Branch updates

News in brief from SUCU Committee.

Important motions to be voted on at Branch Meeting tomorrow 27th Nov 1pm

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Important motions to be voted on at Branch Meeting tomorrow 27th Nov 1pm

Venue:  Council Chamber, Octagon Centre Two very important motions that could change the direction of the USS dispute will be discussed and voted on tomorrow.  Its vital that as many branch members as possible attend so the meeting is quorate. Many UCU branches are calling for a Special Higher Education Sector Conference to review the negotiators' strategy.  Such a conference is the only way for members to change the current negotiating position.  According to UCU rules there needs to be at least 20 branches calling for a special Higher Education Sector Conference.  SUCU Committee will be proposing the following motion at the General Meeting this Thursday:

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.

Proposed: SUCU Committee

 A second motion will also be proposed by Committee at the meeting, that addresses the need for local flexibility to take and schedule industrial action:  

Motion on Punitive Pay Deductions, 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 believe this 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.
  3. 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 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.
  4. 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.
  5. If action resumes we would urge the HEC to allow local branches to flex the approach to assessment boycotts and strike action, as each is most effective at different times in different universities.

Proposed: SUCU Committee

Note - amendments can be proposed at the meeting, or could be circulated beforehand if requested. Other agenda items are: reward and recognition negotiations update. Display this poster and encourage colleagues to attend this meeting. SUCU-General-Meeting-Agenda-27-Nov-14    

Marking boycott suspended

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We have just received news that the marking boycott has been suspended. See here: http://www.ucu.org.uk/7286. We expect you will receive a message with further details from head office shortly. In the mean time we advise you to start marking and setting work normally. Where there is a backlog of marking to deal with we expect arrangements to be put in place to reduce that backlog without onerous expectations of weekend or out-of-hours working. If you have any queries about this process please get in touch.

USS pension dispute update

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This is a detailed and comprehensive update for members covering the items listed.  Please do read on.
  • Student Support.
  • 25% punitive deductions - alternative strategy of calling all members to strike action
  • UCU proposal
  • Why we must win this
  • Response to questions
  • Hardship payments
  • Liverpool UCU strike action
  • USS meetings in Departments

Student Support

University of Sheffield Student Union have passed a policy supporting the marking boycott and any strike action we decide to take and calling on the University to publicly put forward a view on changes to USS.  Full text of motion.  And student representatives from students’ unions from across the UK, including national NUS and NUS Scotland officers, have written to the Independent laying the blame for the current action firmly on university managements and Universities UK.  Read more..  

25% punitive deductions - alternative strategy of calling all members to strike action

HR have updated their advice and are deducting 25% of pay from the day your assessment/marking activity is due to start and for every day until the marking is complete, ie presumably until the end of the dispute.  SUCU Committee are aware that these punitive deductions by the University management have a very uneven impact on our members and throw up many anomalies.  SUCU Committee will be proposing an alternative strategy of instead all members taking strike action proportional to the pay docking, eg two days a fortnight.  The strategy would would need the sanction of the national HE Committee.  A motion to this effect will be proposed at the next General Meeting 27th Nov 1-2pm in the Council Chamber, Octagon Centre.  We need a good turn out for this branch meeting.  The proposed motion will be circulated shortly.  

UCU Proposal to the Employers

Last week many of you attended the EGM to discuss the dispute, boycott strategies, and an update from the special USS meeting the day before.  Members were advised of UCU's proposal, since put to the employers. Great concern was voiced across the room.  The following motion was agreed at the meeting and sent to our national negotiators. Motion from University of Sheffield UCU EGM 5 November 2014: This meeting is deeply concerned at the proposals discussed at the national USS meeting yesterday, which are to be put to the employers very shortly:
  • We believe UCU is conceding far too much too early. This is a dangerous opening gambit.
  • Our proposals should be on the basis of a realistic funding valuation, not the over prudent valuation which is disputed by UCU and some employers.
  • The proposals should also be on the basis of what was voted on in the ballot. Putting forward proposals on the basis of the flawed valuation goes against the whole direction and tenor of the previous emails and publicity from HQ.
  • The employers are breaking ranks in public, and in UCU there was an excellent ballot turnout and ballot result. We should make use of our strong position, not immediately make huge concessions.
We strongly urge our negotiators not to put forward to the employers proposals like those discussed on 4 November based on the flawed funding valuation.   Passed nem con UCU negotiators met the Employers last Friday and are due to meet again tomorrow.  We will send you updates as we hear them.  

Why we must win this

The UCU proposal is still vastly superior to the Employers position. If the Employers get away with introducing a Trojan horse 'Defined Contribution' element into USS then they would undoubtedly soon try to extend this (as they have with CARE) and we could end up with a scheme with no guaranteed benefits at all.  This MUST be stopped. Remember:
  • The employers can afford it - pre92 institutions are doing very well.
  • The deficit is entirely artificial. Part comes from inappropriate legislation and part from deliberate 'over-prudence' by the Trustees and Employers (though some are breaking ranks).
SUCU Committee will be proposing an alternative strategy of calling all members to strike action but in the mean time we must hold firm our position and maintain the assessment and marking boycott.   

Response to questions

A number of anomalies have been thrown up as a result of the University's 25% pay docking and members have been sending questions - not specifically covered by the UCU FAQs.  One common question is that if we are being docked 25% should we only work 75%?  The answer we have just received from HQ is No - only assessment work can be boycotted as that is the action that has been declared. We would like to thank members for their questions and for their patience.  

