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notices

The Universities Guidance  on Leave and Working Arrangements for Staff during the Coronavirus (COVID-19) 

UCU Guidance on Coronavirus (COVID-19)

Joint statement of the University of Bath and the University of Bath branch of the University & College Union

Dear Colleagues,

I hope everyone is safe and holding up during this strange and difficult time. A brief email with some important updates:

Deductions for Strike Action

In her recent communication, Jo Grady, the UCU General Secretary wrote:

“Some employers seem to be waking up to the fact that they cannot keep exploiting our goodwill, in this or any other situation. In the past few days, King’s College London, Birkbeck, St. Andrew’s, Southampton and Ulster have all agreed to waive or suspend their planned deductions of pay from staff who took strike action in February and March. Now is the time to ask your branch to make the same request to your employer – it is the least employers should be doing to recognise the efforts which staff are making to respond to the pandemic”

What is the local situation?

Tuesday last week, Bath UCU made such a request “as a gesture of goodwill at a difficult time as staff face increased demands”. The response we received was negative, that “The University has considered this, but plans to retain its existing policy of making deductions for those who undertake strike action.” You will have felt the first such deduction in your latest pay packets.

 

Having been informed that deductions were disappointingly to be taken, branch officers asked that the University to donate the deductions to a specially dedicated fund to support staff on casual, hourly-paid contracts who face losing paid work, or as another alternative, to direct it to local food banks. We noted that our members will be very interested in knowing how deductions will be redistributed and hoped that we could at least have a positive answer there.

We are still waiting for a response and will let you know what it is when we receive it. In the meantime, members in need should look to the recent email from our Treasurer Tim Barrett on applications to the local Hardship fund. Strike deductions will be March: Week 1 & 2 (5 days), April: Week 3 (4 days), May: Week 4 (5 days). I highly recommend putting in claims to the national Fighting Fund as needed.

Raising Funds for local Food Banks

While we wait to hear from the University, members have been in contact looking for ways that Bath UCU could provide support locally to mitigate the impact of Corvid-19 in our community. To this end, taking up the suggestion made above, the committee has decided first of all to ask members, where able, to make a donation to Bath food bank, which has a donations facility online HERE.

This is of course a significant ask for staff who are already faced with pay deductions for strike action, facing increased work demands – not least during an ongoing period of action short of a strike’. But where members are able to offer something, I know it will be greatly appreciated.

Another member has raised the possibility of raising funds for local front-line NHS workers – if anyone has any ideas about how we could provide support, do let me know because as a committee we would 100% support any organisational efforts. To the extent that we can help communicate voluntary activity through our social media accounts in particular, let us know.

Ongoing Discussions

We are awaiting further answers on a number of other topics that we have put to management, including covering additional costs faced by members when working from home and issues of recording overtime for staff on contracts with designated hours. We’ve been told that further guidance will go into an updated Q&A ‘next week’ and as soon as we have more information we will again pass this on.

On Monday, Reps will be meeting with HR to discuss coronavirus issues specifically, including arrangements around the Government’s new coronavirus job retention scheme. Such discussions are not static and it can be difficult to communicate with members as things move along, however where updates are available we will seek to highlight them. But keep an eye on the University’s own advice which is changing frequently as things progress.

On Monday, negotiators will also be in our second meeting focused on the University’s use of fixed-term contracts. The commitments secured in the joint statement between the University and UCU Bath shed a positive light on such talks, but we now need to see senior management put their words into practice. This is particularly true as members on those contracts have stepped up to such a degree in response to the crisis caused by the Coronavirus pandemic, supporting students and each other – we all expect the University to now show support for those staff members also.

best wishes all,

Dai

Notices

The Universities Guidance  on Leave and Working Arrangements for Staff during the Coronavirus (COVID-19) 

UCU Guidance on Coronavirus (COVID-19)

Joint statement of the University of Bath and the University of Bath branch of the University & College Union

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The University of Bath and the local branch of the University and College Union (UCU) believe it is in the best interests of staff and students to resolve the current industrial disputes over pay, important work conditions and equalities issues, the USS pension scheme, and to do so urgently

One of the outcomes of the recent strike action has been the production of a joint statement between the University of Bath and the University of Bath UCU branch on the two disputes.

The statement was run past the General Secretary Jo Grady who signed it off this weekend with “congratulations” for a statement that moves the employer “so far in the right direction”. Indeed I must acknowledge that its production is indeed a sign of the positive manner in which senior management at the university have engaged with local branch officers during the strike action, and testament to a positive working relationship generally.

Our hope, as your local UCU branch committee, is that this statement, by demonstrating the capacity for both local action on important work conditions and equalities issues, and cooperation between unions and senior management in doing so, acts as an example for other universities, placing pressure upon UCEA and UUK to shift from their current antagonistic stance to embrace UCU negotiators’ offer of a compromise solution, thereby creating the conditions necessary to resolve the current ongoing disputes in a decent, fair manner.

You can find that statement itself HERE.

From the branch perspective, there are several positive gains here that I want to highlight:

Locally:

  • a commitment to continuing work on anti-casualisation with the aim of formalising a collective agreement in 2020 addressing issues of casual and insecure employment.
  • a commitment to work with the campus trade unions with a view to formalising a collective agreement in 2020, including an action plan and targets, to address the gender pay gap, with emerging analysis on the ethnicity pay gap and disability pay gap part of this work.
  • an acknowledgment that “further work” is needed on workloads and mental health, with a commitment that the trade unions and management will “work together on solutions” to these important issues.

Nationally:

  • confirmation that with regards to the pay claim, the university has been supportive of moves to reach a negotiated agreement, specifically:
  • voting “yes” to UCEA making an increased pay offer
  • and “yes” to UUK making an increased offer regarding members’ contribution rates

Faced with an extremist stance by the employers’ national bodies, with a refusal to move on pay and pension contributions at all, it is extremely heartening that university senior management have adopted this positive position – demonstrating that far from being an impossible ‘ask’ by UCU, this is a matter of leadership by employers.

I want to be clear that these ongoing disputes can only be resolved at the national level where, while our negotiators have secured positive movement on three of the four fights and agreements surrounding the latest JEP report, employers’ negotiators have not gone far enough. To continue to provide our negotiators with the industrial muscle they need, it is therefore necessary to maintain the pressure that only a mandate for strike action can provide. That is why, despite the delay in response to Covid-19, there will be a re-balloting of UCU members across the sector this summer.

However, for our members here at the University of Bath who have sacrificed time and pay in our struggle to force a decent offer out of employers’ national bodies, I am happy that we can point to these local gains as an initial outcome. The statement does not cover everything we would ideally hope for, but where we have been able to reach agreement we hope that these gains can in turn increase the pressure on more recalcitrant institutions than our own to step up and support a return to the constructive negotiations needed to secure positive, collective agreements, which benefit both sides.