Industrial Action: 24th, 25th, and 30th November 2022
Next week, UCU members will begin taking strike action as a result of an incredibly strong sector wide aggregate ballot. This will see action at 150 Universities across the UK, joined by 19 UNISON branches with a mandate to strike alongside us. Our members are joining unions across the UK in pushing back against extensive long term pay cuts, made even more stark in the face of a cost of living crisis, worsening working conditions, and attacks on our secure retirement.
With UCEA returning to the negotiating table after months of refusing to meet us, and the USS dispute looking more winnable than ever, these three days of action are crucial for demonstrating our strength. We hope to see as many members as possible on our picket lines on the 24th and 25th, and at our Sheffield Rally for Higher Education on the 30th.
We are taking this action on behalf of the whole university community, and we know that our action has an impact, as evidenced by the outcomes of recent local negotiations. We thus wish to make two important corrections to a recent email from HR on the 31st October. 1) This email stated that we have 1600 members; this is in fact the number of ballotable members, which does not cover our growing PGR membership, or members who are on leave, or unable to withdraw their labour for whatever reason. Our real membership number is much higher than this, at just under 2000. 2) Secondly, along with our sister campus unions UNISON and Unite, our bargaining group represents all staff, not just those who have union membership. Our action, which includes our regular negotiating meetings, alongside any industrial action, represents the interest of all staff. It is also important to note that any member of staff employed by this university can join the strike, and join UCU, even during our action.
Updated industrial action guidance, including ASOS
Even though we have members on a huge array of contracts, with very different job activities, we want to make ASOS as collective an activity as striking is. In terms of identifying what specific activities fall under ASOS, it is often the case that you are the best expert on your own contract, and we suggest you get together with your colleagues to talk through things so you are acting together. However, please do feel very encouraged to ask the branch for help (although we may not be able to reply straight away). The spirit of ASOS is to 1) not undermine strike action, 2) make visible how workloads are unsustainable, and that the university would ground to a halt if all staff worked only their allocated hours and followed their contracts.
ASOS doesn’t necessarily mean that all activities that we do fall by the wayside, it means questioning why you can’t fit that activity into your 35 hour week; it means asking your department why your contribution to EDI activities (or other voluntary labour) is taken for granted and not reflected in your workload allocation; it means letting colleagues know that you are overworked and that actually you’re not going to volunteer to take on that additional task; and it means challenging the workload creep of our jobs into weekend days.
ASOS and Saturday open days
On the specific topic of Saturday labour, we have received many questions from members on the topic of Saturday open days. To remind members, when Saturday open days were first introduced in 2017, they were initially presented as mandatory activities. In response to this, the joint staff trade unions engaged in a long negotiation process to ensure two things:
Staff participation in these weekend open days is voluntary, including for admissions tutors
Staff would receive adequate support and remuneration for taking on work on a day that is outside of their normal working week.
We wrote to you at the time making these positions clear. More directly, the Saturday open day policy acknowledges the extraordinary nature of Saturday work and the overtime provision for Grades 1-6. The revised guidance to managers document we negotiated in 2017 clearly states that staff will receive an "offer to work", and expressly states that "under no circumstances should the threat of disciplinary action be used to secure attendance".
If Saturday working is an explicit part of your employment contract with the University of Sheffield, which we know is the case for a very small number of members, then we are not asking you to break your contract, and you should attend days of work which you are scheduled for.
There are more details regarding Saturday open days in our ASOS guidance.
We are pleased to say that once again the branch will be paying for striking members to pick up a free hot drink and sandwich from John’s Van on strike days. Please do make use of this!
Our Office Has Moved!
It is important to remember that we have now vacated our office on Hounsfield Road, and are now operating from 3 Palmerston Road. It is from here that we will be distributing materials such as placards and leaflets on the mornings of the strike. The building unfortunately has no step free access, so please do get in touch if you have any accessibility requirements.
Hardship fund details
Details relating to hardship funds have now been announced and are detailed within our guidance. Members earning below £30k per annum are able to claim from the National Fighting Fund £75 per day following the second day of action, and members earning more than this are able to claim £50 per day. Those in precarious circumstances are encouraged to also use the local hardship fund which will match this amount.
