Branch updates

News in brief from SUCU Committee.

April Branch Newsletter

Published on

Dear fellow members,

The branch has been exceptionally busy over the past month responding to the COVID-19 crisis, with on-going meetings twice a week with management.  For the latest summary of what we have negotiated thus far locally, please see the update sent out last week. As always, we will send along further updates as they become available.

We are aware that staff across the university have been facing myriad issues with their work as a result of the COVID-19 crisis. We encourage members to contact the branch office with any questions or concerns. If you have not yet done so, please change your personal contact information with the union to your home address and phone number from your office address and phone number so as it will enable us to be in touch with you during the crisis. To change your contact information, please visit: https://www.ucu.org.uk/members. If you know of colleagues who are not members of the union but are currently facing difficulties in their work, please do encourage them to join the union.

Branch Meetings

Many thanks to those of you who have taken part in our virtual EGMs via Zoom which we plan to continue until such a time as we are able to meet again in person. We have a number of upcoming Zoom meetings in the branch.

On Thursday, April 23 from 1-2 pm, we will be holding our next departmental reps meeting. If you have any immediate concerns that you would like to feed back to the branch, please contact your departmental rep ahead of the meeting.

The following week, on Thursday, April 30 from 1-2 pm, is our next scheduled general meeting. We will send out information to register and join by Zoom ahead of time so please keep an eye out for an email.

Finally, please hold the date for our annual general meeting, Thursday, June 4 from 1-2 pm. If you're interested in being on the branch committee, holding an officer position, or otherwise getting more involved in the branch, please get in touch. The current members of committee are happy to answer any questions you may have, and we are very keen to have more members be involved! There are 6 ordinary member positions on branch committee, which provide an excellent opportunity to learn more about the workings of UCU on a local and national level. You can find a complete list of branch committee positions here.  If you do decide to run for a position on the branch committee, please submit this form by 7 May.

Bargaining and USS Valuation Updates

Negotiations in the Four Fights dispute have been halted due to illness but discussions are going to begin again after the Easter break, with a planned meeting between UCEA and the UCU pay negotiation team. We will update you when we know more.

In our USS dispute, UCU's negotiators met with UUK again the week before last to explore whether there is a way to reach a resolution, and are due to meet again soon. We understand that the Employers Pension Forum (the committee which steers pensions policy for UUK) met last Tuesday and that the dispute was likely to be on the agenda.

Recruitment for UCU trustees on the USS board has been delayed by the crisis but is ongoing. UCU currently has just one of its three spots filled since the dismissal of Jane Hutton in the autumn and the sad death of Dave Guppy in December. We will update you when we know more.

The USS board has confirmed it is proceeding with the 2020 valuation using market data as of 31 March at a time when most other processes are pausing and the sector's attention is elsewhere. It will be the job of both UCU and UUK's representatives to hold USS to account and ensure that there's no exploitation of the situation. There are important discussions currently underway at the Valuation Methodology Discussion Forum, a working group formed of UCU, UUK and USS representatives. The Pensions Regulator are invited but have not attended. In a major change from all other recent valuations, UCU and UUK are working together very closely and well on valuation approaches. This is hugely important and long overdue and likely to be explained in part by the resolve shown by members in both disputes.

A 'discussion document' on the proposed valuation methodology was released to employers in early March. We are still awaiting a clarificatory note from USS as to the misleading presentation of some of the information in the document, though UUK's actuaries, Aon, did pick up on some of it in their paper to employers found at this link (see also Sam Marsh’s twitter thread). Unfortunately, USS have been reluctant to admit any problems with the document. This is not good at a time when there has been a clear need identified (and agreed by all parties) for a rebuilding of trust. We only hope that the incoming USS chair, Kate Barker, sees the need for a major shift in culture within our pension scheme.

 

Sheffield TUC Council of Action

The Sheffield Trade Union Council has convened a ‘Council of Action’ to respond to the COVID-19 crisis. The Council of Action is an alliance of Sheffield trade unions, faith organisations and Community campaign groups whose aim is to bring together existing groups and networks in order to coordinate political and practical demands for residents of the city. The Council of Action will defend the livelihoods and health of workers and the community through the COVID-19 crisis. If we use our collective might and campaign around urgent issues affecting the many, not the few, we can make real significant gains.

The Council of Action will be meeting every week at 7pm on Tuesdays via Zoom to hear stories from frontline workers, discuss the challenges facing our NHS and advance policies for safeguarding workers and supporting our communities.  For further information on how to participate, please visit:

https://www.facebook.com/Sheffield-TUC-CV19-Council-of-Action-109620324026902/

To sign up to the Council of Action’s statement of demands, please visit: https://forms.gle/yG1HFrg56BFHYHff9

Donations to City of Sanctuary

City of Sanctuary is the umbrella organisation for third sector asylum seeker and refugee services in Sheffield. As a result of the COVID-19 crisis, all in-person services are currently closed but the organisation is working hard to ensure that isolated asylum seekers and refugees are able to access food, vital services and other necessities during the lockdown. The branch committee has voted to approve a 250 pound donation on behalf of the branch but individual donations are greatly appreciated as well. Donations can be made through bank transfer. Info below:

Name on Account – City of Sanctuary Sheffield

Bank Name – Unity Trust Bank PLC

Bank Account Number - 20382559

Sort Code – 60-83-01

UCU Climate Emergency Network

Just before Easter, a group of UCU Green Reps came together and formed the UCU Climate Emergency Network. As an initial step, the network will establish a database for Green Reps across UCU to inform local and national initiatives on the climate emergency and UCU's role in a just transition. We are seeking to form a committee to bring motions to congress and shape the environmental policies in the union, on campus and beyond.  Updates to follow. If you want to get involved, please contact: emsimon1@sheffield.ac.uk.

