November 22, 2013 § Leave a Comment
On behalf of BUCU, we would like to send our solidarity to the students taking non-violent action at the University of Birmingham.
We note your insightful press release, in which you rightly lament that the historic academic control of the Senate has been eroded so that it is now run only by the senior management.
We share your claims, “that staff and students should have more power in every level of university decision making. Currently a small class of senior managers benefit disproportionately from the fees and work of staff and students. They have total unaccountable power to harm our interests within the university and lobby against our interests outside it”.
We agree with your specific demands regarding the functioning of the University, staff salaries, student facilities and student bursaries but, more broadly, the importance of raising awareness of the degeneration of the University functioning and the erosion of democratic power and representation. We welcome your statement that, you “wish to start a debate and dialogue among students and workers at the University about the kind of institution we want it to be and how we can bring this about.”
Our higher education system is under a sustained attack that will turn the clock back on generations of social progress, democratic advance and educational achievement. This action is therefore an inspiration to staff and students seeking to oppose these vicious attacks.
BUCU welcomes the debate started by Defend Education, and give you our wholehearted support in fighting for change. We stand in support of the occupation and your demands for increased democracy, against fees and cuts, and in support of Nursing and the living wage at UoB.
The interests of students and staff are one and the same. The occupiers should be congratulated for their courage and determination to raise these important issues in the time-held tradition of student action and non-violent civil disobedience. Such methods of political dissent have been instrumental in bringing about some of the most basic – and now accepted as core – values in society. It is only sad that we live in times when such values as democracy, equality and job security are so severely threatened.
BUCU urges the University not to engage in any moves to victimise those involved in the occupation – and will actively campaign to support any member of the University community (staff or student) who is targeted by the University leadership for expressing legitimate dissent.
In solidarity with the students of the University of Birmingham.
October 22, 2013 § 1 Comment
A week of meetings, debates, protests and stalls around the issues of Democracy, Access, Academic Freedom, Social Responsibility and Equality
Corporatisation and commercialisation of University life, the ‘Student Experience’, course fees, grand building projects and a cut in wages for all teaching and support staff, increased workloads and threats to contracts, restructuring and redundancies….
Are all these the inevitable reality of the Future of Higher Education or can there be another way…a better way to run the University of Birmingham and for the Future of Higher Education as a whole?
A week of meetings, debates, protests and stalls around the issues of Democracy, Access, Academic Freedom, Social Responsibility and Equality
Monday Oct 28 UoB and DEMOCRACY
Stall outside the Library promoting a Charter For Higher Education at UoB
7:00pm Question Time Style Debate with Professor Adam Tickell (Provost and Vice Principal, University of Birmingham), Professor John Holmwood (Campaign for the Public University) and others. Lecture Theatre A, Watson Building
Tuesday 29th Oct UoB and ACCESS TO EDUCATION
1:00 People and Planet display and protest ‘Hypocrisy Exposed’ in the University Square
Charter stall outside the Student Guild
7:00pm Disinvestment of Fossil Fuels Meeting in Great Hall with Bill McKibben of Greenpeace and guests.
Wednesday 30th Oct ACADEMIC FREEDOM
1:00 – 1.15 UCU Members’ meeting – to discuss next day’s strike action
Followed by 1.15-3.00: Open Meeting with Andrew McGettigan author of ’The Great University Gamble’ in Arts Lecture Room 7 (Room 223).
Charter stall outside Arts building
Thursday 31st Oct UCU Strike
UCU will be on strike all day on Thursday 31 October. No members should work on this day.
The strike is supported by the Guild of Students.
12:00 midday: East Gate (outside Guild of Students) – rally and street theatre in support of the strike action
Friday 1st Nov UoB and EQUALITIES
UNISON display of worker profile placards around campus highlighting the pay and conditions of support staff.
The week is being organised by BUCU, Guild of Students and UNISON
For further information contact firstname.lastname@example.org or ring ext 46895
October 6, 2013 § Leave a Comment
Following discussion at the BUCU away day in June 2013, we agreed that we would seek to increase participation in the union and encourage negotiations to be led by (committee) members as close to the issue at hand as possible.
The following is therefore an attempt to sum up the discussion we held, and put together a list of organising aims/principles, as a guide for activity in 2013-14:
1. Draw up a list of teams of reps in each Department, School and College (including Professional Services/Aston Webb).
2. Attempt to work on the basis that those rep teams will be responsible for making themselves known and accessible to members within their Department, School and College. This to include a meeting for members to raise and consider how to address issues, at least once a year, and ideally once per term – so that each team is aware of key issues and the views of members.