Hardship payments

The national strike fund will be available to members after three full days loss of pay, or equivalent where members docked less than 100 per cent (and pro rata for part timers) and for those who can show disproportionate hardship before that point. Members will receive up to a net £75 a day based on their actual loss. See the FAQs. HQ say the online form for this will be ready shortly. If this still leaves you with problems, SUCU Committee is conscious that some members, especially postgraduate students or those who are hourly paid (bank workers) will experience financial difficulty resulting from loss of income before that point.  SUCU is able to offer support to members who experience hardship as a result of taking industrial action by contacting Jane Rodger, Branch Administrator, email ucu@sheffield.ac.uk. PLEASE PUT THE WORDS "SUCU HARDSHIP APPLICATION" IN THE SUBJECT FIELD and provide some information about why you would be subject to hardship if you lose income as a result of the action. All contact will be completely confidential.  

SOAS break ranks

SOAS is the latest employer to break ranks.  They are making no pay deductions and are pressing UUK (the employer body) to review their strategy.  Why is Sheffield University not doing the same?  

Liverpool UCU vote for strike action

Liverpool is one of a number of University managements to make the aggressive announcement that it will dock 100% pay for partial performance in the assessment boycott Liverpool UCU has voted to go on strike until this threat is lifted.  They have also called on the national union to act on our ballot mandate for a national strike. Members at Liverpool will be now meeting on each Monday and we would like to be able to read out as many messages and pledges as possible at the next meeting. Members at Liverpool need to see support coming in from around the country. Send messages of support to: lucu@liverpool.ac.uk.  

USS meetings in Departments

Many members have held and are organising workplace meetings in their Departments to discuss the boycott and dispute and we would encourage this across all Departments.  If possible a SUCU Committee member will attend. Please note there will be a meeting for members in the Faculty of Arts and Humanities next Tues 18 Nov 1-2pm in the Jessop West Exhibition Space.   More resources:

SUCU Branch News 30 Oct 2014

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USS assessment boycott to start 6 Nov

UCU members in 69 UK universities will begin an assessment boycott on Thursday 6 November. The assessment boycott will stop students being set coursework or receiving formal marks and feedback, as well as halting exams. UCU press release.

Bullying & Harassment Awareness Day tomorrow

The campus unions will be holding a stall on the concourse on Friday 31 October between 12 and 2pm to raise awareness around bullying and harassment in the workplace and how to tackle these serious issues. We are working with the HR team to develop new policies for the University on this theme and welcome your input. Please get in touch by email or drop by the stall. We welcome volunteers to help staff the stall on the day!

​Bullying in academia - Guardian Higher Education Network article

Members are encouraged to read this article about bullying in academia and complete the Guardian survey.  The survey is anonymous and aimed at professionals (both academics and support staff) working in universities in the UK and overseas who have been / are being bullied. It should take no more than a few minutes to complete.   The findings will be published on the Guardian Higher Education Network.

A short survey on workplace cyber harassment

We are aware of this study which has been ethically approved by the Sheffield University Management School.  The survey asks about your experiences of negative work-related behaviour both face-to-face and via technologies (which can include text messaging; pictures/photos/video clips; phone calls; email; instant messaging; social networking websites; video software and general websites).

TUC "Pensions for All" seminar 19 November 2014

The regional TUC equality fora, led by the Retired Members’ Forum, are holding a seminar on pensions aimed at pensioners, pension activists and working members who will also be affected by the implications of the 2014 Pensions’ Act. Speakers include Bryn Davies and Dot Gibson. See attached flyer and registration form. Venue: The Tramways Club, 1 Mill Street, York YO1 9PY.

Help to stop anti-choice campaigners who are threatening to close down abortion services

There has been a significant upsurge in anti-abortion protests by a group called Abort67 over the last couple of weeks. This is a group which protests outside clinics with posters of aborted foetuses and which aggressively accosts and harasses women trying to access clinics.  They have recently targeted an NHS clinic in Southwark which is deeply worrying – it is not just that they are harassing women, staff and members of the public near clinics – they are trying to prevent women having any access to abortion services in the local area full stop. If they were successful in closing down the service, this would set a worrying new precedent in the UK. Our friends at Abortion Rights (to which UCU is affiliated to) have set up a petition.

Stonewall LGBT survey

We would encourage members to complete the Stonewall survey recently circulated by the University to hear from staff about their views and experiences of LGBT equality at work. Please use the University of Sheffield Three Digit Code: 719.

SUCU Branch News 22 October 2014

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USS dispute

The national ballot result has now been published. 87% voted for action short of a strike and 78% for strike action over threats to pensions. The turn-out of 45% was the highest for a national ballot since UCU was formed in 2006, showing the strength of feeling. The employers have already begun to make concessions. The national Higher Education Committee will discuss next steps on Friday 24 October and we will bring you more news as soon as we have it.

Bullying & Harassment Awareness Day

The campus unions will be holding a stall on the concourse on Friday 31 October between 12 and 2pm to raise awareness around bullying and harassment in the workplace and how to tackle these serious issues. We are working with the HR team to develop new policies for the University on this theme and welcome your input. Please get in touch by email or drop by the stall. We welcome volunteers to help staff the stall on the day!

'Reward & Recognition' negotiations

You may be aware 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. The TU's hope and expect that we will be able in due course to put proposals to our members which overall are an improvement for staff. We have had some queries and, to avoid any misunderstanding, 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.'