Get the Vote Out Events

As part of our GTVO campaign, Warwick UCU is hosting a number of exciting public events. Come join us!

Wednesday 25 September
Door Knocking and Organising Training Session, 16:00-17:00, Humanities Studio

Want to help but not sure how to talk to people about the strike? We’re here to help. We’ll be providing a debriefing and training on both the key issues in this ballot as well as how to talk to members and potential members.

Followed by our……
Wednesday 9 October,

An evening with our new GS, Jo Grady, and social, 17:00-19:00, Room TBA. 

This event is open to the public so feel free to bring comrades, friends and family. Please register here.

* Wednesday 16 October
All Members Meeting, 13:00-15:00, Humanities Studio

This is our fall semester meeting. In addition to answering questions about the ballot, we will also be discussing important issues around lecture capture, casualisation, and the recognition agreement.

Pension Ballots are Coming: Why We’re Balloting and What You Can Do

In just over three weeks, you will be receiving ballots on pension and pay. There are more details on the ballot below, but the quick version is this:

Watch your mailbox. Ballots are coming. UCU Warwick’s position is vote YES for action short of a strike, vote YES for a strike.

Want to contribute to the ongoing UCU campaign over USS, but don’t have very much time? Here is a short to do list:

1. Make sure you can vote by checking that your employment details and postal address are up to date. You can do so here.

2. Watch this talk given by Sheffield UCU’s branch president Sam Marsh yesterday at the Open University.

3. (A slightly larger time commitment item): We are going to need people to door knock, poster, email, tweet, and generally help us Get the Vote Out in September and October. If you’ll have a few moments to spare over the next couple of months, please email us at adminsitrator@warwickucu.org.uk.

4. (A larger time commitment item): We are in need of a new Treasurer. Please email us if you are interested at adminsitrator@warwickucu.org.uk.

In September, vote YES for pensions, pay, and equality.

Background Information

A new USS ballot

At the end of May, UCU’s Higher Education conference (which was held on the second day of Congress 2019) voted overwhelmingly to ramp up preparations for an industrial action ballot over USS to begin in September. And as of 7 June, employers including our own were served a letter inviting them to take steps to avoid a re-ignition of the dispute.

Why has UCU decided to ballot? When the Joint Expert Panel’s first report dropped in September, there was hope from all sides that it had the potential to end the dispute. Adopting its recommendations would mean a shift in philosophy from USS and rate increases low enough to negotiate over. Both UCU and Universities UK backed the JEP report, the latter with the strikes still fresh in the mind and eager to put the dispute to bed. The issue, as was always likely to be the case, has been with USS’ response.

A USS timeline from September 2018-now

The first side-step by USS was their proposal for a new, 2018 valuation as a way to incorporate the issues raised by the JEP. This would not replace the 2017 one, but instead follow close on its heels and intercept the large contribution increases that were a consequence of the original valuation. Support for this approach was secured from the employers, and the Joint Negotiating Committee were shown information that if the JEP’s recommendations were applied in full to the 2018 valuation, it would mean that the deficit would vanish and that contributions would fall (although no guarantees were made as to what the final figures would be).

As soon as agreement to proceed with a 2018 valuation was sealed, the USS executive team contacted the board and recommended dropping two of the three key proposals from the JEP report, while the only one that remained would be inextricably tied to ‘contingent contributions’ from employers. The justification for USS’s rejection of the JEP’s recommendations was that adopting them would send the ‘discount rate’ above the internal benchmarks the regulator uses to judge a valuation’s prudence. Yet these internal benchmarks don’t exist! The regulator has made this explicit via a cryptic stab at USS in its annual DB funding report. It is possible – indeed likely – that this was not the first that USS had heard of this issue from TPR. If true, USS’ public statements to the contrary are all the more disingenuous.

This leads to where we are now: USS has rejected both the JEP report and the overwhelming evidence that their methodology is flawed, and is still relying on Test 1. Nothing has changed in their mindset or approach. Based on this, they insist the correct contribution rate is 33.7% of pay, an increase of 7.7% since before the dispute.

