Day 3: #Unistory, Kashmir, and lots more rain

What a day! 

The rain may not have let up, but neither did we, as the picket line continued to grow with faces new and old. Today’s picket line was adopted by PAIS and Modern Languages, which both had great showings of people, camaraderie and food.

We had an important teachout on why the situation in Kashmir is an issue for us in the UK.

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We also launched #unistory, an amazing arts project developed by artist, activist and student Julie Saumagne, where staff and students write their stories and experiences of the marketised, corporatised university, and explain why they are striking or support the strike. Add your own story when you come down to the picket line and check out our twitter feed to watch as the project unfolds. 

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Finally, we said good-bye to our beloved president, Duncan, who is off to start a new job next week. He will be sorely missed.

See you all on the picket line bright and early tomorrow morning!

Day 2: Picketers Rising (Early)

Day Two kicked off early – with many of our members getting up at 5:30 to make it to the picketline for a 7:30 start! The weather was….erm…..better?! And our spirits were high.

We had lively pickets at Lynchgate, Westwood, Gibbet Hill, and the Gatehouse. Members report fabulous conversations at each entrance with supportive staff and students, all of whom were eager to learn more about why we’re on strike and what they can do to help.

 

The day ended with a rally focusing on casualisation, including a brilliant speech by Warwick Anti-Casualisation’s Katja Laug before staff and students broke out for a teach out, “Persuasive Conversations on the Picket Line,” lead by Zarah Sultana and an amazing initiative “Rave, Resist, Register” which saw local Warwick DJs pair up with staff and students to get the vote out!

Reminder that tomorrow we meet at the bus loop at 10AM. Details below:

Wednesday 27 November (USS / pensions)
Meet at the Bus Loop 10am-2pm
(Adopted by PAIS and French/Hispanic Studies)

12-1pm The Relevance of Kashmir for UK Politics

1-1:30pm General Strike of 1926 (Warwick Marxist Society)

 

 

Day 1: Torrential Rain and a Torrent of Support

What an inspiring start to 8 days of strike action. The weather was torrential but so were our spirits!

The opening day of the national UCU strike saw hundreds of staff, students and local supporters turn out in the rain to demand reforms to unsustainable practices in the university sector. The day started with a morning coffee session with 20+ members of our professional services staff (this isn’t just a lecturer’s strike after all!) who then marched together down to the main picket line.

Over the course of the day, over 300 people came through as did numerous  handsome 

 

There was a rally with speakers from local UCU, Warwick Anticasualisation, the Student’s Union, local Parliamentary Candidates Zarah Sultana and Taiwo Owatemi, and Warwick Occupy. All speakers made connections between staff and student concerns in the sector, and some linked the degradation of Higher Education to the pervasive wider impacts of funding cuts and austerity policies across UK societies.

 

It was deeply encouraging to see so much support on this first day, with the action comparing favourably to the first day of the pickets in 2018. The pickets were followed by a full afternoon of teach-out events organised by staff and students, including workshops on the Ecology of the Campus and on Digital Labour.

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.

Statement of Solidarity with Warwick Occupy

 
Warwick UCU is writing to express our solidarity with students currently occupying the SU building, which follows a protest on Tuesday regarding the Jewish Israeli Society’s hosting a speaker from the IDF. We share their concern with the issues that they have brought to the attention of the campus. 
 
We have seen rising incidents of racism and islamophobia in our country and in our institutions. For years, staff and students at University of Warwick have engaged in anti-racist organising together. We have fought against the PREVENT agenda because it is discriminatory and encourages disproportionate surveillance of Muslim and BME students. We’ve fought side by side to ensure that the survivors of the racist, anti-Semitic, and sexist group chat received the justice they deserved. We’ve fought to prevent deeply racist and reactionary speakers from coming onto our campus. And now students have voted to support staff as we strike to end the racial pay gap at Warwick and nationally. 
 
But this racist and islamophobic culture is pernicious and it has permeated our society, our University, and the institutions therein.
 
This occupation is important as are occupiers’ demands that we as a University community finally begin to take serious, coordinated, and concerted action to tackle these problems.
 
We call on our members to stay up to date with the demands of the occupiers: https://twitter.com/WarwickOccupy and, if able, to consider supporting the occupiers. https://justgiving.com/crowdfunding/warwick-occupy
 
We ask that the SU ensure the rights of the occupiers and their safety.
 
And we call on the University to launch an official and widespread investigation into racism on campus, and particularly the ways that it is embedded in processes ranging from pay gaps to the external speaker policy.

Solidarity Fund & Support

Warwick UCU Solidarity fund

We will support casual staff and workers to engage in Industrial Action

Warwick UCU recognises that the prospect of lost income during Industrial Action – comprising both total withdrawal of labour and working to contract (or “Action Short of Strike” ASOS) –  causes great concern for workers on hourly paid contracts and for casual staff on low pay and/or fixed term contracts.

Warwick UCU pledge to treat Solidarity Fund applications by precariously and casually employed tutors/workers/staff, as well as those earning below £30k per annum, as a matter of priority. Warwick UCU explicitly supports members on Tier 4 and Tier 2 visas, as well as UK and EU nationals, in their applications to the Solidarity Fund. It is with regret that we can offer support only to those on Warwick University contracts, not those on agency contracts, such as Unitemps.

