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Branch Bulletin – May 2022

Workload adjustment for extra bank holiday

Line managers of academic staff have been instructed to ensure that the normal 1.0 FTE (full time equivalent) workload maximum of 1581 hours is reduced to take account of the extra bank holiday. The appropriate reduction is 7.25 hours (pro rata), which is the reduction automatically enjoyed by staff on professional services contracts. UCU’s impression is that line managers have failed to proactively ensure the reduction is made, so we urge members to adjust their own workloads and where necessary seek confirmation from the line manager; UCU support is available with this in the unlikely event that it is needed.

 

Workload adjustment for strike action

Remember to make sure that the annual workload you are attempting to accomplish in the current year is reduced to take account of the work that your strike action has left undone and unpaid for. The appropriate reduction is 1581/365 hours per day of strike. For the full 13 days of strike action, this equates to a reduction of 56.3 hours.

 

Strike pay donation to Ukraine

UCU asked Management to donate pay docked for strike action to the Disasters Emergency Committee Ukraine Humanitarian Appeal. Management have failed to communicate any response.

 

2022–23 BGM dates

UCU Branch General Meetings are held each year at 1330–1500 on the Wednesday of the 3rd, 13th and 23rd of the 24 teaching weeks, which next academic year will be 5th October 2022, 18th January 2023 and 19th April 2023. Reminders will be sent in advance of each meeting. Management have a standing commitment to ensure events are not scheduled to clash with BGMs.

 

A word from a new rep…

Being a rep is a new adventure for me. I hope to be of use to you as members and our branch collectively.

It is due to the steady, ongoing, clear and calm involvement of union reps, that I found my footing as a reluctant academic, learning the game of academia. I have had help with various issues and with their support I have become more autonomous and empowered as an academic.

When Management threatened the end of my course, and  closed down one course I was most passionate about and teaching on, it was the solidarity of my course team and the unfailing presence and willingness of the union to support us in fighting for our survival. It was you, in the branch, who fought for our jobs not to be axed. That was a huge gesture and I want to give something back by becoming a rep myself. I have gone and done the relevant training (it’s not as dreary as you might think, I encourage you to try it out), I made good new friends on the branch committee, dusted off the activist within, stood on picket lines, and am working towards familiarising myself with all the procedures to do what is right for you, the membership.

I bring a true passion for wellbeing, what it means to be yourself and well, not what others tell you to do to be well. Working life is integral to how we maintain health in all its facets, yet the shifts in the climate and conditions of our sector make this increasingly difficult to navigate and maintain. As your rep, in times of challenge, I hope to be supportive. I trust that the solidarity of belonging to a union, and the reminder that we are our union, allows you to dance with me, as I find courage and strength, with a good dose of creativity, to do my best in this role. Vielen Dank,  Kerstin.

 

UCU rep training

If you are interested in undertaking UCU rep training, with a view to working for the branch in future, please contact UCU (ucu@uclan.ac.uk). The next iteration of the first rep training course will take place online, 1000–1500 on Thursdays 9th, 16th, 23rd, 30th June 2022. Your line manager should as far as possible be supportive in freeing you from other commitments at those times in order to enable you to attend.

 

Calling staff in research-only roles

If you are in one of the research-only roles (Senior Research Fellow, Research Fellow, Research Associate, Senior Research Assistant and Post-Doctoral Research Assistant) or are a Research Assistant, the Branch Committee would be grateful if you’d get in touch to discuss the issues that particularly affect these roles, including potential undergrading and lack of opportunities for progression and promotion to higher grades.

 

AGM report

Thank you to everyone who came to our AGM on 20th April. The first item for discussion was the “Four Fights” dispute. Assistant Secretary Mike Eslea presented the results of the recent ballot for industrial action, which saw a significant fall in turnout compared with the previous ballot, six months earlier. Although we voted 57%-43% in favour of strike action (and 80%-20% in favour of ASOS), turnout was only 36% and so the ballot failed to reach the 50% threshold required under tory anti-union laws. UCLan will NOT therefore be taking part in the next wave of action.

 

Mike also presented results from the recent member survey regarding the Four Fights strategy. 60 members responded (thank you if you did) and they were almost all people who had been active participants in the strikes so far. Responses were evenly divided over the question of whether combining four different fights was a good idea, but almost everyone agreed that all four were important issues (workload being the most important, by a short head). A large majority thought that aggregated ballots were preferable to the current disaggregated approach, which leaves only a small number of branches bearing the cost of striking. These results informed our delegates’ votes at the Special HE Sector Conference that was happening that day.

 

Next, Branch Secretary And Rosta presented his annual report, focusing on the main branch priorities:

