Birkbeck UCU | News | Message to Members

Document Actions

Message to Members

Message to members

Unions and management met last week and the following points emerged from our talks.

 

1. Financial situation

The college is predicting a drop in student numbers next academic year to between 6,500 and 8,000 (currently we are around 8,800) with consequent income falls of between £11M and £22M. The basis for the prediction is student deferrals rather than a fall in applications as the latter are running at normal levels in many Depts. The college financial modelling is very similar to the results of independent research commissioned by UCU and available on its website (https://www.ucu.org.uk/article/10759/Universities-2.5bn-black-hole-will-cost-economy-6bn-and-60000-jobs-warns-report). The college aims to cover this deficit by drawing on its substantial reserves. Meantime, the two year college deficit reduction scheme (2018-20) is currently off the table and the proposed roll out of VSER phase 2, opposed by UCU, has been shelved (although individuals who wish to discuss early retirement or severance are free to do so).

 

2. Negotiations

 

The positives to come out of the talks are as follows:

  • Homeworking: The college accepts that even when staff work flexibly from home, varying work days and work times, there will inevitably be a reduction in performance particularly where people have caring responsibilities (and the Vice Master gave an example of a colleague who did child care/home schooling in the morning and academic work in the afternoon).
  • Disruption payment: There will be a monthly disruption payment for staff obliged to attend work, varying from £75 to £350 pcm depending on frequency of college visits.
  • Hiring: We were able to clarify the situation in regard to hiring. There is no ‘hiring freeze’ per se, but in light of the financial environment applications for new or replacement posts will be vetted pretty stringently. Where Depts have a strong case they should therefore submit bids and not simply resign themselves to losing staff.
  • Redeployment: The college has also agreed to encourage redeployment of T&S staff when modules are rescheduled (say from autumn to spring), postponed or cancelled.

 

However, this last proposal falls short of the level of job protection the unions have called for and we will therefore be encouraging the college to pursue other avenues such as more extensive use of the Government Job Retention Scheme.

 

In relation to strike pay deductions, there has been no further progress in our talks and we are now awaiting the national union decision on the status of the four fights and pensions disputes as well as clarification on the status of our current Action Short of a Strike (ASOS).

 

We shall also be submitting further demands in relation to homeworking expenses and the rollover of annual leave into the next academic year (attached).

 

3. Action points

  1. 1.      Please let us know if you have heard of T&S staff being made redundant or threatened with redundancy
  2. 2.      Have you heard of any proposals for permanent academic staff to take over work previously carried out by T&S staff?
  3. 3.      As the issues in our national dispute remain unresolved, we are still officially engaged in Action short of a strike. Have you engaged in any ASOS yourself? And do you think there is any value in continuing ASOS at present?

 

29 April 2020