COVENTRY University will be hit with five days of strike action and a marking boycott unless it responds urgently to staff concerns about its controversial appraisal process, the University and College Union (UCU) announced today (Wednesday).
UCU members are planning a series of one-day walkouts on Thursday 21, Tuesday 26 and Friday 29 November, followed by a two-day strike on Tuesday 3 and Wednesday December 4.
Members of UCU will also begin action short of a strike on December 5 following the strikes. This will see them boycotting the university’s appraisal system and refusing to undertake any marking or assessment of students’ work, they say.
The dispute centres on the university’s appraisal system, which the union says forces staff to ‘jump through unnecessary hoop’s to achieve the annual incremental pay award that is standard at other institutions.
UCU said the system has created unnecessary paperwork for already overworked staff and is even worse than its predecessor which left academic staff at Coventry among the worst paid in the West Midlands.
In a recent ballot, three quarters of UCU members (75 per cent) who voted backed strike action, says the union, while almost nine in ten staff (88 per cent) voted for action short of a strike.
UCU said the university’s “refusal to negotiate properly on its approach to appraisals” had left members with” no choice” but to take strike action.
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 current 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. Not only does it hold down pay, it creates a load of unnecessary paperwork for already overworked staff.
“Coventry University has preyed on the goodwill of staff for too long. If the university wants to avoid significant disruption to students in the run up to Christmas, it needs to scrap the current system and work with us to agree a fairer approach to appraisals that would see staff receive pay increases along similar lines to other UK universities.”
COVENTRY UNIVERSITY RESPONSE..
A Coventry University spokesperson said: “We are disappointed that Coventry UCU have announced strike action to coincide with some students’ graduation ceremonies and will work collaboratively as a university to minimise disruption to our students and the staff who aren’t taking part. We will continue to engage in an open, honest and transparent dialogue with Coventry UCU.
“We note the concerns of Coventry UCU and understand, given the commitment of our staff, that the members who have voted in favour of strike action will not have taken this decision lightly.
“Our approach to performance and appraisal has not fundamentally changed since 2006 and the basis of our pay process aligns to the National Framework Agreement. We believe that CORE, the revised online process, has delivered a number of benefits and addressed many of the concerns that staff shared with us about the paper process that it has replaced. Through a survey last year most staff agreed they were fairly paid and felt a sense of pride when rewarded for going the extra mile.
“The focus, commitment and passion of our academic and professional services staff has ensured we have established a reputation and achieved recognition for delivering outstanding teaching and learning. Working to build an inclusive and vibrant learning community, that serves both our students and wider society, is at the heart of what we do.”