3. In terms of negotiations on College-wide issues in particular, we anticipate that there would be a group of reps who will coordinate between themselves and report on issues in the College, and also be a site of first contact for negotiations with the Head of College/College Board.
4. We anticipate that the branch newsletter will have an update from each College (including Professional Services/Aston Webb) – i.e. 6 pages – that will sum up ongoing issues/campaigns for each of those; and will be largely drafted by the group of reps for that College.
5. In areas of the University where there is a lack of reps, the role will be taken by members of the branch committee – the branch president in the first instance – whose longer term aim will be to develop rep teams in those areas.
6. In order to avoid tensions between reps and immediate management within their School/College, we will encourage the principle that negotiating teams will include at least one member of the branch committee not from that College, with that member potentially taking the lead in the negotiations, in order to achieve a degree of distance between reps and their immediate ‘line manager’.
7. In terms of relations between the local reps and the branch committee – we hope that many of the reps will also be committee members, and that there will be an open dialogue between the reps and the committee.
8. All formal decision making powers remain at the level of the branch committee, which is also responsible for oversight of local reps and ensuring that activities are within the scope of agreed branch positions.
9. On University-wide issues, we seek to move towards having a negotiating lead on an issue-by-issue basis.
10. For 2013-14 the branch president has 50% facility time (i.e. 2.5 days per week) – however, it is agreed that one of the key roles for the year is to try and develop the more localised rep system outlined above, which in principle could then lead to a greater dispersion of the facility time for 2014/15 – i.e. the aim is to reduce the size of the branch president workload, and therefore the necessary facilities time. The aim for the reduced branch president role in the future would be more focused on coordinating the branch agenda and activities, and ensuring that there is clear communication between the local rep teams, and branch committee, and across the University.
11. In order to improve communications with branch members, and to improve knowledge about ongoing issues within the branch and the University, the committee will send out an update of issues that they have been dealing with for that week, every week. This will be done on a trial basis for term 1 (2013-14) and then continued if the branch committee believe it has been successful.
March 22, 2013 § 2 Comments
Dear BUCU members,
further to our last email, we are writing now with details of the agreements reached in resolving our dispute with the University management. We believe that this was an excellent outcome and provides clear basis for us to grow in size and influence at the University of Birmingham.
Much of the agreement was achieved in the spirit of ensuring good process in the area of potential redundancies and performance management. We believe that this represents a recognition by the University management that a hostile relationship with staff members and with BUCU is unconstructive and damaging to the interests of the University. It is therefore hoped, on the side of both BUCU and the University management, that this will mark a more constructive relationship. Obviously, should this situation fail to arise, and University management continue to undermine the interests of BUCU members, then we will need to address these problems again and once more assert our interests. What we have achieved for now, however, is a clear recognition that we represent the interests of staff at the University of Birmingham and that we are able to assert those interests in a form that cannot be ignored. We must, therefore, build on this achievement and continue to be diligent in our attempts to protect our working conditions and ensure the construction of a working environment conducive to successful academic careers.
The details of the agreement are as follows:
1. We sought to avoid compulsory redundancies in Sociology, Education, the Institute of Archaeology and Antiquity, and Physiotherapy.
In Sociology, Education, the Institute of Archaeology and Antiquity we have managed to avoid all threatened compulsory redundancies. This was achieved through enhanced voluntary redundancy agreements, the creation of additional posts and extended arrangements for existing posts.
In Physiotherapy we have agreed a ringfencing procedure – whereby external recruitment will be delayed until the threat affecting existing staff has been addressed. This, combined with a number of enhanced voluntary redundancy agreements, has created a situation where compulsory redundancies are very unlikely to occur (although it remains much earlier in the restructure process for Physiotherapy so this cannot yet be confirmed definitively).
2. We sought the agreement of a redundancy avoidance agreement.
We have now reached an agreement with the University management on seeking to avoid compulsory redundancies arising from restructuring proposals . This contains a number of important procedural changes that will provide BUCU with a much firmer role both ahead of, and within, any redundancy consultation process that may occur when the University management considers restructuring.
