of London through the COVID-19 crisis.

Branch resolves

  • This branch calls for an immediate commitment from the University of London Senior Management that there will be no compulsory redundancies resulting from restructuring.
  • This branch calls for an immediate improvement to the terms of the current VR policy and to extend this option to all members of staff, including those immediately impacted by live change management processes, to ensure that those staff who do seek to explore this option have a viable way to survive being made redundant, and that redeployment to unoccupied roles is more viable an option.
  • This branch reaffirms its commitment to opposing compulsory redundancies.
  • The branch instructs the branch committee to seek such commitments but in the absence of such a commitment, to move forward to formal dispute and to prepare for industrial action if compulsory redundancies are announced; involving a statutory ballot for one or more of the following: strike action, external marking boycott, ASOS. The ballot to be launched as soon as possible.

We are pleased to say that UNISON has also passed a similar motion and communicated it to management.

We are awaiting a response from management and will be going forward into formal dispute this week if we do not have anything satisfactory to come back to members with.

UCU Senate House Committee