Disappointing emergency-JNCC meeting outcomes: pay freeze, VR, possible redundancies

Updates from two emergency JNCC meetings held in September 2020

Today the recognised unions attended the second of two Extraordinary Joint Negotiation and Consultation Committee (JNCC) meetings, the method through which Management and the Unions reach agreements on staff-facing changes. These were called at the JNCC meeting held in July, where the changes to incremental freezes and a more detrimental Voluntary Redundancy scheme were not agreed to because Management have failed to produce the information requested by the Unions, in order to enable members to make informed decisions.

What is clear is the following:

  1. There is a lack of parity of detriment to staff pay in the face of COVID-19
    • The seven or so members of VCEG (max 7 members staff on salaries over £100K) have taken voluntary salary cut of 10%
    • Staff on L10 and not in VCEG (including a minimum of 9 members of staff on £100+K) are not receiving their cost of living increase, in line with that negotiated by JNCHES, so estimated to be a max of 1%. (However, National Pay increase is set at 0%)
    • Everyone else, circa 1,000 staff, on Spine points 16 – 54 have had a cut in salary imposed, without any formal agreement being reached. The pause to incremental increases plus lack on National Pay Increase (agreed each year by JNCHES) is roughly 4.6% per person.
    • The majority of the highest paid members of staff are therefore suffering the least financial detriment.
  2. A new voluntary redundancy (VR) scheme is being introduced for those within the scope of any change management plan:
    • For some staff, the level of VR payment will effectively be the statutory minimum, without the cap on the total amount to be paid.
    • Statutory minimum is the least an employer can pay, without it being illegal.
    • This is approximately a 75% reduction to VR terms previously used by University of London, meaning that for each £1 a member of staff would have previously received, they will now only get 25p.
    • This is far below that being offered by other members of the Federation, including those facing immediate significant financial difficulties. In today’s meeting, we presented evidence showing that current VR terms at UoL are around 33% less generous than those at LSE, half as generous as those at Queen Mary, 3.5 to 4 times less generous than those at Goldsmiths, and 4 to 5 times less generous than those at SOAS. These are all schemes that have been active since COVID hit.
    • The Recognised Unions have not agreed to what UoL is currently offering but we are being told they cannot afford more, as paying out too much now will mean they may have to make greater staff cuts in the future.
    • No specific evidence to support the University’s position has been presented, no benchmarking data, and no comment on why UoL terms are less favourable than institutions whose financial position is arguably worse than ours.
  3. There are likely to be redundancies in the future:
    • This has been stated publicly in the Town Halls.
    • The Recognised Unions have received no information to confirm the overall scope of any intended redundancies.
    • The Recognised Unions have received no information to confirm that any area is outside of the scope of these redundancies.

Whether intentional or coincidental, there is a slow erosion of the rights and working conditions of those at the lower spine points, whilst those at the highest continue to only feel a pinch they consent to.

We need YOU to tell us what you want!
What is fair? Should the majority of those earning the most have their pay cut than those earning the least? Should a VR scheme that is barely above the lowest legally permitted go through as the sector faces the most financially unstable time in recent history? Or, would it perhaps be fair for the University tell staff what the plans for future redundancies are, so that Recognised Unions can engage in meaningful negotiations, to protect the most jobs?

If you’ve answer ‘yes’ to any of the above, we need you to join our next members meeting and tell us.

Please also use the anonymous ‘Ask a question’ function at Monday’s Town Hall to ask anything you want.

The University is failing to uphold the spirit of Recognition Agreement with its Recognised Unions and therefore leaving no option but to inform members of what is going on, so we can have the necessary conversations publicly.

It is your future, tell us what you want us to fight for.

VR and Pay Freeze

Pay freeze consultation

Since we last wrote to you on 17 July, the same day as our most recent letter to VCEG,

• the university closed its consultation on the pay freeze,
• we met with Chris Cobb and HR on Tue 21 July to raise comments and concerns, and
• we received a written response to our representations shortly before the

During our meeting with Chris Cobb and HR, it was acknowledged that the pay freeze represents a change to our T&Cs. This was the first time we had heard acknowledgement from the University that this was the case; this was repeated by the VC at Monday’s Town Hall.