  • Security of employment. The previous VC’s commitment that there would be no compulsory redundancies was reversed by the current VC, who insists that circumstances may well arise in which, regardless of the financial health of the university, Management would regard compulsory redundancies as necessary. The joint unions are working with Management on an updated Security of Employment policy: for teaching staff, the goal is that in situations where Management reckon an academic subject has a potentially problematic surplus of staffing relative to student demand, they will involve UCU and the subject team in seeking consensual resolutions (such as variations in staff deployment) that will forestall Management issuing threats of redundancy. The updated policy will also delineate more carefully the stages that would follow any such threat, and it remains standing branch policy that if a threat of redundancy is issued then UCU will begin the process of balloting for local industrial action and will take what industrial action is necessary to protect members’ livelihoods.
  • Decasualization. Thanks to the efforts of the unions, the university policy is that Fixed-Term Contracts (including hourly-paid) should be used only as a last resort and only with an explicit written justification, which must be of a sort agreed with the unions to be valid. The incidence of FTC abuses has drastically diminished in recent years, but nevertheless instances in which managers have failed to observe the university policy still come to light: therefore UCU encourage all members on FTCs to contact the Branch Committee to check that their FTC is licit.
  • Workload. Management continue to drag their heels in reconvening the workload committee. But nevertheless, even in those schools (e.g. Medical School) where workload management remains unacceptably bad, it has been improving, and the quantity of workload-related UCU casework has drastically fallen this year. It continues to be a branch priority, and we are confident of being able to resolve workload issues when members seek support.
  • Academic Freedom (freedom from threats to livelihood and from harassment) and Equality are always priorities for the branch, but no instances of cases involving either have emerged at UCLan in recent memory.
  • Pay has historically not been foremost among members’ priorities, but the cost-of-living crisis has changed that. Pay is of course negotiated nationally, not locally. UCLan’s main source of income comes from student fees, so for as long as student fees remain capped, the university’s scope for paying salary increases comes not from increasing fee income but from reducing non-staffing spending and increasing the proportion of income spent on staffing.

 

Branch Treasurer Cath Sullivan presented the financial accounts for 2020-21. The Branch had spent only £100 in the year, in affiliations and donations to the local Trades Council and Manchester Hazards Centre. We ended the year with £508.57 in the bank.

 

Your UCU Branch Committee 2022-23

At the AGM, elections were held for the Branch Committee for 2022-23. No new nominations had been received in advance, so the existing Committee was nominated as a slate and elected nem con:

And Rosta [Branch Secretary]

Andrew Baron [Union Learning Rep]

Cath Sullivan [Treasurer/Health & Safety Rep]

Elaine Hill [Membership Secretary/Green Rep]

Kerstin Wellhofer [Branch Officer]

Michael McKrell [Branch Chair/Health & Safety Rep]

Mike Eslea [Assistant Branch Secretary]

Peter Lucas [Branch Officer]

Tara Styles-Lightowlers [Vice Chair/Equality Officer]

Also elected as a Health & Safety Rep, but not to the Committee, was Douglas Martin. Welcome to the team, Dougie!

 

Support striking colleagues in FE

UCU branches in seven Further Education colleges are taking strike action over the failure of the employers to offer a pay rise that keeps pace with the cost of living crisis, the rate of inflation and the drop in the value of FE pay over the last decade. The branches all returned a substantial majority for strike action and action short of strike action and easily met the threshold of 50% required by the anti-trade union laws. The activists in these branches deserve great praise for all that they have done so far.

The branches taking action are; Burnley College, Bury College, Hopwood Hall College, City of Liverpool College, Oldham College and Nelson & Colne College Group (action commencing on 18th May) and The Manchester College, (starting 20th May). If you live near any of these colleges an can spare the time, please go along and visit the pickets – your solidarity will be much appreciated. There will also be an online rally on May 18th at 1pm – the link will be sent out by the NW Regional Office.

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Branch Bulletin – March 2022

Forthcoming strike action

Members will be aware that the national union’s Higher Education Committee has called for further strike action in the Four Fights dispute. Different institutions will be taking action on two separate weeks. At UCLan, five days of action will take place from Monday 21st to Friday 25th March. The Branch Committee acknowledges that some members will be finding further action in this dispute difficult for a number of reasons. However, for as long as the mandate (which members voted for) is live, members should adhere to the strike call and not do any work for the University on those days.

 

Fighting Fund

Members who are in genuine financial hardship can consider making a claim from the union’s Fighting Fund, but we would stress that the fund is intended only for those members in dire financial straits and is not a compensation scheme for lost pay. Information about the Fighting Fund can be found at: UCU – UCU fighting fund 2021/2022

 

Pickets

Following a meeting of the UCU branch strike committee today, the Branch Committee has endorsed a proposal that picketing take place on Monday 21st and Thursday 24th March from 08.30 to 11.30. Please meet outside the EIC (Engineering Building) adjacent to Adelphi Square.

 

Withheld strike pay for Ukraine

Last week, UCU asked that Management donate all pay withheld as a consequence of next week’s strike to humanitarian relief efforts in Ukraine. We also asked for swift confirmation of this. To their discredit, Management have not responded. UCLan UCU will continue to press for all pay deductions to be used to alleviate the suffering of the Ukrainian people.

 

Four Fights reballot

Members will be have received notification from the General Secretary that the national union is reballoting members on the continuation of the Four Fights dispute. The ballot is now open and runs until Friday 5th April. Please keep an eye out for your ballot paper which should arrive in the next few days.

 

Covid/Health & Safety update

In response to requests from UCU, Management have now provided a report on ventilation measures currently in place in University buildings and proposals for upgrading ventilation and air circulation systems for the future. UCU will continue to raise this and other Covid-related matters via the joint-union-Management Covid meetings, which will move from a weekly to a monthly basis. Advice remains that any Covid matters be raised with your line manager (Head or Deputy Head of School in most cases) in the first instance.

UCU has been consulted on the University’s Health & Safety strategy and has called for greater resources to be devoted to tackling the causes of work-related stress (particularly excessive workloads) and for improved workplace wellbeing. We continue to meet with Management via regular joint-union H&S meetings in addition to the Covid meetings.

