Upcoming Industrial Action for Pay and Pensions Disputes
As you are no doubt aware by now, Sheffield UCU is preparing to join branches at 59 institutions across the country in strike action from November 25 – December 4 if agreement is not reached before then with our employers. In addition to joining the daily pickets at your building, we are developing an exciting program of teach-outs to be held at the Student Union, as well as rallies and other activities.
This week, we will be holding a number of activities in the lead up to the strike (further information below). Please come along to get involved!
Pre-Strike Roadshows: In addition to any department meetings your SUCU departmental rep might be organising, we are holding two ‘Roadshows’ aimed at addressing concerns and queries from staff and students, members and non-members on what the strike action will involve
- Monday, 18 November 1-2 Dainton LT1
- Friday, 22 November 1-2 Alfred Denny LT2
SUCU branch General Meeting: In addition to discussing any updates on the imminent industrial action, there are several important motions that have been tabled by our members. Please attend, and bring a colleague!
- Thursday, 21 November 1-2 Council Room Firth Court
Banner making event and student-staff solidarity meeting: We will be meeting on Wednesday in the Red Deer pub at 4:00 pm to make banners for next week’s industrial action, and on Thursday, we will be meeting from 4:00 pm – 6:00 pm in the University Arms for banner making.
On Wednesday, from 6-7pm the SU have organised a student-staff solidarity meeting in Hicks Lecture Theatre 9.
Financial Support for SUCU Members Taking Industrial Action
The Sheffield UCU Committee recognises the financial difficulties posed by taking part in industrial action. To help mitigate this, there are two sources of support members can apply to: UCU’s national Fighting Fund and the local SUCU Hardship Fund.
UCU Fighting Fund
Members earning below £30,000 p.a. will be able to claim up to £75 per day from their second day of strike action onwards. Members earning more will be able to claim up to £50 from their third day of strike action onwards. We are awaiting updated guidance from UCU nationally, but applications to the Fighting Fund for the 2018 industrial action were made via an online form and required proof of loss of income e.g. payslip showing strike deductions. We will update you if there are any changes to this process.
Your first port of call should be the Fighting Fund: UCU nationally has vastly more resources than we do locally. However, we recognise that the Fighting Fund may still leave individuals in hardship, and our local SUCU Hardship Fund can then assist.
SUCU Hardship Fund
The SUCU Hardship Fund is for members who are disproportionately hit financially by taking part in industrial action, e.g. sole-income households, members on hourly-paid, part-time or fixed-term contracts, or due to other personal circumstances. Claims from lower paid members and those on insecure contracts will be prioritised.
To apply to the SUCU Hardship fund, please fill out this form. All information will be treated as strictly confidential. It will be seen only by the SUCU administrator and the SUCU Committee members responsible for agreeing payments.
Donating to the SUCU Hardship Fund
The SUCU Hardship Fund is made up of solidarity donations and branch funds. We ask members who have a dispensation not to strike to donate their earnings for the strike day/s to this fund. If you want to donate to the fund, you can do so using these details:
Account name: UCU Sheffield 70 Hardship Fund
Sort code: 60-83-01
Account number: 20391171
Please get in touch if you have any questions.
New Monthly Meetings for Professional Services Members
Current UCU members, as well as interested non-members, are invited to attend the first monthly meeting of Professional Services members. This will be an informal meeting to specifically address this group’s needs and concerns. The meeting will be held on Tuesday, 19 November from 12-1pm in Jessop Building Room 117.
Trans Day of Remembrance
On Wednesday, November 20, from 5:30-6:30 pm, there will be a vigil held at Hallam Square to remember and honour the lives of trans and gender-diverse people whose lives were lost in acts of anti-transgender violence in the past 12 months. A range of speakers including members of the trans community and representatives of local trans and LGBT+ organisations will speak, followed by a minutes silence to mark those we have lost this year.
For further information, please visit: https://www.facebook.com/events/509465946563378/
New SUCU Officers
Jess Meacham and Themesa Neckles have been co-opted to the branch committee as ordinary members. As a result of the vacant Vice President role and lack of candidates for the position, the branch committee has co-opted former branch Secretary Sarah Staniland into the role. Former Policy and Governance officer Lauren Selfe has been co-opted into the branch Secretary role and former ordinary committee member Caroline Metz has been co-opted into the Policy and Governance officer role.
Report Back on Democracy Commission Meeting
In preparation for the upcoming special congress in December, Sheffield UCU held an extraordinary general meeting on November 1 to discuss the findings of the national union’s Democracy Commission. The Democracy Commission was created as a result of a motion brought to Congress in 2018 by Sheffield UCU to improve democracy and transparency in the union. Though our meeting was inquorate, we had a positive discussion among the members present and the minutes from this meeting were referred to the branch committee.
Report Back on Anti-Casualisation Workshop
On the 2nd of October, the SUCU anti-cas team had its first casuals workshop. We were delighted to be joined by UCU members from across the North as well as members from our own branch. The workshop covered maternity rights for casual staff, pensions rights for casual staff and a taster training on organising in the workplace. We also ran a zine making workshop with @antiprecarityCymru.
