Warwick Anticasualisation Rally

The deeply moving words below are the text of the speech given by Katja Laug on behalf of Warwick Anticasualisation on Day 2 of the UCU Strike 2019.  We reproduce these in full so people have the chance to understand why we are taking action and to understand the way that HE institutions, especially Warwick, treats these friends, colleagues, comrades.  The sector has changed to be unrecognisable from the one that many of us entered 20, 3o or 40 years ago.  Warwick UCU would like to reiterate our support for all workers at Warwick.  If you would like to support us in this, please donate to the solidarity fund which will help support low income members to take action, to fight, alongside us.


Education is not a commodity. Students are not customers. And educators are not service providers. Yet, these are the terms upon which Warwick and universities across the UK, conduct the education of its students.

According to the HESA Staff Record of 2015/16, collated by the UCU, Warwick ranked at #1 for Teaching Only and Teaching & Research Staff who were insecurely employed – this included our colleagues on fixed-term contracts, and those employed as Sessional Tutors. According to this data, 66.5% of teaching and research staff at this university are employed precariously. 60% of teaching delivered at this university is given by casualised “workers”.

Week in, week out, we have to justify that we deserve the pay for our work. Yet we cannot claim for the actual hours it takes us to prepare classes or grade papers as the university decides how many hours we can claim for marking and prep time. We do not gain benefits from continuous employment, which means that we do not know whether we will secure a paycheque beyond the immediate future.We cannot evidence income for visas or citizenship. We cannot plan – for the immediate or mid-term futures. Classes can be dropped at will, and our hours cut. If we were to become seriously ill, require compassionate leave, or become pregnant, we simply would not be paid, despite teaching, marking, and contributing to the accredited courses which Warwick “delivers” to its students. Through these processes, we are forced into antagonistic relationships not only with senior management at this university, but with our Heads of Department, our professional/administration teams, our colleagues and, ultimately, our students. This is not only not good enough, but it is simply unsustainable.

Strike action has been called to combat pay inequality in the university: the precarious nature of academia for early career researchers dictates what kind of researchers can realistically pursue a career in the academy. These kinds of insecure pay structures disproportionally affect women, disabled people, and BAME researchers.

The question we have to ask ourselves, our colleagues, our Heads of Department, our students, and most importantly of our senior management is: is this what the university should be like? Should knowledge, education, and research only be open to those who can afford it? To those who can afford to take the risks associated with becoming an academic in the neoliberal university?

We know that by working collectively, we can build a better university. We have won before, and can win again. In recent years, casualised staff fought off the university’s attempt to impose Teach Higher – a precursor to the current system. But that success was only possible with the solidarity from more established and secure colleagues.

We are pleased to welcome everyone to the picket line today. It is great to see so many of you voted in favour of fighting for our financial futures – for our pensions. But as casualised staff and early career researchers we also see the immediate need to address pay inequality and job insecurity, which hinder us from envisaging a ‘future’ in academia at all. That’s why we see the demands in both ballots inseparable and equally important – you cannot have one without the other. The marketisation of higher education is meant to divide us, and to stop us to fight as a collective. We can’t let it happen.

On this note, it has come to our attention that a number of departments have employed strike-breaking tactics which pose tremendous threats for casualised staff to take industrial action. Notably, the Philosophy department has sent an email to its students, asking them to report specific staff who have taken strike action. The online form that they have sent to students includes a mandatory field to report staff. STP tutors in Philosophy have also been asked to report to the department whether they were not striking, indirectly reporting to the department those who are striking. They have also been offered the opportunity to seek support from their Director of Graduate Studies, which blurs the line between being on an STP contract ad being a postgraduate student. Staff from the Chemistry department are also threatened by an email, saying that they should take their ‘future career prospect’ into consideration before taking industrial actions. We find it outrageous that departmental management deliberately attack our soft spots – in these circumstances our care for students and passion to pursue an academic career – to stop us from striking, rather than coming out with constructive plans to make the academic workforce and higher education more sustainable.

If you are employed via STP you should declare to the STP resource email account that you are striking every day, including days that you would not typically work, in order to cause disruption. They will reply asking you to fill in an online self-declaration form via SuccessFactors. DO NOT do this, you are under no legal or contractual obligation to do so.