Typically, a change to our T&Cs requires our consent. The consultation exercise may have been an attempt by the University to seek to evidence that staff were agreeing to this change. However, in our representations to the University, we were clear that our engagement should not be interpreted as agreement. We accept that COVID-19 is impacting University budgets in new and significant ways, but we would also argue that the University made no meaningful attempt to negotiate with us on this matter. There’s a clear difference between consultation and negotiation.

We requested sight of the Equality Impact Assessment. This has not been provided; instead, equalities statistics have been given, the validity of which we have concerns about as outlined in our latest letter to VCEG (currently being prepared).

Also, very few of the specific and reasonable questions we’ve been asking on your behalf were answered. On Monday, we received just a page and a half of answers to ‘frequently asked’ questions.

Voluntary redundancy proposal

On Friday, HR shared details of a proposed VR formula applicable for the coming months. For upcoming restructures, they have proposed:

Actual (gross) weekly pay x length of service x 1.5
(with length of service is rounded up/down to the nearest full-year)

We are doing some additional research to compare this proposal with what equivalent universities are offering, but our initial view is that this falls significantly short of what is being offered elsewhere at the moment through similar schemes.

It’s important we know what you think about this offer in order to inform our position over the coming days and weeks, so please do get in touch.

UCU Senate House Committee

Feedback on employer statement

We’ve been hearing from many of you in the last few days about statements made by University of London Senior Leadership.

We share in your immense frustration at the lack of detail and lack of engagement with us in making these statements. Unions did not see the detail of that proposal until the evening before and so we have had no opportunity to provide feedback until now.

We will of course be scrutinising the detail of this proposal and ask for your immediate feedback to help us understand what our membership think.

We would strongly encourage you to submit any feedback on the proposal, whether general or in light of your personal circumstance, via UCU (and anonymously) here: https://forms.gle/kxNyfmGqwUxr7KSg7.

We find ourselves in challenging times and there is strength and protection in raising our issues collectively through the mechanisms of the union.

Branch AGM

As well as discussing all of our successes and challenges in 2019, the AGM is also a time when we, as a branch, elect our new committee.

As delighted as I am with the depth and talent of this committee, we are still looking to fill the role of Branch Secretary. We also have another space for UCU’s second representative on the University of London’s safety committee. If you wish to enquire about either of these positions then do let us know by emailing ucu@london.ac.uk.

I’m pleased to announce that the following members have been duly elected:

  • Chair – Tim Hall
  • Vice Chair – Elizabeth Savage
  • Treasurer – Kumar Singaravelou
  • Membership Secretary – Huw Morgan Jones
  • Equality Officer – Sarah Thorniley
  • Health and Safety Officer – Liz Wilkinson
  • Ordinary member – Tim Wade
  • Ordinary member (Careers Group) – Philippa Hewett
  • Ordinary member (IHR Rep) – Matt Shaw
  • Ordinary member (Warburg Rep) – Nessa Malone
  • Ordinary member – Nicholas Matheou
  • Co-opted member (IES Rep) – Christopher Ohge
  • Co-opted member (IMLR Rep) – Elizabeth Dearnley

Finally a huge thank you to all of you who volunteered on the committee last year.

Dates and terms for in-housing of cleaners and security staff at Senate House, University of London


After more than 2 years of negotiation and continued scrutiny of the University of London’s plans, we have received written confirmation from the University of its plans to return cleaners and security staff back to its direct employment. This represents real progress. The key features of the University of London’s commitment include:

  • Security staff to be in-house by May 2020.
  • Cleaning staff to be in-house by November 2020.
  • In-housing of staff will not be subject to the previously-used methodology of market testing where in-housing is conditional on favourable comparisons with external bids.
  • Work has commenced on these tranches of in-housing. We understand that the current contractors have already been informed of last week’s Board of Trustee’s decision and that meetings are being organised to discuss the TUPE process requirements.
  • The Unions have challenged the decision to keep the Estates Maintenance Services contracted out to a specialist supplier. The Unions will continue to scrutinise and challenge this outcome.