Strike Solidarity Visit to University of Paris 8

By: Amna Kaleem, Doctoral Student, Department of Politics and International Relations

Before universities and life in general came to a standstill, I, along with a couple of UCU members, went on a strike solidarity visit to Université Paris 8, Vincennes-Saint-Denis. The university is currently on strike to fight for an increase in permanent positions and research funding and to protest moves towards a managerial model of education. We were told the French government is looking at the British HE sector for inspiration, so our comrades across the Channel invited us to share our insights from the picket lines. Griejte Baars from University of East London, Kyran Joughin from University of Arts London, and I were invited to speak to striking staff and students at a teach-out on "Experiences, strategies and stakes of social mobilisations in UK HE".

Our trip gave us the opportunity to witness first-hand the Paris 8’s rich history of activism and radical action. We talked about our experiences to a packed lecture theatre followed up by Q&A session which went on for over an hour. We discussed everything from balloting for the strike action, to mobilising support, to striking as a casual worker, to dogs on the picket line. The last one was particularly popular!

Following the session, we visited an occupation of a lecture theatre against sexual harassment on campus and talked to students about their involvement in the strike. It was inspiring to see the student body so engaged in the struggle and taking ownership of this fight. This was also on wonderful display throughout the campus with posters, buntings, information stalls, and graffiti on lecture theatre walls. Our generous hosts also did a collection for the UCU strike fund.

The next day we attended a round-table on "The Neoliberalisation of Academia: Franco-British Perspectives" at the Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique. This event allowed us to have a more focused discussion with colleagues on building alliances and developing a united front for the fight ahead. We talked about opening up spaces in the established platforms where problems shared by academics at different stages of their careers can be discussed and tackled. We explored the possibility of publishing an open-access special issue on our strikes and using international academic conferences to mobilise casualised and precarious workers.

The two days we spent in Paris gave us a valuable insight into the struggles of our French colleagues. We learnt that our fight is the same and therefore a mutually co-ordinated fightback would benefit all of us. The lock-down may have temporarily stopped things but once we get back, we should make sure that the channels of communication are open and the knowledge exchange continues.

