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Sussex UCU has confirmed that members will be taking further industrial action on Wednesday 5th May in support of their campaign to save over 100 jobs at the University. This follows a further rejection by management to engage in dispute resolution processes.

The one day strike next Wednesday coincides with national demonstrations in FE and HE colleges to highlight the threat to the education across the tertiary sector.

The Sussex UCU branch held another packed general Meeting yesterday at which the anger of members at the manner in which the Sussex management has conducted consultations was tangible.

The meeting was addressed by Tom Wills, President of the Students’ Union who signalled the support of Sussex students for the continuing staff campaign against jobs.

The Branch executive then set out the latest proposals from management, and acknowledged that although they provided some operational improvements they fell short of the core conditions which might lead to a settlement. The meeting was however asked to consider deferring industrial action to allow the branch negotiators further time.

During a lively debate, during which questions about the local conditions and national context were answered by the Branch and by Michael McNeil, National UCU Head of HE, the mood of the branch quickly became very clear. There was an overwhelming sense among members that any delay in action would be to the detriment of members, and would weaken the position of the branch negotiators in view of the very tight timeframe and the imminent implementation of redundancies. There was very little willingness to trust the management offer, particularly in view of the decision by Council (supported by management) to withdraw a key component of the voluntary severance scheme which the branch believed had been agreed in principle.

Members also argued that a delay in signalling action might lead to any effective action being too late. Accordingly, the Branch voted (with 2 abstentions and no dissent) to proceeding with plans for industrial action from around 4th of May, to include strike and action short of a strike.

The branch also passed an amendment calling for the Deputy Vice Chancellor to be placed on ‘garden leave’ in line with best practice in industry where a senior manager is leaving to work for a competitor (the DVC is moving to Royal Holloway in August 2010).

Further General Meetings have been called for 4th, 12th, 26th May and  3rd June.

Download a full report and copy of the motion.

Sussex UCU Hardship Fund: Guidelines

This fund has been set up to help staff whose financial circumstances have been seriously affected by the recent industrial action. It is funded by staff and student donations made to Sussex UCU over the past few weeks.

The hardship fund is not designed to replace lost earnings. It is intended for those who have particular need of assistance as UCU members undertaking strike action.

The amount available to individual staff will necessarily depend on the number of applicants to the fund. Individual means-testing will not be possible in these circumstances, but payments will vary according to current UCU subscription brackets (i.e. higher payments for those at the bottom of the salary scale).

To apply, please download this form and send it to the UCU Office (Arts B119), along with your payslip showing a deduction for strike action.

If no deductions are shown on your payslip (e.g. if you are an Associate Tutor or other hourly-paid staff member), please provide confirmation of expected work on March 18th, such as a teaching timetable.

Any staff wishing to apply to the fund must submit their applications to the UCU Office no later than 4 weeks after the date to which the claim applies (ie four weeks after the actual pay deduction). That way we can begin allocating the available funds and getting support to those in need of it as soon as possible.

Please note that further applications can be made to this fund should we undertake further strike action.

Many thanks to all of those who have already donated. Further donations can be made online, via paypal or direct to the account. Please click here for more details.

We have had several queries concerning the pay deductions made for those striking on 18th March. The deduction rate is 1/365th of pay and will have been taken from your end of March pay packet. In a number of cases we have also learnt that the University has deducted pay from those people not on strike. In some cases pay has been deducted from non-UCU members, in others from members who are not contracted to work on the strike day, and in yet others from members who were excluded from the ballot and action for other reasons.

To be clear, any deduction of pay for those not on strike is unlawful and anyone in that position should write immediately to HR stating this. The management position of requiring staff to declare in advance that they would be working is not legally robust. UCU provided a detailed matrix as required by law setting out those categories of staff who would be striking and indicating their operational area/unit. No names are provided as the law does not require this. There is no requirement in law to state in advance whether or not you will be taking action. The attempt by management to get advance declarations was simply a tactic to try to undermine our lawful industrial action and to intimidate members.

Of course, anyone who has been affected by the HR errors is very welcome to join UCU and you can do so on line here.

Statement on Professor Paul Layzell’s resignation

Professor Paul Layzell, Deputy Vice Chancellor, has tendered his resignation and will be leaving the University of Sussex in August 2010 to move to his new role as Principal of Royal Holloway.

Paul Layzell, who has been leading the management consultations with UCU and the other campus trade unions, is the second member of our senior management team to depart since the start of the consultation period in November 2009 (PVC Joanne Wright, architect of the teaching strategy, left in January 2010). He is the third senior manager to leave since the start of the overall process of change if we take the former Registrar Phil Harvey into account.

We think this haemorrhaging of managers speaks volumes of their commitment to Sussex. We recognize these are difficult times, but are dismayed that Sussex is fast becoming a brief stepping stone on the management path to the top. We believe the University deserves better than this, deserves senior managers who are genuinely committed to the successful future of our University, and who are genuinely committed to living with the consequences of their actions.
We therefore call on the Vice Chancellor to ensure that any future senior appointments have demonstrable commitment to the future and ethos of the University of Sussex.

The DVC’s departure does offer our Vice Chancellor the chance to review the management team strategy, and to pledge his personal commitment to Sussex. It provides an opportunity to stop increasing management costs, and to start reducing them, and to thin down the top-heavy management structure that has emerged in the past three years. We urge the Vice Chancellor to reflect very carefully on the balance between management and front-line services; between 1 Senior Manager and up to 5 Student advisers whose jobs can be saved; between 1 Senior Manager and 3 lecturers; or between 1 Senior Manager and the nursery/crèche. It is now time to protect these front-line services, not time to recruit another boss.

We therefore call for a freeze on senior management appointments and urge the VC to demonstrate his personal commitment to Sussex, to our futures, and to our jobs, by re-organizing internally rather than recruiting and spending externally. We do not believe that it is right or ethical to be spending money on head-hunters and inflated senior salaries while others are losing their livelihood. We further call on the Vice Chancellor to divert any cost-saving to be made towards saving core jobs and support services.

Sussex UCU Executive
23 March 2010

Sorry that these are a little late but we’ve been recovering from the superb strike day.

BBC News report (video)

BBC News report (web)

BBC Radio 4 The World Tonight (18/3/2010)

Times Higher

The Argus

Socialist Worker

The Independent

The Guardian

Leeds UCU (blog)

Morning Star

Have you seen these? A stove and pan were misplaced at the top picket on Thursday. They belong to a UNITE member who has provided invaluable support to us throughout. If anyone has spotted them in the clear up could you email the branch office. Thanks.