Branch alternatives to Pay Freeze

Dear UCU members,

As promised last Friday, this email will provide you with details of UCU’s alternative proposals to those offered by management.  It contains our proposals to respond to the financial shock of Covid-19 as well as key points for negotiation to achieve a more progressive approach to cost saving. It sets a priority both on saving jobs and on preserving the long-term viability and prosperity of our university.

 PLEASE NOTE: we will hold an emergency Branch Meeting tomorrow,  Tuesday 7th July at 12-1pm to discuss these proposals and hear your views. We will send zoom details separately. In the meantime, please VOTE NO in the all staff poll.

 University of Kent UCU recognises that our university is facing a critical situation as a result of the shock from Covid-19 and that drastic actions need to be taken to see us through the next year. We contend, however, that the current pay freeze and revised pay reward proposals as designed, impose a discriminatory pay cut on low- and middle-income earners (that include larger numbers of younger, female and BAME staff). The negative impact of these proposals falls disproportionately upon the shoulders of those least able to bear them.

We are therefore calling on management to adopt a more progressive approach in which high income earners bear the greater burden of any extraordinary cost cutting/saving measures and for them to combine this with a greater commitment to ensuring the collective well-being of all the University’s employees. We also believe that it is possible to set more ambitious goals for these measures both in terms of saving targets and strategic planning.

We are calling on management to enter into negotiation with us over the following alternative proposals and allied conditions for a more constructive working relationship:

1) A More Progressive Scheme

We welcome the fact that the current proposals contain some progressive elements. Insofar as the Vice Chancellor is taking a 20% cut and the Executive Group a 15% cut, we understand them to acknowledge the principle that those on higher wages should bear more of the burden of any cost savings/cuts.  However, we call on them to embrace this principle more firmly and with greater ambition (e.g. identify possible ways to protect sole income earners in single parent households from the most adverse effects of cost cutting/saving plans). We have costed two possible methods of doing this with the aim of achieving a saving target of at least £5.3m with progressive cuts starting from either £50K or £40K in one year. These include:

a) A scheme that operates with a progressive sliding scale from 2% starting at 40K up to 30% for those on the highest salaries. This produces a saving of £5.3 million.

b) A scheme that offers a similar saving of £5.3 million, but with progressive cuts beginning from 50K (this would only involve those earning above the median academic wage)

2) A Pay Cap Scheme for Higher Earners

Strict pay caps should be adopted for the duration of this proposal (AY 20/21). This should apply to those in senior managerial positions. We recommend that the VC adheres to the Office for Students VC pay/reward guidelines – namely that her wage be no higher than that of the prime minister (c.£150,000) for the duration of any staff cost saving scheme. For the duration in which the University is required to implement extraordinary cost-saving/cutting measures, we advise that no staff member (apart from the VC) should be rewarded for their work with a salary in excess of £100,000.

3) Prioritising Job Saving

We welcome the fact that management have now indicated implicitly (by the threat of job losses if the proposals are not accepted) the number of jobs that can be saved by the current proposals. We call on them to set this as a priority, and henceforth, to provide us more detailed and explicit information on how any extraordinary cost cutting/saving measures are linked to saving staff from compulsory redundancy. The commitment to job saving needs to govern the rationale of managerial decisions and policy-making through this period. It also needs to feature in all related communications to staff on these matters. Insofar as it is widely recognised that more benign market conditions lie ahead and that demand for our courses is set to increase over the next 2-5 years, saving jobs is vital for our operational sustainability and prosperity. Saving jobs is essential for our long-term success.

4) A Commitment to Transparency and Panel Review

At each step of our negotiations, UCU has repeatedly called for transparency over facts and figures, once management has put proposals on the table. It is difficult to negotiate with one hand always tied behind our backs, especially during a crisis. We urge management to increase transparency from the first moment of negotiations. We call on management to provide UCU with more access to data relating to the university’s financial situation and cost cutting plans, including all the data provided by Data HE. We call on them to allow representatives from UCU to attend and make meaningful contributions to any panels that are set up to review the progress of the pay freeze scheme and any other measures (e.g. sale of land or buildings) that are being implemented as part of initiatives to restore the university to a financially health position.

5) A commitment to restitution and pension protection

We call on university management to commit to prioritising the recompensing of staff for loss of earnings and pension contributions stemming from these plans at a time when the University finances have recovered.

These are exceptionally difficult times for this university. In all our negotiations, our priority has been saving jobs, whilst at the same time, trying to ensure that any measures deemed necessary do not fall disproportionately on those least able to bear their brunt.

Sian, Owen, Philip, Mark

UCU Branch Officers