STP/hourly paid workers, fixed term staff (and those earning below £30k per annum), will be able to claim lost income of up to £75 per day (or the equivalent thereof where daily rates do not apply, such as for members on STP contracts) from day one of strike action, as a considerable improvement compared to last year’s arrangements. During the last period of Industrial Action, Warwick UCU was able to refund all applications in a swift manner and we aim to do the same this year, though our exact capacities will depend on the number of applications and donations to the fund.

For STP / casualised, due to the precarious nature of the role and as we are aware of the financial knife-edge on which many casual staff Warwick UCU Solidarity Fund applications, we will require a minimum of evidence to validate the application such as a previous payslip and a screenshot of the last full week of teaching hours on the STP online form. Warwick UCU pledge to treat applications by casual and precarious members with high priority and to authorise approved high priority payments asap. 

The Warwick UCU Solidarity Fund for casual members and those earning below 30k pa is capped at £225. Additional lost income should be applied for form the National Fighting Fund. UCU National also pledge to prioritise casual and precarious members but encourage all UCU members to submit a claim. UCU National have also increased the staffing levels to be able to swiftly authorise claims. Staff will be seeking to validate, rather than disprove, claims and will require minimum evidence for those on highly precarious and hourly-paid and year-hours contracts.

Salaried Staff

Warwick UCU also support applications to the Solidarity Fund from members on secure and permanent contracts – you must provide your payslip when deductions have been made to qualify. Priority will be given to those on lower annual incomes and with support and/or care commitments in their household, as well as those households where participants in this Industrial Action are the sole earner or where both earners are participating. These members can apply to the local Solidarity Fund for the first day of Industrial Action which is not covered by the National Strike Fund.  

Warwick UCU calls on all members to apply to the local Solidarity Fund primarily where precarious work and pay conditions exist and swift payments are essential to secure basic living costs. Other members should apply to the national strike fund first and can apply to the local strike fund to balance any short-comings afterwards.

Tier 2 and 4

Warwick UCU values all members and specifically recognises the risk taken by casual and precariously employed members, as well as members on Tier 4 and Tier 2 visas, who participate in Industrial Action. We commit to robustly and consistently support those members throughout. 

This twitter thread provides some detailed recommendations for staff in this position.

UCU has published this article https://www.ucu.org.uk/heaction-migrantworkers.

Payment outline

Payments will be made in this order for as long as funds are available. Submissions will be processed as fast as possible.  Those on STP/hourly pay will be given priority before casual staff on more secure income, who will be considered before securely employed staff.

    1. STPs/hourly paid workers will be able to claim up to £225 from the local Solidarity Fund and can claim any remaining loss of income from the National Strike Fund whose claim limit is £1100*.
      Evidence required for the local Solidarity Fund: Screenshots of timesheet(s) from a regular working week & screenshot of contract(s). National will no longer require payslips in addition.
      *For Spring 2020, 14 day strikes.
    2. Staff (casualised) on incomes lower than £30k will be able to claim for the first £75 to £150 in lost income, i.e. the equivalent of the first 2 strike days and can claim any remaining loss of income from the National Strike Fund whose claim limit is £1100*.
      Evidence required for local Solidarity Fund: Screenshots of timesheet(s) from a regular working week & screenshot of contract(s).
    3. Staff (salaried) on incomes lower than £30k will be able to claim for the first £75 to £150 in lost income, i.e. the equivalent of the first 2 strike days and can claim any remaining loss of income from the National Strike Fund whose claim limit is £1100*.
      Evidence required for local Solidarity Fund: Payslip showing deductions.
    4. Those on more secure working contracts, i.e. permanent salaried staff are encouraged to apply to the National Strike Fund from day 3 of Industrial Action.
    5. Finally, the local Solidarity fund will consider applications by those earning above £30k and, where possible, will fund £150, i.e. the equivalent of the first three days of Industrial Action.  The National Strike Fund can be applied to for the remaining loss of income up to a cap of £800 (spring 2020).

Please note that in the event that the Solidarity fund is running low, then we will pause payments, and wait for all applications to be submitted so that we can prioritise those most in need.  In all cases, additional circumstances will be taken into consideration, such as studentships, bursaries, scholarships, and potential income unaffected by participation Industrial Action. Also taken into account are care commitments, children, and dependants in the household, sole earners, and households with two incomes affected by Industrial Action.

You must not claim more than lost earnings as this will draw the attention of HMRC.

STPs: Please remember that your contracts require you to declare your intention to participate in Industrial Action PRIOR to taking action but does not stipulate a specific timeframe. We encourage declaration on a day to day basis by email to STP@warwick.ac.uk with your HoD in CC.

Solidarity Fund Donations

Donate to the local Solidarity Fund

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.

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


Donate to the National fighting fund.  Please support your colleagues.

UCU uses its central fighting fund to support members involved in disputes, including the provision of strike pay where appropriate.

How to donate:

Go to: https://www.ucu.org.uk/fightingfund

Account name: UCU Fighting Fund
Sort code: 60-83-01
Account no: 20179432
Reference: ‘Fighting Fund Voluntary Levy’


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 the 2018 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? 

Teaching and working with students is why we do this job, so we do not take strike action lightly, any more than nurses or doctors do. After eight days of strikes in November and December 2019, the UCU has called for fourteen more days of strikes in February and March: February 20-21, February 24-26, March 2-5 and March 9-13. 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
  • Since December 4th, UCU members have been 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!

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.