“And You’re Supposed to Be the Clever Ones!” A Comment on Unsustainable Academic Workload By: Anonymous Being a University lecturer or professor conjures up images of very brainy people sat in worn leather armchairs, thinking through the biggest problems in their subject after reading enlightening articles by their colleagues so they might too write a paper to contribute to the wealth of knowledge or invent a new process or material or cure to contribute to civilisation. They may then present all this along with more broad education in the field to keen students in a lecture theatre. These images are indeed what academia should be about. Research and teaching is what makes up the contracts of all T&R academics. It was until recently seen as a very attractive job with flexible working patterns, autonomy, freedom to be creative, and impactful; training and inspiring the next generation while impacting and solving some of the biggest issues for civilisation. It was collegial, collaborative, with unpredictable peaks and troughs of work depending on research results and student numbers. Such unpredictability demanded a “give and take” culture which was par for the course. You will note the past tense. It is a long way from the attractive job outlined above. One can argue it hasn’t been like that for a very long time but the 20-odd years I have been in academia the pressures, the changes are remarkable: the job is unrecognisable from when I started. For me, the biggest issue, the driving force that is really making me consider leaving my job and the sector is workload. So what has happened over the last decade? I should caveat that I am not an economist, historian, social scientist or management expert, so the next paragraph could be nonsense academically, but from where I stand, I see something similar to what happened in the NHS. Academics really care, like NHS staff care. Our work is not as crucial as the life and death situations which NHS staff deal with, but we do feel a devotion to our students and a passion for our research that goes beyond simply work. Unpredictability, collegiality, and a give and take ethos exists in both environments. So when both become marketized and managed in a new economic way, what happens? The first thing that happens, as a result of assessing everything in terms of finances only, is cuts. Activity comes to be supported by business plans with only financial considerations. In most businesses, certain cuts would have negative impacts on business, so would be reassessed. But these impacts were not seen when they should have been in the NHS and in academia because staff could not bear to see a reduction in services. NHS staff work unpaid overtime to give desperate patients the care they require. Likewise for academia, we would not agree to a reduction in care for our students or to not pursue that research idea that is our passion. And so it transpires we are squeezed, and because of our overwhelming loyalty and devotion to colleagues and students, we work for free!! However, unlike most aspects of the new overworked NHS we also have a global competitive culture. We compete with well-resourced research professors in countries where there is less of a workload issue, and also with our colleagues here in the UK “happy” to work 14 hours a day (no exaggeration) – colleagues who do their teaching and admin/leadership by day and research by night.  I try really hard to set boundaries. I cannot rob my children of their parent during their childhood, so I end up doing most things just good enough, satisfactorily or even badly when I just don’t have time. I have to work overtime for paper writing and grants that are competitively judged and this work goes long into the night once the kids are down. But winging it is too often a necessity. It is common for me to be paralysed with long lists of job only I can apparently do, that all need doing NOW, before I teach in an hour. Finding time to eat lunch is out, I am bound to my office and my email as I need to review some potential student before a noon deadline, send some other overworked academics some metrics on me for some national body or other, review a tutee’s extenuating circumstances case NOW for the meeting happening at 1pm, write the lecture and photo copy the material that I am due to deliver in an hour, no 40 mins now. Ahh. Which do I do first? Forget lunch, forget the new exciting teaching I was going to try, hello old notes, don’t even have time to go to the loo, so here I arrive in front of a lecture of 120 students, hungry, needing a wee and unprepared. Winging it. So what does this workload look like? For an excellent account of the reality of a teaching and research staff academic workload see this excellent blog post. What I am interested in exploring here though is how we have effectively fallen between two stools. We work for free, yet in a marketized system. We need to value our own labour within the context of marketisation and we currently simply do not. A solicitor once described how they charged for their time by the hour and/or by the letter written. He snorted when he was told about some free paper reviewing we do saying “And you’re supposed to be the clever ones!!” It is basically too embarrassing to carry on these conversations with other professionals when we think of the lists and lists of things we do for free. Under the heading of professional standing and leadership we are sitting on national advisory, editorial advisory and learned society boards, as well as decision panels for interviews and research council grants etc for free. We organise and run conferences, for free. Under the heading of research, we review grants and papers all for free, most (for grants) and some (for papers) of which is wasted work that does not result in a positive outcome. Let’s look a bit closer at the latter two. We perform our research and thus write a paper. Most of us would agree this is part of what we get paid for. Then we submit the paper (which is invariably a complex and time-consuming process). Then an unpaid academic editor sends this paper to be reviewed for free by several unpaid academics. Changes are suggested and hopefully the unpaid editor accepts the paper. Frustratingly editorial changes are now more commonly made by the author (rather than a paid-production team)  and the paper is printed. This results in a bill for the author for the pleasure of publishing and/or a bill for the institution or individual that wants to read it. No money is being spent on anyone’s labour in this process. Where does all the money go? Research funding is another. We spend months formulating and crafting excellent research bids. Grant writing is rarely accounted for in workload time. So this is again mostly done for free by academics. Again unpaid academics spend time reviewing these grants and then further unpaid academics act as panel members so must read all these grants and reviews together and spend even more time sat on a panel to judge them. Success rates were at 10% for several research councils last I looked, so not only is this huge amount of labour again unpaid, 90% is fruitless! If 10 people wrote large grants, requiring 3-5 reviewers per grant resulting in a panel this would result in approximately 365 days of free academic labour[i] to give 1 person funds to do some research. So why do we do it? Why do we review grants and papers? The system we work in depends on it. If I didn’t review other people who would review my grants and papers? While most of this work is designed to be anonymous, people do not just do this work as a selfless act for the sector. There is an ulterior motive: the element of “friendly” reviewing is key in any research community, so the better your networking, the more time you can be present at conferences, “sell” your work, build relationships, review someone’s grant or paper favourably, just in time for them to review yours back, the better for theirs and your career. This has massive implications for the careers of those that don’t have this time to work for free: those with caring responsibilities, those that find it difficult to travel to conferences due to childcare or disability. It is this sort of work that gets you promoted, and lack of it, the opposite. I believe this element of unpaid work is a major contributor to the gender pay-gap. Yes, all free labour is unaccounted for on most workload models and when present, vastly underestimated. Once an academic has won a research grant (through a process demanding nearly 2 working day years of unpaid labour), many institutions do not even workload the time the academic has on the grant to perform the research! The time actually paid for by the tax-payer is not work-loaded; it is effectively stolen by the institution. This pattern of unpaid labour is seen not just in the research aspect of our job -- it is anywhere we let it happen, which is usually when we let others down (such as our colleagues and students) if we don’t do the unpaid work. For example, just for our students, this covers unpaid preparation time for lectures and pastoral care for tutees (ours and others), writing them references for summer placements, jobs, further study etc. When workload models are actually challenged with regards to all this unpaid labour we are constantly met with “well that is not financially viable” to include it all. It is “not financially sustainable”, so the result is that the system only works if we all work 70+ hour weeks? If proper work-loading is unsustainable, it is the model/system that needs fixing. To fix this system, we need to start charging for every bit of our labour. It is sad but true that the only way to count worth in this marketized world is financial. You need me to review a grant, pay my employer and give the time. Academia is simply not an attractive job anymore. The salary is not competitive, with 20% real terms reduction in recent years. The pension was seen as a big draw, but not anymore. But worse for me is losing job satisfaction. I yearn to be given the time and space to sit down and do just one aspect of my job well, to a high standard -- a standard I know I am capable of yet never have time to get anywhere near. I am sure I know creative academics with the skills and expertise that could look into these issues, if only they had the time… [i] Calculated on 1 grant taking 30 days to write, 1 review taking 1 day, and panel members spending 2-4 days on reviewing and attending the panels. Solidarity, Sheffield UCU Branch Committee