This morning, we held our first joint-union organising committee with UNISON and Unite colleagues, this is an open committee and members can sign up to join this group here. We discussed the local UNISON branch’s reballot, which opens 30th November, and how SUCU members should encourage colleagues to vote (and to join UNISON if they’re not already a member of a union).
Thursday 24th November
AMRC Picket, outside Factory of the Future from 7.30am until 9am. If you know you are able to attend this picket, please get in touch with the branch committee as we will need to coordinate passing along picketing supplies ahead of this, given the early start!
Running Picket, from 9:30am
Teach-outs, 3 sessions run by PGR members from 1pm, Gallery Presentation Area within the SU building
Friday 25th November
Running Picket, from 9:30am
Teach-out: ‘The Marketisation of Higher Education’, 7pm, Coffee Revolution
Wednesday 30th November: Rally for Higher Education
~There will be no pickets on Wednesday 30th~
A number of Rallies for HE are taking place across the country. There will be rallies in Sheffield, London, Leeds, and Edinburgh, along with other places across the UK. The rally in London, in particular, will be outside of Woburn house, which is the location of both UCEA and UUK, and the location of pay negotiations on the 30th. Branch committee explored the possibility of sending a coach to the UCU London rally, but unfortunately due to the high cost and a low level of interest from members this was not possible.
Instead, alongside the Hallam and International College branches of UCU, we will be holding a giant rally at midday (details TBA very soon). Members of other branches of UCU who live in or near Sheffield have also expressed an interest in joining us. We are following the guidance of UCU HQ in not holding pickets on this day, and encouraging all members to sleep in and then make this a rally of huge proportions. We want to make our disputes visible across the entirety of the UK, and to in particular to the general public, and a very large public rally will support this aim.
Teach-out: ‘Museum, social justice and arts activism’, 6pm, Gallery Room 2
Call for skills!
As always, we are hugely grateful for the work our members put into the branch. We are pleased to say that since our call out for new caseworkers earlier this month, we have had nearly 10 members express an interest in doing casework for the branch!
Members often approach us offering up their skills, such as the fantastic video that was produced by a couple of members last December, and support in updating our sometimes neglected website. We welcome any support members think might be useful to us. We are in particular need at the moment of any members who may have an interest in offering experience in graphic design, and fundraising. If you think that might be you, please get in touch!
Motions passed at GM
At our General Meeting yesterday, our branch passed two motions brought by members. The first was in support of People & Planet Sheffield, and their Fossil Free Careers Campaign. The second expresses solidarity with student activists. The University appears to be pursuing disciplinary action against students who engage in political activism on campus. We view this as not only a disproportionate response, but are also aware of the clear ramifications of this draconian approach for students who show support and solidarity with striking UCU members, as well as the impact on their welfare. We are deeply concerned by the heavy handed approach being used by UoS to intimidate student activists, and will be raising this issue with university management.
Branch News – Summer 2022
It’s time for a branch newsletter! We have had another relentless year, and our regular branch news has fallen by the wayside due to the need to prioritise more pressing communications. As the breathing space of the summer creates some brief respite before we launch into another balloting window, committee have taken some time to develop this proactive summary of various ongoing activities and issues of note.
Welcome to a New Branch Committee
As of the 1st of August, we welcomed a new SUCU branch committee, and we thank our outgoing committee for their dedicated service to the branch.
Robyn Orfitelli has stepped into the role of President, having been elected and serving as interim President following the departure of Sarah Staniland to a civil service role in April. The vice presidential team of Sam Marsh, Traci Walker, and Ed Yates have been re-elected and will continue to offer their experience in routine (and not so routine) negotiations with management. Vicky Crewe has been elected to the role of Branch Secretary after previously serving as our Policy and Governance Officer, Ben Purvis has been elected as Communications Officer, and Joe Hill has become our Environmental Officer.
We are pleased to have Pablo Stern returning as our Treasurer, Themesa Neckles as Equalities Officer, James Cranch as Membership Secretary, Matthew Malek as Pensions Officer, Tim Herrick as Personal Cases Secretary, and Mick Ashman & Jane Simm returning as Ordinary Committee Members. We welcome new Committee Members Eleanor Madley (Education Officer), David Hayes (Policy & Governance), James Bollington, Oli Johnson, and Naomi Hetherington.
