The President gave the following report to the General Meeting on 13 March 2013:
Members do not need me to tell them that there is a lot of change around the university. To some extent, the university needs to adapt to shifts in funding. After top-slicing money for central services, the budgets for 26 of 29 academic Schools are in the red this year.
Volunteers for Cardiff UCU have been working hard representing staff collectively as well as supporting individual members. In terms of redundancies and restructuring, UCU is representing staff affected by restructuring in the Chemistry, where 14 administrative and MPSS posts are at risk; staff in central services have been reorganized into 13 departments; there is a review of European Languages, Translation & Politics, which is being split up; 70 staff attended an open meeting hosted by UCU to discuss the merger of Nursing & Midwifery with Health Care Studies.
Although there is plenty to be concerned about, we should celebrate the difference that UCU makes. For example, systematic scrutiny of posts at risk of redundancy is steadily reducing abuse of fixed term contracts in cases where “uncertain business need” was historically used to justify fixed term contracts year after year. Of the posts with end dates from August to October 2013, 18 are now being moved onto proper open-ended contracts, with no “relevant factor” end dates.
Volunteer UCU reps will be meeting with management and other unions on 4 April, in the Joint Consultative and Negotiating Forum (JCNF). One issue to be discussed will be the Sickness Absence Policy; UCU has concerns about the unreasonably legalistic and punitive way this policy is applied in some parts of the university, and members are invited to send us examples of bad practice.
JCNF will also discuss Grading Reviews, and the potential for staff to be assigned to a lower pay grade via a “red circling” process. The Grading Review process potentially affects all research and support staff; only staff on the academic promotions pathway are outside this process. UCU is concerned that, if it were applied to every eligible post, the role analysis process operated by the university would assign about half of all posts to a lower pay grade. This means that whenever there is a restructuring, staff who are not made redundant have a serious risk of being assigned to a lower-paying post.
UCU casework volunteers continue to support members individually, and also look for opportunities to address recurring issues collectively. Case workers are supporting members with formal disciplinary meetings, including those associated with sickness absence; case workers are supporting members questions about voluntary severance, and others who face potential redundancy, including some who should have been put on the redeployment register but who were not.
No member is too junior or too senior to receive casework support. You could be a researcher or MPSS staff; you could be professional services or an academic; you could have a problem with your manager or even your Head of School or Department; you could be a manager or Head with a workplace problem—if you are a member you can receive casework support to address workplace problems. Anyone is not already in a union should join straight away so that they can get support when they need it.
There are a lot of changes happening, but we must not despair. Cardiff University is the pride of Wales, and that’s because of the professionalism and dedication of its staff. Staff have a lot to be proud of.
For most staff, most of the time, Cardiff University is a good place to work. However, the university sometimes lets itself down. As the Vice-Chancellor reminded us last autumn, we are the university. It is up to us as a community to support each other, and to demand the highest standards in transparency and fairness in the way the university treats its staff, as well as maintaining high standards of delivering higher education in Wales.
We have a debt of gratitude to the many UCU volunteers who are working on our behalf. I ask any member who isn’t already to get involved. Help us make the university better by making it a better place to work.