January 2016 – Local Issues Updates
The Financial Health of the University of Brighton a UCU analysis Much concern has been raised by the VC’s references to challenging financial situation of the University and how staff costs contributes to this. UCU has done a bit of analysis of the figures which paint a different picture (document download: UoB_financial_analysis).
November 2015 Local Issues Updates
LCIG 4th November see here Lecturers Common Interest Group
Also see our: November_2015_bulletin
UCU branch officers have received a number of inquiries about the Staff Survey and about how to manage the difficult process of the ‘work-to-contract’. This is the advice from the UCU coordinating committee:
1) Staff Survey;
2.1 37-Hour WEEK;
2.3 Week-end working;
2.4 Additional duties;
2.5 Collective response;
2.6 Automatic e-mail reply.
1. STAFF SURVEY
The UCU and Unison have been approached by the University to collaborate with the Staff Survey as the unions’ support is seen to be vital to achieving a successful response rate. Unfortunately, the University did not, on this occasion, consult the unions about the purpose or the content of the survey, and have outsourced the survey process to a private contractor. Though the survey process originated in a suggestion from the unions to the senior management some years ago about discovering the locations and causes of staff stress in the University, the survey is now being used for different ends.
In these circumstances, the UCU could not recommend participation in the survey to members even if there were no ‘work-to-contract’ in operation. It is not clear for what purpose the survey will be used on this occasion, it is not clear how responses to the questions will be interpreted or combined together to produce the survey results, and it is not clear what ramifications the conclusions, however reached, will have on our work, or on the University’s presentation of itself both to us as employees and to the outside world.
The recommendation to members is thus to exercise due caution when considering whether to complete the survey, and the Coordinating Committee recommends that, in the circumstances, you do not complete it.
In any event, the Survey is an additional responsibility that was not discussed and agreed at your SDR meeting, is not a contractual obligation in any event (i.e. it is not part of your job), and is unlikely to be a task that you can complete in the middle of term without breaching your contractual 37 hours.
2.1 YOUR 37-HOUR WEEK
1. Work out, before the commencement of each week, how long your duties will take in that week:
- face-to-face, scheduled teaching (lectures, seminars, tutorials, laboratory practicals, studio criticisms, etc.), and add 1.5 hours for each 1 hour of student contact (which covers all preparation and marking associated with the teaching);
- all meetings, plus any requisite preparation time for reading all of the associated papers;
- all administrative duties (i.e. ALL other duties), including reference writing, liaising with colleagues over students or courses or library (or other) provision, report writing, admissions processes, student progression, etc., etc.
2. If the total exceeds 37 hours, and there is no clear possibility that this will be balanced by a ‘light’ week in the near future, approach your local union representative, and, with the rep, approach your Head of School to inquire which duties, that were agreed for this year in your last SDR meeting, should be prioritised. If you have not had a formal SDR meeting, then custom and practice holds (i.e. your duties are what you have standardly done for the past years).
3. If there is no agreement between you and the Head on such relief, your UCU rep will ask the Head to identify which of the week’s duties you should prioritise so that those that would take you over 37 hours will have to be postponed (advise the Head that you would prefer to prioritise teaching and marking and preparation).
You will NOT be refusing to do the duties that would take you over the 37 hours but they could not be done in that week, unless future relief is identified and agreed. In any event (i.e. even with agreement) you should never exceed the 48-hour in any single week that is stipulated as a maximum by the EU Working Time Directive.
Note that you are under no obligation to do overtime, and should not accept overtime payment for the extra work.
2.3 WEEK-END WORKING
Remember that you are under no obligation to do week-end working, and should not do so, particularly as the University is now applying a punitive stoppage of 1/260th (instead of 1/365th) of annual salary for each strike day, underscoring thereby that it does not pay you to work more than 5 days per working week.
Doubtless, colleagues in some areas will be threatened, having the insecurity of their courses brandished at them, but this is simply an attempt to break the action. We should not be intimidated. There is no reason why Open Days could not be organised in the working week, and participation in them treated like any other duty (see 2 and 3 above). If we allow ourselves to be deterred from taking this action then our salaries WILL CONTINUE to decline. In those circumstances, we are, in effect, being blackmailed.
2.4 ADDITIONAL DUTIES
There are always additional demands being made on academic staff (from social meetings with students, additional training, unexpected meetings, and even surveys (see the current Staff Survey (advice above)).Colleagues are urged always to deprioritise these in favour of the teaching and research processes. It would be surprising if the University, in these circumstances, received a comparable response rate in itsStaff Survey to its previous return.
2.5 ‘WORK-TO-CONTRACT’ AS A COLLECTIVE RESPONSE
Always seek to involve your union representative in any discussion with management about this action.
For information on Work-to-Contract from the UCU Central Office, go to: http://www.ucu.org.uk/6804
2.6 AUTOMATIC E-MAIL RESPONSE
Because you are working to contract, you may not be able to respond swiftly to e-mails from students (if you accept student e-mails) or from other colleagues in the University or elsewhere. The Coordinating Committee recommends, therefore, that you add a standard response message to your e-mail in explanation. A possible text for such a response is provided below – please amend as appropriate, or just use this one. You can insert the message using Outlook, for example, by selecting ‘Options’, on the top right of the screen, and then selecting ‘Set Automatic Replies’, and then copying the message into the TWO boxes provided.
APOLOGIES IF THERE IS A DELAY IN MY REPLY TO YOUR MESSAGE
I am currently ‘working to contract’ as part of the UCU industrial action for fair pay in Higher Education. As part of that action, I will be working up to my maximum contracted hours, and prioritising in them my teaching, preparation and marking commitments. I will respond to your message as soon as possible within those constraints.