We are also very happy to have a dedicated anti-casualisation team this year headed up by Alex Kirby-Reynolds (PGR officer) who is joined by Nick Burke (Anti-casualisation Officer), Remi Edwards, and Maria Alexandrescu.
We extend a huge thanks for the work of Mark Pendleton, Julian Gosliga, Lisa Stampnitzky, Andrea Genovese, and Bill Lee who are all stepping down from committee this year. We would also like to thank the departmental reps who are passing over batons this year.
Ways to Get Involved!
Our branch is entirely dependent on the collective work of its membership. This includes the routine and less routine negotiations of our branch officers with management which over the past few years have delivered, amongst numerous other things, a professorial promotion appeals process, GTA contracts, topped up furlough pay during the pandemic, and stress risk assessments.
The organisational and informational roles of our departmental reps and contacts are crucial to collectivising issues in individual workplaces, such as coordination for our local disputes involving Languages and Archaeology, pushing back against unreasonable workload demands, and bringing issues of health & safety to light.
Finally the breadth of our casework carried out by our casework team (since July 2020, we've supported 178 colleagues), has helped members regrade their job roles, fight back against performance management policies, and combat workplace harassment.
These activities are all undertaken by our members on a voluntary basis (though often union work can be recognised in workload allocation). As such there are always ways in which members old and new can get more involved in the branch!
Come to meetings: We hold monthly routine General Meetings, which are often supplemented by Extraordinary General Meetings where a particular issue demands the attention of the branch as a collective. These are good points for sharing information, and all members are welcome to submit business for discussion ahead of meetings. We also hold regular monthly meetings for Professional Services members.
Email us: Whilst our inbox is currently staffed by volunteers, and it may take a few days for a response, we welcome all enquiries big and small. Whether this is a request for casework, a query about university policy, or a question about how to get more involved, we are always happy to receive correspondence from members.
Recruitment activities: If you are interested in recruitment activities, whether face-to-face, flyering, developing materials, or through other innovative approaches we’d love to hear from you! For those who may be apprehensive about this, we are able to offer recruitment training and support from more experienced members.
Join our anti-casualisation network: Launched in 2020, our nascent anti-casualisation network operates as an organising hub for casualised staff and PGR members. Get more involved by signing up.
Become a caseworker: We are actively recruiting for new caseworkers who can support members with individual workplace issues. We have a number of experienced caseworkers who are happy to train up new caseworkers through shadowing and offering support, advice, & expertise.
Become a departmental rep or contact: A list of departmental reps and contacts is available on our website. The dissemination of information both to and from the committee is greatly aided by having reps in each department. If your department doesn’t have a rep, consider volunteering, and drop us an email. A number of departments have several reps who share the role and distribute responsibilities, so if you already have a departmental rep, consider contacting them to see if they would like support.
Help out with our GTVO campaign: You can volunteer to send text messages to other UCU members to encourage them to vote, or help your departmental contact organise things within the department.
These are just some examples of how you can get more involved with the branch. As always, any enquiries should be directed to firstname.lastname@example.org
Update on Working Groups
As part of the agreement that Sheffield UCU members made with management to halt our marking and assessment boycott, management agreed to the formation of several time limited ‘task and finish’ groups.
Last week, members of the committee met with HR and agreed the terms of reference for two of these groups: professional services workload, and gender, race, and disability equality in academic promotions. In the coming weeks, these groups will begin their work, and we will report back to you regularly about their progress.
We have also met with management to discuss the professional services staff development programme, and we are pleased to report that an outcome of this discussion is an agreement to revisit and improve the policies that underpin the professional services promotions and regrading process.
For each of these three policy areas, particularly the professional services promotions and regradings group, we have had a terrific expression of interest from members for being involved in the development of the branch position, and in the negotiations themselves. If you have expressed interest in being involved in continuing work on professional services staff workload and promotions equalities, we will be in touch soon, and if you want to be involved but haven’t let us know yet, please do!
We will continue to update you on the progress of the other aspects of the agreement, including the anti-casualisation claim, and the re-formation of the USS working group.
The local agreement obtained from the marking and assessment boycott committed to negotiations around casualisation, and in particular Graduate Teaching Assistant (GTA) conditions. Our anticas network has been working on a local claim for the past year, and the new team on committee will be spearheading this moving forward.
