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Dear UCU,

Progress on ACAS discussion is indeed very important, but an agreement on the principles of any restructuring even more so (as well as no compulsory redundancies).  ECS  (School of Electronics and Computer Science) staff would not wish our worst enemy to go through the agony of waiting to receive an email for an interview that does not arrive, or the wait for some months now to find out whether we have a job after July. It goes without saying, therefore, that ECS staff sincerely hope that no other school will have to experience our predicament.

Following the Dean’s email on Friday, ECS staff are currently dancing in the rhythm of interviews. Members of staff are either (i) to be appointed without interview, (ii) interviewed because they are border-line, or (iii) not interviewed because they have failed to be shortlisted.  On Monday 8 PLs were interviewed for 2 Business Information Systems posts,  on Tuesday Electronics colleagues were interviewed, Wednesday was the turn of BIS SLs and on Thursday of CSSE PLs. Members of staff who are considered border-line  are invited to these interviews – although they are currently performing at the grade they are interviewed for or for a grade ABOVE – usually at two days´ notice. We have been asked to regularly check our email for an interview invitation. Interviewed staff include Heads of Department, Readers, staff with long University service, staff with substantial administrative experience, staff who have recently being regraded… The ones who have not been invited to an interview have either secured a post or are facing redundancy, without the opportunity to defend their application.  Our life will go on like that at least till the 30th June, possibly longer.

Our application for a post in the `new structure´ consisted of an application form (based on the Readers´ application form, largely identical for SLs and PLs, with 9 sections where among others managerial experience, budget handling experience and international reputation had to be demonstrated); a support statement on how we could help the school in the future; an academic extended CV; a research summary; and a teaching/administration/research skills matrix. The application process had nothing to do neither with the `old´ Job Evaluation process, nor with the recent one: we were asked to meet substantially more complex essential criteria. The Head of Department `descriptors´ were much easier to meet than the Principal Lecturer/ Senior Lecturer ones (although the Head of Department jobs were not currently advertised). Everybody, including Professors and Readers, had to go through this process. We are not aware of any selection criteria and how they will be used; my UCU rep told me that there are seven criteria, roughly corresponding to the application form´s headings. They haven´t told us either whether a threshold will apply; I found out, again from my UCU rep, that management told the Unions a week ago, well after the applications´
deadline, that a threshold (3/5) for each criterion now applies.

The number of ECS staff to be made redundant varies, depending on which document you read or which meeting you attend. It will involve up to 50, or at best 30 members of staff being made redundant. I have serious doubts whether the school will survive the year with its staff reduced by 50%.

Tell colleagues across the institution that their support is vital. No other school should have to go through the same process.

In solidarity

An ECS member

This is reproduced from  http://fightcutsatuow.blogspot.com/2010/06/uow-students-support-marking-boycott.html

To our fellow University of Westminster students,

We write to express our support for the UCU staff and their current marking boycott. While such action is, of course, unpleasant all round, we know that our tutors have been forced to take this action by the management of the University of Westminster, who have resisted every attempt by the UCU to engage in meaningful discussion of their proposed job cuts. The trade unions that represent staff (namely the lecturers’ union, UCU, and the support staff union, UNISON) have argued that (1) such cuts are unnecessary as they are based on a ‘projected’, rather than a real deficit, and; (2) such cuts, if implemented, would result in a serious deterioration of the quality of education at this university. Such a deterioration is inevitable, if job cuts are made, and will affect us ALL. Clearly there is money available; you only have to look at the tens of thousands of pounds spent on the refurbishment of the Regent Street Campus and the fact that the Vice-Chancellor earns over £200,000 a year. Why should people lose their jobs and our education (an education that costs us all £3225+ a year) suffer because of mismanagement?

While we are in no doubt as to the intentions of our tutors and the importance of our education to them all, on the other hand we are constantly reminded that the management of our university see it as a profit-making business and forget that education should be the number one priority of ALL involved in its running. We write as students from all stages in our degrees – some of us have just completed our first year and some are due to graduate this Summer. Of course, it is not ideal for any of us to be without our results, but the cost of late results is no comparison to losing over 200 of our much needed teaching staff. We are united with the UCU members and we will continue to join them on the picket lines and demonstrate our support whenever we have the opportunity.

We fully understand that the intention of the current marking boycott is not to hurt us and our fellow students but to force management to sit down and negotiate seriously with the unions. As we are all aware, this dispute could be resolved easily and quickly, if management would agree to hold mediated talks with the unions. We ask that, until management agree to negotiations, the UCU continue their action, not just in the name of their jobs but in the name of our education. Student support for the UCU action and for the Anti-Cuts campaign as a whole is strong and we will continue to make this clear, and to spread the word to every University of Westminster student (past, present and future) through our own, peaceful, action.

