“Transforming Cardiff”: Our jobs are at risk

By now, most of you will have heard about Cardiff University’s plan to cut costs under a new “restructuring” scheme called Transforming Cardiff. Many will also have seen the University’s announcement of yet another Voluntary Severance Scheme (the third in 6 years) to encourage staff to leave their posts. The Vice Chancellor has consistently refused to rule out compulsory redundancies

This has been widely covered in the regional and national news media, for instance in WalesOnline, and on the BBC website, and in the Guardian (this article shows how numerous other UK Universities are also announcing pre-Christmas job cuts – more have come to light since, details on our Twitter account).

All of these news stories quote the following robust joint public statement we released with the other campus Union branches from Unite and Unison (whose members are similarly angry at these developments):

“We are astonished that Cardiff University staff are facing their third voluntary severance scheme in six years, and we are very worried that the Vice Chancellor still refuses to rule out further compulsory redundancies.

“We are also gravely concerned that the proposed severance scheme will cause inequality and division among our already demoralised members. The criteria being used to decide the size of pay-outs mean that lump sums will vary in arbitrary ways. We believe those who take up the offer of voluntary severance should all be treated equally.

“We are in this situation because of continued mismanagement at the highest level. Only last year we were told that the University’s budget deficit was predicted and manageable, but now our jobs are on the line yet again. When a football manager performs this badly they either resign or get the sack, but Cardiff University managers seem to be immune from this kind of accountability. For them, laying off staff has become a reflex reaction, rather than an option of last resort.

“Morale among our members is already at rock bottom because of stagnating wages, unmanageable workloads, attacks on pensions, and continued investment in shiny new buildings instead of staff. 

“The only thing which changed the Vice-Chancellor’s mind over this year’s proposed pension raid was concerted industrial action. The looming threat of compulsory redundancies is a major worry for all three campus trade unions and we are all now consulting our members so we can unite in defence of our jobs should the need arise.”

Our opposition to compulsory redundancies: Cardiff UCU is now in formal dispute with the University

The recent experiences of other UCU branches shows that if we want to keep our jobs the best (and possibly only) way is to have an active mandate for industrial action so we can act quickly against compulsory redundancies should they be announced.

In response to the Vice-Chancellor’s refusal to rule out compulsory redundancies, and having exhausted the formal procedures for avoiding a dispute set out in our Recognition Agreement, on Thursday 13 December Cardiff UCU declared a Trade Dispute, as the first step towards balloting our members on Industrial Action (you can read copies of this brief letter, as well as a longer one justifying and explaining our position).

Our principle aim in this dispute will be the avoidance of compulsory redundancies at Cardiff University.

No Trade Union takes industrial action lightly, and we’ll do everything we can to avoid the need for it, but Tory anti-Union legislation means we need to set the wheels in motion now, plan for the worst, and be ready to face compulsory job cuts if (more likely, when) they come.

What can you do:

  • Join our new Cardiff UCU Dispute Committee, which will be open to all members, to plan our strategy for defending our jobs (first meeting soon, TBA; to express interest contact ucu@cardiff.ac.uk);
  • Spread the word about, and attend, our upcoming open staff meetings for information sharing and planning to resist the cuts: The first joint staff meeting will be held on Thursday 20 December 1-2pm in the Wallace Lecture Theatre (rm. 0.13 Main Building, Park Place);
  • Be ready to vote in indicative online polls and formal ballots on local industrial action in the new Year – and please vote in favour of Industrial action to empower your local negotiators to better defend your jobs and those of your colleagues;
  • Be inspired by the success and tactics of other UCU branches who’ve fought redundancies and won (see p.79 onwards of the Branch Solidarity Network’s UCU Activist Handbook)

The Cardiff UCU Finance Working Group, and challenging the need for Transforming Cardiff

One of the Union’s biggest strengths during the pensions dispute came from rank and file members’ own critical examination of USS and UUK’s positions on our pensions. Members locally, and at UK level, continue to use their expertise as researchers to effectively demolish the case for decimating our retirement incomes.

A group of Cardiff UCU members have recently been working to do the same locally, to critically examine the University’s finances and, where necessary, challenge the analysis and narratives used by senior management to justify these and other attacks on our pay and conditions.

We will update you soon about the excellent work they have been doing to challenge the need for Transforming Cardiff. To express interest in working with this group contact the branch office ucu@cardiff.ac.uk.

Re-ballot on the Pay, Casualisation, & Equality Dispute

At a special HE sector conference on pay last month, UCU delegates agreed to re-ballot higher education members nationally for industrial action on the union’s claim around pay, equality and following the recent result of the first ballot. Conference decided that the new ballot would involve all branches, but this time on an aggregate basis (all results counted together, rather than branch-by-branch).

It has now been agreed that the new ballot will open on Monday 14 January 2019 and will close on Friday 22 February 2019. HEC also agreed that the same two questions posed in the recent disaggregate ballot will be asked in the new year aggregate ballot; do members support strike action and do members support action short of a strike up to and including a marking boycott. HEC delegated the formulation of the industrial action plan, which will include sustained strike action and Action Short of a Strike. More info can be found on the national UCU website.

Because of the local threats around redundancies we face, members in Cardiff will now be balloted twice in the New Year: once on the local issue of job losses, and once on the national issues of pay, casualization, and equality.

The Cardiff UCU local Dispute Committee will aim to co-ordinate our own strategies as much as possible with those of this on-going national dispute.

Please complete and share our survey about casualisation and precarious work!

The UCU anti-casualisation group has been collecting testimonies and anecdotal evidence on precarious work across the University and have come across many worrying practices, with evidence of some staff kept in precarious contracts for as long as 20 years and not being properly recognized for the work they routinely carry on. Within Cardiff UCU members (excluding postgraduates and retired members), 32.3% are on non-secure contracts, including (nearly) zero-hour contracts. Casual staff are likely to be under represented in our membership and HESA figures point to 48.6% of academic staff in Cardiff University being on fixed-term or atypical contracts in 2016/17, with atypical contracts accounting for more than half of this figure. Continue reading