February 2020 Branch Newsletter

Published on

Dear Fellow Members, We’ve had a fantastic first two weeks of strike action, both here in Sheffield and nationally, with a number of institutions joining the strike for the first time this week after reading week. Kings College London, for example, has reported picket lines larger than 2018.  At the same time, staff in 34 Sixth Form Colleges and 16-19 academies, including Longley Park in Sheffield, represented by the NEU, have taken strike action February 11, February 27 and again on March 10th, making this a bang up week for education sector industrial action! Staff in all of our educational institutions deserve better treatment and we are making our voices heard. We’d like to send out a huge thank you to everyone who braved the cold and rain to make our pickets so energetic and visible, as well as those of you who made it out to a well-attended and quite colourful rally on Wednesday.  As it stands, we are set to return to the picket lines next week from Monday-Thursday and the following week from Monday-Friday. However, as explained below, our negotiators have been in talks with the employers representatives this week in both the pay and pensions disputes so we remain optimistic about the possibility of reaching an agreement before the end of the strike.  As a reminder, please remember that we are continuing to take action short of a strike during non-striking days, including today and next Friday. Further information on action short of a strike may be found here. As always, further information will be shared as soon as it becomes available. In the meantime, we have an exciting program of teach outs and other activities scheduled for the next weeks, as detailed below, in addition to a number of other updates.    National Negotiations  Negotiations with both UUK and UCEA re-commenced this week and are ongoing. Negotiators met with UCEA once this week on Monday and with UUK  twice, on Wednesday and today and remain optimistic. The strike action is helping to support the negotiations. In addition, there will be crucial discussions on the 2020 USS valuation on Monday morning, with USS expected to publish their plans by the end of next week. Stay tuned for further information. As always, for the latest updates, please follow our national union and negotiators on twitter and read the frequent email updates from our national union.    Local Talks  Sheffield UCU met on February 25 with the VC and Student Union reps to discuss the dispute. We are still seeking clarification on how the university responded to the employer consultation on UUK. We will be meeting with them again next week.    Strike Form and Pay Deductions  As a reminder, members should fill out the strike notification form as soon as possible after each period (weeks 1 and 2; weeks 3 and 4) of strike action. If you have not yet filled out the strike notification form for the first period of action, please do so next Friday. Strike pay from our national strike fund may be claimed once members can demonstrate that they have lost pay. The form to submit for strike pay may be found here.  As always, funds are available from our hardship fund for those who need additional assistance beyond what our national union can offer. Funds are made available on an as-needed basis. Please follow the link to submit an application. Donations to the branch hardship fund are gratefully accepted. If you would like to donate, please use the following details: Account name: UCU Sheffield 70 Hardship Fund Sort code: 60-83-01 Account number: 20391171   Respect for Members on the Picket Line We know that the vast majority of students, non-striking staff and members of the public have treated picketing members with respect. However, we are aware that this has not been true in every case. If anyone - whether a student, staff person, member of the public or university management - is disrespectful or abusive to you while you are picketing then please inform a picket supervisor or branch committee member immediately.   Schedule of Teach Outs and Other Activities, Strike Weeks 3 and 4 Please note that all events will be held in the Gallery Space of the Student Union unless otherwise noted. All events are free and open to the public.   Week 3 Monday, March 2 1-2 pm: Shahd Abusalama and Majd Abu Shawish -- Voices from Gaza 2-3 pm: Olive Rickson -- System Change, not Climate Change 3-4 pm: Elena Simon -- Climate Change and Trade Unions   Tuesday, March 3 1-2 pm: Caroline Metz -- Grève générale? Strikes, Yellow Vests and Police Violence 2-3 pm: Joerg Nowak -- Mass Strikes in Brazil and India   Wednesday, March 4 1-2 pm: Caroline Metz and Erika Conchis -- Solidarity Zine Making Session 2-3 pm: Peter Matanle -- Competing Sexisms at Work: Towards a Resolution of Gender Segregation in the Japanese Employment System 3-4 pm: Hannah Lewis: Precarity, Unionisation and 'Modern Slavery'   Thursday, March 5 1-2 pm: Joe Diviney -- Public Order Policing: from the 1980s to the Present Day 2-3 pm: Catherine McAndrew: Who Made Your Shirt?: Worker Exploitation in Global Supply Chains 3-4 pm: Natalia Mole: Decolonising the University: Beyond Reading Lists From 2-5 pm, there will be an alternate event in Food Hall (central Sheffield) on ‘The Feminist School of Architecture’ featuring interactive talks and workshops.    Week 4 Monday, March 9 1-2 pm: Johanna Blakey -- The Issues with Accent Prejudice 2-3 pm: Robbie MacPherson and Georgina Collins (Hope for the Future) -- Finding Common Ground - Negotiation Training for Climate Action 3-4 pm: SU Sustainability Committee -- Fast Fashion and the Climate Crisis LGBT students and alumni have organised an event trom 2-5 pm in the Site Gallery (central Sheffield) on Queer and Trade Union Solidarity.    Tuesday, March 10 11:15: Professional Services Post-Picket Gathering at NICE Neighbourhood (further information below) 1-2 pm: Emma Nagouse -- Boys Will Be Boys, Elders Will Be Elders": Rape Myth, Riverdale and the Bible 2-3 pm: Mary Going -- My Brother's Keeper: The Horror of Cain and Abel in Supernatural 3-4 pm: SU Sustainability Committee: Careers and the Climate Crisis   Wednesday, March 11 -- Day of Action on Prevent (further information below) 1-2 pm: Maria Wang Mei Hua and Energy Switch -- Clean Energy 2-3 pm: Dr. Daniel Kreiss -- Democracy in the Era of Technology-Intensive Politics 3-4 pm: Sheffield Sustainability Committee -- The Beef Levy and the Climate Crisis   Thursday, March 12 2-4 pm: SU Sustainability Committee -- Decolonise, Decarbonise, Democratise - Another University is possible   Friday, March 13 -- Climate Strike! We will once again be joining local students for the Climate Strike. Further information will be forthcoming.  Evening: Post-strike Party at DINA with Sheffield Hallam UCU and community supporters (further information below)   AMRC/Orgreave Picket Visit, March 5 We are taking a trip up to the AMRC on Thursday 5th March, to once again picket close to the site of the Battle of Orgreave. If you’re interested in going along and would like a lift, please contact Sian on siandianawilliams@gmail.com.  We are very grateful to campaigners from Orgreave Truth and Justice who came along for our event last week, and would encourage all of you to read about their work and support them in any way you can.   Climate Summit Planning Meeting, March 7 On March 7, a planning meeting will be held from 10:30 am - 2:30 pm in St. Mary’s Church, Bramall Lane to build for the UNCOP26 Climate Summit. Further information may be found here.     Professional Services Post-Picket Gathering, Tuesday 10 March.  If the strike continues into its fourth week, please join us for a post-picket gathering of Professional Services staff on Tuesday 10 March at Nice Neighbourhood on Glossop Road. We'll be there from about 11.15ish for coffee and a chat.    Day of Action on Prevent (March 11) and Prevent Workshop (March 30) On Wednesday 11th March, UCU branches across the country will be taking part in a Day of Action against Prevent. This will include picket line activities, teach outs and organising meetings that focus on the Prevent duty, its problems and what university workers and students can do to resist and abolish it.  At its 2015 and 2019 Congresses, UCU passed policy which objected to the Prevent duty, on the grounds that it:
  • seriously threatens academic freedom and freedom of speech
  • stifles campus activism 
  • encourages educators to spy on students 
  • is discriminatory towards Muslims, and legitimises Islamophobia and xenophobia, 
  • encourages racist views to be publicised and normalised within society
