These FAQs are a direct response to the University’s own FAQs on Statute 24 reform – offering you a more accurate representation of the issues at stake. We’ve mapped our responses against their own statements for ease of comparison.
REASONS FOR THE REVIEW
1. What is the reason for the review?
THEY SAY: The University claims this is simply a tidying-up exercise, and that the current Statute and Ordinances are ‘unduly complicated and unnecessarily adversarial’. They say that ‘the procedures laid down are unnecessarily drawn out and unclear’, and cause anxiety for staff.
WE SAY: There’s nothing unduly complicated or adversarial about due process and making sure staff aren’t sacked or made redundant on a whim. Whilst lengthier redundancy processes no doubt cause staff anxiety, they cause far less anxiety then being removed from your job at short notice and trying to find a new one from a position of unemployment. The university has nothing to fear from proper accountability and ensuring staff job security.
2. Why can’t Statute 24 and the related Ordinances just apply to all staff?
They say: “The University believes that moving the provisions from Statute 24 and related Ordinance into policies and procedures will make the University more agile and responsive to any employment legislation changes. Given that a significant number of employees are on non-academic contracts, the University also believes the legalistic, intimidating and expensive nature of the current statutory procedures would be detrimental to many staff. ”
WE SAY: This is nonsense, pure and simple. Management doesn’t want Statute 24 and associated Ordinances to apply to all staff because they want to level down, not level up. They could choose to give staff across the university community more employment protection, but they don’t want to. But they do want to be ‘agile’; they are right about that. However that agility is about responding to the marketised, metric-driven world of higher education, not ‘responding to any employment legislation changes’. To say that the current procedures – which protect staff – are ‘legalistic and intimidating’ might actually be true; they are legalistic and intimidating to managers who might want to take your job from you, and, on that score, so much the better.
3. Have any other universities done this?
THEY SAY: “Yes, the University is undertaking a similar exercise to that at many other universities. There have been a variety of different approaches adopted, however, Warwick is certainly not proposing anything revolutionary in the sector”
WE SAY: Yes, similar exercises have been undertaken at other universities. And they have been beaten back. UCL defeated a similar proposal several years ago. Best practice in the sector, as exemplified by Manchester and Oxford, is to protect academic freedom by retaining, in Statute, high levels of Council oversight and independent scrutiny. We don’t understand why Warwick’s management want to align themselves instead with the ‘race to the bottom’ taking place at a number of institutions (including Leeds, where our colleagues are now in formal dispute), rather than with the best practice shown elsewhere.
4. What is the timescale for the review?
THEY SAY: “The University is currently consulting with Trade Unions regarding the proposals and intends to present the outcome of the review to the University Council in May 2017 with submission to the Privy Council over the summer period of 2017. It is hoped that the new policies and procedures will be effective from the new academic year 2017/2018.”
WE SAY: The University has prejudiced the consultation with this unduly-hasty timescale which has all the hallmarks of a decision already made. The proposal comes to Senate under Chair’s business in Week 10 of THIS term, before being referred to University Council for mid-May. There’s a difference between ‘consultation’ and ‘meaningful consultation’; this timescale is an attempt to railroad this proposal through so there can’t be any meaningful discussion. With YOUR support, we won’t allow that to happen.
5. What is academic freedom?
THEY SAY: “Academic freedom is a statement enshrined in the University’s Statute which ensures that academic staff have freedom within the law to question and test received wisdom, and to put forward new ideas or controversial or unpopular opinion, without placing themselves in jeopardy of losing their jobs and privileges. ”
WE SAY: Actions speak louder than words. The current protections within Statute 24 and associated Ordinances provide meaningful safeguards for academic freedom. Anybody can have a mission statement. What makes values mean something is how they’re acted on in practice, and this attempt to axe our employment protections is a direct assault on both the principle and practice of academic freedom.
6. Will academic freedom be removed from Statute through this review?
THEY SAY: “No, the University remains absolutely committed to the principle of academic freedom.”
WE SAY: The management doth protest too much. The very fact they’re labouring the point about academic freedom tells us everything; they know that this is in fact an assault on academic freedom and are doing everything they can to muddy the waters.
