Dispute About ICT Restructure – Consultative Ballot

Imperial UCU members, your action is needed – check your inbox for an email from the UCU (yoursay@ucu.org.uk) titled UCU consultative ballot on redundancies for your unique link to cast your vote in the consultative ballot.

What we are asking of you

We are carrying out a consultative ballot among all members of Imperial UCU to ask if you are prepared to support and participate in strike action, and action short of strike action, to stop compulsory redundancies in the college’s ICT department.

This is not a formal strike ballot. Please also note that any decision as to the nature and extent of industrial action can only be taken following a ‘Yes’ vote in such a formal ballot.

The current situation

Imperial UCU has formally declared a dispute over the college’s intention to impose a restructure in the ICT department.

The restructure aims to cut costs by reducing staff numbers by 30 per cent and forcing individuals to reapply for new job roles at reduced salaries. Unless these plans are abandoned, a badly needed college service will be severely damaged, with many of its staff sacked while others endure pay cuts.

College management have refused throughout this process to engage in any meaningful consultation with either the staff concerned or the relevant trade unions. The outcome of the ‘consultation’ has been wholly pre-determined.

What we have done

We have already done everything in our power to prevent these cuts. This includes an open letter signed by over 1300 college staff and legal action over serious breaches of the relevant legislation. We have shown that the plans lack any basis in evidence and cannot meet their declared goal of improving the service. Several all-staff ICT meetings led to a report detailing how extensively these cuts will negatively impact on the college’s work. All this has led to large numbers of ICT staff joining the UCU, but only very limited changes to the restructure.

The consultation will close on Wednesday 12 August. Thanks for your participation.

Why you should vote ‘YES’

These plans are being imposed in an especially demanding period, when the college is moving rapidly to online teaching and learning, and when staff and students alike are especially dependent on a well-resourced ICT department.

The ‘White Paper’ outlining the restructure states clearly that the aim is to cut costs by almost £3 million – the first step in college plans to impose a total of £30 million in savings over 5 years. The outcome of this dispute will have a decisive influence on these plans.

We therefore ask that, in this consultation, you VOTE YES to strike action and VOTE YES to action short of strike action to stop the ICT restructure and stop compulsory redundancies among ICT staff.

Vote ‘YES’ in the consultative ballot

Imperial UCU branch officers recommend that you vote YES to strike action and YES to action short of strike action against compulsory redundancies in the ICT department.

10 Reasons to Vote ‘YES’

  1. There is no evidence to support claims that Imperial ICT is over-resourced and badly regarded.
  2. The plans are primarily a cost-cutting exercise which are hugely detrimental to teaching & research.
  3. The College ‘White Paper’ outlining the plans was not based on consultation with academic departments or the expertise of ICT staff.
  4. Consultation outcomes were predetermined from the outset, eg in relation to selection pools and job evaluation procedures – making meaningful negotiations impossible.
  5. Staff losses and downgradings will have a severely detrimental impact on the ICT service, with the loss of invaluable experience adding to the workload of a smaller workforce which faces a future with a greater emphasis on remote / multimodal service delivery.
  6. Like many other universities, Imperial is rapidly moving large parts of teaching online – a huge undertaking which will require more not less ICT staff.
  7. The claims in the ‘White Paper’ are based on misleading assertions. They treat ICT provision at Imperial as a corporate system. They misrepresent the relative costs of ICT at Imperial compared to peers quoted as comparators. Imperial is the only STEM university among these peers, all of which have a much higher student to staff ratio.
  8. The ‘White Paper’ contains no estimate for the cost of the restructure and no explanation of how or if ICT costs would subsequently fall.
  9. The ‘White Paper’ states that the £2.7 million cuts to ICT are based on a College decision to “increase its operating cashflow by £30m within five years”. The likelihood of further cuts will therefore in large part be determined by the outcome of this dispute.
  10. Like other University employers, Imperial is pushing through cost saving measures without any meaningful consultation with staff and unions. These plans signal an intention to make further attacks on staff jobs if there is a shortfall in student fees in the next academic year.

We need to fight to protect staff jobs and working conditions and to oppose the corporate agenda of the College management.

We believe that Imperial should invest in the future and retain rather than lose staff who in many cases have served Imperial College for decades and until very recently considered ‘key workers’.

Open Letter in Response to ICT Restructuring at Imperial

The ICT department at Imperial provides essential core services to the entire college, but it is currently under threat of restructuring which carries a risk of around 75 staff redundancies with over 156 staff to be impacted in some way.

We are inviting staff to sign an open letter expressing their concern at this proposed restructuring. The letter references a White Paper outlining the proposal, which can be viewed online (only available to those with Imperial accounts).

A list of the signatories can be viewed here (only available to those with Imperial accounts). Note that there will be a delay between signing the letter and your name appearing on the list of signatures, be assured that all names are being recorded.

Open Letter

Below is the text of the open letter that all staff at Imperial are being invited to sign. You will need to sign in with your Imperial account in order to do so.

As a member of staff at Imperial College London I would like to express my deep concern about the planned restructuring of our ICT service. The current plan has been developed without any proper consultation on what I need for either teaching, research or to support these activities, jeopardising the ICT service I rely on at one of the most critical times for the College.

The White Paper outlining the restructure of ICT states that “overall 156 staff will be directly impacted”, that many “will need to compete for roles” and “approximately 75 staff will be at risk of redundancy”. The evidence suggests this restructuring is primarily a cost-saving exercise. It is also being rushed through in breach of the College’s own official procedures on restructuring. These specify that only after consultation has been completed can a decision be made on whether to proceed. Instead, HR immediately placed all members of ICT in separate risk groups, with recruitment to new roles scheduled to start before the consultation will be finished. This deliberately stifles any meaningful consultation with the threatened staff, the broader College community and the trade unions that represent them.

My concerns extend beyond the conduct of this restructuring at a time when many staff are already feeling especially vulnerable. These cuts put at risk crucial teaching and support activities at a time when the College is rapidly moving student learning online. The immense challenges involved have already led to more, not less, demands on our ICT staff. As a research-intensive university, Imperial relies heavily on the quality of its ICT service, not least for its role in responding to the COVID-19 pandemic.

These plans amount to a reckless approach that is destabilising a vital College resource. The current restructuring is undermining staff who have dedicated themselves to ensuring the College has continued to function under the most difficult of circumstances. I request that the current restructuring is halted, and a plan developed for ICT that properly takes account of what College requires to deliver its academic mission in these challenging times.

Imperial staff can click here to sign the letter.