 

Pensions dispute at Staffordshire University – show your support – sign the petition

Members may have read about the proposal by Management at Staffordshire University to cease entitlement to the Teachers’ Pension Scheme  to new academic starters. UCU members at that branch have voted decisively to resist this unprecedented move to drive down terms and conditions and create a ‘two tier’ academic workforce at that institution. You can read more about the dispute here: https://www.ucu.org.uk/article/12195/Staff-at-Staffordshire-University-set-to-walk-out-over-two-tier-workforce-threat

As we know, Management at UCLan ended entitlement to the Local Government Pension Scheme for new professional services starters at the University this year, but Management at Staffordshire are the first to launch such an outrageous attack on academic staff. It is vital that this move be defeated, since this could potentially establish a precedent for the whole post-92 HE sector. Branch Chair Mick McKrell has sent a message of support to Staffordshire UCU and we ask members to support the campaign by signing the petition here: https://speakout.web.ucu.org.uk/staffordshire-university-no-to-a-two-tier-system/

 

iROWE Seminar – menopause in the workplace

‘Supporting staff going through menopause in the workplace. The UK has one of the highest percentages of women in the workplace in Europe and this, coupled with an ageing workforce and a tight labour market makes the management of the menopause in the workplace a highly relevant topic. However, staff experiencing symptoms of the menopause may feel unsupported in the workplace, and their symptoms trivialised. It is vital that employers provide sensitive and appropriate support for staff experiencing symptoms of the menopause, not least because Acas and the Employment Tribunals are seeing an increase in claims associated with sex, disability and age’.

Tuesday 26th April, 1:00 – 2:00pm. To book a place on this online event go to https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/menopause-in-the-workplace-tickets-260913327787

 

AGM reminder

The Annual General Meeting of the Branch will be on Wednesday 20th April, 13.30 – 15.00 via Teams: check your emails for the link.

 

NWTUC Blackpool Protest cancelled

The Cost of Living protest by NWTUC planned for Saturday March 19th in Blackpool has been cancelled.

 

Dates for your diary:

Saturday 2nd April– Cost of Living Protest, Preston Flag Market, 11.00-13.00, organised by Preston Trades Council.

Saturday 30th April – Preston Workers’ Memorial Day, Preston Flag Market, 11.45am. After speeches and a piped lament there will be a short procession along Friargate to the Peace Gardens. Wreaths will be placed on the Preston Martyrs’ memorial outside the 1842 Bar (the old Corn Exchange) on Lune Street. All welcome.

 

UCU Branch Committee

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Branch Bulletin – Feb 2022

Four Fights strike dates

Members will be aware that further strike dates have been announced in the ‘Four Fights’ dispute, those dates being;

Monday 21st and Tuesday 22nd February

Monday 28th February, Tuesday 1st and Wednesday 2nd March

Remember, contrary to the inaccurate and misleading letter that has been circulated by Management, the grounds for this dispute are not just headline pay, shocking though the erosion of real-terms pay has been in the last ten years. It is also about the failure of the sector to tackle inequality (people not being paid the same for the work they do due to their gender, ethnicity or disability), unsustainable levels of workload across the sector, and the sector’s reliance on a reservoir of staff on insecure, short-term contracts. UCLan UCU voted 73% Yes for strike action and 87% Yes for ASOS. We expect all members to respect the outcome of the ballot and to heed the call to take action, whether they voted for it or not.

For more on the ‘Four Fights’ dispute please go to: https://www.ucu.org.uk/he2021

Remember that you are not obliged to inform your line manager (Head or Deputy Head of School) whether or not you will be taking strike action and we recommend that you decline to do so. The union has fulfilled all its legal requirements in terms of notice to the employer of strike action.

Please read the Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) on the strike action here. Please check these before contacting branch officers with your questions.

https://www.ucu.org.uk/article/11818/Four-fights-dispute-FAQs

 

Pickets and protest rallies.

Please come along to our pickets and show support for striking colleagues and other branches taking action: We will be picketing from 0800 – 1000, followed by protest gatherings until 12.00 noon.

You can sign up for particular time slots (check your email for the link) to let us know you’re coming along, but feel free to just turn up.

 

ASOS Guidance

Instructions on ASOS (Action Short of Strike)

The following are the UCU instructions and advice on ASOS, adapted to the local circumstances at UCLan and approved by UCU Regional Office and where necessary Head Office.

  • Don’t undertake duties that aren’t on your workload plan and that can’t be reasonably understood to fall within some more general item on the workload plan.
  • Don’t reschedule classes and lectures cancelled due to strike action unless your workload plan has been modified to include this additional task.
  • As always, don’t accept a workload plan that doesn’t match reality or that is over maximum hours.
  • Your line manager may revise your workload plan by convening an appraisal meeting with you to agree revisions to it. The process of agreeing proposed revisions should involve considering any objections you might have, and your reluctance to weaken the force of ASOS is a valid consideration. If your line manager insists on certain revisions to your workload plan despite your objections, and you are reluctant to accept your line manager’s demands, don’t just refuse them but rather contact UCU for advice and support.
  • Do not upload or share materials related to classes that have been cancelled as a result of strike action. Remove uploaded materials (related to classes that have been cancelled as a result of strike action) if and only if they have not already been shared with students.

 

NUS Student Strike

The NUS (National union of Students has also called for a student strike on Wednesday 2nd March as part of their ‘New Vision for Education’ campaign.

https://www.nus.org.uk/campaign-hub/new-vision-for-education?i=0

UCU will be meeting with the local SU to discuss both the Four Fights action and the student strike.