Please join us for this Day of Action! If you would like support in organising your day of action, email preventingpreventsoas@gmail.com and we can send you resources.  A workshop on ‘Preventing Prevent’ will be held on March 30. Further information to follow.   Post-Strike Party! March 13 We are also planning a strike after party in collaboration with Sheffield Hallam University and the Sheffield TUC. It will take place on the 13th of March at DINA. Watch this space for updates and if you’re musically inclined and would like to perform, please email Eda at eyazici1@sheffield.ac.uk    Report Back from Faculty of Arts and Humanities Meeting UCU members of the Faculty of Arts and Humanities met on 25th February (strike action day) in the Students’ Union building. The meeting was well-attended by both staff and students and had representatives from most departments within the Faculty, as well as the SUCU Executive.   The meeting was called by the Department of Archaeology over concerns about the unilateral decision by the Faculty to close one of its more successful undergraduate programmes (and initial threat to close all of them) and, in general, a heavily top-down approach taken by the Faculty management, which leaves very limited space for dialogue.  Although the Department of Archaeology appears to have been most severely hit by this managerial attitude, through interventions by members across the Faculty, it has become clear that the issue is not isolated, and that concern is widespread.   Worries were expressed about the well-being of staff, who often feel under-valued and under attack, but also about the effectiveness of this type of management, which does not promise to bring any long-term benefits to the Faculty.  Special concerns were raised about a current administrative review, which is placing several staff across a number of departments in a situation of great uneasiness regarding their future jobs and roles.   The main objectives of the meeting were the exchange of information and the opening of a constructive dialogue among Faculty members. There was a widespread feeling that this conversation should remain open, and that we should continue monitoring the situation, providing support to vulnerable colleagues, and elaborating joint responses when needed.   Congress Deadlines Our annual UCU Congress will be held this year from May 27-29 in Bournemouth. Please  send expressions of interest to become a Congress delegate for Sheffield UCU to ucu@sheffield.ac.uk by March 31. Further information on the Congress may be found here.    NEC Election  As a reminder, the ballot for our union’s NEC election will be closing March 4. Ballot papers must be received by that date in order to be counted. Further information on the candidates may be found here.   Report Back and Motions from Our February 27 General Meeting At the GM one of our members raised the idea of a petition to put pressure on the Vice Chancellor to do more than he has so far felt able to do in public to exert his influence over the national employers’ bodies. We think this is an excellent idea for next week and will work on putting together a draft as soon as we can. Your support in collecting signatures would be invaluable.  In addition, three motions were passed at the General Meeting. The text of these motions may be found at the bottom of the newsletter. The first motion calls for Multi-Year Bargaining to replace annual bargaining on pay. This motion will be taken to the Higher Education Sector Conference in May. The second and third motions call, respectively, for action to be taken within UCU to better respond to issues of sexual harassment and sexual violence and to investigate and implement improved accountability measures for past instances of abuse. The first of these two motions will be taken to our annual Congress in May.   Report on Sacked USS Trustee Jane Hutton  The latest development in the Jane Hutton saga raised some eyebrows on the picket lines last week. Hutton, a professor of statistics at the University of Warwick, was a representative of UCU on the board of our pension scheme USS, until she was suspended last summer and then sacked last autumn. In the intervening time, there had been some concern about why this had happened. USS had commissioned a report at some expense from the law firm Slaughter and May to justify her removal, but that report has controversially remained confidential. However, last week, the summary of the report was leaked [https://academicfreedom.watch/node/51]. It is not long, and makes interesting reading. Among other things, we learn that "Prof. Hutton held a belief that she was appointed to the Board to... act as a statistician which led her to... apply herself meticulously". We learn also that, amidst a major crisis in our £60 billion scheme, that USS felt that her requests for information were "disproportionate", and caused "a significant amount of... time and fees... to be incurred". It is understood that Hutton has called a tribunal, claiming unfair dismissal.   Israeli Apartheid Week The student Palestine Societies from the University of Sheffield and Sheffield Hallam University are planning an exciting program of events for this year’s Israeli Apartheid Week (beginning March 16). The opening event features Lowkey and tickets can be booked at this link.     1. Multi-year pay bargaining motion Conference notes:
  • The major successes of our Four Fights campaign in bringing together issues of pay and equality, and crossing the anti-union threshold in many branches
  • That, nevertheless, staff in HE have seen over a decade’s decline in real-term pay
  • That timelines for annual pay negotiations mean that these almost inevitably extend into the next bargaining round, potentially limiting options and leverage
Conference believes:
  • That there is a continued need to demand better pay and conditions and confront inequalities through UK-wide negotiations
  • That a medium-term strategy would allow for improved flexibility in our negotiating and bargaining response
Conference resolves:
  • that UCU should actively explore options around multi-year bargaining with the other New JNCHES trade unions, in advance of the 2021-22 bargaining round. 
  • That the baseline negotiating position should include sustained above-inflation pay rises and concrete benchmarks for addressing pay inequalities, workload and casualisation on a UK-wide basis
  2. Branch Motion: #Metoo Truth and Reconciliation   Congress notes:
  • The importance of the #metoo movement globally in redressing gender inequality; 
  • Sexual harassment and sexual violence occur in progressive organisations, including trade unions such as our own;
  • Rape culture is enabled by institutions and structures that harbour perpetrators and create an environment hostile to survivors.
Conference believes:
  • There is an urgent need to address this issue within our union, our universities and the society more generally.
  • The misuse of confidential processes can shield perpetrators from scrutiny, further traumatise survivors and enable further abuse to take place.
Conference resolves: To support an independent third-party expert review of existing policies, practices and procedures in the union in order to: a) Improve structures for reporting; b) Improve support for survivors; c) Facilitate investigation of past practice to ensure a supportive environment for survivors; d) Consider what measures should be implemented to ensure that the union is accountable to its membership.    3. Member Motion: #Metoo Truth and Reconciliation   Conference notes:
  •       The importance of the #metoo movement globally in redressing gender inequality.
  •       Troubling cases of sexual harassment and sexual violence within the union, including cases of union leaders as perpetrators.
  •       Rape culture is enabled not just by perpetrators but by the individuals, institutions and structures that harbor them and create a hostile environment for survivors and enforce silence.
Conference believes:
  •       There is an urgent need to address this within our union, within our universities and within the society more generally, bringing these issues into the open.
Conference resolves:
  •       To support an independent third party expert review of existing policies, practices and procedures in the union in order to improve structures for reporting; improve support for survivors; end the use of gag orders of survivors by the union and employers; and facilitate investigation and accountability with respect to the hostile environment created for those who disclose abuse.
 