Expect to hear much more shortly, as there will be several exciting events and developments coming up, including a bargaining survey for casualised members, an in person organising event in early September, and activities during PGR welcome week.
You can sign up to keep up to date with our network’s organising activities using the following Google form.
#ucuRISING & Ballot News
Our sister union UNISON, which represents many of our Professional Services colleagues, is currently balloting members on the paltry, way below inflation, pay offer made by UCEA, and colleagues in Unite are moving towards a ballot.
UCU members who have been paying attention to the recent flood of emails from National may have watched the recent campaign launch and should be aware that preparations are underway for a massive sector wide ballot on the Four Fights and USS disputes. This follows from votes taken at Sector Conference in June, and the input of members who were surveyed locally prior to this.
The date that the ballot will be open has not yet been confirmed, though we expect the balloting window to open in early September and run for 7 weeks. This will be an aggregate ballot, meaning that the 50% turnout threshold is applied to the voting membership as a whole, rather than individual branches. This creates strength in unity, meaning that all branches across the sector will be able to participate should the threshold be met and a ‘yes’ vote be returned. As the ballot is conducted by post, it is vital that your details are up to date on the MyUCU portal.
Our local campaign kicks off with next week’s All Staff Meeting taking place on Monday 15th August at 1pm. We are inspired by the energy of the national campaign which aims to reach all members, empowering branch activists, whilst endeavouring to listen to and bring along those who find the thought of further industrial action daunting.
Report on our Local Disputes
It has been some time since we have reported on the status of our local dispute with the University relating to the planned closure of the Department of Archaeology, and the restructures of School of Languages and Cultures. Members within the impacted departments will no doubt be aware of ongoing developments, however for the benefit of the wider membership, our Senior Vice President, Sam Marsh, and outgoing committee member, Julian Gosliga, who both acted as negotiators for the local dispute, have prepared a report on the local disputes, which we recommend reading in full.
As of May 2022, the mandate for local action has ended. Following negotiations, management have made assurances on job security. Within Archaeology, the majority of fixed-term contracts have been extended to September 2024, and the current proposals aim to move all staff to the departments of History and Biosciences. Within SLC, Phase 3 of the languages restructure has been scrapped, with assurances that there are no plans to reduce staff numbers within the ongoing Phase 2 changes.
The University’s position shifted significantly after members showed their willingness to take action. While cast-iron assurances over compulsory redundancies have not been obtained, it is not immediately clear what further assurances could result from industrial action. It is thus the view of negotiators, Dispute Committee, and branch committee, that there is nothing to be gained from escalating the dispute at this stage, and the best approach is to stay vigilant for developments and react accordingly.
In Memoriam: Dr Tim Searle
It is with sadness that we have learned of the passing of Dr Tim Searle who served on the Sheffield AUT Branch Committee (the predecessor of SUCU) in various roles, including as Branch President, before retiring from the committee in 2006. Tim had been an academic in the Department of Physics and Astronomy since the early 1970s, and had served on the University’s Council as an elected representative of the Senate from 2000 until his retirement from the University in 2008.
Activists who were on the branch AUT committee remember Tim as a champion of EDI, carefully scrutinising policy documents and working tirelessly to defend members both through casework and collectively. Tim was Branch President during the 2004 marking and assessment boycott, which won a multi-year pay deal above inflation. We would like to offer our condolences to Tim's friends, family, and colleagues.
News from across the sector
Queen Mary University continues to trash its reputation by ‘unlawfully’ withholding pay from staff involved in a marking and assessment boycott. The SUCU branch committee recently voted to donate £250 to the QM UCU hardship fund (the discretionary spending limit committee is able to approve without bringing to a general meeting). Members can donate to the hardship fund here.
Unite members working for UCU are currently in dispute relating to their annual pay deal. Committee extends its full solidarity to these members, and support to fellow union members seeking inflation matched pay adjustments. We hope that the dispute can be swiftly resolved.
In more positive news, we extend our congratulations and solidarity to the UCU branches at Open University and Goldsmiths who have both recently seen important wins. The OU have, following extensive negotiations from the local UCU branch, agreed to roll out permanent contracts for 4800 associate lecturers. This huge win has slashed the number of UK teaching only staff on fixed-term contracts by a massive 15% over night! Goldsmiths meanwhile have finally come to the end of a long and bitter dispute relating to staffing cuts, with a commitment to no further redundancies.