You might also find this NUS briefing on the strikes useful:

UCU_Strike_Briefing__Autumn_2021_briefing.pdf (nusdigital.s3.amazonaws.com)

 

Branch Meeting Report

At the Branch General Meeting on 19th January, the following matters were discussed;

Branch Officer Andrew Baron reported on the strike action in December, highlighting the effectiveness of the pickets and strike protests. Krissi Musiol gave an excellent account of on being a first-time participant in strike action and branch activism. We hope Krissi’s example will have encouraged other members to get involved. Branch Secretary And Rosta and Chair Mick McKrell gave a general summary of the national strike situation and reiteration of ASOS advice (see ‘ASOS Guidance’ above). Health and Safety officers Cath Sullivan and Mick McKrell update the meeting on the work of the joint union-Management COVID-19 meetings (see ‘Covid update’ below). Mick McKrell proposed a branch motion to UCU Congress calling for an end to the outsourcing of student support services. This was in response  to the growing problem of students who are struggling to access support for specific learning needs, as these have now been outsourced to private providers, rather than provided through UCLan. The motion, which called on the union to campaign alongside the Students’ Union and other campus unions, was carried overwhelmingly. Finally, Green rep Elaine Hill reminded members that there will be a meeting on Wednesday  16th February between 14.00 and 16.00 for any UCU members interested in working on green issues at UCLan. The meeting will be on Teams- check your email for the link.

 

Covid/Health and Safety update

Further to previous updates, the University SHE team and Estates are currently working on a draft protocol for managing CO₂ levels in workspaces and this will be brought to the unions for consultation. In the meantime, any concerns regarding safe working should be reported to the estates help desk and raised with your line manager in the first instance. Overnight air changes will occur in rooms which are mechanically ventilated, so air will be completely changed from the previous day. UCU repeated our request that information relating to ventilation be made available on the on-line room booking system.

Members who have studied the University’s Strategic Plan may have noticed that there was no mention at all of Health and Safety, as though the Covid pandemic had never happened! This is now being rectified and the trades unions will be consulted on a new strategy for managing workplace health and safety at UCLan.

 

Changes to TPS

Members of the Teachers’ Pensions Scheme (TPS) who have supplied their email address to the TPS should have received an email outlining the changes to the scheme due to come into effect in April. If you have not received such an email, you can fins out about the changes and how and whether they affect you by looking on the TPS website: https://www.teacherspensions.co.uk/

 

Cost of Living Protests in the North West

UCU NW Region, alongside Unison NW, NW Unite, local trades councils and the NW TUC are sponsoring protests in the Region against the spiralling cost of living, cuts to pensions and universal credit and real-terms pay cuts. The protests will take place this Saturday, 12th February at these venues:

Liverpool – St Luke’s Church (aka. ‘the bombed out church’) at 12.00 noon

Manchester – The Wellington Statue, Piccadilly Gardens at 1.00 pm

Please support these protests if you can.

 

‘On the Table’

Other matters currently being discussed by UCU and management include; Being able to find out who your line manager is on iTrent, honoraria payments, L to SL progression guidelines, and the setting of research targets.

We hope to report on these discussions in future bulletins.

 

Dates for your Diary:

Saturday 19th March: North West TUC protest at the Conservative Party Spring Conference, Blackpool Promenade, 11.00. Show your strength of feeling towards the Government and call on them act to tackle the cost of living crisis.

Wednesday 20th April: UCLan UCU Annual General Meeting of the Branch, 13.30-15.00 via Teams

Saturday 30th April: Preston Workers Memorial Day. Preston Flag Market, 11.45am

 

UCU Branch Committee

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Branch Bulletin – Jan 2022

Branch General Meeting – reminder
‘Four Fights’ survey – please respond as soon as you can
Covid update
Message from Green Rep – please get involved

Branch General Meeting, Wednesday 19th January
A reminder that the first general meeting of the branch of 2022 is on Wednesday, 19th January 13.30 – 15.00 via Teams. Check your email for the meeting link.

‘Four Fights’ Survey – please respond as soon as possible.
As you may have seen in emails from UCU Head Office, the branch has been asked to canvass members’ opinions on how best to prosecute the “4 Fights” dispute in 2022. Unfortunately, the Delegate Meeting is on Tuesday 18th January, the day before our Branch General Meeting – and the questions we have been asked to put to members were only communicated to us TODAY, so there is no time to call an EGM. We are therefore asking members to answer the four questions in the survey below by 12 noon on Monday 17th January. Our delegates will then be able to report back to the BGM on Wednesday.
Here’s the link to the survey: https://forms.gle/SsV2iRC51WTXx6Zu7


Covid update
UCU, Unison and Unite are continuing to meet with Management each week to discuss the ongoing Covid situation. As previously reported, UCU has urged Management go beyond the current Government ‘Plan B’ and Department of Education guidelines by, for example, shifting any teaching that can be done remotely to on-line delivery in order to reduce the number of people on campus. We also protested the lack of provision for the risk assessment of clinically vulnerable colleagues (again, the D of E guidelines state that these are not necessary). Management have refused to do this and are intent on adhering to letter of the Government guidance, in breach of an understanding reached between Management and unions last year (at the peak of the first wave) that that the University would not slavishly follow Government guidelines but would strive to do ‘the right thing’. It is now evident that for the University as well as for the Government – ‘business continuity’ is the driver of their approach to Covid.

Face coverings
After initial reluctance Management has agreed that students and staff should wear face coverings in all indoor settings in the University, including classrooms. It is ‘not expected’ that academics wear face coverings whilst teaching, but we urge colleagues to so unless there is a sound pedagogic reason why they shouldn’t – and even then only where the teaching space is well ventilated and/or physical distancing is possible between themselves and students. The clear visors offered by the University are not an effective form of mitigation. UCU proposed using the PC screensaver (‘Where opportunity creates success’) to communicate a message reminding everyone to wear a face covering when on campus. Management have said this is ‘not possible’ (no explanation given), which demonstrates all too clearly how defending the University’s ‘brand identity’ is a higher priority than communicating an important public health message.