Our key aims in the redundancy avoidance agreement were as follows:
i. To increase the consultation period beyond the statutory minimum. This was agreed, with a doubling of the consultation period beyond the (new) statutory minimum of 30 days, to 60 days.
ii. To create a redundancy avoidance committee. It was agreed that the Joint Negotiating and Consultation Committee (JNCC) would provide an opportunity for BUCU to be regularly consulted on developments within the University in order to avoid potential redundancy situations.
iii. For redundancy consultation periods to involved fortnightly meetings. This was agreed.
iv. To continue to conduct equality impact assessments, despite the removal of this statutory obligation. This was agreed.
v. For consultation to be meaningful and with a view to reaching an agreement. This was agreed.
vi. For the University management to consider a range of options that would avoid redundancies, including seeking redeployment opportunities outside of the University. This was agreed.
vii. That branch facilities time would be increased in order to enable branch officers to attend this increased number of consultation meetings. This was agreed.
3. We sought the agreement of a memorandum of understanding on performance management.
We have now agreed a memorandum of understanding on performance management with the University management (attached). This includes a number of procedural safeguards intended to prevent bullying or aggressive management practices, and a commitment that any future changes to performance management schemes will be adopted on the basis of collective discussions between the management and the union, with a view to reaching an agreement between both parties.
Our key aims in the redundancy avoidance agreement were as follows:
i. Any change to SDR (i.e. to PDR) to be negotiated with BUCU and agreed to by both parties. Whilst this wasn’t agreed in full, we did agree a form of words that was acceptable to both parties. Thus, it is agreed that “it is proposed [that SDR] will be replaced by the Performance and Development Review (PDR) Scheme, about which proposals are being considered under the auspices of the Joint Negotiating and Consultation Committee with a view to reaching agreement.”
ii. Clarification of the use of Ordinance 3.21.5 will only be invoked when there is concern that staff performance might have declined below the “minimum satisfactory standards”. This was agreed.
iii. Clarification that the Ordinance 3.21.5 process will be followed in full (i.e. rather than selecting the punitive sections only) and that it will be set out in writing. This was agreed.
iv. Ensuring that those undertaking the Ordinance 3.21.5 process are properly trained. This was agreed.
v. That the memorandum would apply to all ‘live’ and recent cases. This could not be agreed, and the negotiating team believe that we were unlikely to achieve the retrospective re-opening of previous cases. The memorandum will therefore only apply to future cases.
March 22, 2013 § 1 Comment
The University of Birmingham and the Birmingham branch of the University and College Union (BUCU) note that:
1 It is in the best interests of the University and its staff as a whole that duties are carried out by members of staff to a high standard. The Strategic Framework sets a challenge for the University “to take its place as a leading global university” which “will require a step change in our performance”.
2 In the sharply competitive environment which characterises the UK and global Higher Education sector, a supportive performance dialogue can enable the University and individual members of staff to achieve their aspirations. This dialogue may be held informally as and when appropriate. It is formalised in the Staff Development Review Scheme (SDR) – which it is proposed will be replaced by the Performance and Development Review (PDR) Scheme, about which proposals are being considered under the auspices of the JNCC with a view to reaching agreement. SDR (or PDR) applies to all staff and is intended to provide a supportive mechanism which seeks to develop all staff and enhance their performance (see https://intranet.birmingham.ac.uk/hr/employment/pdr/index.aspx).
3 The success of the University depends on the performance of its staff, the large majority of whom perform well and work hard to achieve the University’s ambitions – which are often their own ambitions for themselves.
4 In support of SDR (and PDR), in order that high standards of performance are achieved, managers and staff are encouraged to take advantage of the following resources, as appropriate, including:
- Strategic Framework ‘Shaping our future: Birmingham 2015’ (see http://www.birmingham.ac.uk/staff/birmingham/about-us/2015.aspx);
- Post further particulars and information about the University;
- Job definition, using the relevant job family framework, generic role descriptions, promotion criteria etc (see https://intranet.birmingham.ac.uk/hr/benefits/progression/grading/index.aspx);
- Induction (see https://intranet.birmingham.ac.uk/hr/starters/index.aspx);
- Probation (see https://intranet.birmingham.ac.uk/hr/employment/probation.aspx);
- The Birmingham Academic (see https://intranet.birmingham.ac.uk/hr/development/academic/index.aspx) and the Birmingham Professional (see https://intranet.birmingham.ac.uk/hr/development/professional/index.aspx);
- Development programmes and support (see https://intranet.birmingham.ac.uk/hr/development/index.aspx);
- Support for teaching (see https://intranet.birmingham.ac.uk/as/claddivision/index.aspx);
- Support for research (see https://intranet.birmingham.ac.uk/collaboration/research-support/index.aspx)
- Harassment and Bullying policy (see https://intranet.birmingham.ac.uk/hr/documents/public/harassment-bullying.pdf)
Many more mechanisms to support performance are provided locally within Schools and Colleges.
