Firstly my apologies for this very long post, as some of you will be aware, a motion was passed at the Extra-ordinary meeting on Wednesday this week, which has asked us to share with all members the full texts of the revised procedures on Non-renewal of a fixed Term contracts and redundancy procedures. Links to these documents are sent separately by email as requested.
We have also been asked by HR to circulate the letter HR sent us last night in response to this Motion.
I felt it was important that some context and additional information about the timeline and actions surrounding these “consultations” was shared with members, so that you can understand the actions we have taken with respect to the above.
On 22nd October 2020 we had our first notice that the university was intending to make some changes to current procedure, we were told this was simply a “tidying-up” of the current procedure so that it was in line with other HR procedures. We shared this with committee and regional office and asked for help to put together a negotiating team. The “consultation” meetings happened very shortly afterwards on 26th and 30th Oct. We had some concerns, which we raised, then, but also were unhappy about the very short notice as we needed time to examine these documents, noting these were not in a form that made comparison easy. Our concerns were shared with Senate on 4th Nov. We made it clear to HR that we needed additional time to bring further points forward on 9th Nov.
We gave them until 13th Nov to get back to us with the revised proposals taking into account the feedback that had come from the campus unions so far, and requesting HR to provide further information in a form that would allow easy comparison, including a table showing the changes to procedure.
We received useful comparison tables for the first time on the evening of Friday 13th November, but we only received the revised policies on 18th November just prior to our Branch meeting (the response from HR quoted in the HR cover letter you will have in your email pack today). As many will be aware, our concerns were shared and discussed with the branch members at that meeting and, immediately following the meeting, we took the branch concerns (together with texts from a member of the negotiating team) and in our branch response informed Council that we had failed to agree these changes to procedures and that the consultation process was rushed and we were very concerned members’ interests may be compromised by the proposed changes and we needed more time to discuss these.
As you will see from the files sent, these are complex, long and detailed documents. We had to assimilate all the information, which was originally given in an unnecessarily complex form, understand the potential implications to members and respond to within just a few days! Despite our consultation meetings at the end of October, when we worked with a negotiating team to analyse the initial documents, it was not until the evening of 13th November that we had full understanding of all the changes and potential implications. It took the paper to Senate to outline our concerns and our failure to agree the documents as they stood, and we took the issues to members at our branch meeting (18/11/2020) before Council (19/11/2020). This was to no effect and the changes were approved despite that we were told that we would have more discussions on these documents beyond the Council meeting (we were not told that the papers would be approved and to take effect on 1st of January 2021).
HR claims this consultation period was reasonable, and in accordance with our union recognition agreement. We profoundly disagreed with this and we made HR aware of our concerns throughout.
During this time period, the re-structuring in Professional Services and the proposed future closure of the UG English programme were causing additional concern and uncertainty amongst members leading up to the Extra-ordinary meeting this week.
As you will see HR are now asking us to look at the practical guidance on the application of these procedures (which is what is of critical importance to members on the ground), to my mind, this is putting the cart before the horse. This groundwork should have been fully negotiated and in place first, we simply were not given the opportunity to do this, rather we were presented with the procedural changes management wanted to make, this was a huge mistake and a lost opportunity.
We would really like to welcome the motions’ proposer and those who supported the motions on Wednesday to consider coming on to Committee (see vacancies), to help us work in the best interests of all members and help us take this forward and to help with the other pressing and important issues, such as workload and staff mental health we are facing.
We have had, and will have, many battles to fight and members will realise, we have been continuously fighting on all fronts over the past months, so that additional practical support from active members to protect all our rights would be appreciated.
At this hugely challenging time, we want to encourage all members to become active, come to meetings, have your say, put yourself forward to join Committee or be a local Rep, every bit of help no matter how small is appreciated. In that light, we are particularly short of trained caseworkers at the moment and this personal support we can offer each other, that is what makes a union, be involved and make your voice heard! Finally, please take time to read and understand the documents you will be sent today.
Thanks and take care
President of the Exeter UCU Branch