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Update on trade union negotiating meetings

16 Jul 2020

A message from Karen Heaton, Director of Human Resources

Dear colleagues

On Monday, 13 July we held one of our weekly negotiating meetings with the campus trade unions.  These meetings focus on the measures our University needs to take to ensure we deliver our core goals, given the threats to our financial sustainability which have been exacerbated by the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Our priority remains to treat employees fairly, protecting as many jobs as possible whilst providing substantial support and opportunities to our staff to mitigate against the impact of job losses.

Since these negotiating meetings began in June 2020 the University has, at the trade unions request, provided significant amounts of very detailed information relating to a range of issues, including our financial position, student recruitment forecasts and the rationale behind the actions we are taking to mitigate against the impacts of COVID-19. Most of this information is readily available to staff on StaffNet including in messages on 23 April, 5 May, 21 May, 15 June and 2 July and in Nancy’s weekly message as well as a detailed financial presentation given at the Senior Leadership Team open staff meeting on 18 June.

Prior to this week’s meeting the trade unions again requested that the University provide a significant amount of further information before they would take part in discussions on important topics aimed at mitigating against the scale of future job losses should we see a significant reduction in income, like proposed changes to the Redeployment Policy, pausing salary increments and temporary, graded pay reductions.

University colleagues present at the meeting felt that this further request for more detailed information was not necessary or relevant to move the discussion forward to finding solutions to the challenges we face, most of which would not be implemented until or unless we see a significant loss of income. However, as recognised at Senate, many of these changes take time to implement so we need to plan for them now. 

We instead offered to continue to provide the trade unions with regular updates of relevant information in the same way that we provide this information for all University staff.  In response, the trade unions expressed their intention not to join the next negotiating meeting planned for 20 July, but to wait instead until after the Board of Governors meeting on 22 July where the University’s draft budget for the next financial year will be discussed.

It is worth noting that the budget being presented to the Board contains relatively modest cost savings put forward pre-COVID-19 compared to our current assumptions about income reduction as a result of the pandemic. This draft budget is highly provisional at this stage as it is based on assumptions that may have to change as student numbers and other financial challenges become clearer.

University colleagues expressed their extreme disappointment at this decision and stressed that they would be available to take part in the meeting as planned since it is important that progress is made at this time so that we can give colleagues information about planned changes at the earliest opportunity.

In the spirit of open and transparent communication, we will be publishing the minutes from both our weekly negotiating meeting with the trade unions and a further weekly COVID-19 update meeting which takes place with the trade unions each Wednesday.

Minutes from the trade union negotiating meetings held on Mondays can be found at the following:

Minutes from the COVID-19 update meetings held with the trade unions on Wednesdays can be found at the following:

Minutes are approved at the next available meeting, so there will be at least a one week delay between meetings taking place and the minutes being approved and published.

Karen Heaton

Director of Human Resources