Motion: Alternative Negotiating Strategy for Reading UCU

RUCU (representing grades 6 and above in collective consultation) is the recognised trade union that can come to agreement with the University in relation to the proposed cuts. We are concerned there have been serious breaches of process within RUCU, that undermine democracy because they present members with misleading, incorrect and incomplete information on which to base democratic decisions. We present some such recent breaches, in good faith in the expectation that their exposure will allow the serious democratic deficit to be rectified.

Proposed by Deepa Govindarajan Driver

Seconded by Karin Lesnik-Oberstein

The motion is submitted as an alternative to the motion ‘A Jobs first approach for Reading UCU’, included as item 3 on the RUCU EGM agenda circulated on 17 July 2020.

That motion, together with the paper provided to members (from the Regional Officer) dated 16 July 2020, proposes a “Jobs First” approach to negotiations in the University’s Reading Post COVID-19 Restructuring Process. Given the serious concerns about the University’s modelling and the fact that actual student numbers will be available soon, this decision is premature and creates risks that changes to pay, terms and conditions will be negotiated and accepted on false premises.

Instead we propose a “Defend All Jobs, No Detriment!” position in line with UCU’s own “Fund the Future” guidance which allows us to push back on the University position more effectively while still continuing negotiations to explore viable options, for example:

a. the possibility of bridge loans and other facilities such as restructuring the University’s loans and short-term credit facilities;

b. structuring any help given by staff as a loan, repayable after the current liquidity crisis, under terms of improved staff control over governance to avoid further crises.

Note: these changes are not the result of Covid-19 alone, as the University has admitted that it is trying to address ongoing structural issues with University finances;

c. funds made available from BEIS and UKRI.

This branch notes the following:

● Members have expressed serious concerns about the misleading financial data provided by the University as its justification for the Post-COVID-19 Restructuring Process. Now, one month into consultation, the University has reviewed their modelling and brought in a wide range of new data assumptions which need to be scrutinised.

● All staff need sufficient time to consider this review and raise questions and concerns. The negotiating team cannot properly represent members without informing them of the updated information and allowing time for members to consider this.

● UCU’s “Fund the Future” guidance states:

“Branches should not allow employers to bully or rush them into making staff the shock absorbers for this crisis … there is a real risk that branches will be bounced by their management and the sheer pressure of the situation into agreeing substandard deals, including detrimental changes to pay and other terms and conditions, in exchange for some prospect of protecting their members from losing their jobs …

We encourage branches to hold as firm and consistent a line as possible in their dealings with management …

If one branch is pushed into accepting a substandard agreement, other branches could have their own position undermined. Conversely, if one branch wins particularly valuable concessions from an employer, other branches will be encouraged and emboldened to push for more in their institution … it would be advisable to avoid firm commitments to temporary measures until firmer data regarding 2020/21 student numbers is available”.

● We are all currently hampered by a lack of reliable data on actual numbers of both new and returning student. Current figures of student enrolment show that the student uptake is very healthy. By September 2020, we will have a clearer picture of this, although the uncertainty associated with the pandemic remains.

● The University owes a duty of care to staff during a time of pandemic causing intensification of workload and disruptive personal circumstances. Not so long ago, staff at the University were put through the PAS process and continue to suffer its effects.

The S188 letter states that the consultation is expected to last until at least 31 July 2020. However, no compulsory redundancies can take place until the separate s188 consultation on that matter has been completed. That consultation only commences in October 2020, and will likely last a further 45 days before actions can be taken.

● At this stage the consultation is primarily dealing with the justification of cuts concerning pay, terms and conditions ostensibly to minimise the number of compulsory redundancies. However, we must not lose sight of the fact that cuts are not yet fully and satisfactorily justified. Any trade-off between pay, terms and conditions with compulsory redundancies is therefore premature.

Reading UCU

1. Mandates the branch committee and negotiating team to adopt a ‘Defend All Jobs, No Detriment’ position.

2. Mandates the branch committee and negotiating team to ask

a. that the University extends the consultation period till 10th September 2020, in the expectation of reaching an agreement.

b. that Senate and Council facilitate such an extension.

c. that the University clarify data and financial modelling in more depth as a prerequisite for entering formal negotiations.

4. Asks all members to lobby the VC, members of UEB, Council, Senate and their own line management to extend the consultation period.

5. Mandates the branch committee to call fortnightly meetings to identify members’ priorities in respect to these threats, and to work with other affected branches to build solidarity against cuts.

6. Mandates the branch committee to act on the basis of the members’ priorities identified in all-member branch meetings during the consultation period and in any subsequent period of negotiations.