Read our letter to the VC declaring our dispute with the employer

Professor Sir David Greenaway

The University of Nottingham
University Park
Nottingham, NG7 2RD
April 1, 2016

Dear Sir David

Re: Declaration of dispute – Proposed Redundancies in the Arts

I write on behalf of the UCU Branch Committee and in conjunction with advice from our Regional Office. As you know, UCU has been engaged in a process of first informal and then formal consultation regarding the Arts Portfolio Review since the 2014/2015 academic year. We have put forward a number of suggestions to avoid the need for compulsory redundancies in the Arts, which according to the timetable outlined in January 2016 are set to come into effect before the beginning of the 2016/2017 academic year.

These suggestions have included the following:

  • a wider call for voluntary redundancy to facilitate staff movement where practical and desirable
  • redeployment of staff across the Faculty to facilitate expansion in growth areas
  • investment in recruitment
  • reconsideration of the decision to increase tariff across affected departments
  • review of expenditure elsewhere in the institution (e.g. capital investment)

We have also raised concerns, in advance, about the way that information relating to selection for redundancy has been communicated to staff and about the way in which the selection itself has been made. Despite the fact that it is the role not the person that will be made redundant, individual members of staff in two departments (Archaeology plus Theology and Religious Studies) have been individually identified as at risk of redundancy. UCU raised objections to this approach in informal consultation and at the formal consultation meeting on 8 March, but the proposals continue to identify specific individuals. Moreover, the process by which these areas/individuals in Theology and Archaeology have been selected remains nontransparent. We have been offered no insight into the rationale for these decisions and the process appears open to misuse.

Additionally, our Regional Official, Sue Davis, twice requested from the Faculty PVC information that has a material impact on the Union’s ability to consult meaningfully with the University. While some of this information has been provided, it is incomplete and does not meet the expectations for meaningful engagement outlined in her letter of 15 March.

UCU Regional Office may provide further clarification when Sue returns from annual leave next week, but the following list provides an overview of our concerns with the Faculty’s response as presented in the letter from the PVC of 24 March:

  • Financial Information: the introduction of Faculty Operating Costs into departmental budgets in February 2016 has not been fully explained. While we touched on this matter in our informal meeting with you on March 30, it is notable that the Faculty did not provide us with clarification of why these costs were introduced at this particular time nor with a breakdown of what these costs cover.
  • Contribution Rates: the Faculty PVC has declined to provide information of contribution rates for all schools and departments in the University on the grounds that this information is ‘sensitive’. Here too I note with appreciation that you have personally assured us that this information will be provided; however, the fact that the request was refused by the Faculty PVC raises further questions about the Faculty’s commitment to meaningful consultation.
  • SSRs: UCU appreciates the Faculty’s attempt to present SSR figures that represent the actual ratio of currently teaching staff to current students; however, the fact that this approach precludes comparison with SSRs in other faculties or at competitor institutions makes it impossible to assess the strength of the case being made here. Moreover, I note that the PVC has not responded to questions about HEFCE guidance on SSRs in Languages nor about the impact that the proposed cuts (and the attendant rise in SSR) will have on the recruitment in the affected departments.
  • Selection Criteria: UCU has major concerns about the selection criteria, which we have raised and will continue to raise. At present, I note in particular, that the PVC’s evasive response to UCU’s request for confirmation that SET data will not be used indicates an unwillingness to provide us with reasonable clarity.

In view of the above, we do not believe that the process of consultation to date has been meaningful. Moreover, we have seen no evidence to suggest that the Faculty approach to consultation will change, nor that alternative proposals will be considered seriously.

The PVC’s letter of March 24 presents as non-negotiable a position that is incompatible with the UCU position on compulsory redundancies. He states that “costs need to be reduced to improve contribution percentages and reducing pay costs – which account for approx. 94% of the Faculty’s operating costs – is the only feasible option”. Given that the PVC has rejected our request to widen the call for voluntary redundancy and that the timeframe for achieving these savings precludes achieving them through natural attrition, it appears that the decision to resort to compulsory redundancies has been taken already. In addition to the formal written response quoted above, this is the message conveyed in formal consultation meetings with UCU and with individual departments.

It is with regret that I am therefore writing to formally register a dispute with you on the issue listed above.

UCU reserves its right to now progress this matter but the institution is aware that resolution of this issue requires two commitments on the part of the University:

  1. That compulsory redundancies will not be used to achieve cost savings as part of the Arts Portfolio Review
  2. That the University will enter into meaningful discussion with UCU over the current use of contribution ratings and their impact on job security for staff in our bargaining group across the institution.

This dispute will continue until such time as the above issues, and any issues related to any industrial action called for by the union in support of the dispute, have been resolved to UCU’s satisfaction.

Yours sincerely

Dr Matt Green

Branch President, University of Nottingham UCU

cc Director of HR

cc Pro-Vice Chancellor, Faculty of Arts

cc UCU Branch Office cc UCU Regional Office

cc UCU National Head of Regional Organisation & Nations

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