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Pre-strike updates | Tim Jones’ Email | New Core/Payroll issues | Protest picnic

Updates before the upcoming two days of strike action:

Tim Jones’ email…. 

Tim Jones has sent yet another email to all staff, misinforming them about our dispute. 

The 3% ‘offer’ for NEXT year (while refusing to offer anything for the year we’re actually in dispute) came as a result of union pressure.

It’s absolutely not good enough, particularly because UK salaries rose by an average of 3.9% in the most recent figures.

Again the University seems content to leave its own staff behind, using frankly woeful rises offered at other Universities and in the public sector as an excuse – they can afford to give you more.

Here are a few other things we’d like to correct in his email.

Tim says: 

We understand that staff earning the lowest salaries can be most affected by rises in the costs of living & cuts in govt services’

We say:

UoB planned to offer only 2% then increased this to 3% due to our pressure. Why not recognise that it’s not good enough – that’s why staff rejected it? 

Tim says: 

If we are unable to agree an end to the strike action, I am sure that staff will work together as they have done previously to ensure that everything continues to go ahead on campus as planned’. 

We say: 

Is he referring to the casual staff who they used to break our past strike days? We note that in July the University put its own students at risk by asking them to come into work at very short notice, breaking our strike, and without needing any training or experience for roles that involve dealing with chemical products, cross-contamination risks and often in isolation from managers/supervisors (such as cleaning). 

Also just to repeat – Tim Jones has never directly negotiated with us about pay. Does his latest reference to negotiations mean this is about to change?

Come on Tim, make us a proper offer!


Protest picnic on the University of Birmingham campus

We’ve had a great picnic on Our Campus. The weather’s been a little tricky, but that didn’t deter us from having a great time. We had some excellent discussions, we shared food, and discussed our campaign’s next steps. Thanks Liam Byrne MP for joining us! 

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New Core / Payroll problems – Erica Conway’s email to all staff

Erica Conway’s [Head of Finance] email [shorter version available here] about 3% of the 11,000 staff and student workers experiencing pay issues, as it translates into hundreds of staff and students have either been paid wrongly or too late, and some have been over-taxed (and these are just the known cases so far). 

The email claims that the system itself is not at fault (thus covering the decisions made by senior management to spend millions of pounds on New Core and to ignore unions and staff’s concerns prior to its launch).

But logically the issue must either be a technical fault with the system or result from limited training and support offered to staff in dealing with a very complicated and confusing system – so New Core is to blame either way.

We are concerned for the wellbeing and financial security of those affected by this failure to to implement processes and systems that are fit for purpose.

We are also concerned that frontline staff working in payroll and worklink are having to deal with increased workload and a lot of pressure, while senior managers are not prepared to take responsibility for these mistakes. 

New Core is only part of the problem, as student workers have expressed concerns about their treatment and lack of access to documents regarding their work arrangements (terms and conditions). 


Student workers write to VC

In our email to the Head of HR this week, we raised concerns regarding wrong strike pay deductions for members, delayed and wrong payments for student workers, and other matters which we have encountered this month.

A group of student workers have written a letter to the Vice Chancellor David Eastwood highlighting all these issues, declaring solidarity with UNISON, and urging the university to change the way it treats its staff and students.

We encourage you to sign it here: https://www.change.org/p/university-of-birmingham-university-of-birmingham-student-workers-open-letter-to-the-vice-chancellor.

Lies, damn lies, and misleading letters: The University writes to Hospitality and Accommodation staff..

UoB are ‘selling’ their offer for 2019 before we’ve even started negotiations! We are in dispute over 18-19 and for that year they’re refusing to offer an above-inflation pay rise & address all other demands. Shameful! They are just ‘offering’ endless talks about the real living wage and other demands with no commitments to accredit and change their offer. This is despite the fact that we first submitted them almost 12 months ago and have been pressing them to accredit for over 5 years. It’s also remarkable how UoB are able to be so efficient at issuing letters and policy orders but our VC operates at an altogether more leisurely pace when it comes to replying to staff and MPs.


Letters & petitions VC David Eastwood needs to address:

* challenge letter delivered on the 1st of August uobunison.org.uk/challenge

* 7 Birmingham MPs’ letter (delivered on 21st August) uobunison.org.uk/mps-letter & MP Steve McCabe’s letter (delivered in July)

* UoB student workers’ petition: change.org/p/university-o

* petition asking UoB to revoke Ann Widdecombe’s Honorary Doctorate (with almost 25,000 signatures) https://www.change.org/p/vice-chancellor-david-eastwood-strip-ann-widdecombe-of-her-honorary-doctorate-from-the-university-of-birmingham

* petition asking UoB to end outsourcing and bring all Edgbaston Park Hotel staff in-house change.org/p/david-eastwo


Plans for Monday!

One last reminder of our plans for Monday.


If you’re making your own way into town, UNISON members should aim to get to Victoria Square in town (by the council house). 

Your committee will be there from 8amThis will be our base but we will also be leafleting at key locations throughout the city. 

Please head to Victoria Square for supplies if you’re coming in later. 


We will be paying for transport from campus at two key times – please meet by University station between 7-7:30am if you want to travel in with us. We will also be doing the same at 9:30am. Please bring your bus pass and University ID. 

Supporters will likely visit us throughout the day, notably the leader of the Birmingham City Council, Councillor Ian Ward will be visiting to support our strike from 10:30am.


There will then be a rally at 12pm at Victoria square with several other high-profile speakers already confirmed.

Food will be provided during the morning and after the rally. 

Hope to see you all in town!


Strike fund still open!

Our strike fund is still open, both for donations and your claims. If members need advice on how to claim please let us know. We’d also strongly encourage you to share the below link as much as you can and encourage people you know and any friendly organisations to donate: https://uobunison.org.uk/strike-fund


Tim Jones’ Email in full:

UoB Briefing
30 August 2019
Dear colleagues,

I hope you have had a good summer and managed to enjoy some time off.

Earlier this summer I wrote to you about our current dispute with Unison over support staff pay.

The University put forward an extensive package of offers over the course of these discussions if Unison agreed to suspend strike action. This included a 3% increase in pay for support staff with effect from 1st August 2019 alongside a pledge to continue to at least match the voluntary Living Wage for those on the lowest pay for at least the next three years (having at least met the rate for the last four years). In addition we reinforced our offer to work together to modernise the support staff pay spine, with a commitment to make associated payments which may arise, and to work with the support staff unions to discuss additional measures to close the gender pay gap.
We understand that staff earning the lowest salaries can be most affected by rises in the costs of living and cuts in government services. This is why we put forward a 3% pay increase, significantly higher than the 1.8% increase being offered to support staff at other universities and settlements concluded in the public sector, where the highest increase will be 2.9% for the armed forces.
I am sorry to advise that despite the offer above and our open invitation to discuss outstanding issues, particularly reform of the support staff pay spine, Unison are taking further strike action this month and have notified us that the next instances will be during Monday 2 and Tuesday 3 September.
We remain keen to maintain a dialogue with support staff unions and bring an end to the dispute in order to be able to implement the pay increases and have detailed discussions on modernising the pay spine.
If we are unable to agree an end to the strike action, I am sure that staff will work together as they have done previously to ensure that everything continues to go ahead on campus as planned.
With best wishes,

Professor Tim Jones
Provost and Vice-Principal

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