Great first week of action!

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Dear SUCU members,

An amazing day two of the action today! Our pickets have been solid and strong despite inclement weather on both days so far, and we were very grateful for support from local MP Olivia Blake today! If you saw the General Secretary’s email yesterday you’ll have seen that she is confident that if we can keep this up, we’ll see a shift in the employers’ position.

This week was half term and we were glad to welcome some very young picketers to Jessop West. We’d love to see as many dogs as you have available at the picket on Monday!

Our teachouts continue strong, and we have a great line up of talks next week! On Tuesday we’re hosting a screening of the film The Battle For Orgreave with activists from the Orgreave Truth and Justice Campaign. Register to reserve your space here! On Wednesday, we will be rallying after pickets on Wednesday at 12.30pm after Firth Court. Also on Wednesday, we are going to have picketers on every single building --talk to people in your work areas about making Wednesday a huge action!

You may have seen some of the media coverage of the strike yesterday – the General Secretary on Radio 4’s Today programme, the segment on Channel 4 news, and branch VP and national pay negotiator Robyn Orfitelli on BBC Look North.

We are meeting the Vice Chancellor with representatives from the Students’ Union again on Tuesday 26th February. We’d like your feedback on anything you think we should be raising at that meeting. We’re glad that all parties are continue to work together constructively at this point, but at the same time we want all UCU members to be asking tough questions of their leaders right now. It’s completely unacceptable that the employers are reluctant to move at speed here – the disruption that is currently being caused is on their conscience, and we need to apply as much pressure as we can.

Please take the weekend to rest and recharge and we look forward to seeing you again on the pickets on Monday morning. As ever, if you have questions, concerns, or feedback, please get in touch.