Ventilation
We are continuing to highlight problems relating to ventilation where we become aware of them. At the last meeting we also pressed Management on the provision and use of CO₂ monitors. We have also asked that time for the replenishment of air in teaching spaces be built into timetabling so that one session does not immediately follow another without the air supply having been refreshed. Longer term, it is clear that the University’ HVAC systems will require extensive overhaul to deal with future outbreaks. In the meantime, colleagues should continue to report ventilation problems to Estates Services via ESHelpdesk@uclan.ac.uk and contact us if there is undue delay or an unsatisfactory response.

Testing
Face coverings, ventilation, physical distancing etc. are means of managing the spread of infections whilst on campus. But clearly the best way to reduce infections on campus to reduce (preferably to zero) the number of people coming to the University with Covid in the first place, which is why testing is so crucial. We urge all colleagues to follow advice on this and to take a Lateral Flow Test before coming to work. The fewer people who bring Covid on to campus, the more effective the other measures are likely to be.

We will update members further at next week’s branch meeting. In the meantime, if you have any concerns relating to Covid, our advice remains to raise them with your Head of School in the first instance. If that doesn’t resolve it, email ucu@uclan.ac.uk indicating ‘Covid’ in the subject line.

Message from the Branch Green Rep.
There will be a meeting on Wednesday 16th February for any UCU members interested in working on green issues at UCLan. The meeting will be on Teams between 2 – 4 pm: check email for the meeting link.

Green issues obviously cover a large field. What I would like to do is have a discussion about what people are interested in and to choose 2 or 3 areas to focus on for the coming year. I would like to try and link these to objectives which have come out of the COP-26 meeting to give them more strength, as well as considering approaches to greening the curriculum at UCLan. The meeting will include some breakout room discussions, both to help draw up ideas and also to distil these further and select the ones we want to focus on. If anyone has any particular issues which interest them then please feel free to contact me, Elaine Hill, in advance about them eashill@uclan.ac.uk 

UCU Branch Committee

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Working Times and Locations

Management have initiated a consultation on “Ways of Working”, in the light of the university’s experience during Covid. Consultation with the unions has been scheduled but has not yet happened, but in the meantime Management have been conducting additional consultations in the services and some schools. The consultation is of particular importance for professional services staff, who have long been subjected to unnecessarily rigid restrictions on their working times and locations, and there is now an opportunity to address that unnecessary rigidity. For academic staff, there has always been satisfactory agreement on the principles governing academic working times and locations, set out in the Working Off Campus Guidelines – Final draft March 2017 agreed between UCU and Management in 2017: an academic’s working times and locations are determined entirely by what is inherently required by the duties specified on the academic’s workload plan.

 

In at least one school, academic staff have been told by a manager that academic staff will be required to be on campus on a minimum of three set days per week, which of course would be in defiance of the existing agreement and utterly unacceptable to UCU. UCU believe that this is the result of regrettably poor communication within Management, and a Senior Management proposal whose intent is to relax restrictions on professional services staff’s working times and locations has been garbled into a putative intention to introduce novel restrictions on academic staff; but in the event that Management were to launch an attack on the long-standing principles governing academics’ working times and locations, UCU would of course resist it to the utmost.

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News: Threat lifted and strikes postponed

Statement from UCLan UCU Branch Committee

 

Colleagues,

Following talks between UCU and Management today, the following statement has been agreed:

Over the past few weeks, the University and UCU have worked jointly to identify solutions for the remaining numbers of academic colleagues who are at risk of compulsory redundancy as a result of the restructuring exercises.

 This joint work has continued to deliver positive outcomes for colleagues, to the extent that the number of roles at risk has been reduced to four, with further discussions to be held over the coming days. The University is confident that the number will reduce still further as a result.

 Given the progress to date, the University and UCU have agreed that the priority is to give ourselves the time to pursue the work on finding individual solutions for those people concerned. As a result, the University has agreed to suspend its formal redundancy selection process and UCU has agreed to suspend the planned industrial action and explore redeployment options for the outstanding roles. The University and UCU are committed to remaining in constructive dialogue.

 

Does this resolve the dispute?

No. The dispute is not resolved because members remain at risk.

 

So what has changed?

Two weeks ago Management sought to meet UCU to discuss the criteria to be used to select individuals for compulsory redundancy. UCU declined to discuss selection criteria because we considered that there were viable alternatives to compulsory redundancy available that we wished to explore. The fact that Management were intent on pushing forward with selection for redundancy is why the Branch Committee felt it had no alternative but to issue the threat of strike action in order to defend our members’ jobs.

Management have now agreed to suspend selection for redundancy to allow further discussions to take place with UCU to resolve the remaining at risk posts. The members at risk have been informed of this development.

 

What about the industrial action?

In return for Management’s decision to suspend selection for redundancy, the UCU Branch Committee has agreed to suspend the industrial action (strike action and action short of a strike) planned for March and April.

However, the mandate for industrial action provided by members in the ballot remains live and UCU reserves the right to take industrial action if the current talks fail to resolve the dispute or if Management attempt to proceed to selection for compulsory redundancy.

 

What happens next?

 UCU and Management have committed to intensify efforts aimed at resolving the dispute by removing the prospect of compulsory redundancy. There is no guarantee of success, which is why the ballot mandate remains live. We will keep members informed about the progress of these discussions.

 

Thank you for your support so far.

 The Branch Committee wishes to thank members for the magnificent support you have shown so far. We know from the ballot results and from the many emails we have received ever since the redundancies were announced that you have demonstrated a willingness to stand up for your colleagues. There is no doubt that this has helped provide your branch negotiators with this opportunity to secure the livelihoods of those at risk. Your support was – and remains – crucial as we strive for a successful outcome.

