The Covid19 pandemic has exposed the long-term problems in MMU management’s approach to the well-being and safety of its staff. The same strategy underpins the senior management team’s refusal to negotiate with UCU to control the risks to staff of face to face teaching, and the University’s persistent refusal to agree a fair and consistent workload model which respects the professional expertise of its academic workforce. Instead we are confronted with the risks on-campus of a potentially fatal disease, with inadequate safety systems, and with arbitrary and sudden intensification of workloads, which are driving many staff to the point of exhaustion.
Two years’ worth of negotiations on workloads were dropped by senior managers when the pandemic began, and those rights to consultation that UCU does have were simply ignored. Senior managers communicate decisions but do not engage in meaningful consultations to build a collaborative approach to change. Instead they have unilaterally imposed a wholesale revision of curriculum delivery to introduce ‘block teaching’, cuts in research time and support for staff PhD study, and a revision of PhD supervision which increases workloads, alongside a massive intensification of teaching and marking allocations. We are expected to respond rapidly to these impositions but everything from timetables and workloads to risk assessments are delivered to us late, if at all, with particularly severe consequences for disabled staff, parents and those with caring responsibilities. We have no guarantee that these changes will not be permanently imposed.
A branch general meeting voted strongly in favour of moving to a dispute should our clear and reasonable demands on workloads and face to face teaching not be met. UCU negotiators have met with management and have engaged in two ACAS meetings. We have left management in no doubt about members’ anger, anxiety and distress. We have reported the devastating effects on staff health and safety of workload stress as well as failures in the control of risks. The branch has repeatedly proposed ways in which we could work together to resolve these issues, but so far, the University has rejected all compromise.
The MMU UCU Branch Committee has begun a consultative ballot to gather members’ views and is calling on all members to vote YES for strike action and YES for action short of a strike.
The ballot closes at 5pm on Thursday 3rd December.