AUT

Newsletter

Produced by Belfast Association of University Teachers Issue No10 October 1998

Special General Meeting

There will be a General Meeting on

Wednesday 14th October

at 1 p.m. in

W110 North Wing, Lanyon

"The Academic Plan

— the Second Stage Review"

AUT Officers will give a full report on their meeting with management on the Second Stage Review. A letter will be sent shortly by management to all targeted staff explaining the process of the Second Stage Review and how they can apply for consideration. The meeting will discuss how members can use this opportunity. There will also be an update on all aspects of the Academic Plan and the PRCS/Severance offers, the press campaign and contacts with local politicians.

The Meeting with the Management on the Restructuring Process

This took place on 7th October. The AUT team consisted of Renee Prendergast, Richard Jay and Paul Hudson together with the Regional Officer, Brian Everett. The management team was Malcolm Andrew, Brian Hogg, Margaret Leonard, John Town (Registrar), Frank Young, and Bob Smith (Director of Human Resources). The meeting lasted three hours.

The AUT started by asking for a summary of the QUB strategy for restructuring. We were told that the aim was to increase the respect that QUB was held in the UK system, and that the plan was based on the Strategic Review, which was widely discussed. AUT explained that, while we supported the aim of improving the standing of Queen’s, some of the facts concerning departments and individuals were disputed, and the implementation had been appallingly handled. We raised the voluminous press coverage. Although it was dismissed by the management as coming from a small number of people the correspondence clearly had had an impact. The question of morale and the impact of the plan on working conditions would be demonstrated by the AUT survey.

We put forward the position of AUT as determined by national policy and the motions passed at the General Meetings. It was stressed that national AUT took such a large scale exercise very seriously and would react strongly to any moves towards compulsory redundancies. While not giving any guarantees, the management responded that they would use their best endeavours to avoid compulsory redundancies. They also stated that they did not envisage the present process as leading to compulsory redundancies. We put forward the view that the position of targeted departments should be reviewed afresh taking into account national and local considerations. They would not move on this, seeing it as a matter of confidence in the Vice-Chancellor. They shared our concern about the funding of all small departments in Northern Ireland and the threat to their viability. They would consider further the question of a joint approach to the funding body and the Assembly on this matter

The present situation was that about a quarter of targeted staff had agreed to leave. Most other staff had not responded. The management agreed that in subjects to be closed the PRCS/Severance offer would remain open while there was a need to cater for students. They also agreed to improve the procedures for redeployment of staff out of these subject areas.

AUT impressed on the management that targeted staff felt that they were branded as being ineffective and that they were hurt and incensed that their contribution to the university over many years counted for nothing. The management responded that, while they recognised the valuable contribution of these staff, the priorities of the university had now changed. AUT pressed for a letter to this effect. It was agreed that this would be considered. It was also agreed that staff leaving the university would be thanked for their services.

We then turned to the Second Stage Review and discussed a draft letter intended for targeted staff. Since they took on board many points made by AUT, the precise wording may not be as used here. The letter invited targeted staff to apply to have their substantial contributions made to the University assessed and recognised under three options.

Option 1 (which is not available to staff in areas to be closed) is for those who believe that they have a realistic prospect of achieving the appropriate standard for RAE 2001. They are invited to submit a detailed plan, setting out their actual and potential publications, and providing an indication of how, and with what support, the necessary improvement will be achieved. Recommendations will be made to the V-C by a panel of the University Research Committee after relevant consultations at School and Faculty level.

Option 2 is for those who wish to transfer to a position in the Institute of Continuing Education. This case should include an indication of the level of teaching and demand for the courses to be offered. A record of extensive and high quality teaching in this area will be required. With the agreement of both the Institute and School they may undertake work in their present School for up to 40% of their time

Option 3 is a catch-all where the management says that it wants staff to put forward imaginative ideas for their continuing contribution to the University. This can include a 40% contribution to their present school and could also be a mix-and-match with option 2 and possibly early retirement and re-employment. Formally staff would be transferred to an academic-related post dedicated to student support and counselling, to innovation and enhancement of quality in teaching, or to other academic roles and functions that they suggest. A proven track record in the relevant area will be required.

Proposals under options 2 and 3 will be judged by a panel consisting of Malcolm Andrew, Eithne McLaughlin and Ken Bell but the VC has the final decision. The proposals tabled at the meeting involved changes in the contractual position of staff which were unacceptable to AUT. We believe we have secured changes in proposed arrangements which will safeguard the position of staff and make these options a good deal more attractive. Although they recognise that deadlines are slipping, the management want applications in within a few weeks with the hope of an answer before Christmas. Brian Hogg pointed out that any staff allowed to continue under option 2 and 3 would reduce the number of new staff that could be appointed.

