University response to UCU’s announcement of strike action

Statement from the University’s Senior Leadership Team in response to the University and College Union’s (UCU) announcement that unless there is resolution of the current dispute at a meeting scheduled with representatives of UCU on Monday 2 August, then it will be advising its members of a further period of strike action between Wednesday 4th August and Saturday 14th August 2021:

Colleagues will be aware that the Senior Leadership Team (SLT) is engaging in ongoing dialogue with UCU colleagues about the issues in dispute. These discussions have been constructive, leading to a potential increase in the voluntary severance payment on offer for all colleagues who remain at risk of redundancy and additionally the suspension of pay deductions for colleagues who took part in the marking and assessment boycott, both of which are contingent on the ending of the dispute. You may recall that the enhanced voluntary severance proposed was for one year’s pay and in financial terms represented a very significant increase for the majority of colleagues at risk of redundancy.

The current number of UCU members at risk of compulsory redundancy is now six (6). Individual consultation meetings with those remaining at risk in order to consider any mitigation have been scheduled into mid-August and it is anticipated that this number will reduce further.

It is therefore, hugely disappointing that UCU has chosen to announce the potential of further strike action during these continuing and productive discussions, with individual consultation meetings still underway to potentially mitigate redundancies and when the University has proposed the concessions summarised above to end the dispute. We believe this is premature and potentially very damaging to our aim of reaching a resolution to this dispute.

We remain concerned about the impact of this dispute on the mental health and wellbeing of all our staff and students, particularly as the strike action is scheduled to coincide with the upcoming confirmation and clearing period which is an essential recruitment activity and crucial to the University’s financial sustainability. In addition to the previous 14-day period of strike action which took place in May and June this year, and the disruption caused by the recent marking and assessment boycott, this action will inevitably further impact our students’ experience and cause undue stress and anxiety for many colleagues, particularly those in roles directly supporting student experience and administration, many of whom are still dealing with the impact of the marking and assessment boycott in respect of delayed results.

We understand from our discussions that UCU has taken the decision to announce this period of strike action due to their position that no colleague should be made redundant on a compulsory basis. Although the University’s existing policies on redundancy do not include a commitment to no compulsory redundancies (a position which has been agreed by all our trade unions) this remains something we are making every effort to avoid through individual consultation. Compulsory redundancy is a far less favourable financial outcome for individuals affected than the significant voluntary severance package on offer (contingent on the ending of the dispute). The package is intended to help mitigate this and support colleagues while they seek future employment. Following the individual consultation meetings anyone selected for compulsory redundancy will have an opportunity to appeal this decision through a formal Appeals Process.

As a Senior Leadership Team, we remain committed to acting in the best interests of all our staff and students. In terms of next steps, we wish to be clear with colleagues that we fully intend to continue our dialogue with UCU if they are willing, in the hope of avoiding this period of strike action and with the aim of bringing the dispute, in its entirety, to a conclusion.