7. How will the University ensure that academic freedom is preserved?
THEY SAY: They’ll put an academic freedom statement into statute and allows us to invoke it during proceedings. It’s as follows:
“The University’s policies and procedures shall be construed in every case to give effect to the following guiding principles, that is to say: (a) to ensure that Academic Staff have freedom within the law to question and test received wisdom, and to put forward new ideas and controversial or unpopular opinions, without placing themselves in jeopardy of losing their jobs and privileges; (b) to enable the University to provide education, promote learning and engage research efficiently and economically; (c) to apply the principles of justice and fairness in line with relevant legislation, regulation and good employment practices; and (d) to avoid unlawful discrimination and promote equality of opportunity, dignity at work and good relations with the University.”
WE SAY: Nice words. And because there’s no meaningful process, that’s all they are – words. We say again: TAKING AWAY MATERIAL PROTECTIONS IS AN ASSAULT ON ACADEMIC FREEDOM. A nice statement which we can ‘invoke’, but has no binding power, is meaningless. It’s an insult to the intelligence of academic staff.
8. How can staff feed into the proposals?
THEY SAY: “The University is consulting with Trade Unions as the representative bodies for the staff community. The University encourages all employees who are members of a Trade Union to feedback their views on the proposals via these bodies. For employees who are not members of a Trade Union, the University welcomes your feedback on the proposals via firstname.lastname@example.org. You are also able to raise any queries via email@example.com so that we can ensure that your question is answered and added to the FAQ page.”
WE SAY: This has been a perfunctory consultation at best given they intend to address Statute 24 at Senate in Week 10. A serious consultation would have involved ensuring that every single staff member was fully aware of this through repeated email contact from the University – where’s the communication been? Until UCU started to raise this as an issue, most staff were utterly unaware of this assault on their rights. DO respond to the email address though – let them know that you don’t buy their reasons for this attack on your rights and academic freedom.
9. Are the Trade Unions involved in the consultation?
THEY SAY: “Yes, consultation with the Trade Unions commenced on 6 December 2016.”
WE SAY: They’re trying to muddy the waters again – only staff on academic, teaching-only and research-only contracts have anything to lose, and that means OUR members, who we’ll fight for tooth and nail.
10. What has been Trade Union feedback to the proposals?
THEY SAY: “The University has received positive feedback for the proposed changes from most of the Trade Unions. Where negative feedback has been received, the University has encouraged the Trade Unions to clearly articulate their specific concerns and proposals so that the University can respond accordingly.”
WE SAY: Warwick UCU has formally objected in person and in writing. So too have regional UCU officials and UCU’s Head of Higher Education. Management have been told UCU’s National Ratification Panel will reject their proposals. We have been completely ignored. The other unions haven’t offered ‘positive’ feedback; the best they could hope for from this process is that Statute 24 protections were EXTENDED to their own members – something the University won’t consider. So as such, the other Unions’ attitude is simply – and, at face value, understandably – that it doesn’t affect them. That isn’t ‘positive feedback’.
11. Why is the Students’ Union being consulted about matters which affect staff?
THEY SAY: “The review of the governing instruments is broader than Statute 24 and related Ordinances, however, those are primarily the ones that affect staff. Due to the broader review, the University will consult with the Students’ Union where appropriate on non-staff related matters.”
WE SAY: They should consult with the Students’ Union on Statute 24 – if it affects staff, it affects students; we are a learning community, not a business (or are we?). Students’ education doesn’t benefit from a body of academic staff riven by fear of redundancy and censorship. The students have shown the way with their activism – there is clear solidarity between staff and students to resist repressive measures such as changes to Statute 24.
TERMS AND CONDITIONS
12. Will there be any changes to my terms and conditions of employment?
THEY SAY “The University proposes minimal changes to terms and conditions of employment – for example, the University will update nomenclature where necessary. As part of this review, the University is also proposing a more fundamental change to those working on term-time only and designated weeks of the year contracts – see question 23 below.”
WE SAY: Again, another attempt to muddy the waters – are we seeing a pattern here yet? What this means is effectively they’re not going to change anyone’s contracts. But that isn’t the point at issue – the point at issue is that the contracts make reference to Statutes and Ordinances – and so, in practical terms, they are changing the reality of working at Warwick whilst hiding behind technical legalese. It doesn’t fool us or our members.
