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