As precarious workers we stand in solidarity with precarious workers everywhere. We call on UCL to end out-sourcing cleaning staff, and porters, we support the workers at Amazon in their fight for a living wage, our solidarity goes to the McStrikers, Goldsmiths cleaners, Uber drivers, the workers in Chile who mine the minerals for the ECars that are supposed to keep Europe clean, and all strikers and protesters for dignity, justice, and security in the UK and worldwide. We stand with WarwickOccupy and their anti-racist action and we stand with cleaners and porters at Warwick, who are disproportionately affected by Warwick’s plans to scrap the subsidised bus tickets with e Courcey under the guise of redirecting the money for the Green New Deal. These fights are interconnected and intersectional and we recognise that we, the academic precariat, are only the tip of the melting iceberg.

WAC, or Warwick Anti-casualisation, is a self-organised group of PGRs and ECRs from across the university that has been active since 2015. We work closely with the UCU, but we are not directly a part of the UCU. We have been organizing events to help people under STP understand their contracts and get support when something was incorrect or unfair on their contract. We welcome any ECR or PGR who is precariously employed to join our WhatsApp and Facebook organising groups.

External examiners resign in strike protest

We, the undersigned, have tendered our collective resignation from the School of Law and Social Justice at the University of Liverpool in protest at the University’s advice to students in respect of the UCU industrial action which begins today (Monday, 25 November) and expected to last until Wednesday, 4 December.

We have taken this decision out of concern at the University of Liverpool’s misrepresentation of the law regarding support for official pickets and its weaponising of the UK immigration system against visa-holding students.

The University of Liverpool, in an email signed off by Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Education, Professor Gavin Brown on Friday, 22 November, warned students that it is unlawful to join pickets and that if they choose not to attend any lectures or tutorials, they will be marked as absent with an effect on their attendance record and that they may not have access to alternative learning materials and no consideration will be given to these absences at exam boards. Further, the University warned international students that should they choose not to cross picket lines to attend teaching sessions, they risk jeopardising their visa because the University’s usual policy on absences among international students will apply. The University’s policy can be found here.

As examiners, we are especially concerned by the failure to assure students that it is entirely lawful to support an official picket at the same time as informing them that joining a picket per se is unlawful for non-Union members. We are also deeply concerned by the University’s weaponisation of the UK’s immigration system by failing to put into place systems for visa holding students to ensure that they can support action by not crossing a picket line, should that be their choice. Other institutions are putting in place appropriate systems for their protection, respectful of diversity of opinion and conscience across their university community.

Universities rely on the modestly remunerated work and collegiality of external examiners to deliver their programmes. We are grateful for, impressed by, and supportive of the excellent educational work undertaken by our colleagues in Liverpool.

However, in the light of what we consider to be a combative and intimidatory approach to student support for industrial action, we cannot continue to support the University of Liverpool through the provision of our labour.

We urge other external examiners who are similarly concerned with the University of Liverpool policy to do the same.

Prof Fiona de Londras, Birmingham Law School, University of Birmingham
Dr Natasa Mavronicola, Birmingham Law School, University of Birmingham
Dr Jed Meers, York Law School, University of York
Dr Yoriko Otomo, School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London
Prof Sally Sheldon, Kent Law School, University of Kent
Dr Celine Tan, School of Law, University of Warwick
Dr Anil Yilmaz Vastardis, School of Law, University of Essex

The full text of our resignation can be found here.

Solidarity Fund Donations

Warwick UCU has a local solidarity fund to support members taking industrial action. The branch has donated funds to this but we are also seeking donations from members and non-members.

We are particularly directing this appeal for donations to our members who are either on leave or who are otherwise not expected to be part of the action [and to any members who feel they have no option but to attend certain meetings and events – please claim your salary for these so as not to give the University more free labour!] and to staff members at Warwick who, whilst they have not joined UCU, support our actions on their behalf.

In addition, we welcome donations from members of the public and other organisations who believe as we do that industrial action and the fight to protect pensions, eliminate precarity and pay a fair wage to all is essential.

The local solidarity fund is designed to complement the provision from the National Fighting Fund, and where possible to fill in any potential “gaps”. It will prioritise members on hourly paid and other precarious contracts, and support people who would be left financially vulnerable after deductions.

Donations can be received by bank transfer or cheque.