13. Will the university be legally obliged to follow the new policies?
THEY SAY: “The University is obliged to abide by employment legislation irrespective of whether the employment provisions are referenced in Statute or a policy or procedure. Therefore, the University will still be bound by employment law under the new proposed arrangements, and the new policies will respect this. It is also important to note that many aspects of the proposed policies exceed the required legal minimum.”
WE SAY: Of course, they are obliged to follow employment law – this is a non-question and a non-answer. ‘Many aspects of the proposed policies exceed the required legal minimum’ is a more polite way of saying ‘the new policies won’t be as bad as in some places’. That’s irrelevant. We want the protections we need to function effectively as academics in a free society. Comparing that requirement – in an age where informed critique of popular viewpoints has seldom been more necessary – to the ‘legal minimum’ betrays a total lack of understanding of what we do, and worryingly what a university is for.
14. Will legal protection for individuals be removed with the abolition of Statute 24 and related Ordinances?
THEY SAY: “No. Please see answer above – as an employer, the University is bound by employment legislation which provides a framework of protection to all employees.”
WE SAY: Here we go again – conflating the protections necessary for academic freedom with basic legal requirements. Warwick can, and should, do better than this.
15. Will staff on non-academic terms and conditions be affected by the proposed changes?
THEY SAY: “There are minimal changes proposed to the current policies for non-academic staff, with the exception of sick pay for those on term time only and designated weeks of the year contracts, see question 23.”
WE SAY: Of course minimal changes are proposed for non-academic staff – they aren’t covered by the Statute! Academics need the extra protections it provides in order to question authority and challenge received wisdom. But, as we’ve said already, it matters to non-academic staff too – if it’s easier to get rid of academics, the courses they teach, and the departments that house them, then that throws non-academic staff into question too. This is an issue on which the whole university community – non-academic staff, students and academic staff – needs real solidarity.
16. Will the proposed changes to Statute 24 and related Ordinances affect job security?
THEY SAY: “No, the proposed changes to Statute 24 and related Ordinances will not affect job security.”
WE SAY: Of course they will! The Statute 24 redundancy process has nine steps; takes three to six months, and any final appeal is heard by an experienced, independent lawyer. The new process has just four steps, takes 30 days and appeals are decided by two members of management. The proposed changes deny Council any involvement in redundancy decisions; they reduce to the legal minimum the amount of notice management has to give; they alter the dismissal process to the point where the Head of Department has the ability to get rid of people whose faces don’t fit; they remove the right of academics to have their appeal heard by a lawyer. Even granting some good faith to current management, these are changes which endanger job security in principle and practice. It speaks volumes they’ve left redundancy so late in the document – presumably hoping people have been bored off by the previous question before engaging with the real threat to their jobs.
17. Will the proposals mean an end to Enhanced Voluntary Leavers Scheme (EVLS) payments?
THEY SAY: “The proposals will not mean an end to Enhanced Voluntary Leavers Scheme (EVLS) payments.”
WE SAY: Management offers EVLS to avoid the kind of in-depth appeal allowed by Statute 24 in front of an experienced, independent lawyer. If anyone can be served with a redundancy notice after 30 days of consultation and their appeal decided by two members of management, what’s the incentive to offer EVLS? None at all. The specific wording of their response says they’ll ‘consider’ these payments to ‘mitigate’ the process. So when it suits them, in short.
18. Will redundancy legislation still apply?
THEY SAY: As an employer, the University will continue to be bound by all employment legislation including that pertaining to redundancy.
WE SAY: Whilst it’s reassuring that Warwick doesn’t think it’s above the law, it’s also banal and facile to frame the issue in this way. This isn’t about whether Warwick has to comply with the law – it’s the law! – it’s about whether Warwick is doing enough to protect job security and academic freedom, not doing the bare minimum as per labour law and axing protections which already exist.
