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? 

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 teach-outs, town-hall meetings and hootenannies 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.”

Vote to support us https://www.facebook.com/events/797434250706212/ 

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!

Warwick UCU Recommendations on Lecture Capture

We are thrilled to announce that at our All Member Meeting on Wednesday 16 October 2019, we passed our a motion endorsing our new Recommendations on Lecture Capture. This policy, which is the result of months of research and consultation with our members, lays out the problems in the University’s current lecture capture policy and the changes we think are necessary to create a fair, equitable, and working policy. Huge thanks to our research committee.

Elements of current lecture capture policy to keep:

  • opt in policy

Elements to improve:

Acknowledgement of pros and cons of lecture capture

An objective presentation of lecture capture to students that outlines both the pros and the cons of lecture capture to students and staff. Currently the policy presentation on the website is biased to articulating positive aspects (see first paragraph here: …). The UCU has found out, however, that the decision of many academic staff to not opt in is based on reasonable concerns of surrounding matters of learning and inclusion. Furthermore, academic research exists to support both pros and cons thus the decision to solely present the pros of lecture capture is biased and it has direct implications for student experience and for the relationship between students and academic staff.

By presenting solely the positive aspects of lecture capture the policy nurtured feelings of dissatisfaction among students who are not informed about the reasons why many lecturers choose not to use lecture capture. We therefore recommend that the policy outlined the pros but also the cons of lecture capture in the “Key points about Lecture Capture” (https://warwick.ac.uk/services/its/servicessupport/av/lecture_capture/review/) in the “Lecture Capture Policy” (https://warwick.ac.uk/services/aro/dar/quality/categories/goodpractice/lecturecapturepolicy) and in the “https://warwick.ac.uk/services/aro/dar/quality/recordinglectures/”.

As an example, an important issue of lecture capture concerns inclusion: students may not participate to interactive activities knowing that they are being recorded, particularly students with anxiety (the detrimental effects of recording on individuals ability to debate challenging ideas and to participate has been document by several psychological studies).

At the moment the policy states that “If there is an interactive element to your lecture, individuals may not wish to be recorded and can therefore choose to refrain from participating” which essentially normalises the idea that some students will be deterred from participating. We do not find this acceptable and we believe that academic staff worries about student participation raise a reasonable concern that should be acknowledged in the way we communicate lecture capture to students on the university website.

Recommendation: To re-open a consultation between the university and the UCU representing academic staff to produce a ‘pros’ and ‘cons’ list to be assimilated on the Lecture Capture presentation online.

 

Intellectual Property Issues

The current provisions in the Consent Form are:

“In order to enhance the student learning experience, the University of Warwick (the “University”) wishes to make available to its current students digital recordings of University lectures, presentations and seminars (“Recordings”) for learning and teaching purposes.

Recordings will not be used for any other purpose, and will be stored securely within the EU for a period of four years, after which time they will be deleted/destroyed.”

Recommendations:

  1. Intellectual property provision should define ‘current students’ as the student cohort for that particular module that the lecturer chooses to use lecture capture recordings for in that particular moment in time.
  2. The university policy should include clear guidelines as to what constitutes ‘fair educational use’ of lecture capture material.
  3. Lecture capture recordings should be deleted/destroyed if a member of staff is no longer an employee of the university. The lecturer may have the choice of explicitly agreeing not to destroy the recordings after employment ends but in this case the Intellectual Property should be shared between the university and the lecturer, such that the lecturer has the right to rescind permission for the use of the material at any point.
  4. If the lecturer continues to be an employee at the university but decides to no longer use lecture capture, the previous lecture capture materials should be deleted/destroyed as soon as the students from the taught cohort that were provided with lecture recordings graduate (the cohort graduation date applies). The lecturer may have the choice of explicitly agreeing not to destroy the recordings after the graduation of the taught cohort that benefited from his/her recordings but in this case the Intellectual Property should be shared between the university and the lecturer.
  5. In the context of strike, lecture capture materials should be made unavailable to students.

