Contract Negotiations Update 21/9/2016
- NO teaching
- NO attendance at exam boards - or anything else academics may normally do for the duration of the action.
UCU Refutes Deputy Vice Chancellor, Pat Bailey's Allegation 22 & 29/2/2016
Management Breaks Off Negotiations 29/2/2016
An Open Letter to the Vice Chancellor
7th December 2015
Dear Vice Chancellor
Staff were recently invited to provide feedback regarding how the university is being run. Since UCU represents both academic and associated staff we believe it our responsibility to register our concerns and misgivings at the current direction of travel on which the university has embarked.
At the start of your incumbency UCU members believed that you and your Executive Team marked a substantive shift away from the managerialist top-down regime that you replaced. After the regime of the previous Vice Chancellor, academic staff were left demoralised feeling professionally undermined and undervalued. There were promising indications of a return to a more open and collegial management style for the running of the university, one befitting the character of the Academy and its scholarly and professional staff body. It is becoming increasingly apparent with each passing month that the managerialist behaviour you are demonstrating confirms staff fears that your approach is but a continuation of the same style of industrial relations that was so damaging to this academic institution under the previous Executive.
What staff are witnessing in all areas of LSBU now is management by diktat. Rather than negotiating with UCU over a number of fundamental aspects of our terms and conditions, your preferred approach is the imposition of solutions while hiding behind the legal and statutory minimum and what you call the 'student experience'. Legal requirements may be a starting point for good industrial relations but cannot entirely be effective without a genuine willingness on the part of management to engage in meaningful negotiations with staff and their unions that can produce a satisfactory agreement. Good industrial relations are key to a successful university and in order for a positive student experience to be provided staff must be on board with the strategy and included at all stages of its trajectory.
We offer a number of examples where university management has demonstrated either a lack of transparency and willingness to negotiate, as well as a disregard for our terms and conditions of work:
We are all committed to improving the effectiveness of our professional practice, pedagogy, research and enterprise. However UCU does not accept that this is or can be achievable if the behaviours that the Executive Team has been exhibiting in recent months were to continue.
We are witnessing a dangerous deterioration in staff morale, which may seriously damage staff motivation and impact on the student experience.
UCU Coordinating Committee
- Imposing new grade descriptors and a new cheaper GTA grade that poses a threat to the pay and conditions of all academic staff.
- The intention to worsen our terms and conditions of work as set out in the proposed changes to the South Bank Agreement. The action you took regarding overtime pay encapsulates the poor industrial relations at LSBU. Your decision unilaterally to dispense with this important contractual obligation, without any negotiation or discussion, was only reversed when UCU called on members to refuse to cooperate. Many staff are fearful that their employment conditions are going to be significantly damaged and UCU must defend these as incorporated in the South Bank Agreement.
- Reorganising the administrative and support services within the university without consulting academic staff. This has also had a negative impact on the administrative and support staff.
- The questionable grounds on which a decision was made to close the Bioscience courses and the shoddy treatment of the Bioscience staff demonstrates a lack of regard for the livelihoods of those who work at LSBU.
- Dissatisfaction with the system to resolve staff complaints. Numerous issues have been raised by staff to do with discrimination, institutional bullying and unfair treatment. Rarely if ever are staff grievances resolved favourably. There is now a lack of confidence among staff that they can get fair treatment from the university.
UCU is in the middle of the most important negotiations for sixteen years. This involves the new grade descriptors for Grades 7 & 8 and the London South Bank Agreement (your contract). This will affect your workload, the quality of educational provision, your stress and health and your work-life balance.
Although some progress has been made in negotiations over these Grade Descriptors the management are threatening to impose them and thus circumvent and undermine the current negotiations on the South Bank Agreement.
UCU has instructed members not to acknowledge, recognise or operate these Descriptors until negotiations are completed and the whole package can be put to you for your approval or rejection.
It is vital that all members follow our advice. Management appear to have broken off negotiations by seeking support from their lawyers to say that not doing what they demand is illegal. No doubt their lawyers will come up with the necessary ‘advice’.
Our instruction to you is NOT industrial action but the maintenance of the status quo until negotiations are completed. We are simply making sure that we continue to work as usual.
Management are seeking to use the law to force you to implement part of the negotiations and circumvent the full process. If they continue to threaten you in this way instead of continuing negotiations they reveal an agenda of imposing new terms and conditions on all of us. This is not acceptable.
UCU Co-Comm will be seeking your support for our negotiating position. We call on all members to stand together and not be intimidated by management waving their legal ‘big stick’.
