June Branch News: Archaeology, Governance, Pay & Pensions and more!

In this month’s branch news: the future of Archaeology hangs in the balance as Senate debates the issue, the university’s governance structures and processes come under increasing scrutiny, and we call members to an EGM on the national disputes.

Ways to get involved:

    EGM Calling Notice: We are calling all members to attend an urgent EGM on Monday 28th June, 13.00-14.00, to discuss the union’s strategy for the national disputes over both USS and the Four Fights. The results from the recent Congress strongly commit the union to undertake sustained campaigns to defend our pensions, pay, and working conditions, and therefore the Higher Education Committee (HEC) will meet on July 2nd to discuss our strategy, including the timing of potential ballots, and the nature of potential industrial action. Since HEC needs to be guided by the membership, this EGM is your chance to engage in discussion about the national strategy which will feed directly into HEC’s decision-making. So please come along and have your say in how we take forward these incredibly important disputes. Use this form to register and the zoom link will be sent on the morning of the meeting.
    Professional Services members meeting 28 June, 1:00-2:00, register here.
    This month is UCU ‘Love our ARPS‘ month, which focuses on signal boosting and developing campaigns on behalf of professional services members in UCU. Take a look at the work of the UK ARPS committee, and let us know if you want to get involved in our local work campaigning over PS pay and promotion equality! Also, if you have professional services colleagues who don’t think UCU is for them, please show them this lovely blog post, written by previous SUCU member Amy Ryall.
    We are looking to expand our existing network of anti-cas departmental reps. If you are interested in getting involved or want to learn more, please get in touch with our new ant-cas officer Ben either by email, or through the linked Google Form.
    Liverpool UCU started their marking boycott on Friday, 18 June, after three weeks of strike action against the unethical ‘rank and yank’ redundancy scheme being pursued by their university management. In response, Liverpool SMT have threatened 100% pay deductions. The branch is asking for messages of solidarity and donations to their fighting fund from UCU branches to help support members receiving their pay deductions as part of this fight.

Local News


Senate met on Wednesday 23 June to consider UEB’s recommendation to close the Department of Archaeology. This happened in the context of troubling reports about how the review process was conducted, including ethically dubious research methods (and more here), concerning reports of senior management attitudes to our students and their capacity to learn, and potential misrepresentation of the goals of the review. Reports from Senate suggested that the department had a warm hearing and UEB’s decision and the process behind it were sharply questioned. Unfortunately the chair of Senate (who is also chair of UEB – no conflict there at all of course) denied a vote, and instead all Senators are being asked to individually provide feedback to advise Council. We remain concerned that the university has weakened governance structures and now has no effective academic oversight of what our senior managers are doing. Given the widespread concern locally, nationally and internationally, we remain hopeful that Council will intervene to reject UEB’s recommendation. In the meantime, please continue supporting our colleagues in Archaeology and making your views known to Senators and Council members.

The Archaeology decision has also highlighted the overwhelming failures of process in how the university manages change. To give one example, Change Management Processes require HR to conduct post-restructure reviews to learn lessons from completed processes. We are not aware of these taking place over the last five years, despite many restructuring processes. With our colleagues in UNITE and Unison, we raised our concerns that the university is not following its own policies (or learning from completed processes) in a formal letter, here, which we have not had a reply to.

Flexible working and reasonable adjustments

As more staff begin to work on campus some days of the week (in addition to those who have already been working on campus over the past year), University management has announced an approach to flexible working over the coming months. We know that some members are already working on campus, and we are also aware that there have been a wide range of approaches to flexible working across work areas, some of which have raised concerns, and some of which have received support. Because of this variation, we are trying to take these concerns on a case-by-case basis.

Please do not hesitate to contact us if you have questions or concerns about the approach being taken in your work area, either individually or collectively. We are able to support individual members via casework, and can raise departmental issues via our negotiation structures, or schedule a health and safety inspection for your work area.

On the Health & Safety theme, we are always looking for members to be involved as health and safety reps. Health & Safety regulations give us the most legal protection of all the UK’s workplace legislation, and if this is an area which you would like to learn more about please get in touch. Training is available, as is support for requesting paid time off to engage in this.

The SUCU branch equality working group has also put together specific resources for staff with disabilities related to flexible working and reasonable adjustments. We’re linking to those here in a number of accessible formats. We hope these are helpful, and as always let us know if you have questions.

Reasonable adjustments general guidelines: accessible versions for members with visual impairment and dyslexia.

Flexible working and reasonable adjustments guidelines: accessible versions for members with visual impairment and dyslexia.

Sheffield UCU Annual General Meeting

Last week, Sheffield UCU held its annual general meeting with over 100 members attending. We passed an important motion on solidarity with Palestine, and calling for the university to divest from companies who are complicit in the occupation. We also elected a new branch committee for 2021-22. There are still a couple of positions available on committee; if you are interested in joining, or aren’t sure but would like to learn more about what it involves, get in touch with us at ucu@sheffield.ac.uk.

National UCU updates

Congress 2021

The annual meeting of UCU Congress, which is the primary policy making body of the union, was held over the last weekend in May. SUCU sent a full set of delegates as well as members who are part of the National Executive Committee and the national UCU equalities groups.

You can see a full list of the motions that were passed here. Please do take a moment to look over the motions as passed. As a branch, our interventions were broadly supported, with a long delayed rule change proposal to provide national hustings events for UCU elections passed. The Higher Education Conference also discussed our ongoing disputes over pensions and pay and conditions. We’ll discuss the implications of this in our upcoming EGM, but please do take the time to look over the motions, which will guide the industrial strategy of the union over the coming year.

Other Events

Block the Boat for Palestine! Lessons from Trade Union and Community Activists

Wednesday 30 June, 6:00 pm, Zoom link

The most recent Israeli attack on Gaza has been met by mass protests around the world. In port cities from the United States and Canada to Europe and South Africa, trade union and community activists have responded to the call for boycott, divestment and sanctions by setting up blockades to prevent the docking of ships from the Israeli Zim company and the loading of arms of Israel. These actions build on a series of protests in port cities in the early 2000’s by trade union and community activists, including participation in the Ship to Gaza/ Freedom Flotilla effort in 2014. In this meeting, we will hear from trade union and community activists from the United States, Sweden and Italy who have played a central role in these and other solidarity actions for Palestine. The event will focus on the organising lessons learned with a discussion to follow.

Participants: Dr. Rafeef Ziadah (Panel chair), Lara Kiswani, Erik Helgeson, Jose Nivoi, Giacomo Marchetti, Zuhayr Mahomed

FB page: https://www.facebook.com/events/182932433767432

PGRs as Staff Campaign

Next Thursday (1st July 10am-12pm) will see the launch of the manifesto for the first phase of the UCU’s ‘PGRs as Staff campaign‘. More details about the event, as well as a form to sign up, can be found here.