The recognised trade union for academic and related staff

The recognised trade union for academic and related staff

This week’s update

In this month’s branch news: an update on restructures at the university, including an incredibly important local meeting tomorrow, local equalities work, and New JNCHES (pay and conditions) and USS negotiations.

Ways to get involved:

    April Professional Services member’s meeting – Wednesday 23 April, 1-2pm (please note this is a change to the previously advertised time.) Our PS member meetings are getting bigger and bigger as time goes on, and are generating important local member-led campaigns around pay and progression for PS staff (see below for more details). Come, and bring a friend! Register using this form.
    Please hold the date for our annual general meeting, Tues, June 1 from 1-2 pm. Also, If you’re interested in being on the branch committee, holding an officer position, or otherwise getting more involved in the branch, please get in touch. The current members of committee are happy to answer any questions you may have, and we are very keen to have more members be involved! There are 6 ordinary member positions on branch committee, which provide an excellent opportunity to learn more about the workings of UCU on a local and national level. You can find a complete list of branch committee positions here. If you do decide to run for a position on the branch committee, please submit this form by 4 May.

Local SUCU News

Restructures and job security updates

As we described in our email to you earlier this week, UEB is pushing ahead with an escalating programme of restructures across the university despite significant concerns raised by the staff who are directly affected, staff in related work areas, and the trade unions. We have called a meeting for all staff – union members and non-members – to discuss this on Thursday 1st April at 1pm. Restructures impact the entire university community, and we want to have a full discussion, with as many members as possible, about how to best stand with our fellow staff members who are ‘in scope’ for these restructures, and to communicate our concerns to the university. Over 350 people are signed up so far – please register here and come along so we can discuss and plan together.

Equality updates

In 2017, UCU and the other staff trade unions submitted a joint claim on the university’s gender pay gap. We called for an equal pay audit, joint analysis of the results and the development of an action plan to meaningfully tackle discrimination and inequality. In response to this claim, UEB agreed to form a Gender Pay Gap Working Group including trade union representation, and this group has spent four years analysing the gender pay gap and its complexities, and reporting to the University Executive Board and Council. Throughout this time, our UCU reps have continually argued that data gathering is insufficient, and the university must commit to concrete actions to address the gender pay gap, and as of December 2020, UEB has committed to eradicating the gender pay gap, and publishing interim progress markers towards that end goal towards which they can be held accountable. We will continue to push the university to reaffirm this commitment, to not delay in actions that can address this inequality, and to also take concrete actions to address the race and disability pay gaps that persist at the university.

To read more detail, please see this blog post which was published this week on the work to date of the Gender Pay Gap Working Group.

There is always scope for increasing our work on Equality-related issues and we have recently instituted a monthly catchup for all departmental or faculty based ED&I reps and others interested in advancing equality, diversity and inclusion. The aim of this group is to develop grassroots connections between ED&I reps and activists that the university’s hierarchical structures sometimes mitigate against. If you’d like to get involved, please email ucu@sheffield.ac.uk or sign up at this Google form. The next meeting will be on Tuesday, 27th April at 2pm.

GreenSUCU

SUCU participated in the very good meeting Unite the Union has been organising on a Just Transition on 10th of March. Our branch is aiming to organise more joint meetings and training events to deepen our cross-union and student-staff work. The annual meeting of Green Reps is happening on 17th of March and we will report back after that, but in the meantime, contact us at ucu@sheffield.ac.uk, to get more involved!

Academic Related, Professional Services update

We held our March monthly meeting on 9 March, which was as usual, well attended by staff. These meetings give PS staff a chance to discuss issues relating specifically to their work areas. All PS and Technical staff members are welcome and the next meeting is on 23 April – sign up below. In addition to the regular meeting, we also held an Action Group on the subject of pay and promotions on 23 March. At this meeting, we agreed some actions to take a campaign forward, including setting up a working group to collate information and plan a strategy to lobby the University to develop a more consistent approach to PS staff retention. If anyone would like to be part of this, or help to collate information from their work areas, all help would be gratefully received. Please email ucu@sheffield.ac.uk

Covid and health and safety updates

Many thanks to the member in Law who brought to our attention a proposed change in legislation likely to come into force in May 2021, which would see workers as well as employees protected under s44 of the Employment Rights Act. You can see the draft legislation here and read the piece from an employment law blog that we were sent here. This is good news for precarious workers in all sectors. If you’d like a refresher on the difference between workers and employees, see the Acas site here.

National UCU updates

Last week UCU, along with the four other unions which make up the New Joint Negotiating Committee for HE Staff, published the 2021-22 pay claim, and today, the HE negotiators have their first meeting with UCEA to discuss our employers’ response. We strongly encourage members to read the pay claim and understand what the unions are asking for in terms of our pay and working conditions. The unions and UCEA are in agreement about the fact that our pay has declined in real terms to a significant degree over the last decade, and inequalities and workload concerns remain very pressing for all staff in HE. Despite this agreement, we do not see evidence that the employers are willing to take concrete actions to redress these issues.