You will have received a communication late this afternoon from the Deputy Vice Chancellor, Pat Bailey, accusing UCU of being unwilling to take part in negotiations on the South Bank Agreement unless the consultation of the Academic Framework is reopened. UCU is not seeking to reopen consultation on the Academic Framework. Lest there be any doubt as to UCU's position we attach the letter that was sent to Mandy Eddolls, Executive Director of OD & HR early this morning, long before Pat Bailey's communication. We draw your attention to point 1. on page 2 of this letter: " UCU has rejected grade 6 and has ‘parked’ agreement on 7 & 8 pending completion of negotiations on the LSBA." Nowhere in this letter is there any suggestion of reopening negotiations on the Academic Framework.
Why We Need To Strike
Nationally, UCU is asking members to send a clear message to those who represent our university managements that hard working Academic Staff are not prepared to accept Management’s latest derisory offer, which effectively represents a further cut in salaries.
It is precisely because as academic staff we are always focused on delivering the best we can for our students that we expect to be adequately remunerated for doing so.
Along with doctors, nurses and other public sector workers, we enjoy the confidence and support of both the public and students throughout the country. Our students know that we do not take industrial action lightly and, if we do take it, it forms part of the broader fight to defend their public university and resist the increasingly damaging casualisation and marketisation of the HE sector. Crucially, it is academic staff at the chalk face who most clearly represent the ‘university student experience’ for most LSBU students, yet time after time it is we committed academics who are expected to accept the continual erosion of our pay and conditions, while that small minority of senior managers appear most preoccupied with maximising their remuneration, while naturally reminding us with their 1% pay offer how ‘we’re all in it together’.
Not only is a 5% pay rise a realistic and credible pay claim it is also affordable. What is no longer realistic and affordable is the grotesque earnings gap between the top management and the rest of us. Our Vice Chancellor was paid a total of £273,000 for 2014/15 which is almost seven times more than the average salary at LSBU and ranks him the 66th highest paid university Vice Chancellor out of 159 universities.
With plummeting staff morale throughout LSBU, the University finds itself led by a VC who has moved from ‘listening’ mode to that of near total detachment. There is a tangible air of denial regarding the debacle being presided over as warned in the open letter UCU sent the VC last December drawing his attention to the pressing question of dreadful morale, among other matters.
Furthermore, instead of opening a meaningful dialogue with those charged with delivering the restructuring project he initiated on his arrival, he and his SMT have gone down the road of attacking our pay and conditions, while cynically paying themselves bonuses! Indeed, the lack of transparency over the awarding of these very bonuses begs the question: what exactly has been achieved for the University by senior management in order to merit them?
Given the extraordinarily generous pay and conditions enjoyed by LSBU’s Senior Management, and the wholly inadequate remuneration reserved for the rest of LSBU’s staff, Management must urgently address a series of hitherto unanswered questions:
While senior university managements the length and breadth of this country decide their pay and conditions in secrecy then vote themselves eye-watering salaries, not to mention year-on-year, 3% plus pay increases, all further boosted by bonuses and lavish pension arrangements, academic staff receive mealy-mouthed, lectures from management about the unreasonableness of our pay claim, which at 5% still falls well short of our 14.5% loss in earnings since 2009.
What UCU has learned is what employer representatives have known all along. Unless you have a credible threat to use as leverage in negotiations you achieve nothing but continuous cuts in earnings and worsening conditions. A demonstration of resolve to reverse this damaging trend through industrial action that disrupts the management’s business, and makes it difficult for them to justify their exorbitant salaries and bonuses, is what is urgently required.
- What is the total cost of senior managers to the University?
- What have been the total financial costs and percentage increase on their salaries since 2009?
- What were their bonuses?
- What did they get bonuses for?
- Who decided who should get a bonus?
- How much has been spent on the restructuring of LSBU since Professor Phoenix took office?
- How much has been paid out to IBM to redesign LSBU’s IT systems?
- How much is spent by Executive Team members and Deans on air and rail travel and what is the class of travel?
- How much is spent by Executive Team members and Deans on hotel and other accommodation and what is the class of that accommodation?
'Support Our Strike'
Wednesday 25 May
GENDER PAY EQUALITY DAY
08:00am – Strike Commences – Morning Picket Lines
11:30am – Set off to join march to UCEA HQ
March to UCEA:
• From City University, Northampton Square (Leaves at 12 noon)
• From UCL, Gower Street (Leaves at 1pm)
1.30pm UCEA, Tavistock Square
End the Gender Pay Gap Now!