 

UCU Branch Committee

 

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Strike 2021 – Advice to Members

Strike dates

Teams Background Pic

UCU has informed University Management that, following the decisive mandate given by members in the industrial action ballot two weeks ago, the branch intends to take strike action on the following dates:

 

Thursday 25th & Friday 26th March

Thursday 15th & Friday 16th April

Monday 19th & Tuesday 20th April

 

UCU also informed the University that, in accordance with the ballot result, members will take action short of strike action commencing Monday 12th April.

 

Why are we taking action?

Thanks to the efforts of UCU and the UCU members at risk of redundancy, the number of posts remaining formally at risk of redundancy has been whittled down to 5.0 FTE, with 8 individuals, all UCU members, remaining at risk. And for this remaining 5.0 FTE too, voluntary solutions would be available, principally through redeployment, if Management will make a genuine rather than merely tokenistic effort to make those solutions work. The university needs flexibility in its workforce to meet the changing needs, but this flexibility must be achieved by adjusting the duties and deployment of staff, with retraining where necessary, rather than by a crass and callous policy of simply firing staff when not all of their current duties continue to be needed. In these circumstances it is hard to believe that Management insist on pursuing compulsory redundancies, redundancies that a competent and humane management could so easily avoid and a betrayal of the Security of Employment Policy so hard-won by UCU.  But it is clear that unless determined industrial action by us all, the membership of UCU, forces Management to lift the threat of compulsory redundancy from the eight members at risk, Management will pursue their unnecessary and inhumane strategy time and time again.

 

What is strike action?

Strike action means not doing any work for all of the days specified above. This includes, for instance, time before 9am and after 5pm and includes any activity which is part of your work such as teaching, administration, meetings, emails relating to work, marking, research or conferences where you are directly or indirectly representing your employer. It also means not doing any preparation for work that you are due to do when you return to work after your strike.

In other words, you don’t do any work at all on strike days! That means no Teams, no Blackboard, no Outlook…In a nutshell, do not log on to the University network on strike days.

 

Do I have to tell my line-manager (Head or Deputy head of School) I am going on strike or intend to take action short of a strike before the action begins?

No. You do not have to tell your employer whether you plan to take industrial action in advance of the strike – and the Branch Committee advises you to not do so, because doing so will enable Management to minimise any disruption the action is aimed to cause and therefore undermine the dispute. UCU has already provided Management with all the information about the action required by law, including those categories of members who we are calling on to take action.

 

When is it OK to tell my line manager I am taking industrial action?

Once the industrial action has begun and you are back to work following the strike action you should respond truthfully to any query from your line manager as to whether you have taken or are taking industrial action. You should not, however, respond to any such query while you are on strike.

 

Are there any exemptions from having to take industrial action?

No. All UCU members employed at UCLan are asked to take action in accordance with the ballot mandate and are expected to do so.

 

Should I reschedule lectures or classes that are cancelled due to the strikes?

No. This is part of the action short of a strike that members voted to undertake (see ‘action short of strike action’ below). Rescheduling classes will dilute the impact of the strike action.

 

I am booked to be on annual leave during (one of) the strikes – what should I do?

If your annual leave is essential you should take it as planned and make a donation to the UCU strike fund. If your leave is not essential you may wish to move it so that you can participate in the action alongside colleagues.

 

Am I in breach of my contract if I go on strike?

Yes, taking any industrial action is a breach of contract. However, as UCU has carried out a legal ballot and complied with all legal formalities, the law protects workers from dismissal whilst taking part in lawful industrial action or at any time within 12 weeks of the start of the action and, depending on the circumstances, dismissal may also be unfair if it takes place later. This kind of dismissal has never happened in higher education.

 

Can my employer deduct my pay when I take part in industrial action?

Yes, the employer is entitled to deduct your pay if you participate in industrial action. For strike action, the union contends that any deduction should be at 1/365th of any annual salary or equivalent. For part-time staff, deductions should only reflect the pay normally due for the work not undertaken and no more.

For action short of a strike, your employer has the right to refuse to accept the partial performance of your contract and to deduct up to 100% of your pay while you are participating in the action so long as they make their intentions clear. In recent years, most employers have not deducted salary in respect of action short of a strike.

 

How will taking strike action affect my pension?

Most employers do not withhold pension contributions and therefore participation in strike action has not generally affected pensions. In terms of your final pension, the impact of participating in the industrial action called by UCU is miniscule compared to the benefits that the union has protected through action in the past.

 

Action short of a strike (ASOS)

As well as voting to take strike action, members also voted to take action short of strike action (ASOS). This will commence on Tuesday 12th April – and not before.

 

What is ‘action short of a strike’?

While a strike is a concerted stoppage of work, action short of a strike (ASOS) is normally action which affects only certain aspects of your work.  Action short of a strike in these disputes means we are asking you to:

  1. work to contract
  2. not cover for absent colleagues
  3. not reschedule lectures or classes cancelled due to strike action
  4. not undertake any voluntary activities

Action short of a strike begins on Monday 12th April and will continue until the union calls it off.

 

Working to contract means abiding strictly to the terms that your contract of employment (or other formal documents relating to your employment) specify as your hours of work; breaks; workload; or other matters. For further guidance see https://ucu.org.uk/working-to-contract

 

Refusing to cover for absent colleagues

This means that unless your job is wholly or predominantly about covering for other staff, you should refuse to provide cover. An example of this might be where a colleague is unwell and you are asked to take on their teaching or other work.