The consultative ballot on the 2020-21 pay ‘offer’ (there was no offer) that was open earlier this year was decisively rejected by the membership – 86% of voters. As a result, UCU’s Higher Education Committee have sought feedback from branches at branch delegate meetings in February and more meetings are planned for later this month. We will be sending delegates and seeking further feedback from members on the next steps the unions should take on this, particularly in relation to the link between the current year’s pay claim and our outstanding dispute.

USS has recently released the results of the valuation conducted in March 2020, with projected increases in contribution costs that are unaffordable to both members and employers. They have also very recently rejected a formal request from UUK to revisit the valuation. Please see this blog from Leeds UCU on the state of affairs with USS, and this recent USS Briefs piece by Sam Marsh. We are waiting to see how UUK will respond to the rejection by the trustee of a review of the valuation, and should get some ideas of their thinking in papers for a consultation of employers we expect them to publish shortly.

The results of the NEC election results are in, and can be viewed here. Many thanks to all of you who voted. Locally, we continue to have representation on the NEC via Robyn Orfitelli – congratulations to her on her re-election and commiserations to Mark Pendleton for not being re-elected this time.

Annual Meeting of Casualised Members

The annual meeting of casualised staff took place Saturday, 13th March. Great to see about 60 committed union activists fighting for better conditions for us across the country. Ben Purvis and Steffan Blayney were our elected delegates. The motion to Defend the Four Fights that the anti-cas team (Steffan, Will, Elena) submitted was passed unanimously. It is incredibly important that everyone in the union understands that without any action on this, many of us will lose their jobs for the second time within the last twelve months. Other important motions that were passed addressed “Subject to Funding Contracts”, an issue that has been endemic at ScHARR especially, and a motion to ensure that Climate Action is indeed a progressive demand and not one used against casualised members. You can see all of the motions here. The five excellent workshops brought casualised members together to plan action on dangerous pressure to take on face-to-face work, get union recognition in outsourced and private education providers, and holiday pay for hourly paid staff. Elena and Alex Kirby-Reynolds (both also PandemicPGRs) facilitated a workshop on the “PGRs As Staff” campaign. This follows a motion submitted by PandemicPGRs last year that recognises the main job of PGRs – their original research – as labour and demands employment rights (wage, paid holiday, sick pay, union recognition etc), accordingly. The next step for this demand is to develop a manifesto outlining what wins in the short and medium term would look like. To get involved please email us at ucu@sheffield.ac.uk.

ARPS annual meeting

This took place on Thursday 18 March, attended by Jess Meacham (who chaired much of the meeting in her capacity as Vice Chair of the ARPS Committee), Eleanor Madley and Amy Ryall from the branch. The meeting opened with an address from UCU President Vicky Blake, herself a PS member at Leeds (when not seconded to UCU) which acknowledged the vital work that PS staff have been doing over the course of the last year, to keep Universities going. We then heard from colleagues from speakers across the country on the topic of ‘Finding the silver lining in the cloud’ which discussed responses to the pandemic and what we could take as positive from the last year. Speakers acknowledge some of the benefits of online communications and learning and the impact that could be seen on widening participation in higher education. They also cautioned against too much reliance on online ways of working and highlighted that the overall issues in HE, of workload, government attacks on the sector, student applications amongst others, were still very much in evidence. The formal business of meeting heard five motions, including our own motion Support for branches pursuing the model claim, for UCU to provide more central support for branches pursuing the model claim for improving pay and promotions prospects for Professional Service staff. There were also important motions on the safety of Library staff, and three from the ARPS committee on working from home, a new name for the ARPS committee and the resumption of the Love Our ARPS campaign. All of these motions were passed and will now go either to UCU Congress or to the Higher Education Committee. This part of the meeting also voted in the new ARPS committee which now includes Eleanor Madley and Amy Ryall from the branch. It ended with small group discussions about what UCU can do to support ARPS staff during the pandemic. Suggestions included work on questions to ask employers when they are thinking about return to campus and/or future remote working, to support staff trying to navigate how employers are dealing with this and more work on the recruitment of Professional Services staff.

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Fixed term contracts

Staff on fixed-term contracts are a priority for Sheffield UCU. We are talking to management about changes that will benefit both the university and researchers.

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About us

Sheffield University and College Union is the only body recognised by the University to represent, and negotiate on behalf of academic, academic-related and research staff. The SUCU Committee consists of volunteer members of staff whose work (on the membership’s behalf) includes: negotiating terms and conditions with the University, advising and assisting members regarding work related issues, campaigning, and providing information on issues relevant to trades unions.

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