Protest at UCEA’s offices on Tavistock Square
2.30pm Conway Hall, Red Lion Square
Strike rally and activists’ forum
• John McDonnell MP (Shadow Chancellor)
• Shelly Asquith (NUS vice president)
• Rachel Cohen (City University UCU, UCU NEC elect)
• Mark Campbell (London Region UCU HE)
• Alex Kenny (NUT NEC)
• Christina Paine (UCU Anti Casualisation Committee)
• Frances O’Grady (TUC General Secretary, invited)
Thursday 26 May
08:00am – Strike Commences – Morning Picket Lines
01:00pm - London Met University, Tower building, Holloway Road
Zero tolerance for zero hour contracts
Strike Action Programme
Strike Action 5 July
Escalating Industrial Action
The Vice Chancellor, Professor Phoenix was notified on Monday by our regional official that UCU will be taking strike action on Tuesday 5 July. We will be taking this action as part of the national escalation of industrial action in pursuit of UCU’s three main goals of:
• Securing a decent salary increase for ALL academic staff
• Closing the gender pay gap and
• Putting an end to casualisation
In addition to the gender pay gap, UCU is outraged by the grotesque pay gap between ordinary staff and senior management. While Academic Staff have been offered a measly 1.1% pay rise university leaders, mimicking fat cat CEOs of Footsie (FTSE) companies, have awarded themselves an average pay increase of 6.1%. Our own Vice Chancellor was paid a total of £273,000 for 2014/15 which is almost seven times more than the average salary at LSBU and ranks the 66th highest paid university Vice Chancellor out of 159 universities.
UCU does not sanction strike action lightly. The current state of affairs is clearly unacceptable and we are in this to win. As if our ever diminishing pay is not sufficient cause for low morale (our salaries have reduced in value by 14.5% against inflation since 2009) there is also a drive to worsen our conditions and threaten our jobs by bringing in lower paid Graduate Teaching Assistants and zero hours contracted staff.
Despite this growing pressure to defend our conditions of work, UCU reps continue to selflessly give up their time to stand by members, supporting them throughout the ever increasing number of disciplinary and grievance proceedings. However, we cannot stand by members and support them if members will not stand by their Union and support their colleagues in one of the most important issues of all - industrial action.
This is an official UCU strike and all members are instructed to take strike action. Any member who breaches this instruction, thereby undermining UCU’s efforts to defend members’ interests and pay, will be asked to explain this breach to the Coordinating Committee. If no satisfactory reason is provided the Coordinating Committee may be unable or unwilling to provide local support or case work advice.
Industrial action is the last resort and the only source of leverage we have against a management that refuses to listen. Through our action we aim to disrupt the normal business of the university. That means:
Students support us. They know we do not take industrial action lightly, and therefore, when we do so we take action as part of that broader struggle to defend their public university. Indeed, resisting the increasingly damaging casualisation and marketisation of the HE sector is central to the campaign against the totally unjustifiable increase in student fees. The National Union of Students (NUS) has come out in support of our industrial action because they know that it is the academic staff at the chalk face who most clearly represent the ‘university student experience’ for most LSBU students. In the interests of Staff and Students we committed academics can no longer accept the continual erosion of our pay and conditions.
Visit this link to see just how fulsome student support is: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mcWSITx7xww
Staff Engagement Survey
To add to our frustration and indignation at the university’s failure to recognise the hard work we put in to serve our students, the recent Staff Engagement Survey is an appalling indictment of a detached and aloof VC and his senior management team who are in denial of the plummeting staff morale. In spite of attempts to design out the evidence with a plethora of multicoloured slides that tries to make much of the obvious to give the results a positive spin, what UCU always knew and tried to alert the VC to, does not paint a pretty picture of his leadership. With a 71% response rate here are the key facts:
• A massive 80% of staff feel LSBU does not manage change effectively
• Less than half of staff, 43%, feel their opinions are valued
• Little wonder then that almost half of staff, 42%, feel disengaged from what is going on at LSBU
• No surprise then that only 34% of staff believe any action will be taken on the results of the survey
This is why we need you to support the strike. Talk to your colleagues and encourage them to take part too. If they are not members, they can join online at: https://www.ucu.org.uk/join
UCU ‘s response can be viewed here.
On 8 August Pat Bailey responded in an email:
“The structure of your proposal is very much in line with what we discussed at the final meeting, and addresses most of the points that were raised by all of us around the table.” He goes on to say: “There are, unsurprisingly, some specific points that would be unacceptable to us (e.g. the implication of a 3 term year) and some additions that we would require, but we won’t know whether the differences are unsurmountable until we have flagged them up, you have been able to consider them, and . . . had further discussions.”
On 16 August UCU received a more detailed response to the document we submitted. There are parts of this response that remain unclear. With negotiations resuming on Thursday we will further inform members, once we have clarification of what precisely management objections are, and what UCU’s position is with regard to them.
Members are reminded not to engage with or participate in the new Academic Framework (Grade 7 & 8 job descriptors) until negotiations have been satisfactorily concluded. The contract you are working to is the existing South Bank Agreement that can be found on: http://www.lsbucu.org.uk/ewExternalFiles/SOUTH%20BANK%20AGREEMENT.pdf
There will we a branch meeting on 4 October where we will discuss the branch position on these negotiations further. Details of this meeting will be sent out separately.