The Open University branch of the University and College Union
This message is to bring you up to date with some of the issues that the OU UCU branch is currently dealing with. We will be contacting you again, probably in a week or so, with an update on the Curriculum Review and its implications for staff who are affected.
First though, the branch executive wants to thank all of you for your solidarity, support, and patience throughout the pensions strike and the subsequent local difficulties around the leadership and direction of the university. The union is its members, and we are very proud of this branch. There are still considerable challenges ahead of us and no room for complacency, but we did want to reflect on the positivity and solidarity we have seen in the OU community across the nations and across all faculties and units.
Strike hardship fund
We will shortly begin winding up the hardship fund since most deductions to pay will have been processed by the end of this month. If you have experienced hardship as a result of taking industrial action, but not yet applied to the fund, please do so as soon as possible, stating your case. The application form and guidance are on the USS page.
Voluntary Severance (ELVS)
In joint negotiation meetings (JNC), the branch continues to push for a return to 3x statutory redundancy pay. Unfortunately we do not expect this to happen in the current round. We continue to remind management about concerns over the workload of those who will remain, and that existing work overload in some units will make it impossible to let staff go who want to take ELVS. Knowing that some are anxious to leave, UCU is committed to supporting members who want to apply for ELVS. UCU’s guidance for members applying to the scheme is attached to this message, and also outlines caseworker support, if needed. The currently advertised close date for applications to the ELVS scheme is 29th June 2018.
People Services Transformation
This is going ahead and the estimate is that there will be job losses amounting to 15 to 20 FTE following restructuring. New posts are currently being advertised. After discussion with UCU and UNISON, first priority will be given to potentially redundant staff from anywhere in the OU and People Services staff whose jobs are in the scope of the current phase of reorganisation.
TRAC-R cut to research time
We have been collating evidence from academic staff affected by the imposed decision to count PhD supervision within personal research time, effectively cutting time for research. A meeting with the previous VC was postponed for obvious reasons but we hope to meet with the Acting VC shortly.
Merit awards on ice
Management has informed us that merit awards will not be awarded for a couple of years. At our request HR has confirmed there will be no exceptions for bonuses for senior managers. Discretionary salary points will not be affected.
Day Contract rate
We flagged up at JNC that the Day Contract is paid at salary point 32, while a majority of ALs are on salary point 36. Management have agreed to address this and are looking into the cost of paying ALs according to their salary point.
2018J tuition changes
There are multiple issues here, including the loss of tutorial venues on the basis of one year’s (questionable) statistics, a ban (now partially reversed) on face-to-face in early weeks when it is most important, and an authoritarian stance on recording tutorials. We continue to ask for reinstatement of face-to-face in the early weeks, no repeat of the ban from 19B onwards, and reconsideration of when it is appropriate to record tutorials. Some universities have negotiated policies with UCU on recording teaching events, and we have asked the OU to negotiate with us on this.
Fixed Term Contracts
We have received complaints about unnecessary use of fixed term contracts, with some staff depending on repeated very short extensions, even where the work is clearly continuing. We feel this has been symptomatic of the insecurity associated with the SFTP. We are working with UNISON to improve job security for these staff, and ensure their rights are respected.
Social work practice tutor role
This role was imposed on central academics in 18J, based on the contractual clause originally intended for summer school teaching. There is travelling involved and it seems to be a quality assurance role rather than a teaching role, and this is normally done by a practice tutor living locally. Staff were already seriously overworked and over stressed before this. We have asked for this experiment not to be repeated, and to meet with faculty management if there is any question of it continuing next year.
Finally, a call for volunteers. We really need help with the following issues:
If you are interested in joining us to tackle any of these issues, please get in touch with us at firstname.lastname@example.org, for a conversation about how you might help.
Thanks and solidarity
OU Branch of UCU Executive Committee