Our members are committed to help see the university through this challenging time, but further commitments to our members on fixed-term contracts, and to provide adequate facilities time are required.
This public statement is for the attention of all employees of the University of Exeter, not just UCU members. It has been drawn up in response to the UCU branch membership vote to accept a Collective Agreement on changes to employee contractual terms.
The Exeter UCU branch has accepted the Collective Agreement after a consultative e-ballot of its membership. This decision means that many members of staff will be making significant financial and professional sacrifices over the coming academic year. As such, Exeter UCU notes the huge responsibility now placed on the university’s senior management to uphold all the undertakings made in this agreement, and to also honour the spirit with which it has been accepted. Through this Collective Agreement, staff are taking on a substantial burden of responsibility to help the university save money and they do so in the legitimate expectation that their jobs are protected. The expectation of Exeter UCU is that the commitment made in the agreement “The parties to this agreement have entered into this agreement to endeavour to protect jobs” will be honoured in full.
We welcome the undertaking to review “the suspension of normal progression in January 2021 with trade union representatives, taking account of student numbers and funding. If the University has exceeded its expectations for student numbers/income, consideration will be given to compensating staff for the suspended incremental progression, with priority being given to staff in Grade F”. Exeter UCU expects this review to be undertaken openly with full disclosure of the financial situation and meaningful consultation subsequently, whatever the circumstances are at that point.
Exeter UCU has accepted the Collective Agreement in recognition of the challenges faced by the university and as an act of good faith to try and protect this community. However, this will not stop us from registering our strong objections to the following:
- The omission from the Collective Agreement of any commitments which might benefit staff on casual or fixed-term contracts;
- The refusal by HR to make an absolute commitment to NO redundancies;
- The arbitrary time limit placed on negotiations, which has hindered proper scrutiny of the Collective Agreement and seriously undermined the goodwill of staff at a time when this goodwill is essential to the university overcoming the challenges it currently faces;
- The lack of regard to facilities time for the branch to fully engage in negotiations;
- The method of cost saving proposed, in blocking spine point progression, unfairly impacts those early in their career who use their position on the spine as a proxy for seniority, whilst also impacting more senior members of staff by perpetually lowering and reducing salaries and associated pension benefits; unless these are retrospectively corrected for.
The motions passed at our EGM on 22nd July (Branch Position on Collective Agreement, Workloads of our Branch Officers) reflect this sentiment and also the hard work the branch is putting in to ensure that the sacrifice members are making now will be worthwhile. If further negotiations and agreements are needed in the future, it is beholden on senior management to reflect on this. They should also reflect on this carefully when implementing the current Collective Agreement.
We reiterate that for all of us, the most important aspect of this agreement is the undertaking to protect jobs. The Registrar acknowledged, in his staff email on 17th July, “your ongoing commitment and hard work in some very challenging circumstances”, without which the university would not be able to survive this pandemic. The university is its staff, the vote to accept the Collective Agreement reflects the commitment of our members to their colleagues and our commitment to our students to help see the university through this challenging time.