The University of Warwick published its response in March, stating its disappointment with the USS’s failure to accept the JEP’s recommendations and calling on the USS to be reformed. This is not surprising. Employers and members alike are horrified at the mess that has developed for no clear reason. Added to this, Prof Jane Hutton, one of three UCU-nominated trustees, has recused herself from the board under “considerable pressure” after whistleblowing to the regulator on the obstruction she faced obtaining data on the valuation. This has now led to over 1,000 academics signing a petition to call for an inquiry into the scheme. Meanwhile the Academics for Pensions Justice group are also preparing a legal challenge to USS. There are serious issues here that need proper answers, and we suspect that we will continue to hear more about USS governance in the days to come.

What now?

So, to return to the initial question: why a ballot, especially given the University of Warwick’s largely supportive position? We need a ballot, paradoxically, to support Warwick’s position. Employers across the country are losing faith in the USS, and some (like our own) are starting to raise their voice, but neither their voice nor ours is being listened to. If we don’t push back now, USS will tighten their grip, and will almost assuredly ignore the second report of the JEP, employers will start planning to mitigate against the USS valuation, and this will pose enormous problems and instabilities for our pension.

In 2018, we battled to stop them from taking our defined benefit pension. Now we must fight to make sure our DB pension isn’t taken by other means. No one wants to ballot for a strike, but employers know what they need to do to avert it: work with UUK to make sure that there is a major change of direction in USS, or, failing that, pick up the tab for the contribution increases.

 

****(Thank you to Sheffield for sharing their materials and information with us)

Congress report back

By Myka Tucker-Abramson, Craig Gent, and Tor Krever

Congress took place this year from Saturday 25 May to Monday 27 May in Harrogate. Myka Tucker-Abramson, Tor Krever, and Craig Gent were the delegates for the University of Warwick

Our motions

  • Our climate emergency motion was composited with a similar motion from Lambeth College. Lambeth moved the motion and Tor seconded it on behalf of WUCU, using his time to explain the importance of the “scope 3” language in the motion and the need for attention not only to direct emissions but also value chain emissions. This motion passed unanimously.
  • Unfortunately there wasn’t enough time to debate our motion on creating international staff working groups, but it will be taken up by NEC in due course. However, there was some very exciting motions that were passed on migrant members. Most notably, motions were passed to include migrant representatives in the equality structure (84) and to include migrant representation on NEC (85).
  • As well, an amendment to Senate House’s motion backing academics on precarious contracts (HE16), which supported the IWGB’s boycott of Senate House also passed. While this was not a motion we moved, it was a campaign we were actively involved with.

Equality motions

We passed a range of equality related motions including those demanding better mental health support. And several addressing and urging the fight against the rise of the far-right. Of particular importance were:

  • motions supporting the Stansted 15
  • motions against the deportation of Bambile China Agnakuribe, a student at Dundee.
  • One of the first controversial motions to pass was “Sexual Harassment Has No Place in Our Union” (18), which ultimately passed with minor amendments.

There were motions passed opposing Prevent and on anti-casualisation. Indeed, anti-casualisation was a constant theme throughout the three days and it if Congress is any sign, there seems to be a promising real focus and awareness of the importance of anti-casualisation for many of our members.

HE Sector Conference

The HE Sector got off to quite the start with Congress voting down HE1 which asked congress to “note the report and approve the recommendations of the national negotiators.” The key source of disagreement here was the use of another consultative ballot over pay. Ballot fatigue remains a concern for many. There was discussion of multi-year pay negotiations (see motions HE2, which also prompted disagreement, and was remitted to NEC. There were also motions added to agenda items that sought to bind UCU to disaggregated ballots, which ultimately didn’t carry.

Perhaps the most important motions that were passed here were HE4, which committed us to “initiating a concerted campaign to win industrial action ballots for a fight over pay [with a focus on equality and anti-casualisation] to commence in the autumn” and HE 6, which committed us to calling “on UUK to pick up any additional employee contributions from 1 October 2019 and not pass them on” and to “enter into dispute and prepare for an industrial action ballot if the employers do not agree.” Both of these passed, but it is not clear how those will work together.