 

Refusing to reschedule lectures or classes cancelled due to strike action

This includes any scheduled teaching activity which would have taken place on one of UCU’s strike days and applies to all UCU members, not just those directly responsible for the relevant lecture or class. You should refuse to reschedule this activity or share materials that would have been covered in the class or lecture when asked stating in response that you are supporting UCU’s action short of a strike.

 

What should I do if I have already rescheduled strike hit classes or if my Head of School has already rescheduled them? Once the action has started you should not teach rescheduled classes whoever has rescheduled them.

 

What does refusing to undertake any voluntary activity mean?

Not undertaking any voluntary activity means that where you have a choice as to whether you undertake some work (i.e. it is not specified in your agreed workload), you should not do it. If you are in any doubt about what you are required to do under your contract, check with a UCU branch officer.

 

Does ASOS include a marking or assessment boycott?

We are not asking members to undertake a marking or assessment boycott at this stage. However, members have provided a mandate for such action and Management have been notified that the union may escalate to a marking or assessment boycott if the dispute is not resolved.

 

Strike rally – Thursday 25th March

We will be organising an online ‘rally’ with guest speakers on the first day of strike action, Thursday 25th March – details TBA, which will include updates on the dispute and other suggestions for how you can support the action.

 

UCU Branch Committee

 

 

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Strike 2021 – VC’s Statement

UCU response to the VC’s statement on forthcoming strike action.

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The statement posted by Graham Baldwin on the intranet on Friday is reproduced below, with UCU’s responses in bold.

 

VC: ‘We have previously updated you on our restructure programme and the essential changes required to ensure our future financial stability. Over the last few years, our people costs had been rising and unfortunately those cost increases exceeded the growth in our income. This placed the University at a level of annual deficit which, if left unchecked, would have had very serious implications for our future’.

 

UCU:  The ‘unsustainable’ rise in staffing costs is a consequence of the failure of Management oversight and control of costs over many years, something which Management themselves have admitted.  Management has also admitted that is does not have a sound method for actually measuring the overall costs for particular courses or subject areas.  It is wrong that staff should have to pay for that incompetence with their jobs. The University is in sound financial health – with cash reserves of £100 million – and is planning to spend £50 million on new buildings this year alone. This cannot justify enforced loss of livelihoods.

 

VC: ‘Our priority has therefore been to restore our people costs to a sustainable level. The ambition was and remains to achieve these significant savings through voluntary means if possible. We have made considerable progress towards this as 253 colleagues have opted to move on from UCLan through voluntary redundancy arrangements and a further 17 have taken up more flexible working arrangements through the new partial voluntary redundancy scheme. These schemes, together with the redeployment process, have been huge contributors towards our future sustainability and again I would like to thank all those who have supported colleagues throughout this process which is now coming to an end. We have worked closely with the trade unions and with those colleagues affected, to ensure they have the support that they need’.

 

UCU: Management has not been proactive in redeploying the skills experience and expertise of ‘at risk’ staff to address areas where there is a shortage of labour in the institution. Whilst many ‘at risk’ colleagues have demonstrated flexibility in this respect, including agreeing changes to their roles, this has not been matched by Management who are in the best position to facilitate proper redeployment that addresses the needs of the University whist safeguarding jobs.    

 

VC: ‘Our improving financial position has made it possible to maintain the student experience throughout the pandemic. For students we have purchased thousands of new laptops and dongles, refunded accommodation fees and supported students through the Hardship Fund. Unlike many other universities, none of our colleagues have been furloughed and we have been able to retain everyone on full pay, regardless of whether or not they are able do their job remotely. We have also been able to increase our staffing numbers in areas of student growth, which are so important to our longer-term success, and of course wherever possible we have redeployed colleagues into these new roles to continue their UCLan careers’.

 

UCU: Throughout the pandemic UCU has worked to keep staff and students at the University safe. UCU members have worked tirelessly for the past year, making the shift to online delivery or delivering practical skills face-to-face as safely as possible. Academic staff have worked far beyond their agreed workloads to ensure that students progress and graduate. It is unacceptable that any of them should, as a ‘reward’ for their efforts, be threatened with compulsory redundancy.     

 

VC: ‘The progress we have made in voluntary redundancy and redeployment has taken us a very long way towards achieving our savings targets, and these efforts continue. There are six roles in the Faculty of Culture and Creative Industries that remain at risk and the reason these roles are at risk is because particular subject areas have seen a sustained decline in student numbers over recent years, so we do not have sufficient students to maintain the current staffing levels. The number of applications received to date in those areas show that the issue will only be compounded if we do not complete the process of reducing our staffing costs’.

 

UCU: The reason the VC gives is, by Management’s own admission, not applicable to all staff at risk. Where it is ostensibly applicable, the fact is that student numbers do go up and down, but these course teams have been selected in a narrow-minded fashion that ignores their contributions to other courses and all the work they do for their Schools and the wider University. A responsible, competent Management identifies these fluctuations and addresses them through improved marketing, course mergers or by innovating to design new programmes. An irresponsible Management allows a trend to go unchecked and then wrings its hands and forces people out of work.

 

VC: ‘We are very disappointed that UCU has chosen to schedule six days of strike action beginning in less than two weeks, while we are still in the midst of our work to mitigate the impact on the colleagues affected. We will, however, continue to explore every opportunity to achieve the required cost savings through voluntary means. Individual discussions with affected colleagues are progressing and we are very confident that the number of at risk colleagues will reduce even further over the coming days’.

