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Open letter from the Vice-Chancellor to staff - 19/02/2020

Dear colleague,

You will be aware that some colleagues will be taking part in strike action from Thursday and over the next few weeks.

The strike dates have been published on the intranet and a series of questions and answers are also available to help answer some of the key questions staff have raised.

I have always been absolutely clear: I fully respect the right of colleagues to take strike action.

I understand the decision to strike is not taken lightly and I know from speaking to many members of staff and from discussing the issues at our recent staff Town Hall, that colleagues are passionate and care deeply about them.

Unfortunately, UCU’s decision to call a strike will have an impact on all staff, both those choosing to strike and those who continue to deliver teaching and learning and day-to-day University activities.

The best way forward, in my opinion, is to continue working collectively to secure progress in the areas of dispute.

The recent tripartite talks between UCU, USS, and UUK are building a shared understanding on the future of the USS pension scheme, jointly developing governance reforms and considering alternative pathways for the 2020 USS valuation.

UCEA have also made a series of positive proposals, focussing on the three important areas of employment: contractual arrangements; workload and mental health; and gender pay gaps and ethnicity pay.

These proposals are available to read on our website.

Despite calls directed at me to solve these issues unilaterally, I am not in a position to do so. UCU, UCEA and UUK are the bodies who need to work to resolve these issues. Progress, where we can influence locally, has been made, but I recognise that this work must continue and requires us to work together to make real progress.

For example, on workload we have been seeking to establish a fair and transparent framework for allocating workloads across the University for a number of years.  More recently, following feedback from our staff we’ve taken forward a review of the workload framework which has resulted in a proposed new academic workload allocation model, which is now being piloted in a number of Schools. We are grateful to the members of the academic community who contributed to this review.

As you will be aware, I have committed to workload being a key consideration and factored into all our decisions as part of Transforming Cardiff.

Also, at a local level, following feedback from our staff and employee representatives, we are undertaking a new project to review how we engage teachers and tutors on variable hours and fractional contracts. This programme, amongst other things, will work through consultation with relevant parties to create staff engagement policies which are fit for purpose and support the delivery of teaching.

On issues involving equality and diversity, I am committed to addressing workplace barriers to equality, identifying the causes of the gender pay gap and working to find solutions to address this.  We have published our Gender Pay Gap report in 2018 and 2019 and will do so again in 2020. This supports the three-yearly Equal Pay audit cycle already in operation, the most recent of which was published for 2017.

Addressing the disparity in representation takes time, but we are working hard to solve this and are pursuing a number of initiatives in relation to career progression, development, and recruitment and reward.

I recognise that this is a difficult time for all involved and ask that we continue to treat each other with courtesy, dignity and respect.

My commitment, as always, is to do what I can to help resolve these issues, but the dispute is a national one and will require a collective solution.

Yours sincerely,

Professor Colin Riordan