For bank transfer the account details are:
UCU Warwick
60 83 01
20391524

 Please quote the reference: “Solidarity Fund”

It would be helpful to also send remittance advice to treasurer@warwickucu.org.uk  confirming the amount and the name of the donor(s) so we can have a record

Or by Cheque

Please make cheques payable to “UCU Warwick” and send to Treasurer, UCU Office, Avon Building WA1.12, University of Warwick, Coventry, CV4 7AL.

All donations are recorded for auditing purposes and held in a separate account that is used only for hardship fund requests.

Thank you to everyone who is able to donate.  This is extraordinarily important in enabling staff and workers on lower incomes to take part in the industrial action – without this some would be at risk of substantial financial hardship.

Warwick UCU Strike Committee

 

 

Strike FAQ for Warwick students

This is information for all Warwick students who would like to know more about why lecturers, librarians, IT and other professional service staff at Warwick are taking industrial action.

For a PDF version click here.


What is the strike about
What is it we want? What would constitute a win?
Why should students care?
How does industrial action affect you?
How can Warwick students help?


What is the strike about? 

There are two reasons why we are striking:  
  • First, to protect staff pensions, which are under renewed attack after last year’s dispute.
  • Second, to fight for the rights of casualised, female and BAME staff. Growing numbers of staff are working on short-term or precarious contracts that don’t pay them enough to make ends meet. There is also a persistent gender and racial pay gap. This means that at Warwick, for instance, women earn 74p for every £1 earned by men and BAME staff are paid an average of 25% less than their white colleagues. This action is about stopping the downgrading of pensions, ending casualisation and closing the gender and racial pay gap.

UCU Strikes Summary (PDF slides)

What is it we want? What would constitute a win? 

Our demands are simple:
  • Protect staff pensions so that we can retire without facing poverty;
  • Pay a £10/hour minimum rate for directly employed staff, and commit to the Living Wage Foundation’s pay rates for the lowest paid on campus;
  • Agree to develop a programme to close the gender and BAME pay gap; 
  • Agree to create a framework to eliminate precarious employment and to tackle rising workloads;
  • Ensure that staff pay keeps up with inflation (salaries have fallen 20% on average over the past decade)

These demands are easy to meet. We’re asking UUK (Universities UK, the association of university employers) to work with us to end the rampant levels of inequality in our workplaces and to make sure that people can actually afford to live on the pay for the jobs they do.

Why should students care? 

We know that you have incurred a large debt to attend university. Many of us fought hard against the meteoric rise of tuition fees. But the high fees you pay are not used to pay more to those who teach you. Gaps in gender and BAME pay, casualisation of staff and erosion of staff pensions are part of a decade-long assault on the integrity of universities as public institutions. As a result, we’ve seen the tripling of student fees, a trend toward short-term or sessional contracts at the expense of secure employment, the greater use of outsourcing models  and the ballooning of managerial pay – and with these developments, the persistence of racist and sexist cultures at our university.  

If we want an environment committed to fairness and transparency, where teaching, learning and research – not profit – are at the heart of what we do, then we must collectively take a stand.

How does industrial action affect you? 

We love teaching and working with students, and we do not take strike action lightly, any more than nurses or doctors do. The UCU has called for eight days of strike action from November 25th to December 4th. On these days:

  • UCU members won’t be teaching, holding office hours, marking or answering emails
  • Any work missed, including teaching, will not be rescheduled
  • After December 4th, UCU members will be observing action short of a strike (ASOS): this means working to contract, or working only the 36.5 hours per week stipulated in our contracts (most academics work 60+ hours, including weekends)

How can Warwick students help? 

In partnership with Warwick’s Student-Staff Solidarity Network, we will be holding a series of themed events on the picket lines, giving you a chance to join discussions about fees, debt, the future of work and radical alternatives to the status quo. We want you to be part of these activities. Join us! As Emma Goldman almost says, “If I can’t dance, I don’t want to be in your demonstration.”

Warwick Students Union voted to support the strikes – as individuals you can too.

If you want to help us stop hugely damaging changes to higher education, here are some ideas:

Remember: the more people support the strike, and the more unified that support, the sooner it’s likely to end.

With that in mind, please:

  • Boycott lectures and seminars on strike days – do not cross the picket line!
  • Join us as sympathetic onlookers/active supporters
  • Help organise alternative student-led events
  • Get in touch with any questions

Solidarity for all – together we can win this!