19. Is the purpose of the review so the University can make redundancies easier?
THEY SAY: “No. The purpose of the review is to ensure that the employment provisions governing staff are fair and equitable across all staff groups and in line with contemporary employment law. Moving employment provisions for academic staff out of Statute 24 and related Ordinances will not make redundancies easier in any way. The University only resorts to making redundancies where all other options have been exhausted. ”
WE SAY: “Fair and equitable across all staff groups” doesn’t mean treating people the same. ‘Academic freedom’ is afforded to academics precisely because they are the ones trying to create new knowledge and sometimes upsetting the status quo or damaging the university’s reputation along the way. Everyone deserves respect and consideration, but if the university genuinely believed we should all be treated the same, they’d need new policies on probation, promotion, hours of work, when to take annual leave, reserved parking, even. The natural follow-on from this, if they meant it, would be to have a single form of contract for all staff groups. That would be idiotic. As such, management want ‘equality’ (in their terms) in a race to the bottom for job protections – but that’s all. If they really want equality in terms of treating people the same, why not simply move non-academic staff onto Statute 24? Thought not.
20. Do the changes make it easier for the University to invoke the disciplinary policy?
THEY SAY: “No. The University will still be required to meet its obligations under employment law and, therefore, Human Resources will continue to work closely with Schools and Departments to ensure the application of our disciplinary policy is fair and legally compliant.”
WE SAY: Of course it does! It shifts the responsibility to HoDs – who might initiate a disciplinary process for any number of reasons. Even under the existing arrangements, Warwick has made national and international headlines for its poor approach to disciplinary processes. Their answer is to take away what protections do exist! Again, the bare minimum of legal compliance isn’t enough for what’s supposed to be a world-leading community of learning.
21. Will the proposals give an opportunity for an appeal against a grievance decision?
THEY SAY: “Yes. Non-academic employees already have this right under the non-academic grievance policy. The University is proposing that all employees should have the same right to appeal against a grievance decision. The proposals represent a significant improvement to the current provision for academic staff because Statute 24 does not give academics the opportunity to appeal against a grievance decision. This is against the ACAS code of practice.”
WE SAY: So why not amend Statute 24 to include a grievance appeal process and leave it at that?
SICKNESS ABSENCE POLICY
22. What is the impact of the review on the sickness absence policy?
THEY SAY: “The sickness absence policy already applies to all staff, with the exception of one element – the provision relating to ‘removal for incapacity on medical grounds’ which is currently detailed separately for academic staff in Statute 24. The revised policy incorporates provision for dismissal on the grounds of lack of capability to include academic staff, when it becomes clear that the employee is no longer fit to carry out their role. This option would only be taken as a last resort and after full consultation with the employee.”
WE SAY: Again, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. Don’t introduce new avenues which could be used to penalise staff trying to cope with ill-health or disability.
23. Will term-time only staff have to accept new contracts?
THEY SAY: “There is an anomaly in the University’s term-time only contracts, including those working on designated weeks of the year contracts. This is because, currently, pro rata, an employee on a contract of this kind, receives more sick pay than an employee working throughout the whole year, whether on a full or part-time basis.”
WE SAY: Translation: they want to cut sick pay for term-time only staff.
24. What is the University Council’s role in this process?
THEY SAY: “In order for any proposed policies to be implemented at the University, they must be approved by the University Council and the Privy Council. The University is proposing that any future changes to the disciplinary, grievance, sickness absence or redundancy policies are subject to the oversight of the University Council.”
WE SAY: They intend to get these changes through Council by mid-May. That’s why it’s so important we fight back now.
25. What is the Privy Council?
THEY SAY: “The Privy Council is the part of Her Majesty’s Government which advises on the exercise of powers and certain functions assigned to The Queen and the Council by Act of Parliament. Much of the day-to-day work of the Privy Council Office is concerned with the affairs of Chartered Bodies, of which the University is one. A chartered body may not change its statutes without the approval of the Privy Council.”
WE SAY: Management want to take all the checks and balances out of Statute so they won’t need Privy Council approval ever again. Instead, they will be able to rewrite (i.e. downgrade) the policies whenever they like. To combat this, your union will lobby members of the Privy Council directly and raise this issue in the national press. We will not allow this issue to be portrayed as a technical change and will instead ensure that management’s assault on academic freedom is widely understood in government and beyond.
26. Will the provisions in respect of the role of the Vice-Chancellor be removed from Statute?
THEY SAY: “No, the University will retain the provisions in respect of the Vice-Chancellor in Statute, which will be subject to the authority of the University Council.”
WE SAY: Ah, so the desire to equalise treatment for all staff groups does have limits, then?