What can you do?
The Fight Cuts Campaign was set up as student organisation that brought together students who are against the job cuts at this university. We have been campaigning against the cuts and in support of staff because we believe that a united response is the most effective strategy to save this university from further deterioration. You can find out more about our activities on our blog: http://fightcutsatuow.blogspot.com/

In the short-term, there are other ways in which students can lend a voice to the current dispute. Write to the Vice-Chancellor Geoff Petts (pettsg@wmin.ac.uk) and Deputy Vice-Chancellor Ricki Morgan-Tamosunas (morganr@wmin.ac.uk), urging them to end the current dispute by finding a settlement with the unions. The unions do not want to be in this position but feel they have no choice; management, on the other hand, could very easily find a resolution to this dispute if only they were willing. The more pressure we put on management as students united with staff, the more likely it is that management will return to the negotiating table.

We urge all students not to direct their anger at staff. This is a difficult time for all staff concerned, some of whom have already lost their jobs, and we should be showing our solidarity with them. TOGETHER WE ARE STRONGER.

All at The Fight Cuts Campaign

Dear Student,

Thank you for your email of DATE.

Below is the union reply to all students awaiting marks explaining why we are taking this action and what you too can do about this.

Union Communication to Students:

We know that you are distressed and frustrated by the assessment boycott. We apologise sincerely for the distress and for not communicating with you earlier (unlike management, we do not have access to all-student emails and have been told that we would face disciplinary action if we attempted to contact students about the boycott via other means such as BlackBoard). We have not undertaken the boycott lightly. We came into academia to teach and do research, not to withhold marks from students whom we’ve been teaching with dedication.

We’re participating in the boycott because we have no alternative: the senior management of the university – some of whom have been employed at Westminster a fraction of the time that many of us have been here – want to make many staff members redundant. Management have already announced that a further round of staff redundancies is scheduled for later this year.

We, the University and College Union (UCU), have been trying to conduct serious negotiations with management since January, when they first announced that they wanted to cut over 200 posts at the university. Management claim the cuts have to be made, and made now: through redundancies that are ‘voluntary’ (but in name only) or compulsory. People who have dedicated their adult lives to university teaching will suddenly have no job and no career. Support staff face the same prospect. Many of these men and women have families who they will be unable to support should their jobs be cut.

If these staff members are sacked, and more follow, the quality of education at Westminster will be impaired, perhaps severely. We are taking action also for the future of education at Westminster.

We in UCU know that any savings can be made without sacking staff. The university has several million in their cash accounts that have been ringfaced for real estate development at Harrow. We have tried to negotiate seriously with management for six months about how to make savings; but they have not – yet – responded in kind. Repeatedly we have asked management to take part in talks with UCU mediated by the Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service (ACAS); we asked this again this week; yet still management will not take part in these talks.

Meanwhile, UCU members participating in the boycott are being severely penalised: 50 per cent of our pay is being withheld while we boycott assessment.

We know that a marking boycott affects final-year students the most. But we’re sure you understand that we can’t stand by and let management sack staff, destroy careers, and imperil the quality of education at Westminster.

Could you please also write to the vice-chancellor, Geoffrey Petts, and to the deputy vice-chancellor, Rikki Morgan-Tamosunas, and ask them to negotiate seriously with UCU so that the dispute can be ended now? (Don’t forget to copy us into the letter.)

Finally, UCU staff members will be happy to send letters (for example, to prospective employers, postgraduate admissions offices, and benefit offices) explaining why you have not yet received a formal transcript of your marks and indicating what your likely degree classification will be. Write to your personal tutor first about this; or if they are not available, write to the module leader of one of your modules where marks have been withheld.

Yours sincerely,

The Coordinating Committee, UCU at Westminster

Success of ASOS

Action Short of A Strike in the form of the marking boycott is as we all now know certainly painful as we all face a 50% pay dock, but we should also be reasonably proud what it has achieved so far in terms of allowing successful negotiations with management.

It is also tough for students whose marks have been effectively delayed due to our action, although it must be said the vast majority are firmly in favour of ASOS as they recognize it is all about the future of education. Even senior management while not facing any financial repercussions for the mess that they have made of the University and their restructuring exercise must be feeling some pressure now from irate students and their parents complaining about the situation.