TUC Rally: Saturday 20th August 11am
Sheffield TUC are holding a rally and demonstration from 11am on Saturday 20th August outside Sheffield Station. The rally will be protesting inflation and pay cuts whilst profits soar, and will be standing in solidarity with striking workers from the RMT and CWU.
Upcoming meeting dates
Whilst we anticipate a number of extraordinary meetings will be organised during the national #ucuRISING campaign, and the launch of the ballot window, we have begun to populate our calendar with our regular meeting dates.
If you made it to the end of this email, we commend your resilience! Email is a key tool for us to communicate with members, and we try to ensure all our correspondence is informative and necessary. We are ramping up towards a critical campaign with the goal to deliver a sector-wide supermajority within our ballot, and send the strongest message possible to employers. If there is just one thing we ask of all members, it is to read (or at least skim!) our emails. An informed branch is a strong one, and together we can fight back against the hostile landscape created by our employers and leaders.
Yours in solidarity,
Donations to the fighting and hardship funds
We want members to be financially supported so they are able to take part in industrial action without impediment, and a strong fighting fund is crucial to our action. This is especially important for casualised staff, though we encourage all members who need financial support to make use of the support that is available (full details can be found in our 2021/22 guidance document).
Members are able to apply to the central UCU Fighting Fund as well as the SUCU Hardship Fund.
The continued health of these funds throughout periods of industrial action are reliant on solidarity donations. If you are in a position where you are able to donate in order to support our more financially precarious members, we encourage and welcome any support.
To donate to the Sheffield UCU hardship fund, you can do so using these details:
Account name: UCU Sheffield 70 Hardship Fund
Sort code: 60-83-01
Account number: 20391171
Account Type: Business
Details on donating to the central UCU fighting fund can be found at this link.
We ask members who have a dispensation not to strike (due to e.g. long term illness or parental leave), or members with pre-booked annual leave to consider donating your earnings for strike days to either the central UCU or local hardship fund.
January 2022 Branch News
This month’s branch news contains updates on our anti-casualisation work, University management’s response to the new government guidance on health and safety, plus news of a recent attack on academic freedom at Sheffield Hallam University.
There is simply too much to cover in one (readable) email, so this branch news does not cover our local or the UK wide disputes. We will be in touch separately to update you on these disputes, and related issues, very soon.
Ways to get involved this month:
Today from 1-2, we are holding an action group on the topic of health & safety, with a specific focus on stress. Any member who wants to be involved with branch campaigning around this issue, or to get more information, is very welcome. We anticipate the discussion will interface with our work around workload, working from home, and Covid. You can sign up to attend here. We will send out zoom information immediately before the meeting to anyone signing up this morning.
‘Challenging casualisation’ is a two day online organising and training event on the 10th and 17th February (a strike day). It’s being held as a collaborative event between SUCU’s anticas network and colleagues at Southampton. See below for more information, and you can sign up here.
Alternating between Tuesdays 4-5 and Wednesdays 12-1, we hold our regular dispute committee. If you are not already signed up to the dispute committee mailing list and meeting invites, and want to be involved, please email us at email@example.com
Local organising around casualisation
Members of the branch's anti-casualisation network have been developing a claim against the University as part of an anti-casualisation campaign. This claim will be made up of a series of demands for better working conditions and support for PGRs, based on the PGRs as Staff campaign manifesto, in addition to those relating to minimum length fixed-term contracts. This acts as a means of putting additional sustained pressure against the university around parts of the four fights dispute and the national PGRs as Staff campaign.
The next steps for PGR and FTC staff members to develop this claim will be to attend a 'challenging casualisation' training and organising course (advertised above), which has been developed to incorporate some of the specifics around the PGR campaign. It will include participatory sessions on claim writing and how this fits within local and national campaigning. Members from our branch will be participating in this course alongside PGR members from the University of Southampton UCU branch, who are at a similar point in terms of developing a local claim of their own. If you are a PGR or FTC member, then you’re encouraged to attend this training course so that you actively shape the demands of our claim and campaign. The course will be run virtually across two half-days (10am-1pm) on the 10th and 17th February and you will also engage in some self-directed group work outside of these sessions.
