Coventry University Group Attack on Staff Working Hours – UCU Coventry Response

*NB: UCU has not been consulted on the proposed changes which are being imposed.

The below Response and Counter Proposal was sent on 24th July 2020 to Magi Hoppitt (CPO), John Latham (VC), Ian Dunn (Provost), Ian Marshall (DVC and COO) and Keith Bissett (Chair of Board of Governors).

Response to Principles for managing the extension to working hours

Further to your communication to staff on 23rd July entitled “Update from Chief People Officer” Coventry UCU is writing to voice its strong opposition to the proposals set out in the document “Principles for managing the extension to working hours” which underpins this communication.

On first inspection, the content of your staff communication is broadly welcomed as it acknowledges that a gradual approach to the return to campus and teaching will be required at an initially reduced capacity. It is further acknowledged in the communication that individual risk assessments will be necessary to minimise the risks to those staff members who are either vulnerable themselves or living and caring for others who are vulnerable. We would however, point out that employers have a legal duty to eradicate or where not possible, to reduce the risks identified and not merely take them into account as this suggests they can be overridden.  It is also welcomed that you acknowledge that the pandemic causes ongoing anxiety and necessitates the need for regular communication.

Turning to the Principles document outlining proposals for extending the working day and the working week. Coventry UCU cannot lend its support and we urge the university to urgently rethink its 5 hour on-campus learning commitment to students if such draconian and unsupported measures are thought necessary to deliver it. 

  • The proposals have not been subject to meaningful consultation with the unions and our feedback clearly shows they are not supported by members and staff.  
  • Our members are proud professionals and willing to be flexible and supportive of the return to campus and teaching and are committed to their students’ education but this can’t be at a detriment to their wellbeing, work-life balance and working conditions.
  • Coventry UCU believes the proposals run roughshod over all these considerations and seeks to impose detrimental terms for what appears to be an indeterminate period of time given the university has built into Principle 1 a review clause without the need for consultation with the recognised trade unions.
  • The proposals go way beyond what is considered to be reasonable flexibility due to the significant variation from the agreed norm and the consequent impact this will have on our members’ working and personal lives. Notwithstanding the professional nature of our members’ contracts, it is well established practice that the nominal contractual working hours in a standard working week are delivered Monday to Friday with only exceptional working times post 6pm and on occasion, and with mutual agreement, on a Saturday to cover events such as open days. 
  • Principles 3 and 4 also seem to be at odds with one another suggesting that a possibility exists for Sunday working as well as regular Saturday working to take place. 
  • Principle 3 suggests 5/7 working could be imposed whilst Principle 4 indicates that 5/6 working may be the model. These Principles are ambiguous and unacceptable. 
  • Principle 9 which seeks to indefinitely suspend TOIL and overtime arrangement is also not acceptable not merely because the employer is relying on our members goodwill to deliver its ambitious plans but because there is simply no recognition or other mechanism of compensation in recognition of the proposed antisocial working conditions
  • Moreover, the university appears to be seeking to apply the detrimental working conditions it operates in its subsidiaries. Coventry UCU are appalled that the university would seek to attempt to bring in subsidiarisation by the backdoor and the university appears to be shamelessly trading on the back of the pandemic to bring in these changes by stealth. 
  • UCU has long been concerned about the worse terms and conditions offered to its members in the subsidiaries and objects in the strongest terms to any attempts to level down T&C’s at Coventry University in line with these offerings.

UCU Committee

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