The Open University branch of the University and College Union
Thanks to concerted pressure from both the UCU branch executive and individual members the VC has agreed to a meeting with the Branch president Lesley Kane and Vice President Caitlin Adams on Monday (12th) next week. This is a step forward and provides an opportunity for the VC to listen and reconsider the approach taken by the University over the dispute.
Whilst this is a strike day, a meeting like this is a legitimate dispute activity and provides an opportunity for Lesley and Caitlin to make the strength of feeling of our members very clear to the Vice Chancellor. They will be requesting that he stand with other Vice Chancellors in requesting a better pension deal for their staff and to distance himself from the hard line and flawed valuation process of UUK.
In addition the following letter is being sent to the VC regarding his recent communications over the dispute.
Dear Mr Horrocks,
We are writing regarding your recent communication with our students, on the subject of the ongoing strike action. This will see many of your hardworking and dedicated staff sacrifice large portions of their March pay check. This is in order to prevent a massive future pay cut in the form of devastating proposed changes to the value of their pensions.
We are delighted to read that you have agreed to OU UCU’s request that the lost earnings of our staff be funnelled into a student hardship fund. This is a standing request that OU UCU has made during previous actions, and made again on this occasion - and, indeed, that we’d assumed was now standard practice at the OU. We hope you will clarify to students in a future communication that this was done following a UCU request, as this was not clear in the last message to students on the subject.
Secondly, we know that you have placed priority on the mental health and wellbeing of OU students and staff. UCU has long championed initiatives around mental health and stress reduction in the workplace. UCU members will be dealing with enormous levels of stress as a result of losing 14 days’ pay from their March pay-checks over a dispute that was avoidable and should have been resolved much more quickly. We request that you follow the lead of Sheffield University and others in spreading the lost wages over several months for striking staff, in order to allow staff more easily to cope with the considerable financial hardship of the strike action. Taking this step would be a concrete demonstration of your commitment to staff welfare.
Regarding the dispute, we hope you will urgently reconsider your support for the approach that UUK has taken. We ask that you support your staff by fully engaging with the debates concerning the flawed valuation process. UUK’s position has been subject to sustained and detailed criticism from thousands of academics and staff members, leading many Vice-Chancellors to distance themselves. Your staff expect you to show a more reasoned approach. We urge you to show leadership in this matter for the sake of staff and students.
From the OU UCU Executive Committee