In the case of the Modern Languages Evening programme staff were originally faced with taking new contracts that would pay only £13-14 an hour or else faces closure of the entire programme and the loss of all their jobs. However, ASOS allowed our negotiators to successfully argue in the face of management threats to close the entire programme for not only a higher rate of £18-20 an hour for these staff, but also to effectively double this by adding in substantial time for preparation. The effect has been to ensure their salaries dropped by no more than 20% in the end.

In the Centre for English Language Teaching while we haven’t been as successful we have at least managed to argue for a rate of £18-20 an hour when the university wanted to pay staff at a far lower rate of £13-14 an hour and the 0 hour contracts that were proposed have been made optional rather than compulsory for staff. Staff in the Centre for English Language Teaching as in the Modern Languages Evening Programme are grateful for the support from their fellow Union members without whom none of this was likely to be achieved.

We now hope that ASOS can help to make management agree to tripartite talks involving ACAS and the remainder of the issues can be satisfactorily resolved.

The message is clear: support UCU and show solidarity with your colleagues by continuing the marking boycott if you want management to behave responsibly and sensibly.’

I decided to take a look at the website of the “independent and trusted third-party” for the Staff Engagement survey ie Valuentis: see http://www.valuentis.com. It says that its offices are in Berkeley Square House, Berkeley Square. According to NovaLoca Commercial Property Finder ( http://www.novaloca.com ): “Berkeley Square House is the premier multi-let building in the heart of Mayfair overlooking Berkeley Square”. Is this the sort of location a cost cutting university would expect to find value for money ? Whilst the university threatens substantial redundancies; aims to slash the salaries of some of its teaching staff and wields the axe to their terms and conditions – it seems it needs to pay Mayfair based HR consultants to work out how engaged we all are. In the light of this and the champagne reception held recently by the university, one wonders just how much money the university has to lavish on discretionary spending and external consultants and who is really paying the price for it.

Dear Student,
As you may be aware, there is currently a dispute taking place between this university’s management and the academic staff union (UCU) over the threat of job cuts to over 200 staff posts. As part of the campaign against these cuts, members of UCU are currently engaged in an assessment boycott, which means that staff will not be marking any form of assessment (including coursework and exams) until after this dispute is over.
 
We understand that will cause some inconvenience to students and for that we apologise to all affected students. However, we have been left with no choice, as management have been unwilling to seriously negotiate with the staff unions to reach an acceptable agreement for all parties. Staff who given years of dedicated service to this university now find themselves under threat of redundancy and, in the long term, cuts to staff posts will mean a poorer quality of education for all students.
 
If you are affected by the assessment boycott, there are a number of things you can do:
 
Find out more and get involved in the student campaign against job cuts at this university. The University of Westminster Students Union supports the staff campaign against job cuts, and you can read more about the Fight Cuts campaign here: http://fightcutsatuow.blogspot.com/

 
Write to the Vice-Chancellor ( g.petts@wmin.ac.uk  ) urging him to resume serious negotiations with the staff unions. There is also a letter-writing campaign, which you can read more about here: http://fouw.wordpress.com/
 
Our management would like a university run for profit before education. The assessment boycott may mean getting your results back a little late, and this is not something that staff take lightly (for every day that the assessment boycott continues, staff are being docked 50% of our pay). However, we hope you will agree that this is a small inconvenience that must be shouldered in the fight against job cuts. Please join us in this campaign – together we have a better chance of shaping the future of this university.

More advice for members below.  We know that individual cases may be complicated – contact your Branch/Department Reps for more advice if necessary but stick to general ASOS of not marking.  The first FAQ for the Action is under May postings for the blog, so refer to this as well (https://westminsterucu.wordpress.com/2010/05/20/marking-boycott-faq/).

Nitty gritty of ASOS
1.    What to do if you are moderating  – You do not moderate.
2.    What to do with marks completed before 21 May?  If you have marks but they have not been handed in then do not hand them until you are given an official request when you then have to hand them over.
3.    Asos does not apply to sem1 marks, what do I do?  ASOS applies to anything that you are marking so if it was coursework only then the marks have probably been handed in but if there was an examination in May then you should have stopped marking it.
4.    Are we allowed to delay following requests from management?  No, you are not allowed to delay but if you have a genuine problem, such as not being able to find all scripts, then you should explain this, as this type of problem occurs during normal working.
5.    Wording from UCU re what to say if managers ask for marks.  This was provided in the recent UCU email and may be used on module leader reports or if you attend boards as well.  Members are welcome to add further to this, it’s just a suggestion:  “I am instructed by my union to refuse to undertake any marking of any kind because of the dispute with management over threatened compulsory redundancies in this university”

The action is now impacting on many boards in the University, keep it up.

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