Overall Recommendation: To re-open a consultation between the university and the UCU representing academic staff to expand the current lecture capture policy accordingly.

Warwick UCU Response to Warwick’s Climate Emergency Declaration 

On Friday 20 September, following the lead of numerous organisations and local governments, the University declared a climate emergency. To meet this challenge, Warwick “aims to reach net zero carbon from our direct emissions and the energy we buy by 2030,” with the further goal of net zero emissions by 2050. The first goal refers to so-called scope 1-2 carbon neutrality, which encompasses direct emissions produced by Warwick, as well as indirect emissions generated by energy we purchase. The second goal (‘scope 3’ neutrality, or zero total emissions) only puts the University in line with the binding legal target of the whole of the UK.

While we welcome the University’s recognition of climate breakdown, it is clear that its proposed goals are simply not ambitious enough, given the scale of the crisis we face. Far larger organisations have committed to scope 1-2 carbon neutrality by 2025. And reducing emissions by 2050 is too late to avoid potentially catastrophic levels of global heating. Furthermore, the University’s own position –as both a regional hub and an international educational institution – requires it to take a much more robust role in leading the fight against climate injustice.

This spring our branch brought a motion to UCU Congress to commit all our institutions to achieving “‘scope 3’ carbon neutrality by 2030.” This means a commitment to eliminating all indirect emissions that occur in an institution’s value chain, including emissions associated with business travel, procurement, waste and water. Such emissions make up the greatest share of Warwick’s footprint. We must undertake a wholesale review of the University’s processes, plans and relationships in order to begin decarbonising at the scale and speed required by this emergency.

We have other concerns as well. The University’s commitment to net neutrality means that it doesn’t necessarily need to reduce its emissions in total, but can instead just offset them through various schemes. It’s worrying too that the University has hedged its bets by announcing that it will meet its commitments only if “national governments (and our partners in local and regional policy making) deliver on their commitments.” We want to see the University play a role in actively leading, not simply following, a just-transition campaign to a cleaner, fairer society.

What does this look like? To us, it requires a genuine transformation in the way the University runs and operates. Among other things, it requires an acknowledgement of Warwick’s complicity in the climate crisis – local as well as global – and its avoidance of real consultation with the people who make the University what it is: staff, students, and the local community. The recognition of an ‘emergency’ clearly demands a different approach from business as usual.

In addition to achieving scope 3 neutrality by 2030, we call for the creation of an ongoing shared governance platform with UCU, Unite, Unison, the SU, and other representative bodies on campus to create a genuine leadership role for the university on climate breakdown. This will involve more than just technical targets; it will require, as any campaign to renovate Warwick’s partnerships must, a commitment to ethical investment, workers’ rights and lasting collaborations with the surrounding community. A good place to start would see the University lobbying the Home Office to end its hostile environment policy and to open the doors to climate migrants. And there is much more to be done – locally, nationally and internationally.

For these reasons, we remain fully committed to Friday’s climate strike and urge our members to attend the protest, on Friday 27 September at noon outside of Senate House. We reiterate our demand that the University step up and show leadership in the fight for a just transition to a genuinely sustainable society.

What is this strike about?: A Q&A primer for talking to students and colleagues

*A PDF version is available here for printing and distribution.

This is a two-ballot campaign, but the issues are united: it is a strike about dignity and equality. It is a strike about casualisation; about the pay gap for women, BMEs, and gay, lesbian, and queer staff; and it is a strike about whether we will be able to grow old with dignity. These issues are all connected, but we are going to talk a bit about the two ballots separately.

Pensions


We were just on strike about pensions just less than two years ago? Why are we doing out again?
When we agreed to end the strike of 2018, it was because of a commitment from UUK and USS that they were willing to disregard their previous valuation and set up a Joint Expert Panel (JEP) to carry out a new valuation. The problem with the old valuation process is that it led to conflict every three years in line with the valuation cycle; UCU argued and continues to argue that a fairer process, based on more reasonable assumptions will allow us to defend our pension benefits and move us away from these cyclical clashes.

