Branch updates

News in brief from SUCU Committee.

SUCU Branch News 15 Jan 2015

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USS pension – action suspended,  e-ballot opens tomorrow 16 Jan

We were informed yesterday of HEC's decision to ballot members on new proposals for your USS pension.  We have received information from UCU about the new proposal and arrangements for the ballot - which runs 16th January to 26th January at noon. SUCU Committee recommend the following to members: SUCU Committee believes that the current ‘potential agreement’ offer represents a major cut in pensions. The offer accepts the parameters of the huge projected deficit, and cuts pensions to fill this gap. As well as ending Final Salary, it concedes the principle of a Defined Contribution element for contributions over £55,000 that allows the Employer to cut their contributions to 12%, provides members with no certainty about the value of their pension and paves the way for future concessions. SUCU Committee therefore calls on all members to vote to reject the offer, and to demand HEC officers call hard-hitting industrial action to win the dispute. What about our motion sent requesting a Special Sector Conference?  We believe that more than 20 branches submitted motions like our own calling for a Special Conference but the conference is not being called and HQ is not indicating which branch motions have been rejected and why.  We are requesting that information. USS will be discussed at the next Branch Meeting and members are encouraged to attend.

Local pay and performance management

We have reported previously that SUCU, together with the other campus unions, are in ongoing discussions with management about SRDS and 'reward and recognition'. Management are putting brief updates on the HR website. At this stage we have broad agreement on the main points apart from incremental pay progression.  Discussions affecting pay continue to be on the basis of the 'Framework Agreement' underpinning our current pay structure.  In particular regarding incremental pay progression this says, 'Staff will have a normal expectation that progression from point to point up to the exceptional threshold will take place on an annual basis, subject exceptionally to existing procedures for dealing with performance problems, when increments may be withheld. Accelerated incremental progression, including progression into the exceptional range, will reflect sustained exceptional contribution by the job holder.'  Come to the Branch Meeting on 28 Jan 1pm to hear more and join the discussion.

Next Branch Meeting Wed 28 Jan 1pm, Council Chamber, Octagon Centre

All members are invited to attend.  Under discussion will be the pensions dispute, local pay and performance management, and we have a speaker from Sheffield College where members have just voted to take industrial action. Beverages will be served at 12.45.  Agenda attached.

UCU members at Sheffield College vote for strike action in row over jobs

UCU members at Sheffield College have overwhelmingly backed strike action in a row over job losses. 86% of members who voted backed strike action and 95% supported action short of strike. The branch is due to meet next week to discuss next steps and when any action will start. The college wants to axe 75 jobs now and has warned it is likely to come back looking to make further savings in the near future. Please send messages of support to brandon.wilshaw@sheffcol.ac.uk.  Brandon will be speaking at the next Branch Meeting on 28th Jan.

SUCU Branch News 8 Jan 2015

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Next Branch Meeting Wed 28 Jan 1pm Council Chamber, Octagon Centre

All members are invited to attend.  Under discussion will be the pensions dispute, local pay and performance management, and we have a speaker from Sheffield College. Beverages will be served at 12.45.

Please be prepared - USS dispute marking and assessment boycott may restart on 16th Jan

The UCU Higher Education Committee meets on 14th Jan to consider a progress update from the negotiators and to decide whether to restart the boycott.  You will recall that the marking and assessment boycott was suspended until 16 January 2015.  We have been informed by HQ that to comply with legal requirements, UCU has served a fresh notice of industrial action on the employers.  We will keep you updated.

Local pay and performance management

We have reported previously that SUCU together with the other campus unions are in ongoing discussions with management about SRDS and 'reward and recognition'. Management are putting brief updates on the HR website. At this stage we have broad agreement on the main points apart from incremental pay progression.  Discussions affecting pay continue to be on the basis of the 'Framework Agreement' underpinning our current pay structure.  In particular regarding incremental pay progression this says, 'Staff will have a normal expectation that progression from point to point up to the exceptional threshold will take place on an annual basis, subject exceptionally to existing procedures for dealing with performance problems, when increments may be withheld. Accelerated incremental progression, including progression into the exceptional range, will reflect sustained exceptional contribution by the job holder.'  Come to the Branch Meeting on 28 Jan 1pm to hear more and join the discussion.

