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Inclusion is within everyone’s ability: The reality of disability at TUoS

Include Us

In advance of Disability History Month, which begins today and will run through to December 22, UCU’s Disabled Members’ Standing Committee organised a national day of action for disability equality in education yesterday. As part of this day of action, Sheffield UCU member Themesa Neckles, who is also a national representative on the Disabled Members’ Standing Committee and the USS Dispute Committee, was part of a UCU delegation that took several demands to Parliament, including: a statutory right to disability leave; placing time limits on how long our employer can take to implement reasonable adjustments; reviewing buildings and outdoor spaces to make sure they are accessible to disabled staff and students; and a reversal of cuts to SEND provision.

Higher education systematically disadvantages students and scholars with disabilities, and as a branch, SUCU must ask how we can make our union more inclusive to our members both locally and nationally, and how we can organise against the discrimination faced by disabled staff and students at TUoS. This will require concerted work over the years to come, at a personal, department, and university wide level. We offer our enormous thanks to a group of members who have developed this pamphlet for all SUCU members, including crucial information on the legal rights of disabled employees, the barriers members and students may face to disability disclosure, and links to a host of detailed resources on how to support members with disabilities and promote disability advocacy. We hope all of you will read it, and the resources it contains. If the embedded links within the PDF do not work for you, we have included them at the end of this post as well.

Five of our members have also written about their experiences, to raise awareness of the conditions here at Sheffield. Each of these stories have been anonymised, and we are very grateful to our members for sharing them.

-SUCU Branch Committee


My disability doesn’t have ‘a look’

I am dyslexic and have other impairments. I have always been praised for my excellent work. It’s been a year now that I’ve been asking for some reasonable adjustments to be put in place to support my teaching and to enable me to work more effectively. The adjustments are considered necessary and have been approved through Access to Work. However, my employer does not think it’s necessary to fund the equipment, although Access to Work provides more than half the cost. The employer cites lack of money, and the excellent work I already do without having any adjustments as reasons for not fulfilling their duty of care.

“I struggle every day to do my work well without the equipment and software that I need. It is stressful and it upsets me that I work so hard but don’t get any support. I am thinking of leaving.”

Don’t take my disability for weakness

Alexander’s condition significantly impacted his day-to-day activities and he struggles to manage in any open plan work environment and wide open spaces because it is visually disruptive and noisy. Three years ago, medical specialists recommended that Alexander access assistive software to enable him to do his work. Negotiating for reasonable adjustments was extremely difficult and Alexander was referred to occupational health on at least 4 occasions, with reports clearly stating that due to Alexander’s visual impairment he will require additional time to complete some aspects of his work and he is unable to complete his work at the same speed as other colleagues. If additional time cannot be accommodated, then an adjustment to his workload will enable him to complete his work in the required time. Alexander was informed by his employer in the first instance that he should make use of the university’s free assistive software, which is in place for dyslexic students. Due to its limited functionality, the software was not appropriate. Approximately 6 months later, it was agreed that a more appropriate software should be sourced to enable him to do his work. The software was put in place but without any consideration that it would take longer to complete most tasks.

In the first instance, his employer took 3 months to agree and purchase appropriate assistive software and then a further 2 months to purchase this software. Secondly, due to the nature of teaching and learning in HE, once the assistive software was in place the employer did not give him extra time to complete his work but asked that he managed his health in order to manage a full workload. Thirdly, instead of trying to relocate Alexander to a separate space on his own to enable him to do his work, the employer insisted that he worked in the open plan environment so he could get used to the space without considering that listening to text and dictating text is not possible in an open plan environment. However, to assist this integration, it was agreed that Alexander could have a flexible work pattern, noise cancellation headphones and a work station located in one corner of the open plan space, but with no provision to utilise text-to-speech software in a contained manner. Alexander attempted to manage the situation by getting to work for 6am, working until colleagues arrived at work. He would leave, returning late in the evening after his colleagues left (5 pm or 6 pm) to continue working. This action increased Alexander’s stress levels and further exacerbated his symptoms and condition. During this period Alexander was constantly reminded that his workload was under 100% although his medical reports indicated that he is fit for work and to continue in his current role, manage a full workload and offer a reliable service as long as the appropriate reasonable adjustments are put in place.

