University financial situation – message to UCU members

This message was sent to UCU members at the University of Nottingham on 17th January 2024.

Dear UCU member,

On behalf of the branch committee, and somewhat belatedly, can I take this opportunity to send you best wishes for 2024. Unfortunately, it is already clear that the year ahead will be a difficult one for the sector, and at the University of Nottingham.

This morning you will have received an email sent from UEB to all staff that refers to ‘unprecedented financial pressures in the sector’ and the probability of a financial deficit at our university this financial year.

Against this background I am writing to make clear your union branch’s commitment to defend your job, pay and working conditions in the year ahead. Branch strategy is focused on 3 priority areas:

  1. We will engage constructively with university management to address problems where it is demonstrably in the interests of our members to do so. Branch officers are meeting with the Deputy Vice-Chancellor and Chief Financial Officer next week, and officers will take every opportunity to represent members’ interests and to seek to ensure that management decisions reflect the priorities of our members.
  2. We will take collective action, up to and including strike action, to defend jobs and resist redundancies (as agreed at our recent branch meeting). This commitment recognises in particular the experience of members on fixed term and precarious contracts who we know from the recent past are particularly vulnerable in these contexts [the union is currently supporting Demonstrators in Chemistry who work on casualised contracts and who recently experienced an imposed and immediate pay cut – please look out for an email later today announcing an extraordinary branch meeting on this issue on 31 January].
  3. We will hold our own management to account for any institution level decisions that serve to exacerbate the sector-wide situation. In the recent past, during the Covid crisis, branch officers worked with branch members who have specialist knowledge, and with an external expert in HE sector finances, to develop a coherent and credible Alternative Financial Strategy (AFS). The branch is already developing an AFS 2.0 that will, as before, offer a viable and sustainable financial model that prioritises the need for a secure and safe environment in which to work and study.

Alongside all of the above, and our response to current problems, the branch committee has a strategic plan for 2024 that focuses on three broad areas – quality of working life, open and democratic governance and equal rights. These plans contain short and longer term objectives, and we are determined that progress in these areas is not be deflected by immediate crises. All members are encouraged to contribute to developing work on these issues and, as with all branch activity, we commit to always being transparent and democratic and to give members every opportunity to shape branch policy and activity.

Let’s keep in touch, let’s work together and let’s look out for each other in 2024.

In solidarity