Anti-bullying and harassment campaign

Our joint union anti-bullying campaign continues.  We previously reported that as well as raising awareness through anti-bullying campaigning we are working with the HR team to develop new policies for the University on this theme. We will have an update on this soon along with an invitation for members to have an input, and to attend other informative events. Members may be interested to read this Guardian article 16 Dec - Struggle for top research grades fuels bullying among university staff:
  • More than half of university staff say recent policy changes have caused an increase in bullying – and that institutions aren't doing enough to tackle the issue
  • 81% of Russell Group university members said REF has had a negative impact on bullying.
  • The fevered build up to this month’s university research audit has exposed academics to an atmosphere of competitiveness and bullying, according to a survey by the Guardian’s higher education network.
More useful resources: What to do if you are being bullied or harassed – advice for UCU members Cyber-bullying: the invisible hand of bullyingIf you believe that you are being bullied, the chances are, you are,  Ban bullying in Education flyer

MPs tear into government over uncontrolled expansion of private colleges

An influential group of MPs has torn into the government over its failings to account for public money as it rubber-stamped the expansion of private for-profit colleges.  Read more..

SUCU Branch News 11th December 2014

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Up to 10% bonuses for University Executive Board members

Just in case you are thinking of applying for the Deputy VC or PVCLT jobs you may notice that your 'highly competitive' pay would come with a bonus scheme which applies now to all UEB members.  They get a bonus of up to 10% of salary "upon delivery of agreed objectives".  This is a very worrying development.  What does it say about someone's commitment to the institution and their work if they really need a bonus to put effort in? If they don't need it why have it? And any bonus scheme distorts the work as only a limited set of objectives can be set, and these must be measurable ones. There is ample evidence that bonus schemes create dysfunctional organisations - why on earth is the University leadership on one? 

Student occupation of INOX Dine

SUCU Committee members would like to send a message of solidarity to all involved in the recent student occupation which was protesting against privatisation, for the Living Wage, and against tuition fees.

University of Sheffield statement about USS

Our lobby of Senate yesterday was called off in response to the statement from University management on USS.  We welcome the decision to at least have some criticism of some elements of the USS approach, which seems to be in response to our pressure and proposed lobby and support from the Students Union.  But the criticism is very late and extremely muted - the fundamentals are unchallenged. We remain concerned as expressed on our website: The University's commitment to decent pensions for staff must be in question when they have:
  • slashed the pensions of grade 1-5 staff and closed their final salary scheme, and
  • the VC has bought out of USS two years ago (with a 17% rise on top of his 26% pay rise, as previously reported)

UCU Survey - fairness, accessibility and transparency of the higher education application and admission process 

This is a reminder that all UCU members are invited to complete this UCU survey exploring the fairness, accessibility and transparency of the higher education application and admission process and how this works for your students.

 

SUCU Branch News 4 December 2014

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USS update

  • Motions passed by a very well attended General Meeting last week have been sent to UCU HQ.  Members have called for a Special Sector Conference to recall the current UCU negotiating position as well as putting forward our USS position, and expressing our concerns over punitive pay deductions over ASOS and a proposal for local flexibility over what action is taken. We will update you with progress on this.
  • Lobby Senate next Wed 10th Dec 13.45-14.15, outside Firth Court.  Many Russell Group Universities have opposed the pension cuts - why hasn't Sheffield done likewise?  UUK risks recommending a major downgrading of pensions - due to a flawed valuation.  THIS MUST BE CHALLENGED.   Imperial College have publicly come out against the USS methodology.  Please join us outside Firth Court at 13.45 to demand our University speaks out too.
  • The USS petition now has OVER 16,000 signatures!  This will be handed over to Universities UK at the USS board meeting today.

Researchers: Could you redeploy into a Vice Chancellor’s Fellowship?