Update to University Covid policies
As you will be aware, the Tory government has recently removed the requirement for all public Covid mitigations. Most concerningly, the Office for Students has released a statement including the following: “Risk assessments should never be used to prevent providers delivering the full programme of face-to-face teaching and learning that they were providing before the pandemic.”
Risk assessments are not pro forma documents to be developed and then ignored; they are meant to explicitly guide the creation and implementation of policy and practice in work places, and they are enshrined within health and safety law. Employers have a legal obligation to manage H&S in workplaces, as do staff in the spaces in which they work, which means making an evaluation of the situation and acting upon that evaluation. The OfS directive does not override these legal requirements. We cannot see how the advice of the OfS is compatible with H&S law, and we have sought guidance from the UCU legal team.
Locally, University management have chosen to downgrade all mitigations, including the replacement of mask mandates with recommendations, and, in most cases, have stated that they expect staff to work on campus. It remains our branch position that staff and students at this university do not all have the same circumstances and the most responsible health and safety will accommodate varying needs. As a single example, some members of our community are medically vulnerable, or live with someone who is medically vulnerable. Ensuring that these staff and students can access our university safely and with confidence is as much of a responsibility as ensuring that our university follows all access needs.
If you feel that you are being compelled to work in person, but do not feel safe doing so, UCU has created a new set of template letters for you to personalise to support communication with your line manager in the first instance. You can also contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org to make an appointment to come to a casework surgery, if you need more support.
If you are working on campus during the coming term, it remains important to check how the rooms you are working in are ventilated, and that the ventilation is working as intended. Ventilation is probably the main and most effective mitigation against the transmission of COVID-19. There are three types of rooms in the university, and we describe how to check whether they are ventilated properly below:
If the room is mechanically ventilated, then there should be a poster saying so on the wall, and vents either in the walls or ceiling. You will want to check that there is a detectable air flow through the vents. There have been reports of several rooms where this is not the case and we need to ensure Estates acts on this in time for the beginning of teaching. Unfortunately Estates are not checking individual rooms, only the computer readouts for the system as a whole.
If the room is naturally ventilated (again, there should be a poster saying so) make sure all the windows can open and that a CO2 monitor is fitted and working in the room. There are still gaps in provision of monitors and malfunctioning windows. A reminder: the monitor should show green at 800 parts per million, amber at 800-1500ppm and red at 1500 ppm. If it turns to amber at any point action needs to be taken to increase ventilation (e.g. open more windows, take a break and get students outside to allow the levels to decrease to green levels); if it turns to red there should be an accompanying alarm and the room needs to be evacuated. All naturally ventilated rooms should also be fitted with a thermometer - in some cases the CO2 monitor also functions as a thermometer. +16℃ is the lower limit of what is recognised as suitable for sedentary working.
Some rooms are both naturally and mechanically ventilated and these should also be fitted with CO2 monitors/ thermometers.
If there are problems when you have checked please inform the Estates Helpdesk immediately (email@example.com), and copy in H&S services (firstname.lastname@example.org), as well as email@example.com so we can have a sense of the scale of any problems and can follow up with university management to push for the matters are being followed up in a timely fashion.
New regulations on self certification of illness
We’d like to draw members’ attention to a temporary, but important, change to the Government guidance on Statutory Sick Pay and the need to provide proof of sickness to employers. Normally employees are required to provide proof of sickness (e.g. a fit note from their GP) after seven days of illness, but for the period between 10 December 2021 and 26 January 2022 this was increased to 28 days (including non-working days), to allow GPs to focus on the Covid vaccine rollout. We flagged this with HR before Christmas and they committed to making staff aware. As of 27 January 2022 the government has reinstated the seven-day rule, but if you or colleagues were off work due to illness in December or January you may want to note this and ensure you aren’t put under pressure to provide evidence where it isn’t required.
Support for suspended Sheffield Hallam academic
You may have heard that Shahd Abusalama, a PhD candidate and Associate Lecturer at Sheffield Hallam University, was placed under investigation and suspended from her teaching post following spurious accusations of antisemitism. Shahd is a Palestinian scholar and activist from Gaza, whose research focuses upon the historical representation of Palestinian refugees in colonial, humanitarian, and Palestinian documentary films. Her suspension was widely protested by individuals and organisations, including Sheffield Hallam UCU and the British Society for Middle Eastern Studies, and this pressure has resulted in her being reinstated. She is still under investigation however, and we are concerned that this incident represents not only an individual breach of due process and academic freedom, but is also illustrative of growing campaigns to use the problematic IHRA definition of antisemitism to silence critics of Israel. As a branch committee, we have written to Sheffield Hallam University to protest Shahd’s suspension. Any members who also wish to write can find potential email addresses to contact here and an example letter of protest being circulated by UCU Left here.