On a number of occasions, Alexander had to rely on a swivel chair and the wall to navigate his way to and from his space and when this was not an option, on the kindness of colleagues to escort him around the space, including getting to and from the kitchen and toilet. The process of managing the situation caused further distress and stress and things appeared worse for Alexander because his work pattern was beginning to disrupt his recovery and rehabilitation. The employer felt hard pressed to consider making changes to overcome barriers created by the physical features of a workplace; providing auxiliary aid and service. Alexander was eventually offered the use of a shared quiet room for whenever he wanted to use the assistive software without disturbing other colleagues. This meant managing two workspaces and without assistive software in the quiet room. A few months into his struggle for reasonable adjustments, Alexander decided to seek assistance from a colleague who works with the Equalities Challenge Unit before formally writing to his employers and then immediately requested support from UCU. He was assigned a case worker and a partial resolution was reached although the employer argued that any provision must be weighed up against factors such as cost, resources and practicality. Alexander was allowed to have an alternative room, which was appropriate and accessible without assistance but he was still expected to find ways to integrate and adapt to the open plan environment.

After some time, it was agreed that Alexander would occupy this room permanently. However, to date the reasonable adjustment remains incomplete as he still has not been able to successfully negotiate for extra time for doing some aspects of his work. Despite informing his employer of the length of time it takes to complete aspects of his work due to the assistive software, his employer has refused to give him extra time or an appropriately adjusted workload. Alexander still has a case worker and has been asked again to account for the amount of time it takes him to complete aspects of his work. He still waits for his ‘reasonable’ adjustment to be complete; three years and counting. He feels frustrated, angry and mentally stressed on a daily basis.

“Disability isn’t a choice; discrimination is. No one should suffer in silence and I hope my story and the lived experiences of others help to raise awareness to the issues and challenges faced by disabled people who fight to stay in work.”

My abilities speak louder than my disability

A teacher with severe visual impairment had been asking for an assessment for support for several years before the UCU took up his case. They had managed to stay in work only because colleagues helped them every day to read documents and their partner typed up most worksheets or checked and corrected for them what they had touch typed. They used a magnifying glass to mark work. The informal work of colleagues and family members allowed the visually impaired teacher, much respected by students, to stay in work.

Their work became exhausting because things took so much longer and caused increased eye strain.

UCU put the teacher in touch with Access to Work and ensured that the employer allowed access for assessment. However, nine months after the assessment the worker still had no equipment in place and was told that there was no budget available for reasonable adjustments but that they would be given equipment as soon as money was available. Intervention from a UCU rep and threat of further action finally ended the delays.

“It was wonderful to be able to do things myself again. I could not stand the situation I was in, but I could not afford to leave my job. I had been suffering for years because although people knew I was disabled, there was no proactive assessment and even when the union helped me get assessment—my needs were spelled out officially as it were—I still didn’t get anything until legal action was threatened. The law needs to be much stronger and must faster to give us our rights”.

