The University of Bath and the local branch of the University and College Union (UCU) believe it is in the best interests of staff and students to resolve the current industrial disputes over pay, important work conditions and equalities issues, the USS pension scheme, and to do so urgently.
The University of Bath has been supportive of moves to try and reach a negotiated conclusion to both disputes. The statement set out below outlines our joint position, which seeks to provide a framework to reach a national settlement for both claims, and the work already being undertaken locally, which addresses related issues.
Contractual arrangements, equality pay gaps and workloads
The recent offer put forward by UCEA sets out a framework for many of these issues which it is hoped would be implemented sector wide. We agree that national frameworks are the way forward and we urge all sides to work on mechanisms for implementing the associated actions as part of such a framework for tackling these key issues.
Action has already been undertaken, or is being worked on locally at the University of Bath to address many of the issues raised, demonstrating the capacity for university management to enter into constructive negotiations with trade unions, with the goal of working together towards positive, collective agreements, which benefit both sides.
Following a pioneering local claim from University of Bath UCU in 2019 regarding ‘anti-casualisation’, a joint statement of intent was signed outlining an agreement to enter into collaborative negotiations aimed at addressing issues of insecure employment.
Progress has subsequently been made through the creation of new low-fractional salaried contracts enabling Graduate Teaching Assistants and Hourly-paid Teaching Staff to benefit from employment status. This has improved the working conditions for over 70 people this year, including associated benefits such as sick pay, paid annual leave, maternity pay and incremental progression. The University and union will continue to monitor the uptake and use of these contracts to ensure best practice. A collective agreement has also been signed extending academic status to teaching-only staff on grades 7 and above.
We are now starting a new phase of work to develop clearer policies and practices for the use of fixed-term contracts during 2020. This will include signing up to the new Concordat to Support the Career Development of Researchers. We affirm a joint commitment to continuing this work with the aim of formalising a collective agreement in 2020 addressing issues of casual and insecure employment.
On the issue of equality pay gaps, a Joint Working Group between the Trades Unions and management undertook detailed analysis on the University gender pay gap last year. Reflecting similar work by our colleagues at the University of Bristol, the University commits to work with the campus trade unions with a view to formalising a collective agreement, including an action plan and targets, to address the gender pay gap by the end of the year. Emerging analysis on the ethnicity pay gap and disability pay gap will be part of this work.
Both parties recognise that there is further work to be undertaken, including on workloads and mental health. This year begins the roll-out the HSE Management Standards to gather information and allow the Trades Unions and management to work together on solutions.
It is important to note that these examples of local action and agreements have been made possible through the positive working relationship developed between the University of Bath and the University of Bath UCU branch, demonstrating a genuine desire to be at the forefront of meaningful change in the sector.
We remain committed to the national pay bargaining process. However, while the current collective bargaining agreement has served the sector reasonably well over many years, the practice of annual negotiations is a source of unhelpful uncertainty. We believe that framework agreements should be sought which have terms longer than one year, offering both the competitive remuneration staff deserve and that the sector needs to flourish.
Locally, the University signed up to being a Living Wage employer in 2018 and in April 2020 the lowest salary will increase to £9.30/hr (the National Living Wage will be £8.72/hr) improving the pay of over 100 of lower paid staff.
We were and remain strong proponents of the Joint Expert Panel’s establishment as a mechanism to chart a sustainable way forward for the USS pension scheme, which is so important for the recruitment and retention of world-class staff within the UK higher education sector.
We are pleased at signs that progress is being made through the national, tripartite talks to respond to the recommendations in the second JEP report. We agree that sufficient space needs to be created for these crucial discussions and urge USS, particularly, to listen to and engage fully with stakeholders. To feed into relevant talks, senior management team and Trades Unions have begun to meet regularly on the topic of pensions, publishing a joint statement on the most recent JEP report.
We call on both sides to find an interim goodwill gesture that addresses current concerns about members being priced out of the scheme, particularly those on lower salaries, and uses the JEP process to establish an affordable schedule of contributions in both the medium and longer term.
The University of Bath and University of Bath branch of UCU call upon their national representatives to negotiate settlements that reflect the above position to end these disputes as quickly as possible.