Dear friends and colleagues,
We hope this message finds you and your loved ones in good health. We are writing to provide a brief update on strike deductions. Last week, Senior Management contacted UCU to ask whether we would agree to strike deductions being paid into the Keele student hardship fund to support students currently studying abroad and in difficulty returning home as a result of the coronavirus pandemic. Whilst our position is of course that we want students supported and have no objection to our pay deductions being used in this manner, the Committee expressed disappointment that the University is considering applying strike deductions at all in the middle of a pandemic and given the unprecedented effort and energy that have been given in the past week and a half; effort and energy that will be required in the coming months, too. UCU members have shown discipline, responsibility and impeccable dedication. We have been working above and beyond what would normally be expected given ASOS to ensure students are supported and the University can continue to operate, as well as many of our members dedicating themselves to working on the national and global response to the crisis. Many have also paid out of pocket to set up home offices, pay for improved internet access, purchase licences, and even provide funds for personal tutees who were struggling to pay for their return home.
In light of the above, we urged the University to consider following the example set by a growing number of institutions (including KCL, Newcastle, Birkbeck, Southampton, Heriot-Watt, Ulster, Edgehill and St. Andrews, with more expected to follow soon) who are electing not to apply strike deductions in recognition of their staff’s effort in mitigating the impacts that the pandemic, whilst offering to explore alternatives with Senior Management to support students who are having difficulty in returning home. The University has confirmed that it will not grant our request, citing the following reasons:
- the University has already offered to spread salary deductions over a period of months;
- staff are already supported during this period of great anxiety (e.g. flexible work arrangements; special paid leave for carers; extra annual leave entitlement)
- other employers are not offering the same and are laying off staff
Members can read the full exchange in the email sent to them 09:00 BST 31/03/2020
This is a deeply disappointing outcome, which will have devastating impacts on precarious staff, carers and parents. Whilst we recognise that Keele’s institutional response is comparatively better than that of some institutions (e.g. those refusing to spread deductions), it is poorer than that of other Universities which have shown compassion and a clear understanding of the stress and life altering circumstances faced by their staff, taking the sensible step of waiving strike deductions to give them and their families some respite.
We will relay our disappointment to Senior Management and will continue to press for additional support to all campus staff and students. This committee’s position has so far been to take a constructive approach and hold back on enacting ASOS given the exceptional circumstances and the need to support the University in mitigating the effects of the pandemic. Given the University’s decision, though, we will of course consider our next steps carefully. In the meantime, we urge you to contact the Vice-Chancellor directly (firstname.lastname@example.org) to express your dissatisfaction, copying the Head of HR (email@example.com). The University appears to once again take your goodwill and dedication for granted. It needs to know that both are running in short supply and will not be there forever.
Please stay safe, everyone.
Keele UCU Committee