Not every disability is visible

I am Megan, a 4th year PhD student but in my 5th year of study at the TUoS. I am also in my second year working as a tutor on one of the postgraduate programmes. I have epilepsy which means I have different types of seizures. Sometimes the seizures are really obvious and can look quite scary but most of the time I have unnoticeable seizures. Because most of my seizures are unnoticeable it seems that my needs are too. I have to constantly remind colleagues and staff about accessibility issues when organising meeting or conferences as most of the buildings at the university, including the study spaces like the IC and the Diamond are inaccessible to me because of the lighting fixtures that are used in these ‘new – state of the arts’ buildings. Having to remind people about inclusion is highly frustrating. Just as people see me as normal they often expect that I can keep up with the other ‘normal’ people when I often can’t. My unnoticeable seizures make it difficult for me to think or speak coherently never mind write. This often leads to me feeling disappointment and sometimes let down. While I have an appropriate learning support plan in place for study my employer has sent me to occupational health for a ‘fit to work’ assessment, so that suggestions could be made on what reasonable adjustments need to be in place for me to do my work. Although this was noted on my report, my employer has not taken into consideration that or recognises the amount of extra time and effort it takes me to complete tasks which my peers would complete more easily. Having SpLDs such as dyslexia and dyscalculia add to my already complex condition I do not always feel support and so this means that it is often easier for me to struggle on my own and invest more time into what I am doing instead of asking for support.

“I am supporting UCU’s Day of Action for Disability Equality in Education.”

See the person, not the disability

I am an autistic woman Postgraduate research student. I feel there are both positives and negatives to being an autistic woman at university. Primarily, I am part of a minority within a minority. Firstly, by being a woman and secondly, by being autistic. Portrayals of disabled students at university rarely include autistic people and in particular autistic women.

The biggest challenge I have found during university is people’s perceptions towards me. Most people have been friendly, but I have encountered many comments about my ability or their perceived ability of me. Frequently I have been told that I’m doing a PhD and therefore should not have problems with supposedly mundane tasks like buying lunch or working out appropriate clothes to wear. Although the implication of these comments alludes to the fact if I have the skills to do a PhD, I should have skills to cope in the ‘normal’ world. It is really difficult to explain that having the academic ability to do a PhD is not comparable to life skills.

Whenever I attend conferences, few list their accessibility features and of these few most focus purely on physical disability such as emphasising buildings are wheelchair accessible. Although, physical access needs should be highlighted in conference information I would love to see more conferences giving consideration to autistic (and other non-physical disability) for example, having a quiet room and photographs of the conference space. One conference I attended – Ableism in Academia – had all food labelled and wrapped to ensure those with food intolerances were able to navigate food easily. No conference, or any space, can ever be truly accessible to all as access needs are very individual, but academic events can strive to have inclusivity at the centre of the event.

I have found being autistic at university positive in some respects, there is a large camaraderie between the autistic students here. We are mainly united from the difficulties and challenges we face throughout university on a daily basis. I do not know if I would have met other autistic women at university if I had not had challenges in which I needed to find support.

“I can’t change my disability but you can change your attitude!” #IncludeUs


The USS and pay equality disputes are two sides of the same coin

This past Friday, an enormous bombshell dropped, when USS — finally — sent Sam Marsh the final set of data on the Workings of Test 1, which he began asking for over a year ago. With these numbers, Sam has been able to conclusively show that Test 1 is absolutely unfit for purpose and that it can’t be used to justify the de-risking that has pushed up the costs of our benefits. The result may even mean that the scheme is in surplus as of March 2018. Here is Sam’s USSBriefs piece on his findings, as well as a longer summary by Mike Otsuka.

If you’re feeling simultaneously jubilant and infuriated right now, then we are right with you. Even armed with incomplete data, we knew that something wasn’t right back in January when we voted to strike. And every piece of data we’ve got since then has confirmed that it was the negligence of UUK and USS that created the ‘pensions crisis’ and made our strike necessary. The fact that we have had to rely on the investigative journalism of Josephine Cumbo, and the incredible hard work of union members around the country (which they did for free) to uncover this data and reveal this negligence is an absolute scandal.

If it wasn’t for the tireless work of rank and file activists and our strike action in March, we would not be in the position we are now to demand #NoDetriment to our pension scheme.