Of course, promises are worthless unless they are followed through. We hereby commit to scrutinising every step of the TUPE process to the best of our ability, and to doing what we can to hold the University to the new commitments it has made.

That said, we do believe that the University’s commitments are genuine and that this agreement should lead to serious discussions about the terms for suspending the boycott.

The boycott has unintentionally focused on events organised by union members at the School of Advanced Study. Many of these members are on precarious contracts and the additional work-related stress caused by the boycott has impacted on their mental health and wellbeing.

Senate House, University of London in-housing campaign: significant progress made for cleaners and security staff

The Senate House branches of UCU and UNISON welcome the decision made by the Board of Trustees to support the Vice Chancellor’s commitment to insource our colleagues in the Cleaning and Security teams, which was announced today.

This is a significant step forward by the University of London and we will continue to engage with the larger in-housing process and of course be scrutinising the decision around estates management.

We look forward to working with the Vice-Chancellor and her team during the insourcing process and recognise the dedication and commitment of all those involved in ensuring we have collectively reached this point.

We look forward to welcoming our colleagues back in house.

Outcome of 4 July branch meeting: Senate House boycott

In this post, we summarise motions that were debated and passed at a branch meeting on 4 July 2019. These motions (full text at the end of the post) mostly relate to the Senate House Boycott (motions 2, 3, 4).

Motion 1 relates to a victory for UCU Senate House. We called on the University to consider introducing a standardised package of post-contract support for research-active staff reaching the end of their contracts. This new policy will be implemented soon. At the meeting, we reported to members that an earlier motion on this subject went to UCU Congress 2019 and was passed unanimously. We are not claiming that this is the answer to casualization, but we would encourage UCU branches around the country to negotiate for similar policies.

Motions 2, 3 and 4 call on all parties to find the common ground needed to bring the Senate House Boycott to an end.

Continue reading

Removal of students from Senate House following recent occupation


The Senate House branch committees of UNISON and UCU recognise that whilst there are strong feelings around the current action and situation at Senate House, the University of London has a long and proud history of associations with activists and protests. The unions state again that they remain strongly in-favour of bringing outsourced workers in-house and continue to negotiate to this end.

The unions do not seek to pass comment regarding the action currently being taken regarding the in-housing of workers at the University of London but again impress upon management to uphold their duties of care to all who work at and visit Senate House.

While the unions note the internal statement provided by the University of London staff regarding the removal of occupants over the weekend, the unions remain concerned over the manner in which this happened.

The unions have repeatedly asked management to provide:

  • Guidance to staff involved in security regarding safe and proportional measures to occupation,
  • Guidance to all staff regarding health and safety/protocol during occupation,
  • Clear instructions to students and visitors regarding expected conduct at Senate House.

The Unions are not aware that any of the above has been provided. We therefore now ask publicly for these to be provided, to keep all who work at and visit Senate House informed and safe.

The Unions again state that we are opposed to violent and threatening conduct from any group or individual(s) towards those working at or visiting Senate House and would like to understand what management did to both protect the health and safety of staff and occupants, and de-escalate the recent student occupations and protest.

Open letter to UoL: Front of house roles advertised via Co-Sector recruitment


UNISON and UCU write to you as the recognised trade unions of the University of London to express our confusion regarding some recent developments regarding the in-housing process.

We seek your explanation and input regarding the below issue.

As recently as the middle of last week UNISON and UCU were informed of yet further Cordant employees who, having initially been told they would be TUPE-ed over to the University of London with the in-housing of front of house services, would now not be as they were not in the TUPE scope.

UNISON and UCU raised the case of the affected workers, requested that the University of London reconsider their decision/challenge Cordant and, where possible, make exceptions. The unions were told repeatedly that this would not be possible.