If you’re interested in taking a look at some of the materials from the event, you can access them here: https://drive.google.com/drive/folders/1C_vIGMxLv3BAGL9XAl-_L0U-TcF5ULZr?usp=sharing
We will be publishing our zine collaboration soon so do keep your eyes peeled. Over the next few months we’ll also be arranging open meetings for casuals so watch this space!
Kate Moran from Maternity Action is hoping to interview some UCU members who are on casualised contracts (such as zero hours or very short term, low hours contracts) who are either pregnant and due to go on maternity leave, currently on maternity leave or about to return to work after maternity leave – including those having problems returning to work. Research has shown that many women are afraid of raising concerns with their employer such as health and safety risks, rights to time off to attend ante-natal appointments, requests for flexible working on their return, access to suitable facilities for those breastfeeding and expressing. Women on casual contracts are particularly susceptible fearing that their employer may offer them fewer or no hours or shifts if they raise concerns – which in turn may impact on the amount of maternity pay that they receive. Maternity Action would like to cover these types of issues and any others that women in this situation are facing by discussing them with volunteer interviewees on a one to one basis.
We are hoping to recruit UCU members who are in this situation and would be willing to be interviewees. The interviews would be used in the report but would be anonymised and kept confidential. Interviews will take place over the phone at a time that suits you. If you’re interested contact Kate: firstname.lastname@example.org
Petition in Support of Professor Jane Hutton
Last month, UCU-nominated USS trustee and whistleblower Professor Jane Hutton was sacked from her role in USS in a totally non-transparent process. Professor Hutton, who is an internationally recognised expert and professional statistician, brought to light significant failures in the governance of USS and the 2017 valuation process that led to an overestimation of the projected scheme deficit. Mike Otsuka covered some important work Jane has done for USS members, available here.
Our national union has raised concerns about the process of removing Professor Hutton, calling for the evidence for her removal to be released and for USS members to support her. Sheffield UCU President and national pensions negotiator Sam Marsh has suggested a reason for dismissal may have been her emailing the Joint Negotiating Committee in relation to ‘three occurrences of problems in board papers intended to inform decisions on the valuation’. Professor Hutton stated that “I do not accept the validity of either the process or the decision. I will be taking a number of actions to address the process, the decisions, and the accuracy of the assumptions and modeling which underlie the 2017 & 2018 valuations.”
Please consider signing the petition in support of Jane Hutton here.
Hong Kong Motion
For the last few months there have been massive protests for democracy in Hong Kong which have been met with serious repression by the Chinese state and Hong Kong’s administration. The were sparked by a proposed extradition agreement with China, but are also for Universal Suffrage, an inquiry into police brutality, the resignation of Carrie Lam, Hong Kong’s Chief Executive, and more. There have also been significant protests in Sheffield in support of those in Hong Kong, and on October 2nd these protesters were aggressively intimidated by people defending the Chinese state’s actions.
As a result, our UCU branch has passed a motion in full support of the democracy protests in Hong Kong and in Sheffield, and we encourage members to come out for demonstrations and events both in solidarity, but also to ensure the safety of the protests. At the same time, we do not support British intervention in Hong Kong or the expression of any anti-Chinese sentiment.
The motion also called on the University of Sheffield to publicly support democracy in Hong Kong, as well as taking seriously any cases of harassment or intimidation of staff and students participating in the protests.
It has been the policy of our national union since its 2017 Congress to oppose adoption of the International Holocaust Remembrance Association (IHRA) definition of antisemitism. In conflating criticism of Israel with anti-Jewish racism, the definition constitutes a threat to open debate and free discussion about the future and past of the Middle East and Palestine. The UK Government has adopted this definition of ‘antisemitism’ and urged Universities UK to advise all UK HE institutions that they should prevent meetings or events about Palestine that fall foul of the definition. Some universities have already complied with this instruction, and have banned campus events. Others have explicitly refused to adopt the definition, and have resisted outside pressure to comply. The University of Sheffield’s Equalities, Diversity and Inclusion Committee was asked to consider making a recommendation on the definition over the summer.
In our first general meeting of the school year in October, UCU members voted to support a motion opposing the university’s adoption of the definition; educating members of the campus community about antisemitism and other forms of racism; and supporting staff and students working for justice for the Palestinian people.
Solidarity Statement with Kurdish People
The Sheffield UCU committee condemns recent attacks on the Kurdish people in the Rojava region in northern Syria. Considering that Turkish and Kurdish colleagues may not be able to speak out due to threats and widespread repression of academics, journalists, activists and dissident voices on the part of the Turkish government, the Sheffield UCU committee wishes to express its solidarity with the Kurdish people, who have so often shown the way in terms of democracy, feminism and environmental activism. The Sheffield UCU committee opposes the persecution of Kurds and other ethnic minorities in Turkey, Syria, and elsewhere. We call on the UK and EU to accept far more Syrian and Kurdish refugees and resolve to support the work of ASSIST Sheffield and South Yorkshire Migration and Asylum Action Group (SYMAAG) with a donation of £200 each.