In parallel with the Second Stage Review, targeted staff would be asked meet Sean Fulton. It is our understanding that these discussions could relate to the individual's contribution to the university and/or marginal variations to the PRCS/ severance packages. We have been given to understand that targeted staff who are unsuccessful under the Second Stage Review, or do not apply will be liable for increased teaching and administrative duties.

There is a reference near the start of the letter to assessment of the contributions of all staff. AUT pointed out that a move to some kind of judgmental appraisal would be viewed very seriously and would require formal consultation. Malcolm Andrew put forward a different interpretation of the reference, saying that the intention was to ensure that work-loads were manageable

It was agreed to continue the discussions as part of the regular meeting between Belfast AUT and the Senior Officers of the University on 22nd October.

Renee Prendergast, Paul D Hudson

Pension Matters

The pension scheme for the vast majority of academic and related staff in the old universities is the Universities Superannuation Scheme (USS). It has 1,522 members in Queen’s with 373 pensioner members and 91 spouses and dependants receiving pensions. New entrants can choose to have a personal pension instead of entering USS but, as total contributions to the pension are much less, this is usually a bad choice. Anyone who is not in USS should seek advice from Belfast AUT.

Belfast AUT is fortunate in having its own resident pensions expert, Max Goldstrom. During the past year Max has also been giving advice at national level because the HQ expert, Geoffrey Talbot, has been ill and has now retired. Max not only has a detail knowledge of USS rules but also experience of many varied premature retirement deals dating back to the Colin Campbell era. His advice has benefited members and their surviving dependants by a sum running well into seven figures. He has also played a leading role in the campaign to get pension rights for part-time staff. Max was recently appointed, on the recommendation of the AUT, as one of its three directors of USS, and we wish him well in this new role.

Belfast AUT has other inputs into pension matters. Richard Jay chairs the national AUT committee that deals with pensions as well as finance and membership. Paul Hudson is a member of the USS Advisory Committee which exercises discretion on behalf of USS to individuals when the rules are unclear.

The funds of USS total about £17 billion with 79.6% invested in shares and 5.4% in property. Until recently virtually none of the property was in Northern Ireland. However USS has just spent about £50M in buying the Forestside Shopping Centre in Belfast. The second phase has commanded higher than expected rents and will be open all night on several nights of the week. So when you shop till you drop you may eventually be benefiting your pension.

The New QUB Officers

The new Registrar, Mr John Town took up office on 21 September 1998. He was educated at Pembroke College, University of Cambridge, graduating BA in Natural Sciences in 1974. After graduating, Mr Town held a variety of administrative posts within the Unilever group of companies, and, in 1981, was appointed Administrative Assistant in the Registrar's Department of the University of Manchester, becoming Senior Administrative Assistant, and later, Administrative Officer in the Department of Computer Science. In 1988, he moved to the University of Bradford, as Senior Planning Officer, and was promoted Director of Planning in 1992, acting as Head of the Administrative Computing Service in the period 1992-93. In 1992, Mr Town was appointed to the post of Academic Secretary at Bradford.

The new Director of Human Relations, Bob Smith, took up his post on 1 October 1998, but he visited the University frequently in the weeks before that, and the AUT Officers had an introductory meeting with him in mid-September.

Robert Alan Smith was educated at Trinity College Dublin, graduating BA in 1965, and at the London School of Economics. He obtained the Postgraduate Diploma in Personnel Management in 1967, whilst employed as a graduate trainee, and later, Personnel Manager, with Tube Investments Ltd. From 1969 to 1971, Mr Smith was Northern Ireland Regional Consultant with the Industrial Training Service. This was followed by a seven-year period with the Birmingham Post as Personnel and Training Manager. This period covered the introduction of new technology into the printing industry and so he was involved in very tough industrial relations

In the period 1978-1989, Mr Smith was Labour Relations Manager and National Personnel Manager for the Allied Bakeries Ltd, where he was responsible for the development and implementation of personnel and industrial relations policies, national, regional and local negotiations, and the management of re-organisation programmes. In 1989, Mr Smith was recruited as Personnel Director of Leicester Polytechnic, now De Montfort University, where he was a member of the Senior Executive of the University with responsibilities for all aspects of personnel including management and staff development, equal opportunities, industrial relations, salary planning and administration, and recruitment and selection, covering all categories of staff.

Parliamentary Impact Day

AUT is organising an event at Westminster on 21 October in which we lobby Labour MPs. We will be making the case for increased funding and for a pay review body and reminding them of their pre-election pledges. Since there are no Labour MPs from Northern Ireland, Belfast AUT will only have a token representation. Paul D Hudson