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’.

Teach Out Events – Week Commencing 9 March

The following events will all take place from 12:15-2:00pm in the Metric Room of the Imperial Student Union, Beit Quadrangle, Prince Consort Road, SW7 2BB.

These are open events, all are welcome to attend – Imperial staff and students along with members of the general public.

Monday, 9 March

International Women’s Day – Panel Discussion on Current Challenges for Women in Higher Education with

  • Becky Stewart (Chair), Lecturer in Dyson School of Design Engineering
  • Fay Dowker, Professor of Theoretical Physics, Physics Department
  • Nousheen Tariq, Postgraduate Education Manager, Faculty of Medicine
  • Emma Toumi, Head of Intellectual Property Strategy, Enterprise Division
  • Gemma Williamson, Postgraduate Education Officer, Faculty of Medicine

Resisting the Hostile Environment with Julian Bild – Immigration solicitor, Anti Trafficking and Labour Exploitation Unit (ATLEU)

(link to Facebook event)

Thursday, 12 March

Viruses: Fact, Fiction … and Fear with Dr Michael McGarvey, Reader in Molecular Virology, Imperial College London

(link to Facebook event)

Friday, 13 March

No teach out, instead there will be a solidarity rally on Exhibition Road before the March for Education and Earth.

Teach Out Events – Week Commencing 2 March

The following events will all take place from 12:15-2:00pm in the Metric Room of the Imperial Student Union, Beit Quadrangle, Prince Consort Road, SW7 2BB.

These are open events, all are welcome to attend – Imperial staff and students along with members of the general public.

Monday, 2 March

The Random Universe with Andrew Jaffe, Professor of Astrophysics and Cosmology, Imperial College London

Tuesday, 3 March

Fossil Free Economy Debate with

  • Martin Blunt, Shell Professor of Reservoir Engineering, Imperial College London
  • Sheridan Few, Research Associate, Grantham Institute, Imperial College London
  • Camilla Royle, Geography Department, King’s College London

(link to Facebook event)

Wednesday, 4 March

The Politics of Mental Health with Roddy Slorach, Senior Disability Advisor, Imperial College London

Thursday, 5 March

Mars: Our Future? with Tom Pike, Professor of Microengineering, Imperial College London

(link to Facebook event)

Start of Strike Action February/March 2020

After re-balloting in the new year, the Imperial UCU Branch surpassed the legally required minimum 50% turnout and voted in favour of a mandate for strike action on two issues:

  1. Local dispute over pay with College Management;
  2. National dispute over pensions with USS.

After the 8 days of strike action before Christmas which Imperial UCU did not take part in due to not meeting the requirement of 50% of ballots returned by eligible voters, Imperial UCU is taking part in the 14 days of strike action across February and March.

Summary of Pay Dispute

Our pay settlements have fallen behind the increase in the cost of living over the last 10 years. In 2019 College Management made a pay offer that did not even begin to address this long term decline in our salaries. This pay offer was rejected by all three campus unions. The college has now imposed a settlement on all staff without the agreement of the UCU. In addition to inflation, staff pension contributions have also risen (see below) from 6.5% of salary in 2011 to 9.6% today.

Summary of Pensions Dispute

Our USS pension scheme has been under attack for nearly 10 years. By 2018 our pension contributions had already risen to 8% of our salary. Since then our contributions have been raised twice more to the current 9.6%, and in 2021 they are set to rise again to 11%. All these rises have been based on a discredited valuation of the USS Scheme, meaning we’re paying more and more for a pension which is worth less and less. The 2018 USS strike showed that the only time the employers have been prepared to listen to us is when are prepared to go on strike.

We have been hit by a real-terms pay cut AND increased pensions contributions.

The full strike dates are:

  • week one: Thursday 20 and Friday 21 February
  • week two: Monday 24, Tuesday 25 and Wednesday 26 February
  • week three: Monday 2, Tuesday 3, Wednesday 4 and Thursday 5 March
  • week four: Monday 9, Tuesday 10, Wednesday 11, Thursday 12 and Friday 13 March.