In our branch meeting today, we had the first opportunity to directly inform members of recent proposed revisions to the Redundancy Procedure and the Procedure for the Non-Renewal of a Fixed Term Contract, as well as amendments to the Redeployment Procedure and the Restructure and Redundancy Framework, sent to members of UCU negotiating team (in confidence).

On Friday 13-11-2020, we received for the first time clear comparison tables, which allowed us to directly compare the changes, with the previous policy and procedure. However, the attachments sent only included tables of specific changes rather than the full revised texts as amended. We requested them on Monday 16-11-2020 and received the documents this morning 18-11-2020, which will make it clearer for us to examine these changes in the future. It appears, staff are losing rights which they currently have, particularly in relation to the requirement for the university to give notice to staff, where the clear one month’s notice (in current policy) has been changed to “in good time”.

We have significant concerns about the consequences of the proposed revisions, as well as the timing of the consultations with the Trade Unions, which has been very rushed, in the middle of the pandemic when this would not seem to be a burning priority. Following today’s Branch meeting, concerns were raised by members about the very short time scale given to the Unions to consult members about this, and reference was made to the similar arbitrary time-limit pointed out in the Branch Position on Collective Agreement. This is very unhelpful, because members were left unaware of the changes and this has limited our ability to properly consult with all members. We absolutely need a series of meetings set out to discuss this fully, as initially offered (on 06-11-2020: “As we have mentioned previously, the amendments to the Redeployment Procedure and the Restructure and Redundancy Framework do not require approval by Council and we can continue dialogue beyond 19 November if necessary.“). As these meetings clearly would follow the Council meeting of 19/11/20, as a consequence we cannot agree to these changes in time for this meeting and cannot recommend them to members in their current form.

Our absolute priority is to seek to avoid redundancies at all costs and we are concerned that there could be the potential for accelerated mass redundancies as a result of the implementation of these revisions, this concern was raised when we met, but not addressed. We are disappointed by the lack of reassurance on mass redundancies and this potentially could lead to a breach of the good faith basis upon which we negotiated a collective agreement with the university in July 2020. We acknowledge that HR responded: “Apart from our statutory duty to seek to avoid redundancies, and the new commitment made in paragraph 1.6 of the Redundancy Procedure, we hope that you recognise the efforts the University has made over a number of years to avoid compulsory redundancies, including the Voluntary Severance Scheme and The Early Release Schemes (TERS). In addition, we initiated a positive dialogue with trade unions in the summer regarding saving cost savings in order to avoid redundancies. As you will be aware, this commitment runs to 31 January 2021 and it is our intention to launch a new voluntary severance scheme later this academic year as a measure to avoid compulsory redundancies.”

The university has an obligation to consult with members potentially affected by these revisions, as detailed in our Joint Recognition Agreement. Therefore, we requested a clear time-line for consultation on the proposed changes as soon as possible, as currently we are unable to agree these amendments in their current form. We will as part of that consultation process want to include input from our membership, which to date has just not been possible, due to the time constraints placed on getting union agreement on these changes.