The same culture of misinformation exists around university finances. Universities are imposing austerity measures on a faculty level, and many departments here at Sheffield have been told to cut as much as 10% of their operating budget, and yet we have just learned that the university banks £3500 per student per year (See here and here). The University tells us it has no money to raise wages, and yet based on publicly available data, we see that the University of Sheffield is actually in a very healthy financial position! Despite this, the proportion of funds spent on staff have dropped, while capital projects have increased, particularly in the past 5 years. Leicester UCU has already found similar patterns in their University’s own finances, and other branches are following suit in investigating the claims their universities are making.

There are things we don’t yet know about pay, because all of the data isn’t available to us (yet). But what we do know doesn’t add up, in the same way the USS ‘deficit’ didn’t.

If there was ever an argument for posting your ballot today it is this: we’ve already seen what happens when we have direct evidence that we are being misled about our finances, we know how to dig deeper to find out more, and we are empowered by standing collectively.

No deficit. No detriment. No pay cuts.

Please vote today.

Sheffield UCU Committee

Stress, workload and mental health

This week is Our Mental Health Week at the University of Sheffield. The University and the Students’ Union have put together a programme of events to support discussion on mental health, following the high-profile announcement earlier this month that both institutions were the first signatories to a new charter on suicide prevention led by Sheffield’s very popular Lord Mayor, ‘Magic’ Magid.


Here at Sheffield UCU, we welcome and support all and every effort made to engage with anti-stigma campaigns on mental health. We don’t want anyone to mistake what follows for an inaccurate conflation of stress and mental illness, and we don’t want to make the assumption that the work we do every day with members across the University who are experiencing difficulties at work is a universal experience.


What we do want to say, very clearly, is that the feedback we get from many of our members is that our workloads are often too high, and workplace stress is a significant issue for many of us. We know this because we do personal casework for members who need support. We see the fallout from extended periods of stress in multiple departments, and in every Faculty. We know that conversations about workload are difficult within many departments and that many of us feel we can’t switch off from work because of the pressures we face. We are very aware that we are required to produce ‘excellence’ in a context where sometimes it’s as much as we can do to fire-fight or keep our heads above water. We know that stress can lead to a deterioration in mental and physical health, in some cases profoundly.


Every single piece of amazing work that comes out of this University – and there are many  – is testament to the talent, skill and dedication of the staff and students that form our community. We think it’s an amazing community, and that collectively we achieve remarkable things. But we don’t believe this work should ever come at the expense of our wellbeing, our relationships, our leisure time, or our mental health.


We resist, strongly, the idea that stress is best acted on at an individual, case-by-case level. This is a structural problem that can be changed with sufficient political will to change it, and we believe in fighting for that change.


We know that marketisation, casualisation and other workplace inequalities are key factors in stress levels among our members. We know that declining real terms pay and increased workloads are a factor. We believe that the higher education sector as a whole is systemically under-investing in staff, with knock-on impacts for all of us, and we don’t believe that this is anything other than a response to a political climate that has privileged metrics and rankings over human beings.


We believe that staff and students make up the University, not flagship buildings. We think we all deserve to be valued by our employer.  We don’t want to add to your workloads or extend your to-do lists, but please vote YES and YES in the pay and equality ballot. Please talk to your colleagues about it. Please come to our meetings, get in touch with us, ask new colleagues and new PhD students to join UCU. The more of us there are, the better-placed we are to change things for the better.


We encourage all of you to have honest and open conversations with your colleagues and your managers about workload, stress and mental health. Please ask us for support if you need it – ucu@sheffield.ac.uk.

WE ARE IN DISPUTE: Why We Must Vote YES and YES in the HE Pay and Equality Ballot

Beginning August 30th, our union will be balloting all members in Higher Education on whether to take industrial action over pay and equality. The ballot will run until October 19th, will be run by the Electoral Services commission and will take the form of a postal ballot (these are legal requirements of any industrial action ballot in the UK under the anti-trade union laws). So it’s extremely important that UCU nationally has your current postal address on record as if they do not you will not receive a ballot paper and will not be able to vote! You can update your postal address and other membership details here.