The recognised unions were then extremely surprised on 16 May 2019 to see 6 jobs, for roles considered within the scope of TUPE, being advertised via the University of London’s Co-Sector recruitment pages for temporary positions. Links to the roles are provided below.

Receptionist x1 – https://recruit.thecareersgroup.co.uk/UOL/Vacancies/VacancyDetails.asp?VacancyID=6978

Receptionist x 2 – https://recruit.thecareersgroup.co.uk/UOL/Vacancies/VacancyDetails.asp?VacancyID=6983

Porter – https://recruit.thecareersgroup.co.uk/UOL/Vacancies/VacancyDetails.asp?VacancyID=6980

Post Room Operative – https://recruit.thecareersgroup.co.uk/UOL/Vacancies/VacancyDetails.asp?VacancyID=6981

Audio Visual Technologist – https://recruit.thecareersgroup.co.uk/UOL/Vacancies/VacancyDetails.asp?VacancyID=6979

At no point had the unions been told that any staff shortfall would be addressed via temporary positions advertised through Co-Sector’s recruitment agency, which exists to generate revenue for the University of London. Advertising roles in this manner, and not directly through the University of London, would seem to be a conflict of interests and, could be viewed as a way of keeping workers in these roles from receiving the full benefits of being directly employed by the University of London. The rates of pay for 4 roles highlighted below are also noted to be below the London Living Wage. The unions take particular exception to this.

The unions are particularly astonished to see that 4 roles, those of Receptionist x2, Porter and Post Room Operative seem to be offered without any guarantee of the provision of an agreed number of working hours. This would appear to conform to the definition of a zero hours contracts, despite repeated assurances from the University of London to both the Sub-JNC, the ICE forum and at all staff forums, that no new zero hours contracts would be issued by the University of London.

We therefore request the following clarifications:

  1. Why this situation (the advertising of the above roles) has arisen, given the University of London agreed to the methodology used for determining those in scope?
  2. If during the conducting of the review and scoping exercise it became apparent that this would give an inadequate number of staff to cover all shifts, why the University then did not challenge Cordant on the methodology?
  3. Whether the 4 roles noted above (Receptionist x2, Porter and Post Room Operative) are being offered on zero hours contracts?
  4. Why the rates of pay advertised for Receptionist x2, Porter and Post Room Operative are below the London Living Wage? Why is the rate of pay for Receptionist x2 different to that of Receptionist by £1.93 per hour?
  5. What problem  the University of London is attempting to solve by offering these roles on a temporary basis only? How long does the University anticipate that this temporary solution is likely to be required for?
  6. If the need for these roles becomes permanent, will those who occupy the temporary posts be automatically transferred over to full-time, open ended contracts, directly with the University of London?
  7. What is the rationale for advertising these roles through Co-Sector?
  8. Whether, as these roles are being advertised through the Co-Sector recruitment agency, the University of London now stands to benefit financially from not having to directly employ these staff (either through benefits to Co-Sector from appearing to have recruited workers through the Co-Sector agency or through lower costs/overheads and the temporary nature of the roles)?

This communication has been sent as an open letter to encourage transparency on this issue.

We look forward to your swift response.

UNISON and UCU Committees (Senate House Branch)

Welcome, Bienvenidos, Witamy to our new colleagues!


Since June 2017 both UCU and UNISON have been arguing the case for outsourced workers to be returned to direct employment by the University of London.

We are pleased to confirm that the first tranche of Cordant employees who work in Front of House Services, the Post Room, AV, Switchboard and Porters will become direct employees of the University of London Senate House on the 20 May 2019. We have been working hard to ensure as smooth a transition as possible for those in-scope. That said, we share the understandable disappointment and frustration of those who appear to fall outside the scope of this first tranche of in-housing.

UNISON and UCU believe that every individual who works at Senate House should be a direct employee of the University of London and therefore we will continue to press the UoL to, as the bare minimum, adhere to the timetable that was shared at the most recent all staff meeting with regard to bringing staff in-house.