The JEP’s report largely validated UCU’s position and made a number of recommendations. However, the USS has refused to accept the recommendations and valuations of the Joint Expert Panel (JEP), and instead scheduled massive contribution increases clearly violating our own ‘no detriment’ position. Our contributions will rise to 9.6% of salary from October 2019, and 11% of salary from October 2021.

Ok, but it’s only a couple percentage points. Won’t we lose that money anyways in the strike?
It’s true that it’s only a couple of percentage points now (though a couple of percentage points that will, over your career, take a big bite out of your salary), but this strike is really about defending the valuation process we were promised during the last strike in order to secure the future of our pension fund.

The last year has shown that the USS cannot be trusted and that when push comes to shove, our employers, UUK, aren’t willing to fight them. We were told that USS would accept the JEP’s valuation and this hasn’t happened. USS have shown that they will only accept valuations that work for them. If we don’t pressure UUK to stand up to UUK and if we don’t force USS to make good on their word, they will demand more increases every year until our pension is no longer sustainable.

Moreover, we have already lost so much. UCU commissioned a study that compared the situation members are in now to if the Scheme had continued in its pre-2011 state and found that for the average UCU member, your pension will cost 40k more, and will give you 200k less. We need to draw a line in the sand now.

I thought we struck to save our defined benefit pensions. Are they safe now?
Not really. Whilst they aren’t explicitly coming for our DB pensions this time, this is another way to destroy our pension. By making our pensions unaffordable, more and more people will drop out and then defined benefit  could then be at risk. Pensions need to be affordable for members to be sustainable.

Moreover, without valuation methodology which we can support, the chances of VCs pushing for de-risking (i.e. moving to defined contributions) at future valuation cycles are necessarily higher.

But if USS says our pensions aren’t sustainable, don’t we risk losing our pensions anyways?
Our pensions are sustainable. The myth of unsustainable pensions comes from USS treating our pensions as if the HE sector is a company like Carillion. But the HE sector is nothing like Carillion. It is far larger and far more stable.

Ok, I get why we’d want to take action  against USS. But that’s not the way which industrial action works. We’re striking against Warwick and Warwick’s position on pensions has been pretty good.
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.

If we didn’t win last time, how are we going to win this time?
We won the battle last time: we stopped them from eliminating our defined benefit pensions. Now we need to finish what we started by ensuring that USS does what they promised they’d do and listen to the JEP’s valuation.

Pay & Equality


In a time of rising unemployment, should we be grateful to be receiving a pay rise of 1.8%?
The employer’s 2% pay offer is below inflation and that means that it is a pay cut. Since 2009 average pay in HE has dropped in real terms by 17.8% (Retail Price Index) or 11.8% (Consumer Price Index). This in a context in which Warwick currently makes a surplus of £40-50 million a year. The University, and the sector can afford our demands.

But aren’t there more pressing concerns, such as the gender and race pay gap and casualisation?
Absolutely, but these concerns are intimately connected. This Pay Cut Disproportionately Affects Women, Ethnic Minorities, and Casualised Staff. At the same time as University’s are promoting diversity and equality programs to increase the number of women and BME staff, in real terms they are cutting our salaries, and increasingly casualising our workforce.

Gendered Pay Gap: According to The Boar, Warwick had the second worst Gender Pay gap of the Russell Group as of 2016 and more recent figures from the government are just as damning. Women’s mean hourly rate is 26.5% lower than men’s, which means that women earn 74p for every £1 that men earn. And women’s mean bonus pay is 58.4% lower than men’s.

BME Pay Gap: The situation is no better when it comes to race. According to the BBC, ethnic minority academics at Warwick are paid an average 25% less than their white colleagues. And there are only 26 black women professors in the UK and  a persistent culture of racism and bullying.

If the university sector is serious about closing the gender and racial pay gap and changing its culture, it needs to stop degrading the conditions of the very staff its ostensibly attracting.

