Management imposed the new PDR system in 2016, and are preparing to run a similar process early in 2017. Management insist that the revised process will retain an overall assessment of the reviewee’s performance against annual objectives. The UCU branch committee believes that the overall assessment is unhelpful and dysfunctional, particularly for academic roles and others that involve long-term and complex goals. This view is supported by research that contrasts enabling versus directive mechanisms of performance management in UK higher education institutions[1. See Performance Management in UK Higher Education Institutions: The Need for a Hybrid Approach, by M Franco-Santos, P Rivera & M Bourne, 2014. (Main findings are listed on p. 8). Available: https://www.som.cranfield.ac.uk/som/dinamic-content/news/documents/PerformanceManagementinUKHigherEducationInstitutions.pdf]. That research also reports that enabling rather than directive performance management is associated with higher levels of staff wellbeing as well as higher student satisfaction.
UCU have asked for a management commitment to remove the overall assessment from PDR, have clear processes for conflict resolution and assert that the PDR will not inform capabilities assessment and disciplinary procedures. We have asked that management postpone the next round of the process to make space for further discussions aimed at achieving an agreed process.
In case management proceed despite UCU’s concerns, the branch committee have developed a simple unPDR form that staff could use instead of the University’s PDR forms for various roles[2. UCU’s unPDR form can be downloaded here: UCU Facilitating Performance Form]. The unPDR form would provide an opportunity for a staff member and their line manager to discuss the individual’s role in a supportive way, and to identify what support the staff member needs to maintain and expand their contribution at work. UnPDR does not include a simplistic, categorical assessment of the staff member’s overall performance.
UCU are undertaking an indicative poll to ask branch members whether they are willing to take industrial action in the form of completing an unPDR form instead of the University’s designated PDR form. This would be a form of “Action Short Of a Strike” (ASOS). In case management threaten to withhold pay from people who complete an unPDR instead of the University’s PDR form, the indicative poll also asks members whether they are willing to take escalating action in the form of part-day or full-day strikes. UCU would ask members to undertake strike action only if necessary to protect them against exploitation, if management imposed punitive pay docking while members continued to perform all their substantive duties other than completing PDR forms.
UCU’s unPDR form can be downloaded here: UCU Facilitating Performance Form
This potential industrial action (ASOS in first instance, or strike action if push comes to shove) would include all UCU members employed by Cardiff University.
The branch committee will decide whether to move to a formal ballot, in light of the indicative poll. However, members should bear in mind that industrial action can now be taken only if more than half of members participate in the vote (and if a majority of those participating vote in favour). Whatever your views, please complete the online indicative ballot, by following the link that was emailed to you.