- UCU-CCCU Covid-19: update and discussion (see VC’s responses to member’s questions attached)
Best Wishes, Stay Well,
Chair UCU CCCU
Following your email of 14/7 and your welcome commitment
to enable questions and issues of concern to be raised each week to SMT
the issues and question raised over this week and last week are included below and we request SMT’s and your answers to them.
I realise this is also a request for further communication that you may be consider to have been covered elsewhere, or is duplicated effort, but I would urge you to recognise these are, and will be increasingly, requests and questions from members who we can assume are already engaging with information published by SMT and who are being given the impression by you that SMT is interested in and will respond to their concerns.
VC – We are absolutely committed to dealing with all queries. However some staff are simply not going to the ‘Advice and Guidance’ (FAQ) pages. These pages are extensive and being updated daily. We must encourage all staff to look at the FAQs first.
The questions represent aspects of the staff voice at CCCU and have been collated carefully and we will make efforts to improve this communication process as it develops. Antonio’s and Margaret’s meetings will be of great value here but I would rather not construct responses to members by ascribing to SMT and yourself a position, prior to communication with our hundreds of members, that you have not had the chance to directly consider, or by inferring positions from casework, or by checking FAQ’s previously communicated, or by assuming in the absence of any clear response that SMT are responding negatively to a particular listed request.
VC – Thank you.
Perhaps you and I might agree times to discuss regularly – fortnightly, or weekly if you prefer – the development of this process and to consider the outcomes of discussions between Margaret and Antonio. We mirror and agree, in this, the need you have identified for communications to be focused and clear and we hope this can be achieved in relation to the important issues, concerns and questions that will raised by UCU CCCU.
VC – You already have an ‘open door’ via my email and personal mobile number. However, I agree that a fortnightly slot for the duration of this crisis is a good idea. I will ask Alexandra to suggest a regular slot
UCU Requests week ending 17/7
What representation of teaching staff across Faculties is there within the Assessment Group headed by Helen James and can this representation of the academic voice be improved ?
VC – The University, Faculties and Schools have extensive academic committees, groups and post holders largely populated by the academic staff of the University. Much of the work on learning, teaching and assessment is taken forward through these groups – Academic Board, Academic Strategy Committee, Education and Student Experience committee and its sub-committees; Equivalent Faculty Committees. Faculty and School Directors of Learning and Teaching; Faculty and School Directors of Quality. In addition Helen is chairing meetings of two key groups. The Group of Heads of School; The Group of Programme Directors (which is about 50 academic staff). So there is very significant academic voice in determining how to take forward academic matters during covid-19.
Why have UCU CCCU not been offered the minimum of parity with SU offered by SMT in relation to the Assessment Group?
VC – The SU represents all our students. All 15,000 plus students are members of the SU. UCU represent a sub-set of staff.
In the context of Government Policy members and differing interpretations across Universities staff request clear clarification and posting of CCCU’s position in relation to holiday carry-over policy and a clear assurance that staff should not be told by managers when to take holidays, and can choose their holiday requests through StaffNet.
VC – Please see FAQ. There is considerable detail on Annual Leave.
In the context of recent internal emails members request that formal responses requiring personal information on mental health should not be considered normal and if made at all will be handled with care respect for the DPA and communicated and discussed beforehand with HR and UCU CCCU
VC –We will support our staff and students where there are mental health issues in line with our published Mental Health and Wellbeing Framework agreed last year (and which we worked with you and the SU on).
What is SMT ‘s position on the UCU National Key Principles?
VC – I have already responded to this. Please see my email of 15 April 2020
Will SMT consider a joint UCU CCCU, SMT statement of intent in relation to the current crisis ?
VC – Happy to consider this. But given that SMT is spending all hours of the day to manage the current crisis we cannot spend too much time and many iterations on a statement. There are two overriding principles which we are following: the health and wellbeing of all our staff, students and visitors is the highest priority; As a University we will look to full fill our contractual and moral commitments to our students, staff and stakeholders wherever that is practicable and making adjustments where necessary. These would form the core of any joint statement.
understanding that ‘business as usual’ does not apply during the crisis
recognising that any related changes to ways of working necessarily rely on the good will of all staff
acknowledging that a cooperative, collaborative and trust-based approach between managers and staff is required
addressing issues of isolation associated with online working and working from home and recognising they will affect all staff differently
facilitating a supportive and non-coercive approach to new ways of working in all circumstances
considering the needs of all staff in the implementation of any new processes or procedures, and making them subject to regular review and agreement between trade union representatives and management
agreeing rapid escalation routes for the resolution of issues arising from changes to working methods between management and trade union representatives.
scheduling regular meetings, at least weekly, between management and unions to review the situation generally and agree appropriate responses to any problems/issues that arise.
UCU Requests week ending 10/7
UCU members have requested assurances that:
Middle managers will communicate to staff SMT strategic decisions in a consistent and coherent way and where relevant through clear centralised communication rather than fragmented communications.
VC – Yes. There is a whole section in the ‘Advice and Guidance’ for managers. The purpose is to ensure consistency and equity of arrangements. There will also be a ‘Newsletter for Manager’ published next week.
Staff who are following government policy of self isolation or responding to shifting work requirements will not be penalised when it comes to annual leave provision
VC – Agree. Please see FAQ on Annual Leave.
The changes in learning and teaching, assessment tasks and procedures will not penalise staff on sessional or casual contracts and will not produce unrealistic requests to sessional staff to “cover” for permanent members of staff
VC – These are unprecedented times. Illness and caring responsibilities are affecting a number of staff. So we will need to utilise all possible staffing resources to deliver our core work. In doing so we will ensure not to make ‘unrealistic requests to sessional staff’.
Staff experiencing redundancy processes will have deadlines paused, as redeployment initiatives have been paused for some weeks now at CCCU ?
VC – In the context of the merger of the Faculty of Arts and Humanities with the Faculty of Education, we discussed the need to move processes on in a way where anxiety of colleagues is minimised so processes were not hanging over people till the autumn (the Enhanced VR process is a good example). Please see my email of 25 March 2020 . Extending that principle where processes had started before the 20th of March these will be taken forward with appropriate regard to the changed circumstances and with a view to reaching conclusion without letting them drag on.
How are CCCU policies and procedures developing in relation to:
- Domestic violence and abuse
- Additional Provision for staff Mental Health
VC – Both these points were raised by Antonio at the Silver Group and the University remains committed to the current policies in both areas as the basis for supporting staff. The Domestic Violence and Abuse Policy was only approved in January this year. They can be found as follows:
How will national policies on the following apply to CCCU staff:
How can SMT further act to ensure staff know their entitlement and the procedures for registering for the ‘furlough’ scheme?
VC – Government advice to HEIs only arrived on the 18th of April. We will publish detailed guidance shortly. The scheme is unlikely to be applicable for most UCU members.
A small number of staff who have very recently given in their notice have been effected by the changes resulting from the crisis these members are continuing to work in unprecedented ways UCU CCCU have urged the University to honour or at least pause retractions of notice made by staff as a result of the crisis. Has the University developed a policy on individuals in this situation?
VC – As you know from recent case work we have given this much detailed thought and have established some key tests to enable us to act fairly and equitably to anyone in this position.
In the current unprecedented context we are trying to ensure a consistent and equitable approach to requests by reviewing the ongoing need for the role and we do this by using these three key tests:
- Is there a business case for filling the role in the context of the current challenging financial climate?
- If, yes, has the post been approved by the Staff Recruitment Approvals Group (SRAG)?
- If yes to the above two points has the process for replacement already started?