September Branch News: GTVO for Fair Pay, national consultations, and the JEP report
September Branch News
Next meeting: 2nd October, 1pm, Octagon Council Chamber
An open meeting to discuss both the pay dispute and where we go next on USS following the JEP report – please come along and share your views.
National UCU news
Fair pay: the ballots are out!
On 30 August, UCU sent out ballots to members of 147 institutions, including post-92 and FE institutions, meaning that almost 90% of our membership are currently voting on whether we should take part in strike action, and action short of a strike.
The USS strike was a historic event with unprecedented sector participation, and our fight for fair pay has the potential to be over twice as large. With UNISON members also being balloted, this dispute is sector-wide in a way that has never been seen before in education. If over twice the number of institutions who were involved in USS threaten industrial action, we will send a message that our employers simply cannot ignore.
As a committee, we believe that action on this scale is not only warranted, but that the current state of marketization of Higher Education demands it. Our employer cannot continue to increase our workload while cutting our pay in real terms. Our employer cannot continue to appeal to austerity budgets to justify their lack of investment in staff, while engaging in restructures that place staff at the lowest grades at risk, and increasing the salaries of the highest paid individuals at the university. The Goldsmiths and Southampton UCU branches have put together resources which outline the numbers underlying this hypocrisy, and over the coming weeks, we will be sending you resources with our equally stark figures here at Sheffield.
Ballots must be received by 19 October. If you need a replacement ballot, request one here. Just as in the USS dispute, please remember that because of the 2016 changes to trade union law, we must have at least a 50% turnout or we cannot take industrial action, so please vote! This committee endorses a YES-YES vote.
How can you get involved?
- Come to our meeting on 2 October at 1pm, in the Octagon Council Chamber! In addition to presenting data on declining pay at the University of Sheffield, we will be taking questions. In the meantime, keep your eyes open for department meetings about the dispute, and please keep talking about the underlying issues. This is about much more than a pay raise, it is about adequate, fair, and equal compensation for labour in HE. Do you want to write about an issue related to the pay dispute for the Sheffield UCU blog? We would love to hear from you.
After several months of waiting, September has been a huge month for USS news!
Last week, the Joint Expert Panel released their report, based on expert testimony they have been collecting over the past 3 months. The report corroborates the claims that UCU activists have been making for over a year now regarding the unsuitability of Test 1, and the health of the Scheme. Both Josephine Cumbo and USS Briefs offer clear summaries of the report, and if after the summer, you are looking to refresh your memory of events leading up to the JEP report, USSBriefs44 provides a summary up through August.
The JEP’s report comes on the heels of an article on USS in Times Higher Education co-authored by the former head of the Bank of England, Mervyn King, stating that “…it is plain that the USS is not facing a funding crisis now or in the reasonably foreseeable future,” and that “The increase in the ‘deficit’ is wholly attributable to changes in the assumptions made in the process of technical valuation, at a time when the finances of the USS have substantially strengthened.”
With all of this new information, it is clear that substantial negotiations and discussions will occur over the coming months, at both a national and local level. Sheffield continues to be at the forefront of these discussions, through our local USS working group, and at a national level, with representation on the Joint Negotiating Committee, and through the newly formed National USS dispute committee, which includes three members of Sheffield UCU: our pensions officer Jo Grady was elected to represent the South Yorkshire and Humber region; Anti-Casualisation officer Sam Morecroft will be representing the national Anti-Casualisation Committee; and branch member Themesa Neckles is representing the national Disabled Members Standing Committee.
How can you get involved?
- All UCU members are entitled to provide Feedback on the USS member consultation! At the end of August, the USS trustee proposed significant increases to member and employer contribution. This proposal was made without waiting for the JEP report, and especially in light of the JEP’s conclusions that the scheme is healthy and extensive contribution increases are not necessary, we suggest that members respond to the employer consultation to express your opinions. We’ve written up some of our committee’s response bullet points for you to look at, in case they are helpful.
Balloting for the democracy commission and NEC casual vacancy
Earlier this week, we wrote to you about the Democracy Commission, which will examine the democratic processes of our Union, including leadership structure and how important decisions are made. This commission has arisen out of the branch motion passed by Sheffield UCU at our April EGM, which was passed at UCU Congress.
All members should have received an electronic ballot to vote for HE and FE representation on the commission. We have been asked by many members for our recommendations for this ballot, and on Tuesday, we sent around our voting recommendations, which include the candidates that we, as a committee, believe best support the grassroots, member-led momentum that arose out of the USS strike action. Most importantly, we endorse our Vice President Jess Meacham, a co-author of the original branch motion, who is standing for an HE position.
You should have also received a paper ballot to fill a casual vacancy on the UCU National Executive Council, for the representative of black members (who shall be a woman). Of the three standing candidates, the committee endorses Naina Kent (Hackney Adult Education), who we believe would bring a great deal of previous TU activist experience to the role.
As always though, we encourage you to read candidate statements and come to your own decisions. If you are missing either ballot, you can contact Kay Metcalfe (firstname.lastname@example.org, tel: 020 7756 2500) to request a replacement.
Two weeks ago, we held an Extraordinary Branch meeting, where we discussed our ongoing national campaigns, as well as local issues such as restructures. We unanimously passed three motions. The first was a motion of No confidence in the current approach to organisational change.
We also unanimously passed a motion to support and donate to the Bakers Food and Allied Workers Union organiser fund, which will help to organise trade union support for low paid workers in the South Yorkshire area, including (but not limited to) fast food workers.
Lastly, we passed a motion in support of the Campaign to reinstate Jim Newell, who was summarily dismissed from the University of Salford based on a set of flawed criteria that reflect the ongoing marketisation of HE.
Click here to see all of the branch motions in their final versions, including any amendments that were made from the floor.
On 12th September, the Times Higher published an article about the way that the University of Sheffield is using its apprenticeship levy – in part to fund senior managers to take our MBAs. See here for more.
In other local Sheffield news, following on from an extensive campaign by Sheffield Save Our NHS, centralised emergency care will be staying in Sheffield! Read more about this major victory here, and a massive thank you to all of our members who continue to devote their time and energy to this campaign.
Monday, 24 September: Sheffield TUC is hosting a performance of 1868, a play about 150 years of union struggle. This forms part of a festival of events running until 6th October in conjunction with Sheffield People’s Assembly Against Austerity – Vision Sheffield, which believes that ‘a better, fairer world is possible’. For full details, contact email@example.com.
Until 27th September, an exhibition called Dystopia and Resistance is running at the Millennium Galleries as part of the Festival of the Mind. Check out the USS strike quilt here.
Friday, 28 September: As part of its Regional Equalities Forum, the TUC is holding its first Yorkshire Regional Women’s Conference, which is open to all women trade unionists in the region.
Wednesday, 3 October, 3-5pm: As part of Black History month, UCU’s Yorkshire and Humber Black and Minority Ethnic Network are running a seminar on ‘Surviving the workplace – empowering yourself’ at Leeds Beckett University, Woodhouse Lane, Broadcasting Place, Room A103. All UCU members welcome!