All best wishes,

SUCU Committee

January 2020 Newsletter

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Welcome to our first monthly newsletter of 2020! In this edition, you can find information on our on-going disputes, recent and upcoming local and national union meetings and events and much more.   Updates on Industrial Action and Bargaining  This week, our on-going disputes on pay and pensions got a big boost from the news that an additional 14 branches can now join in industrial action after re-balloting their members. The union’s Higher Education Committee (HEC) met yesterday to make a decision on whether - and when - further action in the disputes will take place. Motions forwarded by our branch (see below) on the disputes from our January meeting were conveyed to the HEC in advance. We will be sending out information on the decisions made by the HEC early next week.  As a reminder, we are still undertaking Action Short of Strike (ASOS). External examiners have been submitting their resignations -- further information on resigning as an external examiner can be found here. In addition, we recommend that members decline to take part in work activities outside of their normal contracted days, including Saturday Open Days, and to withdraw any such offer already made, unless explicitly written into their contracts. General guidance on declining voluntary work is available here. Please come to the meeting on February 13 (information below) to learn more about taking action short of a strike or contact the branch in the meantime with any pressing questions not covered in the previous link.  In terms of the USS dispute, there is a huge amount of activity going on currently, with mediated discussions involving UCU, UUK and USS considering the Joint Expert Panel's recommendations alongside frequent meetings between UCU and UUK's negotiators. Detailed discussions on the 2020 valuation will begin in February, and offer the chance of finding a valuation approach which we can believe in. The big question is whether employers will make the moves needed to avert potential strike action this spring by offering to pay the unjustified contribution increases and give us reassurance over the future of the scheme. Detailed information on the on-going pay negotiations can be found in the emails sent by the General Secretary and pay negotiators earlier this week in response to the latest offer by the employers.      Branch Positions on Industrial Disputes from January Meeting  At a standing-room only Sheffield UCU general meeting on Thursday 23 Jan, members voted to support three motions related to our industrial disputes.  The first motion called for continued coordination of our pay and pensions disputes. The second motion calls on national negotiators "to prioritise the claims relating to casualisation, gender and race pay gap, and workload, and in relation to pay, the claims of staff employed on contracts at grade 8 and below", and on the HEC to "put any deal that represents significant progress on these areas of priority to a members' ballot". The third motion calls for a plan to be put into place in the eventuality that substantial progress is made in one of the two disputes but not in the other, allowing time for any offer to be put to members and for consultation with members on progressing the other dispute.     Reminder on Strike Deductions, Strike Pay and Donating to the Hardship Fund As a reminder, deductions for last year’s industrial action will be taken from our January and February paychecks. Once pay has been deducted, you may apply to the national union for strike pay. Members earning £30,000 or more will be able to claim up to £50 from the third day onwards, while members earning below £30,000 will be able to claim up to £75 per day from the second day onwards. Application to the fund is via the online form: https://ucu.custhelp.com/app/fighting_fund/ In addition, 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 may apply for additional support from the SUCU Hardship Fund. 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.  The SUCU Hardship Fund is made up of solidarity donations and branch funds. We ask members who had 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.     Lunchtime Training on Member Recruitment, Involvement and Support This semester, we will be running a two-part lunchtime training course, open to all members, on union involvement, organisation and campaigns. The aim of the training is to help members become active in the union and navigate how the union works nationally and locally. The first part of the training, on “Member Recruitment, Involvement & Support”, will be held next week, on Monday 3 February and Wednesday 5 February from, 12-1pm in Hicks F35. Please note that the same material will be delivered both days so if you would like to join Part 1 of the training either on 3 February or 5 February, please contact Caroline (c.j.metz@sheffield.ac.uk) or Eda (eyazici1@sheffield.ac.uk) and feel free to bring along your lunches. The second half of the training will focus on “Organising & campaigning” and will run in March. You will not need to have completed Part 1 in order to attend Part 2, but we advise that you make the most of this opportunity!   Meeting for Professional Services Members Professional Services members of Sheffield UCU have been meeting since before the November/ December strike to discuss issues that specifically pertain to their work areas across the University.  These meetings have proved to be supportive spaces where members can air concerns and gather views. The last meeting, held in January particularly focused on ASOS and members found it really useful to hear how our ongoing industrial action is working in different areas of the University and to discuss individual worries and queries about this phase of our dispute.  Members have been sent a link to our Google Survey where you can give us your opinion on how these meetings are working for you, and your ideas on their future. We want to make them worth attending and useful, so if you haven't done so already, please tell us what you think.  Our next meeting is on 11 February, 1-2pm in the John Pemberton Lecture Theatre B in Regent Court where we'll be able to discuss some of the initial ideas from the survey and also talk about a motion to take to the March meeting of the UCU Academic-Related and Professional Services meeting. Please do join us.      All-Member Meeting on Action Short of a Strike  On Thursday 13th February, from 1-2 pm in Hicks Lecture Theatre 7, we're holding an all-member meeting to discuss action short of a strike. We have been taking ASOS since November 25th 2019 and the committee have received a large number of enquiries from members about what that actually looks like and how we can maximise the effectiveness  of this action. Please come along to talk this through with other members, and please encourage people in your department or work area to come along as well.      10 Month Contract Survey We are hoping to gather member testimonies on the use of ten month contracts for use in our ongoing negotiations with university management to try to improve the terms of employment of our members. If you are, or have been, employed on these types of contracts, or are aware of their use in your department or elsewhere in the university, please fill in our survey.     Holocaust Memorial Day Many thanks to everyone who participated in our Holocaust Memorial Day event on January 30. UCU has put together a webpage of resources for HMD which can be accessed here.     Report Back on Academic Career Pathways (ACP) Action Group Meeting Thanks to everyone who came to our packed Action Group last week on the Academic Career Pathways (ACP). The meeting was standing room only, and the strength of feeling across the University on this issue was clear both from the numbers who attended and from the force of the questions and comments that were put to the representatives of HR. HR is now conducting a review of the first year of implementation of the ACP framework. SUCU has been asked to feed into the review, so we will be soliciting further feedback from members to inform our response: please watch out for further emails on this soon!     UCU Equality Research Conference A one-day conference for academics, researchers and activists conducting research on equality focusing on the areas of Data Casualisation and LGBT+ Mental Health Friday will be held on May 15th 2020, 10am – 4pm in Manchester. Further information and the call for papers can be found here.     Annual Meeting of Staff on Casualised Contracts A one-day meeting open to all members who are on casualised contracts (including GTAs, casual workers, and fixed-term contracts of any description) will be held on February 29 2020, 10am-4pm in London. The registration deadline is 14 February at 5pm.  Deadlines for nominations and submission of motions are available here.      Migrant Members’ Annual Conference, Thursday 27 February The inaugural migrant members' annual conference will be held on Thursday 27 February from 10:30 - 16:00 in London. The meeting  is open to all members who identify as migrants. The registration deadline is Thursday 13 February. Deadlines for nominations to the new migrant members' committee and submission of motions to the conference are available here.      Indian Universities Solidarity Statement At our general meeting on January 23, members expressed solidarity with universities and other protest sites in India currently experiencing serious attacks and violent repression by the state. A statement on the situation in India was shared at the meeting by a member and is available here.     Nita Sanghera  Sheffield UCU was so sorry to hear of the passing of Nita Sanghera, UCU's President-Elect. Nita was an inspiration to so many of us and a superb activist. We're thankful for her work and send our love and condolences to her family. Donations in her name may be made to John Taylor Hospice.    

