The group met on 14 September. A brief update was provided on the 5 work streams that comprise the University Strategy, with discussion covering topics such as the launch of a staff survey to gather feedback on how colleagues view the current reward and recognition system; the inclusion of questions about wellbeing on the 2023-24 PDR in response to staff comments on the staff experience survey; and potential reforms to the role of the Senior Review Groups in PDR, given that ratings have now been removed and PDR is no longer linked to reward.
Discussion focused on amendments to the PDR form for RTE staff, designed to significantly reduce the time taken to complete the paperwork. We invite members to feed back to LUCU about the merits and demerits of the new form, as it will be further refined for PDR 2024-25.
This newsletter reports on the AGM, USS & 4 Fights and Management Negotiations.
In brief, the AGM addressed the activities of the branch committee over the last year including – e.g. – the removal of ratings and the decoupling of rewards from PDR, our monitoring of Covid safety measures, GTVO campaigns for USS and 4 Fights, organising strike actions, the joint statement with Loughborough management on USS, and our input to Project Enable and the review of promotions criteria. Looking ahead, we discussed a major recruitment campaign for next year, which will include opportunities for members to receive training and support their Reps in this vital activity.
Officers for the 2022-23 committee were also confirmed:
Mary Brewer: Chair
Marc Gibson: Secretary
Marie Hanlon: Membership Secretary
Alec Edworthy: Health, Safety and Environment Officer
Andrew Dix: Casework Coordinator
David Wilson: Treasurer
Sue Hignett: Equalities Officer
Joanna Boehnert: Ordinary member
Minutes of the AGM have been emailed to all members.
USS & 4 Fights
A branch delegates’ meeting was held on 27 June. Delegates were asked to vote on the timing of an aggregated ballot for industrial action on USS & 4 Fights. 79% of delegates voted to ballot in October, with action to take place in Spring/Summer 2023; 51% of delegates voted against a summer ballot. Full details of questions and ballot results have been emailed to members.
HEC met on 1 July and agreed the following demands for 2022/23:
To call on UUK to withdraw their imposed benefit cuts to USS
To call on USS to carry out a new evidence-based valuation
To reject the pay offer from the employers
To seek a substantial (at least £2,500) pay increase
To seek meaningful agreements on workload, casualisation, and equality pay gaps
However, regard timing, HEC decided to open the ballot in August to run until October, with industrial action to begin in November, should the employers not agree to the above demands. This appears out of line with the expressed view of a large majority of branches, whose delegates proffered a variety of reasons why they did not support this strategy and/or feel able to deliver a positive ballot result within this time frame. Consequently, branch officers have requested a meeting with Justine Mercer, HEC Chair, to discuss further the rationale for November strike action.
Management Negotiations: PDR and Covid 19
JNCC, in which the 3 campus unions negotiate with management, met on 6 July.
Management confirmed that the 2023 round of PDR will follow the same process as this year, that is, there will be no ratings or reward tied to PDR. However, in 2024, management is considering returning to ratings and re-linking PDR to rewards. The three campus unions made clear our strong opposition to the reintroduction of a judgemental rather than developmental review of staff performance.
The unions requested that senior management
reiterate to all line managers that staff are not expected to work when ill, whether from Covid or another illness,
recirculate the policy that asks staff who have Covid or any other communicable disease to stay at home to protect others, and
continue providing cleaning materials for commonly used equipment, whether desks, copiers, vans, etc. We are pleased to report that management agreed to these requests.
The unions also asked that clean air is ensured, free from airborne spread diseases. This could be provided by adequately filtered air handlers, where fitted, and HEPA air purifiers where there is no mechanical ventilation. We are disappointed that management would not agree to the installation of air purifiers, because, they argued, there is insufficient evidence to support their effectiveness. LUCU disagrees with this analysis, and our Health and Safety officers will discuss the question of evidence further with Neil Budworth, the Director of Health, Safety and Wellbeing.
We have received a response to our newsletter, above, from Anne Lamb, Director of Human Resources, regarding the item on PDR.
It remains the case that there is not likely to be any significant change on ratings or rewards for PDR 2023; however, we have been asked to circulate further details about the timing and decision-making process regarding PDR.
Following a meeting of the Academic Leadership team and consultation with Deans, final details about PDR 2023 will be shared with staff in the autumn.
Looking ahead to 2024: PDR and reward are to be included in one of the University’s enabling projects, Project Expectation, which will explore the longer-term arrangements.
Currently three areas are undergoing a restructure: Careers, Organisational Development, and the School of Science, where the restructure impacts on technicians. Management is only obliged to consult where 25 jobs or more will be affected. However, we are fortunate that in keeping with best practice the three campus trade unions, along with affected staff, are always consulted on proposed changes. The purpose of consultation is to allow staff and/or their representatives input into the restructure. Note that ‘consultation with’ the campus trade unions does not necessarily equate to ‘agreed by’ the campus trade unions.
An unpleasant fact of restructures is that they may result in staff being required to apply for a new post when the role they currently hold is made ‘redundant’, and they have not been ‘slotted in’ to the new role (‘slotting in’ is where the new role contains at least 60% of the duties of the previous role, as determined by the list of duties in the new and the old job descriptions). If there is a reduction in the number of posts available, then some staff may face redundancy. Whilst the direct impact of the current restructures is on Professional Services staff, the consequences may also impact on the workloads of academic colleagues.
The campus trade unions are united in opposing job losses because of these restructures. We will also fight against staff being asked to perform the same duties as previously at a lower pay grade or staff facing intensified workloads by being given additional duties for the same pay.