Management Violation of Framework agreement
We want to make members aware of a situation which has been ongoing, but which represents a serious breach by university management of our longstanding recognition agreement. The recognition agreement is a negotiated document which dictates certain aspects of the interactions between us and our employer. The responsibilities of management include providing trade unions with access to all staff induction events (whether formal or informal), and also to allow us to have access to information on prospective members, and to staff lists. This is fundamentally important, both for recruitment purposes, but also because as a recognised trade union we do not just negotiate on behalf of our current members, but on behalf of every potential member within our bargaining unit (the university).
For several years now, University management has refused to permit the recognised Sheffield University trade unions to have access to potential membership information, and more recently, to staff mailing lists. Their refusal has been couched in a narrow (and we argue incorrect) reading of data privacy legislation and regulations, ie. GDPR, but they have ignored advice from our regional office, proposals from our negotiators in relation to how such information can be provided to unions, and agreements at other universities where such information is provided to staff trade union representatives. We are concerned that this refusal represents a continued deterioration in relations with management after the S188 fire-and-rehire notice which was served in July 2020 and believe it is also a breach of the spirit and wording of our recognition agreement.
Last Autumn, with Unite and UNISON, we filed a grievance against the university, citing management actions which increasingly seem to constitute union busting. We will continue to update members on the progress of this grievance and to advocate for a management return to the key principles outlined in our recognition agreement: cooperation, team working, equal opportunities, transparency and mutual respect.
December branch news: Industrial action updates, working from home, and a much needed break is nigh
Happy Monday. This month’s branch news is fairly brief, but contains a number of important updates on our ongoing industrial action, the recent changes in DfE guidance on working from home, and a small bit of holiday cheer.
How to apply to the central UCU fighting fund and the local SUCU hardship fund.
How supporters can donate to both of these funds. Particularly if you know any individuals or organisations outside of UKHE who might be willing to donate, please pass this information on to them!
At our branch meeting on the Friday of strike action, we discussed ways to keep our campaign visible, and make the action short of a strike that we are taking a collective, supportive action. One of the ideas that was raised was to hold regular, informal meet-ups for members of the branch to talk to each other about how ASOS is going, share problems, brainstorm solutions, and generally support each other. These “industrial action meet-ups” are separate from formal branch meetings, and won’t have any agenda. We are going to try to hold these meetings every couple of weeks, and have scheduled our first one for Thursday, 16 December at 11:30am. Given the new working from home guidance, this meeting will be entirely online. You can sign up to attend here.
One of our previous branch members who is now active in another branch has written a powerful reflection on our recent round of strike action, and a reminder of what we’re fighting for: an education sector that is once again transformative, instead of mired in metrics, competition, and destructively poor financial planning.
Working from home
In line with recently announced new policies regarding Covid-19, the DfE has published guidance for higher education institutions with recommendations for working from home. You may have seen the email from management late on Friday which stated that
“There are exceptions to this rule in place for universities to allow us to continue in person learning and teaching, other essential student focused activity, and research and innovation related activities. Therefore, in line with Department for Education guidance, we will continue to deliver teaching, student support and research activity on campus, including via the provision of library and study space.”
We want to continue to stress that staff and student health is of the highest priority, and that both groups have rights under Health and Safety law. If you feel that you are being asked to work on campus in a way that counteracts the DfE guidelines, or that places your health directly at risk, we encourage you to raise these concerns with your line manager. In particular, we know that ventilation continues to be an issue in campus workspaces. If you have reason to believe that the ventilation in your work or teaching space is placing you and/or your students at risk, please do remember the ‘Protocol for staff to remove themselves from a situation of serious and imminent danger’. As always, you can also contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org for support.
It is once again December, and that means it is time for our annual reminder of (in our humble opinion) the finest trade union parody song ever made, featuring a huge number of our members. Still relevant three years later! We will accept all nominations to the Top of the Pops competition with grace and humility.