Correspondence on Strike Deductions

Cardiff UCU has been engaging with Cardiff University to attempt to influence them to extend the period over which strike deductions take place.

We first met informally Professor Holford on the 29th of November 2019 which was followed up by an email. Cardiff University subsequently decided to make all the deductions in a single month, an action that could be described as “unkind”.

Our subsequent emails expressed concerns about the equality and diversity issues. In preparing these emails, we received advice and support from members in the School of Law. Our thanks to those members.

Cardiff UCU remains concerned about the impact the deductions will have on our members particularly those on the lowest pay.

If any members need support, please contact us.

If any members are suffering financially, please apply to the local or national strike fund.

Extra info: other institutions have been nicer

To Professor Karen Holford following informal meeting

2nd December 2019

Dear Karen,

Thanks for your time on Friday.

We agree that deductions over three or four months would represent an act of kindness on the part of the University.

We are also keen to work with you on arrangements to support hourly paid staff.

We are happy to work with you to develop advice for staff working to maintain positive relationships with students on the return to work.

Best wishes,

UCU Strike Committee

(UCU didn’t receive a response to the above, but Sue Midha sent an email to CU staff on 5th December re strike deductions.)

To Professor Karen Holford after the announcement that all deductions will be made in January

On 11 Dec 2019, at 16:04, UCU University and College Union wrote:

Dear Dr Hibbitts and Professor Holford

In an email sent on Thursday 5th December, Mrs Sue Midha, Director of Human Resources, wrote that ‘deduction in pay arising from this process will be implemented in the January payroll’. While the meaning of this sentence is unclear, it was later clarified by Vice-Chancellor Professor Riordan in an email sent to students on Monday 9th December: ‘On staggering pay an email has gone out from the Director of HR which sets out our commitment not to deduct pay in December but to deduct pay in January.’

We are concerned about deductions being made in a single month, especially since the UCU industrial action took place over two payroll months (and two calendar months). We believe that such an approach to pay deductions will be most detrimental to people already on the lowest pay. It will compound the well-documented inequalities at Cardiff University, such as the gender pay gap (21.6% median average) and the BAME pay gap (for which there are no official statistics). It will also severely affect people with caring responsibilities.

In view of this, we would like to ask for:

  1. A clear and unambiguous statement regarding the pay deductions to be issued to all staff.
  2. An equality impact assessment to be carried out on this deduction policy.

We await your response by Monday 16th December.

Yours sincerely

Cardiff UCU Executive Committee

Response from Professor Karen Holford 16th Dec 2019

16th December 2019

Dear Cardiff UCU Executive Committee,

Thank you for your email of 11 December 2019.  Sam and I have discussed this.

UCU’s decision to ask its members to undertake eight days of action in the run-up to Christmas is regrettable as this would inevitably impact pay. The dates of action chosen by UCU fell at the end of November (post the November payroll cut off) and in early December (prior to the December pay-roll cut off), therefore falling across two calendar months but one pay period. It is our understanding that in recognition of the difficulties that could arise in relation to this timing, that UCU have made available hardship funds for members to access.     

We appreciate that staff undertaking strike action will not have taken this decision lightly and we are sure you will understand that as a result of the industrial action, UEB finds itself in the position of making difficult decisions, which it takes very seriously to ensure fairness to all staff. We made clear in our communications to staff that we would withhold pay for each day of strike action and that pay adjustment could be administered in the same month or made in a subsequent month. We decided not to withhold pay in December for the strike action taken by UCU, to enable staff to have some time to budget ahead of the deductions in January. We understand that the majority of other institutions are also deducting pay in payroll in either December and/or January.

Regarding the other matter you raise of an EIA, given that the timing and format of action is a matter of UCU policy and that the deductions are an outcome of that policy, we suggest that the concerns you raise about the potential differing impact of the strike action on gender and BAME should be fed into UCU nationally to inform the planning for any potential next phases of action.

With best wishes

Karen and Sam

To Professor Colin Riordan, Vice Chancellor

18th December 2019

Dear Professor Riordan,

We are writing to express our disappointment with the way Cardiff University has chosen to approach the recent UCU industrial action and the pay deductions following it.  Taking strike action is extremely difficult, and the decision is not undertaken lightly. It is a last resort and should be viewed as a sign of the breakdown in relations with our employers both nationally and locally.