5 Occasionally, individual members of staff may find their performance falls short of their own expectations, or those of the University. In such circumstances, it is in the interests of all concerned that any obstacles to high performance are explored and solutions found to enable the individual to enhance his/her performance to the required standards; and that support is provided by colleagues to help the individual to achieve this improvement. In most cases, this will be managed by normal day to day discussions, via the SDR (or PDR) process and using the mechanisms set out in paragraph 4 above.
6 Section 14 of the University Statutes, paragraph 9, sets out the grounds for disciplinary action, including “failure, refusal or neglect to perform some or all of the duties or to comply with some or all of the conditions attaching to the post, or performing those duties or complying with those conditions in an unsatisfactory or inadequate manner.”
Where it appears the measures set out in paragraphs 4 and 5 above may not lead to the required level of performance, the University and BUCU are agreed that:
7 Paragraph 5 of Ordinance 3.21 may be invoked when there is concern (for example, where there is under-achievement of performance goals/objectives which have been set through the SDR (PDR) process) on the part of the Head of School (or the Head of School’s representative) that the performance of allocated job duties by a member of staff may decline below the “minimum satisfactory standards”, as referred to in Ordinance 3.21.5.
8 The Head of School (or representative) will make clear that the discussions which are being held are not part of a disciplinary procedure, and the member of staff is free to take such advice as s/he may consider appropriate, including from a union representative.
9 The purpose of an intervention under Ordinance 3.21.5 is to support an improvement in performance, including:
i) explaining the minimum satisfactory standards of performance sought and setting them out in writing;
ii) establishing with the member of staff concerned and recording in writing whether there are any reasons which prevent the individual from achieving the minimum satisfactory standards and how these might be overcome;
iii) offering such support, coaching, mentoring and training as may be considered appropriate in the circumstances;
iv) setting reasonable targets designed to ensure that the minimum satisfactory standards of performance are met by the individual, and a time period during which his/her performance will be monitored. In determining targets, the Head of School (or representative) will have regard to the expected achievements of a satisfactorily performing member of staff given a similar workload and taking into account any underlying reasons for under-performance;
v) measuring progress in achieving set targets and providing feedback.
It is recognised that this may be an iterative process.
10 Any disputes (eg over the minimum satisfactory standards expected or the targets to be achieved) will be resolved by the decision of the next senior person above the level of the person managing the intervention, who will consider written representations.
11 Those managing interventions under Ordinance 3.21.5 will be trained for the purpose.
12 As a last resort, Ordinance 3.21 sets out the procedures which have been agreed between the University and UCU for the consideration of allegations of under-performance. It is emphasised that the purpose of the disciplinary procedure is to support an improvement in performance.
Agreement between the University of Birmingham and BUCU on seeking to avoid compulsory redundancies arising from restructuring proposals
March 22, 2013 § Leave a Comment
1.1 Further to the procedure agreement which exists between the University and BUCU and in response to feedback as a result of recent consultations involving potential redundancies, the University and BUCU have jointly agreed the following document to provide guidance to managers and staff engaged in such consultations with a view to ensuring that, when similar circumstances arise in the future, there is greater clarity about how they may be handled.
1.2 The University and the Birmingham branch of the University and College Union (BUCU) agree that compulsory redundancy should be avoided where it is possible to do so.
1.3 Both sides recognize the University’s need to evolve and develop to avoid stagnation and decline, to enhance its reputation as a means of attracting high quality students and staff to the University, as a safeguard of its future and that of the staff as a whole.
1.4 The JNCC is the appropriate forum for the discussion of general matters, including systems and processes for managing potential redundancies; and prospective developments within the University.
2 Seeking to Avoid and/or Mitigate Redundancies
2.1 In carrying out strategic reviews of parts of the University’s structure, the University will seek the views of the staff concerned, where it is appropriate to do so, in order to inform any proposals which may arise from the review.
Where the University considers it necessary to bring about change through restructuring which may involve a reduction in the number of staff employed, it undertakes to present its proposals to BUCU and to the staff concerned at the earliest point at which redundancies are contemplated, before the proposals are finalised. (This is usually when a proposal by a College is accepted by the University as the basis of a consultation.) These proposals will include the rationale for the proposed changes to enable BUCU and the staff concerned to challenge assumptions and to make alternative proposals as appropriate.
2.2 For this purpose, the University will commit to a minimum consultation period of 60 days.
2.3 The University will provide an Equality Impact Assessment of the proposals at or near the start of the consultation period.
2.4 In potential redundancy situations, the University recognises the benefit of early and meaningful consultation with BUCU. The University also recognises its statutory obligations in respect of consultation. The University is therefore committed to holding regular collective consultation meetings – usually fortnightly, as appropriate – during the consultation period.