If you are/were involved in a restructure and believe trade union representatives have not been involved, we want to know: firstname.lastname@example.org. Please do this so that we can monitor whether a pattern is developing whereby work is being pushed down onto lower grades, with higher grades being made redundant.
It has been brought to our attention that recent updates re: the PDR have not reached all members. In response to the pandemic, the University has announced that the deadline for PDR discussions has been extended to the end of April 2021.
These are 3 points we feel that we should bring to your attention.
No colleague will be assessed against objectives that have been so significantly affected by the pandemic that such an approach would be unreasonable. Last year’s objectives should be considered in-the-round and in the light of the challenges that we have all faced. This includes both different ways of working and domestic pressures such as home-schooling children or looking after dependents.
If objectives remain relevant, calculate a new time frame for their completion to be discussed with your reviewer. If no longer relevant say so and write them off – long justifications are not necessary for undeliverable objectives. A clear explanation of the legacy impact of Covid on your research will help ensure that you are not held to a set of unfair objectives in future.
The PDR discussion should focus on the coming year from the perspective of objectives, support and professional development.
Much of the work undertaken by the branch happens in plain sight: think, for example, of our brokering the Partnership Agreement with the University or our organisation of strike activity in support of national campaigns for better pay and pensions. By its very nature, however, personal casework, as undertaken on campus by a small team comprising a number of Committee colleagues and several department or section reps, is liable to go unnoticed. The work involves meeting members who contact us for support on a wide range of issues, reading material relevant to their cases, offering advice, and accompanying them to meetings with managers. The volume of work involved is significant. The rewards, however, are greater still, for in casework we encounter members who are facing difficult, worrying, even distressing situations, and we hope that they find our involvement supportive and constructive.
Sometimes a case with which a member approaches us can be resolved quite quickly and informally. On other occasions, however, the member may need advice in preparing a complex grievance claim or may be facing disciplinary action that has dismissal as one of its possible outcomes. High demands are made on the caseworker in these circumstances to be not only a source of support and counsel, but to be fully prepared.
In this academic year to date, we have offered formal casework support to 18 of our members. Many of these cases are ongoing. In the current, complex circumstances, we do not anticipate that the demands on the caseworking team will lighten.
We are grateful to those members who, either for the first time or as a refresher, attended the recent caseworker training session led by Joe Rooney from the union’s Regional Office. If you feel you might like to get involved in casework and want to find out more, please get in touch with our Personal Casework Coordinator Andrew Dix (A.Dix@lboro.ac.uk). Likewise, do contact Andrew if you would like union support and advice with any issue that you have in the workplace.
Launch of “LUCU Discuss”
Following the motion ‘Building LUCU’, the branch has set up a discussion list where members may raise issues of interest or concern, ask questions of each other, share ideas, and develop solidarity. We know work is especially isolating for many at the moment, and we hope that this might help bring our members together.
To join, please send an email to email@example.com with the subject “Subscribe to LUCU Discuss”. In the body, please write your name and the preferred email address you have listed for your UCU membership (this can be checked via MyUCU). You must join the list with the email address your UCU account is registered to (this is the email address through which you receive current UCU information).
Attached to this email are a set of rules and guidelines for LUCU Discuss that we would ask members to read before registering. We hope that members will find the discussion list useful and enjoyable. If you have any questions, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Meet Our Reps
Jen De Lillo, Library Services: I am Academic Librarian for English and Communication and Media Studies and work within the Library’s Academic Services Team. I’ve been in this role since 2016 having previously worked on research projects on digital scholarly editions of medieval texts after finishing my PhD in 2001. Given my experience, I understand first-hand the precarious nature of research positions. I became the union rep for the Library as I believe it is important for professional service staff to be represented and, as a part-time worker myself, I feel that it is essential for us to have a voice. I have found union colleagues invaluable when it comes to discussing matters informally and hope to be able to support others whilst keeping the local branch informed of any issues we may be facing within the Library.
Eef Hogervorst, School of Sport, Exercise and Health Sciences: I am a Professor of Psychology and UCU rep for SSEHS. I very much support the solidarity principle and have personally had much benefit from being a LUCU member over the past years. I research mental health, with a focus on cognitive impairment. My particular interest is in menopause and dementia. During peri-menopause, many women find it hard to focus on work and mental health issues such as anxiety and depression that play a significant role in midlife. With HR and colleagues, I am developing a course for WHEN to help women navigate this. I have also given several lectures on career progression in academia. I am passionate about reducing gender differences in pay and career opportunities. I am training to become a LUCU caseworker.
We have now come to the end of the second year of the revised PDR system at Loughborough. University management are again reviewing the process and have invited the 3 campus unions to contribute to this review.
Last year the University ran a survey on our experiences of the system but management have decided not to repeat this again this year. We believe this would be a useful exercise to measure progress and so have replicated the key questions ourselves. The results will be used to inform our input into the PDR review. You can complete the anonymous survey at
LUCU’s Committee maintain that ratings are generally unhelpful and detract from the rest of the PDR content. However if we must have them it would be preferable to have three, to reflect the three possible outcomes i.e.
1) Unsatisfactory performance requiring action
2) Expected performance (the vast majority)
3) Exceptional performance warranting an award
The distinction between “Good” and “Very Good” currently seems to be a regular source of contention and distress while being of little value as the outcome is the same. Do let us know if you agree or disagree with this position or if you have other feedback you would like to provide.