QM UCU submits a collective grievance to management on the non-renewal of fixed-term and part-time hourly paid contracts

Dear Acting Head of HR

This collective grievance is submitted on behalf of QMUCU members who have been or are currently employed on part-time hourly paid and fixed term contracts, and have been impacted by the non-renewal of those contracts. QMUCU have previously raised numerous concerns including in a document sent on 7th July https://qmucu.org/2020/07/09/qmucu-response-to-guidance-on-ta-and-tf-contracts-for-2020-21/ and have had no proper response. 

The grievance therefore covers the following failure: 

  1.  To consult adequately with QMUCU about the planned redundancies

The University and College Union (UCU) represents over 120,000 academics, lecturers, trainers, instructors, researchers, managers, administrators, computer staff, librarians and postgraduates in universities, colleges, prisons, adult education and training organisations across the UK. Queen Mary UCU is the recognised Trade Union for most of the affected staff facing non-renewal and/or redundancy at Queen Mary but we have not been consulted about these changes.

  1. To carry out redundancies in a fair and consistent manner

Management have not ensured that the non-renewal of fixed-term contracts/the redundancies of fixed-term employees are ‘fair’ and that staff are being treated consistently across the institution. Some staff are getting redundancy or expiry notices, others are not. Some members of staff have not received anything regarding their contracts expiring on 31st August, while others have. 

  1. To allocate work to fixed term and hourly paid staff in the next academic year in a fair, timely and consistent manner

TA/TF work is now being allocated to permanent members of staff but the process is inconsistent and therefore potentially unfair. Guidelines for allocation of work to TAs/TFs were distributed in early July. Different Schools appear to be managing the process in completely different ways that may well all work within the guidelines but may still turn out to be unfair and inconsistent. A failure to ensure consistency and fairness across campus can lead to claims for unfair dismissal. The current process for reissuing contracts appears to be operating on an ‘ad hoc’ basis which lacks transparency. Without knowing who is on the panel or what basis the decisions are being made, the process cannot be shown to be consistent and fair. In addition the timetable is not sufficient. There is no clear timetable that offers fixed-term/hourly paid staff at least some degree of security going into the new academic year.

  1. To make adequate attempts to provide alternative employment for staff eligible for redeployment elsewhere at Queen Mary or in other parts of the University of London

Management and HR have not adequately notified fixed-term employees of any available positions which they are suitably qualified to do. Employers are obliged to seek to identify whether there is any alternative work available within the company which the employee could reasonably be offered. If suitable alternative work is available, and if this work is not offered to the employee prior to the expiry of the fixed-term contract, then this could render the employee’s dismissal unfair even if the statutory dismissal and disciplinary procedures have been followed. 

  1. To notify fixed term and hourly paid staff facing redundancy of their eligibility to participate in the Voluntary Severance Scheme in a timely manner

Despite a joint TU response rejecting the VSS scheme, https://qmucu.org/2020/07/09/joint-response-to-voluntary-options/ the scheme was published on staff pages. The guidance did not mention that part-time and fixed term staff facing redundancy at the end of August were also eligible to apply except for a few staff in the School of English and Drama who were informed just before the deadline for application. This lack of fairness and consistency meant potentially eligible staff were unable to apply for redundancy under the VSS scheme and are now being made redundant on or before August 31 on different and less favourable terms. Even if staff were aware they were eligible they would not have been able to make an informed decision because they did not yet know they were being made redundant. Many staff are only just now receiving their redundancy notices but the deadline to apply for VSS has passed so the opportunity for an enhanced redundancy payment is not available to these staff. This is clearly unfair and inconsistent treatment of fixed term and hourly paid staff in comparison with their permanent colleagues.

  1. To include eligible Fixed Term and hourly paid staff on the Government Furlough Scheme

QMUCU has repeatedly asked HR and management to extend contracts for fixed term contract work that was paused or delayed by the COVID-19 pandemic and to place eligible staff on Furlough. Unfortunately senior management refused these requests. The refusal to apply for Furlough for eligible staff has led to unfair redundancies for fixed term staff.