The ballot will consist of two questions: you will be asked whether you are willing to take strike action and whether you are willing to take action short of a strike. Here at Sheffield, your branch committee is recommending in the strongest possible terms that you vote YES and YES to these questions. Without a vote for action short of strike (ASOS) the union will not be able to utilise supplementary tactics such as working to contract alongside strike action in the dispute, and without a vote for strike action we can’t use our most powerful tool – the withdrawal of our labour. This blog post will set out what’s at stake in this ballot and why we believe that it is vitally important that we prepare to take industrial action, starting with securing the largest possible result in favour of action.

Pay in HE and the UCU Claim

The University and College Employers Association (UCEA) has made a pay increase offer of 2% for 2018-19. That doesn’t sound awful on the face of it, but as of July of this year inflation is currently at 3.2%, according to the Retail Price Index (RPI), and was as high as 3.4% earlier this year. To put that in context, what the employers propose for our pay will not come close to keeping up with everyday cost of living increases; rail fares, for example, rose by 3.6% this January and are set to rise a further 3.2% next January. This means yet another real terms pay cut.

This has been the case for far too long now, and it is not an exaggeration to say that the cumulative effect of below inflation pay rises in recent years have decimated the living standards of university workers. Since 2010, pay in Higher Education has fallen by an eye-watering 21% when measured against the RPI. In comparison, over a similar time period of 8 years, average wages in austerity ravaged Greece fell by around 15% between 2007 and 2015. If you find you’re often struggling to make the rent or mortgage payments, this is why.

The real terms pay losses in HE have been so severe that in January, UCU and other HE trade unions tabled a claim to the employers demanding a pay increase for university workers of 7.5% or £1500, whichever figure is greater. This claim is based on the ‘catch up and keep up’ principle designed to address the savage real terms pay cuts of the last ten years and begin to restore living standards for HE staff. Disappointingly, the employers have refused to meet this or even attempt to forge compromise, insisting on keeping their offer below inflation and 5.5% below what our union is demanding, despite the fact that universities’ income is increasing year on year and the UK University HE sector now holds cash reserves of over £44,270,000,000 – more than double the annual Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of Iceland.

We know, however, that it isn’t just pay which has been attacked in HE. The Gender Pay Gap in UK Universities is one of the worst in the developed world at an average of 18.4%. The explosion of casualised contracts in the sector is so severe, with over half of teaching staff in UK universities employed on insecure contracts, it can now be compared to hyper-exploitative companies like Sports Direct. And excessive workloads mean that on average HE staff are working completely unpaid around two days a week. That’s why as well as demanding a 7.5% increase in pay, UCU has also included in our claim demands for the following:

    A nationally agreed framework for action to close the gender pay gap by 2020
    A nationally agreed framework for action on precarious contracts
    A nationally agreed payment to recognise excessive workloads

Unfortunately, in a display of intransigence which UCU members have become used to over the years, UCEA has completely refused to engage with unions over these issues. Not only are our employers not interested in addressing the severe loss of pay we have suffered, they are not interested in addressing the gender pay gap, casualisation or excessive workloads either. Only the threat of serious and sustained industrial action can now force the employers to shift on these issues.

What is to be done?

We’ve already held an indicative (consultative) ballot, in which 82% voted to reject the employers offer and 65% voted in favour of strike action, on a turnout of 47.7%. That’s a good start – but we need to improve on this significantly in the real thing. For a start, unless turnout reaches 50%, because of the Tories’ anti-union laws the ballot would not be considered sufficient to take legal action – recently the PCS union held a ballot for action on pay in which almost 60,000 members voted, delivering an 86% vote for action, but because the turnout was around 42% they did not reach for the threshold for a ‘legal’ strike ballot . We must make sure that we reach the threshold.