 

Despite the claim to be exploring alternatives to voluntary redundancy, Management want to press ahead with selection for compulsory redundancy as we speak. It is UCU that continues to press Management to lift the threat of compulsory redundancy and negotiate solutions that work both for the University and for those members still at risk. UCU has always – and will always be – ready to discuss with Management the challenges facing the University – it is in our members’ interests that we do so. But it is now in Management’s hands to step back from the brink and avoid a dispute which will have consequences for industrial relations for a long time to come.     

 

For a view of the dispute from the perspective of a dedicated UCU rep who has been supporting colleagues at risk, see the following personal reflection from Tara Styles-Lightowlers:

 

‘On Friday the VC provided an update on the UCU strike ballot and action. I would just like to fill in some of the glaring gaps. Most importantly, the omission of the very real people in the ‘people costs’ that the VC makes reference to.

Since we first learned of the members at risk of redundancy in CCI, I have lost many nights sleep or found myself sobbing into my pillow in the early hours of the morning. My own post is not at risk, but I have seen first-hand the very real distress that the VC’s message glosses over with its focus on ‘people costs’ and ‘savings targets’. I have sat at the other end of a computer screen, watching members struggle and cry, terrified and confused, not knowing what to do: worrying about mortgages, children, a possible end to their careers… all on top of the added stresses caused by the pandemic and lockdown. Even in those cases where the savings have been made via redeployment, this has involved difficult decisions being made by members, at a time when they are already working so hard to counter the problems that have been posed by Covid. These seemingly voluntary decisions have been made by members terrified of losing their jobs. I cannot stand by and watch this dehumanisation of people, seeing them reduced to mere commodities in this cost-saving exercise despite the years of hard work and dedication they have given to UCLan. The refusal to remove the threat of compulsory redundancy is not, due to financial necessity, it is a political decision. This is why I wipe away the tears and continue to stand in solidarity with the at risk members and continue to fight any threat to the livelihoods of our members.’

 

Stand with Tara. Support your colleagues at risk. Support the strike action. 

 

UCU Branch Committee

 

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Advice & Representation

Roles & Responsibilities when you have a UCU Caseworker

A downloadable version of this document is available HERE

 

Confidentiality

Your UCU caseworker will never discuss your situation or share information with your manager, with HR or with any colleague (but see below) without your express consent.

Caseworkers do discuss cases with other caseworkers and with members of the Branch Committee.  We have regular Casework Meetings, to ensure consistency of approach and to enable us to cover for each other if, for instance, you needed help while your regular caseworker was on leave or off sick.  It is therefore important to remember that what you tell your caseworker will be shared with the Branch Committee. Exceptions to this are made when a Branch Committee member has a conflict of interest, in which case they will absent themselves from the meeting while your case is discussed.

If a case is serious, such that there is a risk of dismissal or the possibility of legal action, we will also inform the UCU NW Regional Office.

Once a case is concluded, we will normally keep notes and other records for one year, in case the issues resurface. After that they will be destroyed, and any reoccurring issues will be considered as a new case.

 

Your Responsibilities

Your UCU caseworker will advise you to the best of their ability, and in accordance with Branch policy. You are not compelled to follow that advice, but if you do not, we may decide to withdraw representation. Similarly, we do not normally represent members who are receiving external advice (e.g., from a solicitor) except in exceptional circumstances where this has been discussed and agreed with UCU.

Once you have been allocated a caseworker, you should talk to them before communicating with your manager, or HR, or anyone else, on any matter relevant to the case. Such communications can seriously undermine your case, and may lead to us withdrawing representation.

Please try to stay focused in your interactions with your caseworker, and treat them with respect. Remember we are typically supporting multiple members at once, and that we all have “day jobs” as well.  One way to try and keep focused is to consider what outcome you would like from the process. You should reflect on this and try and communicate this to your caseworker.

All casework will have an end point. Sometimes a case ends because some other process reaches its conclusion (e.g., a disciplinary process). A case may end because the resolution that you sought has been achieved.  There are other times when a case ends because the Branch Committee judge that the caseworker and member have taken all the steps that could reasonably have been taken.  This could mean that the casework finishes without the member achieving their desired outcome.

We recognise, of course, that many of our members are under tremendous stress when they contact us, and we will do our best to help, but if you need emotional support you should speak to Staff Counselling or the Education Support Partnership (links below). We will consider withdrawing representation from any member who makes excessive demands or who behaves unreasonably towards their caseworker.

https://msuclanac.sharepoint.com/sites/StaffWellbeingandSupport
https://www.educationsupport.org.uk/

 

UCLan UCU Branch Committee

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Workload 2020-21

UCLan UCU sent out our 2019 workload advice containing UCLan intranet weblinks to the relevant university documents. Without informing UCU, Management broke the weblinks and rendered the documents unfindable. We are therefore supplying links to the documents here. Note that not all the university documents are worth reading, so read the updated UCU workload advice 2021 first; the university document “WLM Expectations agreed UCU” is crucial, “Academic Workload Considerations 2019 Final” is useful, and “WLM 2019 final” adds nothing useful and is not worth reading.

In 2019-2020 it has remained the case that some schools have been disregarding university workload policy. If your school or your appraisal is not following university workload policy, and above all the principle that there must be a faithful match between workload plan and workload actuality, contact UCU for support. UCU advice is to draft your own workload plan, making sure it is not above maximum hours, that it includes all duties you expect to undertake and that the hours allocated to duties reflect actuality.  In particular the duties must include 175 hours (pro rata) of SMRSA (Self Managed Research & Scholarly Activity). If members of an academic team are able to coordinate workload plans, checking that all duties are taken account of, that is even better. As soon as possible, send the proposed workload plan to the appraiser, who may need to negotiate changes to it with you. If anything proves contentious in this process, contact UCU for support.

 

 

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