Below is the text of an e-mail reply from Gavin Wright, the University’s head of Human Resources, sent to us Monday 20th March:
Dear Precarious Workers
Thank you for your e mail dated 15th March 2017.
You will hopefully be aware that members of the University Management Board met with UCU representatives on the 14th and 15th March to discuss the proposed industrial action. During the meetings, the University put forward a proposal to engage the services of a third party to review the duties of Hourly paid Lecturers and Demonstrators in the School of Computing, Engineering and Mathematics (CEM) to determine whether individuals are on the correct job description and contractual arrangements, based on the duties they are undertaking. Should any errors be found, these will be corrected and the appropriate back pay awarded to the date of when the error occurred.
Whilst the UCU negotiating team agreed to take the proposal to its members, it was regretfully not accepted. However not withstanding this, the University still plans to undertake the work as outlined.
PWB is of the opinion that this proposal is fundamentally objectionable for the following reasons:
1. The contracting of a “third party” is highly disagreeable as any third party is financially dependent upon pleasing their contractor. As such any contracted third party cannot be said to be neutral.
2. The suggestion that there may exist “errors” in colleagues’ pay based on their job description falsely suggests that there is an objective measure on the basis of which such judgements may be made. In truth, however, the measure that exists–i.e. job descriptions–is entirely of the University’s own making, which means that the true issue is not whether there are “errors” that need “correcting” but that the job descriptions themselves (and the contracts based on them) are unreflective of the actual workload involved.
3. When colleagues in the School of CEM who were demoted in recent months asked repeatedly to be sent a job description for the Demonstrator position that they had been demoted to, they were systematically met with silence. Management’s suggestion that contracting “errors” can be found based on job descriptions even though colleagues on those very contracts have not yet seen their own job description is unacceptable.
In short, the proposed solution is a blatant attempt to pay a third party to legitimise retroactively a series of appalling decisions already made, based on a measure fabricated by University Management itself. Therefore PWB rejects this proposal categorically. We demand that all demoted colleagues are reinstated as HPLs and have backpay retrospectively paid. If not, as staff and students we will continue to make our feelings known to the university in public.
Join us at 11am this Saturday at The Level to march up to the Moulsecoomb campus to tell the University that we will not stand for these attacks on teaching, working and learning conditions.