How does casualisation fit into a ballot about pay? And what is casualisation?
‘Casualisation’ is the process through which employers whittle away the protections, rights, and security of their employees, by moving away from employing people on a full-time and permanent basis to using hourly-paid work, zero-hours contracts, temporary workers contracts, and other similar kinds of contracts. Casualised contracts mean that all staff – both permanent and casualised – feel more precarious and less able to stand up for their rights. And this means our employers can erode our pay and working conditions. A fair wage is only possible if we stamp out casualised contracts. 

But is casualisation that widespread?
The use of casualised contracts is soaring. According to HESA, as of 2016-7, 50.9% of academic staff are on insecure contracts. At Warwick it’s even worse, with two thirds, or 66.5%, of staff on fixed-term or hourly-paid contracts. Moreover, Warwick made national news in 2015 when they tried to innovate a whole new system for “in-sourcing” called Teach Higher in which the university tried to create a wholly-owned subsidiary to hire and manage hourly paid staff, thus denying those staff any employee rights. It was only a mass mobilisation by students and staff that stopped this from happening. It was also this resistance that led to the creation of the current payroll system, Sessional Teaching Payroll or STP.

But hasn’t Warwick committed to ending casualised contracts?Sort of. Because of the great work of our anti-casualisation reps and Warwick Anti-Casualisation, the University has agreed to try and introduce employmentcontracts for PhD students currently engaged via STP for the coming year . The details have yet to be finalised and the broad direction of travel has yet to be finalised.

Sounds good, right?
In principle. However, the devil is in details. While the University claims to be ending casualised work, it’s practices suggest that it is committed to upholding a two-tiered workforce. The University has refused to look at the current STP framework as part of the process of contractual change, including the issues of workload and pay, a matter of negotiation, instead offering only “consultation.” preferring to simply ‘consult’ with the union and with STP employed staff with no promises of taking their suggestions into account.

Moreover, the University has also refused to address the key issues of workload and pay for casualised staff. According to the UCU’s recent report on casualisation, 60% of casualised staff work well beyond their hours, but the University has refused to open up the STP framework for discussion and thus to address the problem of unpaid labour. The formal change to permanent contracts is welcome, but without a commitment to ending workload increases and unpaid labour, it doesn’t actually address the problem of casualisation.

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.

 

Addendum: Motions we submitted to Congress

Motion E: The Climate Emergency: Zero Carbon Workplaces by 2030

Congress notes that: 

  • The IPCC Report (Oct 2018) on anthropogenic global Climate Change outlines the significantly intensified harm likely to result from a 2°C vs 1.5°C rise; but acknowledges the possibility of avoiding thisii;
  • UK universities and colleges have reduced Greenhouse Gas emissions, but most no longer comply with new scientific understanding;
  • Some UK university managements, such as Bristol, are rising to this challenge, setting clear targets for carbon neutrality by 2030; elsewhere, such as the University of Warwick, UCU branches are supporting student leadership.

Congress Resolves to:  

  • Issue a public statement on the Climate Emergency and commit to researching and developing a plan to achieve “Scope 3” Carbon Neutrality by 2030 in all the institutions where members work;
  • Encourage all UCU Branches to recognise a State of Climate Emergency and campaign, in collaboration with others, for institutional commitments to “Scope 3” Carbon Neutrality by 2030.

Motion G: Fight for the Rights of International Workers and Staff (HE Sector Conference Version)  

HESC notes that:

  • In light of heightened and rather polarised discussion of policies on immigration in the UK, rising visa fees, increased monitoring by the Home Office and uncertainty over EU colleagues as Brexit nears, there is widespread concerned as to whether the University is supporting our international staff and workers
  • UCU activism during the strike led to the Home Office to add legal strike action to the list of exceptions to the rule on absences from employment without pay for migrant workers, showing that UCU activism can improve the lot of all workers.

HESC resolves to:

  • Issue a public statement on the need to address the issues faced by international staff and workers.
  • Encourage all UCU Branches to create International Staff Working Groups to start addressing issues relating to increased monitoring, rising visa and NHS surcharge costs, and the impact of the EU Referendum.

 

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