2.5 The University and BUCU agree to engage in consultation about such proposals with a view to reaching agreement on avoiding compulsory redundancy and/or mitigating the effect of the proposals with regard to the number of posts to be saved. Discussions on avoiding or mitigating redundancies will also include (but are not limited to):
i) Considering alternative proposals which may have a lesser – or no – impact on the existing number of staff employed, including non-pay reductions where appropriate and generating additional income;
ii) Making savings through natural wastage and a freeze on recruitment to the unit under consideration, recognizing the need to maintain an appropriate balance of skills and expertise;
iii) Considering applications for early retirement, voluntary severance (according to the University’s current scheme at the time of the re-organisation) or voluntary redundancy;
iv) Exploring the feasibility of part-time working and job sharing as a means of reducing the number of staff who would otherwise no longer be employed;
v) Redeployment to work elsewhere in the University under the University’s redeployment policy and procedure (see https://intranet.birmingham.ac.uk/hr/vacancies/creating-filling-vacancy/recruitment-and-selection/redeployees.aspx)
vi) Unpaid leave
vii) External networking to identify likely redeployment opportunities outside the University, particularly in neighbouring universities.
2.6 The University recognizes its obligation to continue to seek to avoid and/or mitigate redundancy – including measures set out above – throughout the process of consultation, selection and, subsequently, once notice of dismissal on grounds of redundancy has been issued, until notice expires. This will include providing support to those at risk, or under notice, of redundancy through its Employee wellbeing services (see https://intranet.birmingham.ac.uk/hr/wellbeing/yourwellbeing/index.aspx) and through its training and development services via POD (see https://intranet.birmingham.ac.uk/hr/leavers/support.aspx)
2.7 After the consultation period, the University will seriously consider the alternative proposals which have been made and adjust its plans as appropriate for implementation. Where alternative proposals have not been adopted by the University, it will provide an explanation of the reasons.
2.8 In the event that the measures outlined above fail to remove the potential redundancy situation, the University will provide BUCU with the information which is required by statute.
2.9 For academic staff, where appropriate, selection for redundancy will be in accordance with University Ordinance 3.20 (http://www.birmingham.ac.uk/Documents/university/legal/ordinances-section3.pdf). For administrative and other academic related staff, selection for redundancy will be in accordance with current ACAS guidance.
March 21, 2013 § Leave a Comment
Strike action was called off by UCU at the University of Birmingham yesterday as a deal was reached to avoid compulsory redundancies and over management’s approach to staff performance.
UCU members were balloted in January and voted to take industrial action over five days in February and March. As a result of this decision by the UCU members, a series of meetings with management took place on a number of issues. There were negotiations on how to avoid compulsory redundancies in Sociology, Education, Physiotherapy and the Institute of Archaeology and Antiquity. Further, there were negotiations on achieving a redundancy avoidance agreement and a memorandum of understanding between UCU and management about the operation of performance management.
Although redundancies were proposed in Sociology, Archaeology and Antiquity, Education and Physiotherapy, as a result of the negotiations all compulsory redundancies were avoided in Sociology, Archaeology and Antiquity, and Education, and a ring-fencing process has been agreed for Physiotherapy that also makes compulsory redundancies unlikely.
In terms of handling future restructuring within the University, the deal includes a doubling of the statutory time required for redundancy consultations, a commitment to more frequent, more regular and more engaged consultation meetings, and to consider a range of alternatives to managing potential redundancies. In the area of performance management, the deal includes a number of procedural safeguards intended to prevent bullying or aggressive management practices, and a commitment that any future changes to performance management schemes will be adopted on the basis of collective discussions between the management and the union, with a view to reaching an agreement between both parties.
The negotiations were painstaking but slowly it became possible to achieve resolution on a number of matters. This resulted in the UCU branch eventually coming to an agreement with management, resulting in the final settlement of the dispute without the need for strike action.
Dr David Bailey, chair of the UCU branch, announced to members that the threat of industrial action had been called off on 18 March. He stated, “This has been a major campaign for our branch and we have made significant advances in each of the areas that we have been negotiating with the University senior management. We intend for this to mark a new and more engaged relationship with the University management, with Birmingham University UCU playing an important role as the recognised union representing all academic and academic-related staff at this university.”
The branch plans to raise with management further issues of concern for the members, including how staff on fixed-term and hourly-paid contracts are treated.
Notes for Editors
President: Dr. David Bailey
2. More details: www.birminghamucu.org