Our employer is about to advertise a series of "Vice Chancellor’s Fellowships", which are posts created by the employer with the deliberate intent of bringing new staff in from other universities while it simultaneously lays off hundreds of existing researchers already here every year.   But under recent EU law, researchers and anyone else threatened with redundancy are eligible to redeploy into such new roles if they can show they can meet the basic requirements with "sufficient retraining" (which can be quite a lot of training).  If they can do this, then they automatically must be given the job in preference to any external candidates.   Are you interested in doing such a redeployment?  If so please get in touch with us.

LGBT Research Conference 2015 Manchester,  Friday 15th May 10-16.00 and reception until 18.00

Attendance is free for UCU members, but regrettably UCU is unable to reimburse travel and accommodation expenses for UCU members on this occasion.  For all non UCU members the cost will be £12.00 (inclusive of VAT). Refreshments and a light lunch will be available.  Venue: University of Manchester, Oxford Road, Manchester, M13 9PL.  The deadline for registration is Friday 17 April.

SUCU Branch News 27 Nov 2014

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Update from General Meeting today

A very well attended and quorate branch meeting today discussed the current position in the USS dispute.  The following motions were debated and members voted unanimously to pass them. Motion on Special Conference on HE Pensions, Sheffield UCU GM 27 Nov 2014 This UCU branch supports the call for the requisition of a Special HE Sector Conference to debate the campaigns to defend pensions in HE, and to defend the capacity of the UCU to call industrial action short of a strike as part of those campaigns. Passed nem con  Motion on USS negotiations, Sheffield UCU GM 27 Nov 2014
  1.  This branch recognises the absolute necessity to effectively fight the attack on our pensions, and in particular to prevent the introduction of a Trojan Horse 'Defined Contribution' element.
  2. The branch is deeply disappointed with the extensive concessions made already to the employers by our negotiators, in particular the abandonment of the final salary pension. We would like to see final salary for all.  We believe this concession was unnecessary and destructive, as there was tremendous support for action in the ballot on our side, and the employer side was publicly falling apart as the supposed scheme deficit was exposed as an artifice. The concessions should be taken off the table.
Passed nem con

 Motion on Punitive Pay Deductions, Sheffield UCU GM 27 Nov 2014

  1.  In response to the recent assessment boycott our employer was going to make punitive deductions.  They were going to deduct 25% of pay from staff engaged in the assessment boycott, a far greater proportion of salary than of work, and were to continue to deduct 25% until the assessment work was done, presumably until the end of the dispute, however short the assessment work itself.  Compare that to the two hour strikes in our pay dispute earlier this year, which of course did not and could not result in indefinite 28% pay docking.
  2. If an agreement is not reached with the employers in the coming negotiations and the industrial action resumes it is essential that our response is effective and deals appropriately with punitive deductions.  We are pleased that the HEC on the 19th November reaffirmed the policy explicitly stated in the ballot that there would be national strike action if employers make punitive deductions.
  3. If action resumes we would urge the HEC to allow local branches to flex the approach to action short of a strike and strike action, as each is most effective at different times in different universities.
Passed nem con

Imperial College have publicly come out against the USS methodology

Why isn't Sheffield responding likewise? Read more..

Researcher bridging funds and pools

Some faculties now have bridging funds and researcher pools to improve job security for researchers.  For example, Engineering now has bridging funds available which any PI can apply for to secure researchers between projects.  SUCU continues to campaign for more of these positive steps towards decasualisaton.  We'd like to know more details of what is available in every faculty -- you can help by replying to this email with a quick report of what's available in your own faculty and experiences you have had with them.

Times Higher Education’s Best University Workplace survey

What’s the best thing about working at your university? How do your colleagues and managers make you feel valued? In what areas do you need more support? These are among the questions THE are asking in the second annual Times Higher Education Best University Workplace survey, which is online now.

Newsletter for Academic Related, Professional Staff in Higher Education

The Autumn 2014 edition of UCU's newsletter for members working as administrators, librarians, computing and other professional staff in HE.