Project SHAPE Update – extension of collective consultation period

Victoria Gallery and Museum

You will be aware that the University is currently engaged in the formal process of collective consultation with our campus trade unions, about proposed redundancies in the University’s Faculty of Health and Life Sciences (HLS) as part of Project SHAPE.

The University’s aim, as always, is to engage in this important and confidential process, with the intention of reaching agreement. To support this aim, the minimum 30 day period of collective consultation has now been extended.

What is collective consultation and why is it important?

Collective consultation is a legally required discussion process between an employer and representatives of any employees who will be affected by a potential redundancy exercise. If the employer recognises a trade union at the workplace, which the University does, consultation must take place with them. In redundancy cases where 20 to 99 staff may be affected, the consultation must take place over 30 days (the process is longer if more than 99 staff are potentially affected).

Consultation is important in a wide variety of employment situations. The University has established frameworks for consultation and negotiation with our recognised trade unions and is highly committed to maintaining an effective employee relations culture. This includes working with trade union colleagues, to achieve reasonable solutions to a number of matters affecting groups of staff, which may arise.

Background to the collective consultation on Project SHAPE

Collective consultation on the second phase of proposals in HLS began in January 2021. At the start of these discussions, the proposals had the potential to affect 47 academic colleagues in the Faculty. However, as the name suggests, collective consultation is a consultative process and no definitive target for the total number of redundancies has been set, since the process is intended to identify opportunities to mitigate and reduce the impact of these proposals, where possible.

The confidential nature of collective consultation means that the University has endeavoured to maintain confidentiality in relation to the matters under discussion, while the process is ongoing.

Current status of the collective consultation on Project SHAPE

The University has already gone beyond the minimum, required period of 30 days. We are engaging fully with our campus trade unions and we are giving careful consideration to the points they have raised. We have responded directly to recent data requests. The University is engaging in meaningful consultation and open dialogue with our campus trade unions.
In order to provide detailed information to the trade unions and to give them sufficient time to consider this, we have deferred this week’s collective consultation meeting (which was to have taken place on 17 March) but will meet again on 24 March.

When will the collective consultation end?

We are unable at this point to confirm when collective consultation will end, as it is dependent on engagement from both parties. The University is not required to reach agreement with the trade unions in relation to the proposals under discussion, but both parties are required to engage in meaningful consultation. Whatever the outcome of this process, we will communicate with staff and students in the Faculty of Health and Life Sciences, and the wider University, to confirm the next steps at the earliest appropriate opportunity.

Further information on the background to Project SHAPE and the issues being discussed, is available here. The University does not make proposals of redundancies lightly, and consideration of potential mitigations is an important part of the process of collective consultation. We fully understand that news of proposed redundancies is upsetting and unsettling for colleagues and we are continuing to answer questions, allay concerns and offer support and guidance wherever it is needed.