Additionally, we need to see the ballot as just the beginning of our campaign on pay and equality. This is our first opportunity to send a message to the employer; the higher the turnout and the higher the vote for action, the clearer it will be to UCEA that the only way to avoid disruptive strike action will be to return to the negotiating table.

At our democratic Congress this year, delegates voted to accept the recommendations of an elected Commission for Industrial Action, whose aim is to set out principles for future strikes, including any action which we may take as a result of this ballot. It may well require sustained and serious industrial action to shift the employers towards further negotiations – but we can confidently say following the magnificent 14 days of strike action we took earlier this year to defend USS pensions that we have the capacity to deliver it. In rain and snow our picket lines were some of the strongest in the country at Sheffield and we stopped the employers’ threat to scrap Defined Benefit pensions. This dispute has the capacity to reach a far greater scale however – 147 universities will be involved, more than double the number in the USS dispute, and UNISON are also balloting their HE members for action, meaning there is the possibility of united strike action across the sector and across unions.

Building the campaign now gives us the best chance of a swift victory. Sheffield UCU branch committee will be organising a Teach Out event around the ballot and the campaign, and we have already begun discussions with Sheffield Hallam UCU about how we can work together to fight for pay and equality in HE. We will be organising other events as well, to build support among workers and students, and have plans to form a dispute committee to maximise the participation of members and supporters in organising the dispute locally. But we need your help as well as your vote. What drove the success of the USS strike earlier in the year was the unity we had on the picket lines, and that came from members organising together.

Can you help promote the ballot on social media, or talk to your colleagues about why they should join the union and vote yes?

Can you organise meetings in your department or building? We can send a rep from the branch committee to help discuss the campaign!

Would you be interested in being part of the pay dispute committee? Email ucu@shef.ac.uk and let us know!

The USS strike this year proved that when we organise and fight back together, we can change things. This autumn, we need to fight together again for pay and equality in HE.


Sam Morecroft (SUCU Anti Casualisation Officer)

No Confidence in the Professional Services Transformation Project

Over the past 18 months, University of Sheffield management have been conducting an extensive series of restructures, called the Professional Services Transformation Project, which are impacting hundreds of staff members across the university. Research Services and Student Recruitment and Admissions have already undergone this process, as well as numerous smaller teams across the university.

If you know about these restructures, it has probably not escaped your attention that there has been a large amount of disquiet about them, and concern over not only their large scale and rushed pace, but also the way that they are being conducted.

Restructures are a type of change management that involve the risk of redundancies, as well as extensive changes to staff roles, teams, and services offered, at great disruption to not only the members of the team being restructured, but also to students and staff who are supported by these teams. In theory, this disruption is justified because the restructure will lead to a more efficient and logical organisation for a particular team, to ease staff workload and to increase student support. In practice, however, we are not confident that the process being followed at TUoS is reliably leading to any of these outcomes. There has been a lack of transparency about the methodology for collecting data pertaining to team and service department performance, and when affected staff have asked for information on the consultation process, the answers have been similarly opaque:

“I asked how my work had been evaluated, whether any of my user groups had been consulted, and received only a vague response saying it had been a ‘deep dive’ and that staff from one of our faculties had been asked to comment on whether they were ‘happy’ with the service. I asked what questions were asked of those staff (and students?) but received no reply.”

Any researcher who has worked with human subjects will immediately recognise that this unspecified approach to data collection and analysis would fail to pass an ethics review. Nor does it seem to represent a sound statistical sampling of the staff and student population of the university.

Especially for an organisation as complex and interconnected as a university, it is good practice to stop after restructuring one department, in order to reflect on how the restructure process went (and whether it could be improved), and to assess whether the end result has indeed led to greater efficiency and better provision of services. This shows a duty of care to staff affected by the restructure process. Again, though, this has not been the case with the current restructures, which have been scheduled at such a rapid pace as to allow essentially no time for reflection whatsoever. At present, we are nearing the end of the consultation period for the restructure of Academic Programmes and Student Engagement (APSE), a new section under Academic Services. APSE comprises a series of teams which support and enhance the strategic design and delivery of all learning & teaching in this institution. They also support and develop the university workers who deliver that teaching, through 1:1 assistance, mentoring, and networks.

