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End of strike action message from Vice-Chancellor

Robert Van de Noort

This message from Vice-Chancellor Robert Van de Noort has been shared with all colleagues at the University via an email (5 December 2019)

Dear colleagues,

The eight days of notified UCU strike action have now concluded. The UCU notified period for action short of strike (ASOS) continues until 29 April 2020 at the latest.

I am very grateful to all colleagues for continuing to display courtesy and respect towards one another throughout this period. As action in the form of ASOS continues, it remains important for all of us to be respectful of each other’s decisions.

In the last day or two, some incorrect information has been circulating about the implications of taking strike action and ASOS. I’d like to take a moment to clarify a couple of important points.

  • No deductions for working to contract: It is very clear in our guidance that working to contract is not unreasonable and there will be no pay deductions where colleagues are doing so. 
  • Deductions for partial performance: We will only consider pay deductions where ASOS amounts to partial performance. This deduction has been set initially at 25%. The UCU has defined ASOS to include not rescheduling missed teaching or sharing materials from cancelled classes. These aspects of ASOS may be considered partial performance where there has been a reasonable request to do so.

    This point about reasonableness is important. Now that the period of strike action is complete, it will be reinforced to Heads of School and Function that they need to consider workload and other priorities in making these requests. For clarity, a request to prioritise lost teaching over other activity is likely to be reasonable but requiring staff to work excessive hours to do so would not be.

    We may, in serious cases where the level of disruption warrants it, consider a higher deduction than 25% for partial performance. This could be up to 100% but this would be exceptional.
     
  • Unpaid overtime: Our academic and academic-related contracts do not specify designated working hours, but instead require all colleagues at grade 6 and above to work the hours required to perform their role. This term was agreed with the UCU following consultation and negotiation. It reflects that universities are not standard 9 to 5 work places and that colleagues want to work flexibly for the benefit both of their work and the University. This means that the notion of overtime technically does not apply and the focus is instead on working the hours required to undertake the work reasonably required for the role.

    I am aware that workload is a very important issue to colleagues and I agree that more needs to be done by the University to address this. That is why we have a range of ongoing reviews on workload that are currently being worked through, and I look forward to seeing positive moves in this area soon.
     
  • Legal action: It is true that, in law, it would be open to the University to join staff members to legal action brought as a result of the strike action. We have never taken this action in the past, and it would be reserved for only the most exceptional circumstances. For clarity, the University has no power to force a staff member to pay damages – that power lies only with the courts.

The detailed online guidance has been updated on the Staff Portal to reflect these clarifications. I feel it is important that we are open and honest about the potential implications of taking industrial action – it is only fair that colleagues have the relevant information so that they can make their own decision. However I accept that, given the misinterpretation that has occurred, a clarification was needed and I apologise that this has not been provided earlier. I hope we can now work together as a community and make progress on the issues that concern us all.

A dedicated section will remain on the Staff Portal with information about the industrial action, including ASOS. Information for students remains available on the Essentials web pages.

Thank you to those who have promptly reported to John Brady, Director of HR, that they participated in strike action. If you have not already done so, you will need to let him know promptly by emailing j.j.brady@reading.ac.uk. You will also need to inform him if you have commenced ASOS, if you haven’t already done so, or if commencing at a later date immediately on doing so.

 

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

Kind regards,

 

Robert

Robert Van de Noort

Vice-Chancellor

 

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