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Pay deductions, ASOS and what it means to negotiate

Published: 28th April, 2021

dictionary definition of negotiation

Email sent to all members of Leicester UCU, 28 April 2021.

On 26 April, we received a letter from Deputy Vice-Chancellor Edmund Burke outlining the Executive Board’s provisional approach to deducting pay from UCU members undertaking Action Short of a Strike (ASOS), due to commence on 4 May. His letter expresses disappointment that we did not attend a meeting on 20 April to discuss the details of our planned ASOS and the protocol for withholding pay; and nor did we accept his invitation to attend a similar meeting on 27 April.

We remain committed to negotiating a resolution to our current dispute that would allow us to drop both the threats of ASOS and Strike Action, and our current preparations for a sector-wide Academic Boycott of the University of Leicester supported by national UCU. However, we did not see an advantage to our members in attending a meeting called intended to help the executive board mitigate ASOS or iron out the technical and/or legal flaws in their pay deduction plan.

We have been very concerned – and disappointed – about the lack of meaningful engagement by the Executive Board in this dispute resolution process. The process should facilitate negotiation, however the Executive Board has blocked our attempts to discuss redundancies. In the most recent dispute resolution meeting – on 15 March – the Deputy Vice Chancellor expressed surprise when we asked for an update on the eight business cases and actions to mitigate redundancies. He was not prepared to answer, and promised to get back to us in writing: six weeks later, he still has not done this. Nor was there any consideration of the several counter-proposals that at-risk colleagues had produced by that point.

Under advice from our Regional Official, who accompanied us to this meeting on 15 March, we have disengaged from meetings with the Executive Board until they are prepared to offer something as the basis for negotiation. The Deputy Vice-Chancellor seems to assume that negotiation is not possible – and that industrial action is inevitable – because our mandate is based on a position of no compulsory redundancies. We have repeatedly told the Executive Board that negotiation isn’t about either side remaining entrenched in their positions, but reaching a new position that is acceptable to both sides. We even looked up the word ‘negotiation’ in the dictionary to make sure we haven’t made any mistake. We have repeatedly offered to resume negotiations if the executive board offers some form of compromise. So far that has not, in any way, happened. They will not even provide basic information that might enable negotiation to take place.

We are seeking expert advice from our Regional Office on the Executive Board’s provisional pay-deduction plans: specifically on the technical and/or legal flaws that may be contained therein. We will be in touch again soon to provide more guidance. We will also provide members with a guide to the different forms ASOS, when and how to inform the employer of any action taken, and other queries in the form of an FAQs document – this is currently being finalised. 

Please be assured that we will do everything we can to ensure that the forms of our actions short of a strike maximise disruption to the Executive Board’s ability to continue business as usual – to maintain their pretence that everything is normal in an abnormal university – whilst minimising as much as possible the financial cost to our members. We will be in touch again before the end of this week…