“I regularly call upon the knowledge and advice of this pool of talented and dedicated individuals to strengthen and inform the work I oversee, and it’s always been reassuring to know that network exists.”

The expertise of APSE staff is especially crucial in the current political climate, which sees external pressures on the HE sector in the form of proliferating metrics and acronym-ed drivers which regulate and control rather than support and inspire. This climate cannot be navigated without dedicated, specialist staff who understand how to consolidate and enhance the teaching we do. In this context, a restructure must take special care to preserve staff expertise, and to carefully consider the implications of staffing changes for academic workloads and associated wellbeing.

Instead of prioritising existing staff expertise, the APSE restructure has seen 65 out of 121 affected staff at risk of redundancy. It has resulted in the proposed deletion of the Grade 8 Learning & Teaching Development Manager roles, to which every Faculty currently has a dedicated person. Their job is to provide tailored support to academic teams, translating and implementing institutional strategy in a disciplinary context, and providing sound pedagogical advice. It has also seen the downgrading of capacity and expertise of the team which supports the professional development of academic colleagues in learning and teaching. This team, among other things, delivers the Sheffield Teaching Assistant programme and the Advance-HE accredited Certificate in Learning & Teaching, as well as supporting new teaching staff in passing their probationary period.

At the same time, the APSE consultation period has led to the proposal for the addition of a very healthy senior management structure.

In response to concerns about whether the proposed top heavy structure for APSE is adequately equipped to respond to the aforementioned sector pressures, we are told that academics will now be “in charge of their own development”. We are told that academic teams will not require the same support from professional services as we move to a Programme Level Approach, as they will be working as self-sufficient teams. We are not told that academics will suddenly have a lot of free time in which to do this. Time-allocation aside, the devaluing of significant expertise is devastating and damaging. These staff are the hubs of huge and active professional networks across TUoS, and their institutional perspective and links to external professional networks means significant loss of capacity for Sheffield.

This approach to the APSE restructure echoes what we saw in prior restructures of Research Services and Student Recruitment and Admissions, and we have no reason to believe that the restructures planned for Autumn 2018 will be approached any differently. We are deeply concerned that the wrong decisions are being made, based on poor quality data. Resources are being cut when they should be invested in; Sheffield is not a sector leader in these areas, but the establishment of these teams several years ago, and the work they have since delivered, means we have made huge gains. That expertise is being devalued when we are most in need of it, and services that have helped us to make significant progress are being cut off. Dedicated support is being withdrawn from academic departments at a challenging time for everyone. These concerns have been expressed during each restructure over the past 18 months and are, unfortunately, being overlooked. We believe that the employer is acting negligently in its duty of care to staff, by withdrawing support from crucial staff- and student-facing services and instead substituting a top-heavy management structure that lacks the capacity and expertise to replicate these services.

The employer is required to meaningfully consult with staff through collective consultation involving trade union representation, and trained representatives of TUoS Staffside trade unions have been working very hard to support staff undergoing restructures. However, it rapidly became clear that the pace of these restructures is simply unsustainable both for our trained representatives and for management. Our repeated concerns about this have not yet been addressed, and there is no evidence that management intends to reduce either the pace or scale of the restructures. We believe that the employer is acting negligently in its duty of care to staff, in terms of the scale and speed of implementation of the Professional Services Transformation Project.

You may not be consciously aware of all of the work that your professional services colleagues do, in APSE and elsewhere, and of the impact they have on the day to day operation of this university. But we are concerned that, if the restructure process continues in the same way it was begun, we will find ourselves singing along with Joni Mitchell: “you don’t know what you’ve got ’til it’s gone”.

Sheffield UCU Committee