Member Update from the Cardiff UCU Strike Committee

Communication with the VC and local aims:

Where’s Colin? A response to Cardiff UCU from the Vice Chancellor

This week, on behalf of Cardiff UCU members, the Strike Committee invited the Cardiff University Vice Chancellor Colin Riordan to take questions from staff and students about issues related to the current industrial action.

Many of you feel, and we agree, that Prof Riordan has been conspicuously absent in recent days, and that he has a responsibility to listen to staff concerns and explain his positions.

Today we received the following reply from Prof Riordan personally:

“Thank you for the invitation to attend an Open Meeting. As you will be aware we have held meetings in impacted Schools and Colleges for students concerned about the strike action and I have written to both staff and students setting out my views. I have always stressed that I fully respect the right of staff to take industrial action and I also appreciate how difficult this situation is for staff – especially given our commitment and loyalty to students.

“Although this is a national dispute, my focus remains on doing everything within my power to bring about a resolution that meets the needs of employees and employers alike. Therefore, while I wish you well with your Open Meeting I am declining your invitation on this occasion.”

We do not think this is a satisfactory response to the hundreds of members and supporters who directly called for closer engagement with, and better leadership from, the VC.

We still plan to go ahead with the public meeting on Tuesday 3rd December, 1pm, Cathays Community Centre, Cathays Terrace. Whether our managers are there or not, it will be a memorable event.

What More Should the Vice Chancellor be Doing?

In his reply the VC says he’s doing “everything in his power” to resolve the dispute, but is this the case?

Firstly, he correctly calls this a “national dispute”, but this does not mean he’s not free to act locally to reduce precarious employment, take staff mental health and workload seriously, reduce shocking BAME and gender pay gaps, and address excessive executive pay and perks.

Secondly, he has much more influence in this “national” dispute than his reply indicates. For instance, he is represented by both of the employer organisations with whom we’re negotiating nationally.

We think there are four things the VC could do immediately to make a national resolution to the dispute more likely, as well as to begin to address staff concerns about conditions at Cardiff University:

  1. Publicly call for UCEA to negotiate on pay (which they have refused to do until now, despite agreeing to discuss workload, casualization, and inequality);
  2. Publicly call on the Universities Superannuation Scheme (USS) to accept the recommendations of the Joint Expert Panel (JEP), and urge Universities UK (UUK) to work closely with UCU to push for their implementation;
  3. Commit publicly to meaningfully addressing pay inequality, casualization, and workload problems at Cardiff University; and
  4. Agree to stagger strike pay deductions for staff over an eight-month period to begin to rebuild goodwill, and lessen the financial impact of striking.

We will meet with senior Cardiff University managers on Friday 29th November to request these actions.