  1. To ensure that the work of staff being made redundant who are on hourly-paid and fixed-term contracts is not continuing elsewhere without just cause

QMUCU recognises that it is unlawful for someone to be made redundant if their work continues. We believe that some staff are being made redundant while their work is continuing because this work is now being given to other members of staff. We require evidence that this is not the case.

  1. To carry out an adequate Equalities Impact Assessment on redundancies and non-renewal of contracts – as a consequence of cost cutting measures including the recruitment freeze

QMUCU is aware that people with protected characteristics are disproportionately represented among staff who are employed on a fixed term and/or hourly paid basis. It is essential therefore that an institution-wide EIA is carried out to assess the impact on Equalities on Queen Mary as a result of any decision to end or not renew fixed term and hourly paid part time contracts. QMUCU has identified potential equality impacts on the nonrenewal of part-time hourly paid contracts and ending of fixed term contracts. This will be evidenced through the implementation of the outcomes we are seeking.

  1. To consider the impact on Health and Safety of staff as a result of senior management     decisions related to redundancies and non-renewal of contracts

QMUCU is concerned that the non-renewal of part-time hourly paid contracts and the ending of fixed term contracts will lead to – and in many cases has already led to – increased workloads for remaining staff. The transfer of work to remaining staff calls into question the reason given for the ending of these contracts; work has not ‘ceased’ and cannot therefore be legally said to no longer exist. QMUCU contends that if this work remains extant, then current contracts should be continued or extended. Queen Mary UCU have made senior management aware of health and safety impacts on staff where fixed term contracts are ending and part time hourly paid contracts are not being renewed, nevertheless, these concerns have not been addressed.

  1. Inappropriate use of Agency staff and outsourcing to cover staff shortages

The use of agency staff to cover staff shortages is unfair and inconsistent when not addressed in the same context of the non-renewal of contracts of loyal staff who are now facing redundancy and/or the loss of employment as a result of these decisions. We therefore request an enquiry into why agency staff are necessary at the same time as significant job losses are being enacted.

Outcomes sought

Joint Negotiating Committee – Real and Meaningful Engagement
QMUCU has requested a review of the 2016 Assimilation Agreement and the overall treatment of Fixed Term and Hourly Paid Staff since 2017. We believe this is long overdue and there is now an urgent need for a formal Joint Negotiating Committee to resolve these issues.

Fixed term full time contracts
QMUCU is seeking a full analysis of data giving the financial – or other – reasons for the non-renewal of all fixed term contracts and arrangements made for the transfer of the work that is no longer being carried out,  to other staff.

Fixed Term Part-time hourly paid contracts
As above we request a full analysis of data citing reasons for non-renewal of all fixed term/part time hourly paid contracts.

Equality Impact Assessment
We request an institutional equality impact assessment addressing all protected characteristics, in particular, the impact on women and Black, Asian and People of Colour (BAPoC) staff, and women and BAPoC staff as a proportion of total staff, of the non-renewal of all fixed term contracts. This report should include meaningful actions taken by Queen Mary to protect and improve job security and opportunities for staff with protected characteristics, including women and BAPoC staff.

Workload planning
We request a workload planning audit in each instance of the ending of either fixed term or part-time hourly paid contracts detailing how the work is ending or continuing.

Health and Safety
Local stress risk assessments to be carried out where changes are made to remaining staff workloads as a result of the ending of fixed term contracts.

Redeployment

An overhaul of the current system of redeployment, which, to ensure fairness and consistency, will include regular monitoring of the redeployment procedure to ensure its effectiveness.

Use of Agency Staff

We request a report outlining who is responsible for the decisions to employ agency staff and a plan going forward to coordinate outsourcing with HR staff dealing with redundancies.

Two years secure employment for all casualised university workers as a just response to the Covid-19 crisis

QMUCU passed a motion in support of the #CoronaContract campaign for two years secure employment for all staff on ‘casualised’ fixed term and hourly paid contracts, on May 1. The call was subsequently endorsed by UCU’s HEC (coronacontract.org).

We draw your attention to a commitment that grievances will be progressed in a timely manner according to the Grievance Policy. We therefore request the provision of relevant data and analysis noted above by 17 August 2020.

(Sent on 7 August 2020)

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