Coventry University: UCU threatens strike over new appraisals process

A ballot of UCU members has found support for strike action but the university maintains staff feel they are paid fairly

The University and College Union (UCU) branch at Coventry University has threatened strikes over pay progression, but the university maintains most staff feel they are paid fairly.

Three-quarters of voting UCU members at the Coventry backed industrial action and have announced five days of strikes unless the university responds to staff concerns.

UCU regional official Anne O’Sullivan, said: “Strike action is never taken lightly but the university has repeatedly refused to negotiate properly with us on its approach to appraisals.”

The ballot on the appraisal process was held separately from the national UCU vote on strikes over pay, casualisation, equality and workloads – turnout for this ballot was not sufficient at Coventry to legally justify strike action.

This local ballot centres on the university’s appraisal processes and pay increases. A UCU spokesperson said Coventry staff only get a pay rise if “their line manager submits a business case to justify an increase”.

We have noted their concerns and understand, given the commitment of our staff, they will not have taken this decision lightly
– Coventry University

This process, UCU said, forces to staff “to jump through unnecessary hoops” and is not in-line with the system of annual incremental pay increases used by other universities.

A spokesperson for Coventry University said: “Coventry UCU branch recently balloted its members in relation their dispute regarding the CORE appraisal system. 243 of the 4471 staff in the University have voted for strike action.

“We have noted their concerns and understand, given the commitment of our staff, they will not have taken this decision lightly.

“We believe CORE has delivered a number of benefits to the appraisal system and through a survey completed last year most staff agreed they were fairly paid and felt a sense of pride when rewarded for going the extra mile.

“We remain open to listening and learning, therefore we take note of the concerns of some of our staff, expressed through their trade union, Coventry UCU. We have been in discussions with them and will continue to engage in open dialogue.”

Read more: One in three colleges employ majority of lecturers on casual contracts – UCU

The union said academic staff at Coventry are “among the worst paid in the West Midlands”. According to Hesa salary data from 2017/18, the average salary for an academic at Coventry University was the third lowest in the West Midlands, ahead of the University of Worcester and Staffordshire University.

Coventry University UCU branch chair, Sharon McGuire, said: “Staff are rightly furious about the university’s approach to pay and appraisals. The process is even worse than the one it replaced and forces staff to jump through ludicrous hoops to secure what should be standard pay increases.

“This issue risks causing serious reputational damage to the institution, but the management has so far ignored the concerns of staff leaving them with no option but to ballot for strike action.

“The strong support for strikes shows the level of anger amongst staff, and we hope this will focus the employers’ minds. If the university wants to avoid disruption to students, it needs to scrap the current appraisal system and adopt a fair framework that would see staff receive pay increases along similar lines to other UK universities.”

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