A large part of our dispute is related to broader sectoral issues relating to pay and pensions, and workloads. However, casualisation and the gender and ethnic pay gap are local issues which require your action in order properly to be addressed.  The reason why we engaged in action is also heavily related to local issues arising from the large increase in student numbers and our concerns about the quality of education our students are receiving. Increases have led in many cases to over-crowded teaching spaces and to a reduction in the time staff can spend with students to support their learning.

Additionally, we are experiencing under-investment in student welfare services, and in learning resources, including the centralisation of our library services. Further, staffing numbers have not increased commensurately with student numbers such that front-line teaching and professional service staff have experienced significant increases in workloads which have negatively impacted on staff health and wellbeing.  Furthermore, Cardiff is heavily reliant on casual staff raising concerns about the future of our profession, especially for colleagues entering the profession at a time of increased casualisation. At the same time, we are experiencing deteriorating work conditions including real terms cuts in our pay and continued concerns about our future pension.

Local decisions which you have made and continue to make play a significant part in the reasons we took industrial action.  Although Cardiff University is entitled to take pay deductions for the strike in one month we would like you to consider what this symbolises.  For us, this decision represents a lack of concern for your workforce and for the importance of developing positive working relations.

Many other Universities have chosen to take a different path, because they value the importance of good working relationships.  The impact of the decision on how to implement deductions at Cardiff will be to further weaken working relations with senior management and to risk the goodwill of staff. The University relies on high levels of goodwill and unpaid overtime and this is threatened by your decision.

We would urge you to address our concerns and engage in meaningful negotiations with UCU locally to address these issues and to take a more robust approach that will progress national negotiations in the sector regarding pay and pensions.

Yours sincerely

Cardiff UCU Branch Executive Committee

To Professor Karen Holford   23rd Dec 2020

23rd December 2019

Dear Karen,

Thank you for your response regarding UCU’s concerns about the potential differing impact of the strike action on lower paid colleagues who because of unaddressed pay gaps will be women and BME.

Please confirm that at the time of agreeing its deductions policy, UEB had due regard to its public sector equality duties?

As you know, Cardiff University has both a general duty and Wales specific duty. The PSED must be complied with before and at the time a particular policy is under consideration as well as at the time the decision is taken. In addition, in Wales there is a specific duty regarding the assessment of impact which strengthens the general duty.

It would be good to have your assurance that you carried out Equality Impact Assessments before deciding how and when to deduct.

UCU are deeply concerned that those with Protected Characteristics including sex, race and pregnancy/maternity, and disability will be potentially affected by the deduction policy. At the time of formulating the policy, did you consider evidence in respect of the impact on each Protected Characteristic group? To do this, the University has to hand data on the distribution of different groups within universities and the concentration of women and BME staff in lower paid positions who will be disproportionately affected by this decision.

We would appreciate a response as to your discussions in formulating this policy and a copy of the result of any EIA carried out.

Yours sincerely,

Cardiff UCU Branch Executive Committee

From Professor Karen Holford   10th Jan 2020

From: Karen Holford
Sent: 10 January 2020 09:33
To: UCU University and College Union
Subject: Re: Strike Deductions

Dear Cardiff UCU Executive Committee

Thanks very much for your email of the 23 December 2019 concerning due regard to Public Sector Equality Duties.  As you will be aware the University’s policy on strike pay deductions is a longstanding policy which was clearly communicated to all staff prior to industrial action.

I would like to reassure you that our pay deductions policy is fully compliant with our Public Sector Equality Duties as it can be objectively justified as a policy which pursues a legitimate aim (i.e. the lawful and consistent treatment of striking staff) that was communicated well in advance and represents a proportionate response to the industrial action of staff concerned. Despite this, and the longstanding nature of our policy in this area, we did undertake an assessment of the strike action data (when it became available following the 8 days of industrial action) to consider and assess any adverse impact. I can confirm that that this analysis reveals that there is no evidence of substantial adverse impact on any groups with protected characteristics. The deductions will accordingly be made as planned in January.

Of course I share your concerns about potential impact and if you are aware of any individual (with protected characteristics) who has been put to substantial disadvantage by this policy please do bring such cases to my attention and I will ensure appropriate steps will be taken to address them.

With best wishes