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Forthcoming industrial action: important message for staff

Forthcoming industrial action

Further to my update on 24 January, on Tuesday 30 January the University received formal notification from the UCU of the timing and type of industrial action it intends its members to take as part of UCU opposition to proposed changes to the Universities Superannuation Scheme (USS). 

My earlier message sets out the background of this dispute. This note is for the particular attention of UCU members, but I thought it would be useful for all colleagues to be aware of the forthcoming action.

UCU has given notification of strike action on the following dates:

  • Thursday 22 and Friday 23 February (two days)
  • Monday 26, Tuesday 27 and Wednesday 28 February (three days)
  • Monday 5, Tuesday 6, Wednesday 7 and Thursday 8 March (four days)
  • Monday 12, Tuesday 13, Wednesday 14, Thursday 15 and Friday 16 March (five days)

It has also given notice of continuous action short of strike (ASOS) commencing from 22 February 2018. 

UCU has stated that the dispute relates to “proposed detrimental changes to USS and a failure to reach a collective agreement protecting pension benefits”.  

As noted in my previous update, discussions about the proposed changes to the USS were conducted via the USS Joint Negotiating Committee (JNC). By way of a reminder, this body comprises five representatives of Universities UK and five representatives of UCU, together with an independent committee member who acts as Chair. 

The University, whilst regretting UCU’s decision to take industrial action, respects the rights of our trade union members. However, we are obliged to take all reasonable steps to ensure that any disruption is kept to a minimum.

It is likely that UCU colleagues will maintain small picket lines at various entrances to our campuses on the days of strike action. This is perfectly legitimate. The law requires picketing to be conducted peacefully and lawfully, and no-one should be harassed when entering the campus. We have never experienced any difficulty locally in the past and have no reason to expect anything different on this occasion.

Information for those participating in strike action

If you are participating in the strike action please note that on this occasion the University will deduct pay for each day at a rate of 1/365th. Whilst there is no obligation on the University to do so, on this occasion unless alternative notice is given, we will construct the deductions in such a way as to protect continuity of pension contributions and therefore preserve death-in-service benefits. Relevant deductions will be made from the next available pay-run.

Members of the UCU are not required to inform the University in advance of their intention to participate in the strike action. However, if you do take strike action you are required to declare your participation immediately (and anyway no less than 24 hours) following each period of strike action; to do so you need simply e-mail me at j.j.brady@reading.ac.uk.

Please also note that on resumption of full duties the University reserves the right to require relevant colleagues to prioritise missed work over other work; there will be no additional pay for doing this.

Information for those participating in action short of strike

The UCU notification has described the intended ASOS as consisting of:

  • Working to contract.
  • Not covering for absent colleagues.
  • Not rescheduling lectures or classes cancelled due to strike action.
  • Not undertaking any voluntary activities.

Where the ASOS is limited to working to contract we will monitor this, but there will be no further action. However, colleagues are expected to perform their contractual duties in full. The University does not accept partial performance and reserves the right to make deductions from pay where breaches of contract occur. 

This means that the University is not legally obliged to make payment in these circumstances when only partial performance is rendered and we reserve the right to withhold 100% of pay. However, the University Executive Board has decided that, in the first instance, any such breaches of contract will result in 10% of pay being withheld on each day that such a breach occurs. The payment of the remaining 90% of salary is discretionary and made on an entirely voluntary and ex-gratia basis. We will periodically review the effect of the action on our students and its impact more broadly across the University. We reserve the right to increase the percentage of pay withheld up to and including 100%, at any time while the dispute persists and where contractual duties are not performed in full. Where applied, deductions will continue to be made until the union calls off the action or the individual confirms he or she is resuming full duties and does resume full duties.

Members of the UCU are required to inform the University that they are participating in ASOS by 22 February 2018 or, if commencing at a later date immediately on doing so (and anyway after no more than 24 hours); as above to do so you need simply e-mail me at j.j.brady@reading.ac.uk.

General

Failure to notify the University as set out in this note that you are taking strike action or action short of strike will be treated as a disciplinary matter.

The withholding of pay is without prejudice to any other right or remedy of the University, including any claim for damages for breach of contract and the University further reserves the right to join you as a party to any claim for breach of contract brought against the University as a result of this action.

If you have any concerns or require further information or clarification, please contact me or the Human Resources Partner for your area.

 

John Brady

Director of Human Resources

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