WUCU endorses Jo Grady for UCU Gen Sec

General Secretary Election: WUCU committee endorses Jo Grady, but whoever you support, please Vote!  

The ballot for UCU General Secretary is open. This is a hugely important role and turnout has been historically low, which means traditionally that only a small percentage of members have elected the person who leads our union. Make sure you have your say. If you haven’t received your ballot yet, there is still time to request one here. The election closes at noon on Thursday, May 23rd and all ballots must be received by then. We would suggest making sure it is in the post by Tuesday, May 21st at the latest.

There are three candidates standing for election and we have provided links to their manifestos below.

At our meeting earlier this week, the Warwick UCU Committee voted to endorse Jo Grady for UCU General Secretary. Of all the candidates we feel that she is best placed to advance the interests of our members as General Secretary. She has worked both locally and nationally for UCU, and brings her experience as a senior lecturer in the field of employment relations (including a focus on pensions!). She is also a fresh face who we believe would bring new ideas, perspectives, energy and political direction to the role, and to the union as a whole. Jo Grady was an important presence during the strike. She brought her research expertise in labour struggles and workplace issues to bear on the practical issues arising from the campaign and made major contributions to USS Briefs in that capacity. She offers an opportunity to utilise the potential of the recent, unprecedented grassroots engagement that emerged during the strikes. As a member herself, she is closer to the grassroots and has a history as a committed branch officer. We admire and share her commitments to democratising the union and popular education, fighting casualistion, and fighting for the rights of international staff.

You can read the manifestos and see endorsements for Jo and the other candidates below.

Dr Jo Grady

Candidate statement: ‘I am running for General Secretary as an independent, grassroots candidate because I believe we have a historic opportunity to transform UCU into a force for positive change in education … I know the problems you face, because I face them too. I’m asking you to enhance our union’s excellent team by electing a candidate who has first-hand experience of this turbulent sector about which we care so much.’

https://grady4gs.com/

Jo McNeill 

Candidate statement: ‘I am a lifelong activist and have led a large, active branch to victories. My branch is leading the fight against REF… I believe in democracy, transparency and accountability.  I don’t preach trade unionism, I practice it every day.’

https://jomcneillucu.wordpress.com/

Matt Waddup

Candidate statement

‘I have nearly thirty years’ trade union experience at a senior level, first in the rail union RMT and now UCU. I believe I have the commitment, skills and experience required to be an effective general secretary and to win a better deal for the profession that has changed my life and the lives of millions like me.’

https://medium.com/unite-to-win

For more information…
Cambridge UCU filmed their hustings available here: UCU General Secretary Hustings, Cambridge

There is also this article at Times Higher Ed  (UCU general secretary candidates lay out their visions)

UCU Statement on Student Climate Emergency Action

On 8th October 2018, the IPCC released a landmark report on restricting global average temperature increases to 1.5oC. The report’s key finding is that our society will need to undergo “rapid, far-reaching and unprecedented changes in all aspects” in order to achieve this goal, and it outlines the potentially devastating consequences of an average temperature rise above 1.5 oC, even if it remains below the Paris Agreement’s headline goal of 2oC.

One month later, Bristol City Council became the first of many to declare a state of Climate Emergency in response to the report’s findings, and committed to achieving type 3 carbon neutrality citywide by 2030. This action is a significant step toward meeting the IPCC’s recommendation that global net emissions be cut by 45% before 2030, as part of a pathway to global net carbon neutrality by 2050. On Sunday 13th January, students at the University of Warwick launched a campaign to commit the university to these same goals.

As a regional and national leader, our university has a duty both to take responsibility for the consequences of its actions and to pioneer efforts to meet the scale of the challenge facing us. We cannot stand idly by and leave this, the most pressing issue of our time, unaddressed.

We, the Warwick branch of the University and College Union, believe that the goals of climate justice, social justice and educational leadership are tightly bound together. We see the university’s responsibilities as non-negotiable in this regard. We therefore stand in solidarity with the Climate Emergency campaign and fully support students’ calls for a carbon neutral university by no later than 2030.

We will in all capacities assist and support the student campaign, and call on the university to recognise and support its objectives. We call, too, on our members and our partners to do all they can to support this cause.

