October Branch News – Pay, Health and Safety, Prevent and more

October Branch News

October saw a well attended general meeting, details emerge over the 2015 pay claim, a focus on health and safety at work and meetings with university management over Prevent, Performance Improvement Plans (PIPs), USS and more.

Earlier this month, and after some debate at national meetings, UCU’s Higher Education Committee decided that the 2015 pay offer of 1% will not be contested. While the offer is highly disappointing and fails to make up ground on real-term pay erosion of 15-20% over recent years, it was decided that efforts will instead be put into a campaign building towards the 2016 claim. We hope that a strong, nationally coordinated campaign will take place in the run-up to the negotiations in March.

We held a stall on the concourse to mark European Health and Safety Week earlier this month, promoting awareness of workplace stress, bullying and harassment.  Health and safety legislation is important protection for staff. Last year we carried out an inspection of a department where there were serious concerns over staff well-being, and worked with the university to put changes in place to improve the situation.

Our well-attended October general meeting saw a number of motions passed. One outlined our position on the government’s Prevent agenda, which we see as a threat to freedom of speech amongst other things (read our blog post about this: https://ucu.group.shef.ac.uk/understanding-prevent/). We made a commitment to maintaining local pressure with regards the USS pension fund and a pledge of support to People’s March for Climate, Justice and Jobs. We also hosted a guest speaker from the Tamil Solidarity campaign and voted to affiliate to that movement. Minutes of the meeting, including the text of the motions, are online: http://bit.ly/209YH0D

Also in the last month, we met with the university to discus capability procedures, pushing in particular for a review of Performance Improvement Plans (PIPs). We have big concerns over the way PIPs are being used, especially with regards staff with disabilities. In a separate meeting, we pressed representatives from HR and Finance to engage with us to develop the university’s position with regards USS, and will be writing to the Vice Chancellor on this issue. In addition, in a constructive meeting on the Prevent agenda we were pleased to find the university shared some of our concerns.

Finally, you may be interested to read about a recent employment tribunal case which was won by a staff member at the University of Sheffield. Management have agreed to meet us to discuss what can be learned from this case. http://bit.ly/1KqYFWk

Are you hourly paid?

We are hearing that in some departments, staff undertaking regular teaching are still being engaged on a casual basis. A regularisation threshold of £750 or 10 engagements per year should be applied by the University management, set up following pressure from Sheffield UCU. As a result of a University wide review of hourly paid workers, 78 people have been given employment contracts. Please contact us if you are in this situation and have been refused a contract.

Dates for the diary

Tuesday 24 November: Sheffield UCU General Meeting, 1pm, Octagon Council Chambers.

Noteworthy events

Monday 2 November, London: TUC lobby and rally against the trade union bill. https://www.tuc.org.uk/trade-union-bill-get-involved
Wednesday 4 November, London: National demo for free education. http://anticuts.com/demo-nov-2015/
Saturday 28 Nov (Sheffield) and 29 Nov (London): People’s march for climate change, justice and jobs. https://www.facebook.com/events/1490417151253648/