- The figures are flawed
Our modelling suggests that the VC’s figures are out by up to £50 million. Quite a lot for a man who prides himself on ‘transparency’, eh? Especially when the savings senior management said they aimed to make through salary cuts were just £60 million.
Even the university admitted its own modelling was flawed! But after the ‘light touch’ review, the university still magically managed to come up with a ‘deficit’ figure of over £100 million by artificially upping pensions contributions. Why? Because this figure allowed management to push through the changes they wanted, to cover the losses that resulted from bad decisions taken by the university in the past. Are these cuts paying for COVID – or Malaysia? And what about the disastrous UPP agreement that they signed last year?
Asking staff to vote on pay cuts on the basis of these flawed figures is like asking the British public to vote on leaving the EU on the premise that we would save £350 million a week. And we all know what happened there.
2. s188: take a pay cut or you’ll lose your job?
In an unprecedented move, the University of Reading sent out a s188 letter to all staff in June, putting all members of staff at risk of redundancy, or of being dismissed and re-employed on inferior terms.
Other institutions followed. At the University of Sheffield, the UCU branch saw through this ploy, and successfully forced their management to withdraw the s188 that had been sent to staff there before the consultation process could even begin.
But how likely is it that Reading would ever make 500 FTE job cuts, as they threatened? The university would be unable to function, as senior management have recognised (at  – university login required). And would management really fire and rehire all staff? The administrative burden of tearing up and redrawing 4500 individual contracts would be huge – not to mention the risk of individual staff members taking legal action against the university, and the adverse publicity such a move would attract.
The truth is that senior management’s preferred option was always pay cuts. 500 FTE redundancies were never going to happen. It was a threat to get us to accept the pay cut. Don’t let it work.
3. Pay cuts now – redundancies later!
And here’s the sting in the tail:
Senior management can still make redundancies AFTER we have voted to accept these pay cuts. We don’t believe redundancies on the scale of 500 FTE will happen. But the wording of this agreement still lets management make any redundancies they want during phase 2 of the consultation. Vulnerable staff remain vulnerable. After the debacles of Malaysia and PAS, how much do you trust them?
Voting for this agreement doesn’t end uncertainty about redundancies. It increases it!
4. Solidarity is not voting for unnecessary pay cuts
Senior management are playing on the conscience of staff to emotionally blackmail them into taking pay cuts to allegedly save other people’s jobs. But these pay cuts won’t save jobs. And if they cared so much, why aren’t senior management taking a bigger cut from their own pay packets? Why are we seeing cuts to grade 3 when the best paid officials in the university will still be taking home more than £200,000 a year?
And how fair is it really for any one person to vote to cut another person’s wages?
Maybe you’ve got a partner who earns good money and you’ll cope with a pay cut. But perhaps your administrative colleague on £18,000 a year is a lone parent, struggling to pay the rent and bills every month as it is. Perhaps a pay cut will force them out of their home. In what world is voting for colleagues on breadline wages to take unnecessary pay cuts solidarity?
5. Governance reform needs to be meaningful
We agree that there needs to be thorough reform of the governance of the university. But the concessions that are offered in this proposal are simply procedural reforms, and fail to provide staff with a genuine role in the governance of the university.
We ask you all to vote AGAINST the proposal in order to resume negotiations.
For meaningful and good faith negotiations to take place, we demand that:
- The Chief Financial Officer’s model must be submitted to a full and independent – rather than ‘light touch’ – review. Good faith negotiations cannot happen with flawed figures.
- The university’s model must distinguish between losses incurred due to COVID-19, and those incurred due to other reasons.
- The s188 letter must be withdrawn to remove the threat of redundancies and ‘fire and rehire’.
- The senior management team must provide a full and formal response to the 52 questions provided by UCU at the start of the consultation period, and any further questions that arise.
- The consultation must be conducted by a legitimate negotiating team elected by the UCU branch committee, as branch rules require. (The majority of the UCU branch committee were not consulted in respect of this proposal, and are deeply concerned about its content.)
Staff and students make the university. Not senior management.
The university cannot exist without us. We are not powerless. We CAN resist these cuts.
And don’t forget: only UCU members can vote in this ballot, even though its outcome will affect all staff members. So if you’re not in the union, join today so you can have a say in your own future.
A BETTER UNIVERSITY IS POSSIBLE
Reading Between the Lines
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