There is no reasonable alternative to taking action today. We will be collectively judged on the urgency and effectiveness of our response.

Response to the early re-instatement of ‘group chat’ students

We wish to express our dismay at the recent University of Warwick decision to reduce the suspension period of two of the students responsible for a ‘group chat’ that included racist, sexist and homophobic language and threats, directed toward their peers.

As a branch, Warwick UCU is committed to defending the right of students, our members, and other staff to study and work without fear of harassment, bullying, or discrimination on the grounds of age, disability, gender reassignment, marriage and civil partnership, pregnancy and maternity, race, religion or belief, sex, or sexual orientation, in line with the Equality Act 2010. As when the incident first occurred, we believe this to be both a student issue and a workplace issue. The prospect of sharing a classroom and other university spaces with individuals who would so unabashedly express such violent views about their peers is deeply troubling for students and staff alike.

While we appreciate the confidential nature of disciplinary proceedings and that there may be factors in this decision that are beyond our knowledge, we nonetheless believe this outcome seriously compromises the University’s commitment to ensuring a safe learning and working environment that values equality and diversity. It undermines the Dignity at Warwick policy. It also profoundly diminishes our faith in the University to appropriately deal with incidents of this nature and to put the best interests of those being targeted first. More specifically, we believe it is unacceptable that the students in question will be allowed to return to campus before those who were harmed by this incident have finished their studies.

Furthermore, the University’s response to the widespread concern with this decision has so far been inadequate. While we appreciate that the University has made it abundantly clear that it does not condone the actions of these students, we believe more must be done to create transparency and restore confidence in the University. The suggestion that those who are concerned seek support from Wellbeing Services does nothing to acknowledge the systemic nature of this and related issues, while also transferring responsibility for this injustice onto individuals.  

We believe the University must respond not only with public statements but with actions by appointing an inclusive commission to review the University’s policies on harassment, bullying and discrimination, as well as on the disciplinary procedure itself. We feel that an open conversation on the defects in a university culture which allows for such situations to arise is urgently necessary.

Finally, we wish to extend our continued support to the students who were immediately affected by this incident and who continue to experience its impact in their lives. We admire the strength and courage of those who have come forward to make the outcome of this appeal public knowledge.

Warwick UCU

 

Experience of international staff survey

In response to a host of challenges both new and old facing international staff, including the uncertainty around Brexit, rising visa and NHS fees, increased pressure from the Home Office, and the rise of racist and far right groups across the UK our UCU branch has created its first international working group. As a first action, we have created a short survey concerning the experience of international staff at Warwick.

We are conducting this survey in order to better understand the experiences of international staff at Warwick, including both EU and non-EU and comprising staff on all contract types. We want to identify common and shared issues that could be taken up by our local branch, as well as gauge the level of support for pursuing specific issues. Everyone, including home (UK) staff, can respond to this survey. If you are not an international member of staff, we still want to hear your views about issues affecting international staff!

The survey is available here: https://docs.google.com/forms/d/e/1FAIpQLScsVNx-QBbNqIawyTcHckxWo3tZRwjZfDytwgHQAbPpbTnaLQ/viewform?usp=send_form.

International Staff Working Group Meeting

THURSDAY 25 OCTOBER 3:30-4:30 / S2.09

There are a host of new challenges facing international staff at the University. Over the past year, an increasing numbers of our members have come to us with concerns and questions about rising visa and NHS fees, increased pressure from the Home Office with the upcoming audit, and growing uncertainty in the wake of Brexit. To begin to collectively address these concerns, we are writing to announce our new International Staff working group.

Our first meeting will be Thursday October 25 from 3:30pm-4:30pm in S2.09

This group will work to address issues such as:

· Gaining financial support from the University to offset rising NHS surcharge fees and visa renewal fees for international staff and their families.
· Gaining access to legal support for international staff and their families.
· Ensuring that casualised international staff also receive access to financial and legal support.
· Making sure that international staff aren’t over-monitored.
· Working on the specific challenges international casualised staff face
· Working in solidarity with international students and other non-UCU international staff on campus.
· And any other issues that are important to you.

If you want to work with the Union to try and get a better deal for international staff, please come along!

For more information, please email Tara Mulqueen at T.Mulqueen@warwick.ac.uk.