Another key issue that arose in both the Equality Committee and HE Sector Conference was a series of motions that appeared to be “academic freedom” – one was called “Academic Freedom to Discuss Sex and Gender” (32), the other “Respectful Dialogue on Gender Diversity” (21) – but which was quickly revealed to be a motion about debating trans rights. Motion 32 thankfully fell, but 21 was motion was remitted because of lack of time.

On the USS front, congress called on employers to pay any extra contributions and for the resignation of Bill Galvin. An emergency motion brought by Cambridge condemned Trinity’s decision to withdraw from USS (L8).


Democracy Commission

The democracy commission report and rule change motions were also the site of vigorous debate. The commission was created by Congress last year and its work is ongoing; there will be a special conference in November that we will need to send delegates too. There was a good motion passed that removes the cap of Congress delegates per branch so large branches are proportionately represented. And we voted down a motion that would have reduced the number of FE delegates to Congress, further marginalising FE in the union.  A number of the motions put forward by the Democracy Commission – e.g. to set up a dispute committee (82), and to ensure that the “representational powers and duties of the General Secretary would be transferred to elected officers of the union, while powers relating to staffing and the day to day running of the union can be delegated to employees of the union” were remitted (80). In both cases this was not so much a rejection of the principle, but a result of concerns around the details of implementation.

Our New GS

Finally, the new GS, Jo Grady gave a speech which re-emphasised many of her key campaign claims: to respect the findings of the democracy commission, to be a members-led fighting union, to tackle issues of casualisation, the hostile environment, and the attacks on pensions.

One last note:

While we are entitled to three delegates, because of a bureaucratic mix up we ultimately only had two delegates.  This was in spite of the issue being raised with a UCU official.

We think that there are issues with conference registration and see this potentially as a form of disenfranchisement that can have serious consequences given the importance of Congress as a decision making body. As a branch, we would recommend either writing a letter to the UCU expressing our frustration with this process or b) submitting a motion next year that calls for a change to how Congress registration works.

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.

Sign the petition for the reinstatement of Prof. Jim Newell

Please sign the petition calling for the reinstatement of Prof. Jim Newell, a respected academic in the Politics Department at Salford University, who has been dismissed because he has not met the university’s target for winning research grants or done enough to strengthen the university’s links with industry. Are universities educational and research establishments or businesses?

Here is Jim’s statement calling for support.


Dear all,

On 12 June, I was, as some of you may know, dismissed with immediate effect after my performance had been found wanting in terms of Salford’s Professorial Review Policy – a policy that was introduced, unilaterally, after my appointment as a prof in 2005, and which neither I nor UCU, to my knowledge, were asked to sign up to.

Looking at my record, I do not think that any reasonable person could conclude that my performance was any worse at the time of my dismissal than it was when I was appointed as a prof in 2005.

I made it clear to Allan Walker – head of Arts and Media at Salford – that I understood the pressures he was under, as a manager, to ensure certain targets were met. I was therefore willing to engage with him on a consensual basis. After 27 years’ service, however, I was not prepared to submit to the threats implicit in his decision to subject me to the University’s Performance Improvement Procedure. Given the discretion I expected to be able to exercise as an academic, I would not agree  to the notion that my continued employment could legitimately be made conditional upon success in meeting the series of market-driven targets imposed on me as part of that procedure.

Despite this, I met the targets I was asked to meet – and yet I have still been dismissed, thanks, I believe to my refusal to sign up to a market-driven narrative of my role and responsibilities, or what Allan Walker calls my “uncooperative attitude”.

A large number of splendidly supportive colleagues, by whose gesture I am deeply touched, and of whom I am hugely proud, have organised a petition to Salford’s VC, Helen Marshall, demanding my reinstatement. You will find it here:

https://www.change.org/p/prof-helen-marshall-reinstate-jim-newell-to-his-job-as-professor-of-politics-at-the-university-of-salford

If you would please sign the petition and pass it on, I would be enormously grateful to you.

Many thanks.

Jim