December 2019 Newsletter

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Thank you for Your Participation! Many thanks to everyone who participated in this year’s strike action. The tremendous participation on our picket lines, at our rallies, in our teach-outs, at our emergency general meetings and at our end of strike party shows the strength of feeling among the membership on key issues of employment. We are grateful for the support shown by students and staff beyond UCU and in the broader trade union movement. Together, we sent a strong message to UUK, UCEA and our university administration that we are unwilling to accept continued erosion of our pay and working conditions and increased contributions to our pension plan. Thirty-six additional institutions around the country that were unable to meet the participation threshold in the original pay and/or pensions ballots are now re-balloting for industrial action. This is certain to increase pressure on employer representatives to make meaningful concessions at the bargaining table. However, if sufficient concessions are not forthcoming, UCU may call for a renewed round of industrial action in the new year with a larger number of institutions participating.   Pay Deductions and ASOS The Vice-Chancellor has agreed that no pay from our eight day strike will be deducted in December, and that for all members, the deductions will be split between January and February and used for the benefit of students, who will be directly involved in the allocation of funds. Action short of a strike (ASOS) began on Thursday, December 5th. ASOS is a crucial component of our industrial action strategy. Our dispute is still live and ASOS enables us to make this visible beyond the strike, keeping the pressure on key decision makers in our universities and their national representatives in bargaining. In addition, working to contract is a powerful way to highlight the workload component of our pay claim by demonstrating just how much the sector depends on its workforce to work beyond our contracts on a regular basis, creating unmanageable workloads for so many of us. Members are asked to refuse to undertake voluntary work, not cover for absent colleagues, not reschedule lectures or classes cancelled due to strike action and to work to contract. The union is not currently calling for a marking boycott but may choose to do so as a possible escalation of the disputes in the coming months. More detailed guidance on ASOS may be found in the national industrial action FAQs (see questions 4-10, and 15), the national UCU information on working to contract, and the national UCU guidance on 'action short of strike' for academic-related and professional services staff (please note that this page includes guidance on a marking boycott, which is not as yet actioned). There is also ASOS advice on pp. 3-5 of our local SUCU guidance for members, as well as a template email auto-response for the ASOS period on p. 8. If you have specific questions about how to implement ASOS in your role or department, please contact the branch. University management have clarified that they do not intend to seek deductions for ASOS. They have indicated that they will be monitoring the progress of the dispute, and that if at any point in the future they change their position on ASOS deductions, they will be in communication with staff in advance. However, we would like to emphasise that we are not aware of any deductions being made for action short of a strike for any of our members in recent memory.   Updates on Bargaining On Tuesday, UCU negotiators met with UCEA, the employer-side organization that negotiates in our pay dispute, for the second time since the start of our strike action. They reported that our mandate for action is (slowly but steadily) moving the employers in a positive direction. Previously, UCEA has refused to engage with workload, casualisation, and equalities pay gaps on a sector wide level. In the most recent meeting, they began to discuss the type of framework that might be possible on a sector wide level for these issues. There remains a lot of work to do to ensure that any such 'frameworks' would have enough weight behind them to bring about real, substantive change, but this represents a significant shift in discussion. On pay, UCEA has previously claimed to have “no mandate” for alternation to their headline pay offer of 1.8%. After a decade of pay erosion, this represents an untenable and irresponsible position. We know that this erosion is the result of strategic choices being made by our employers, and the health of the sector demands they reverse it by shifting their priorities away from capital expenditure and overseas campuses, and towards staff and students. At the end of Tuesday's meeting, UCEA agreed to re-consult their member institutions regarding what movement they might be able to make in this area. As for the USS dispute, the publication of the Joint Expert Panel's report last week is expected to give new impetus to the talks. The report makes a number of substantial recommendations for change, and states that "a failure to take forward the recommendations in this report would mark a failure for members, employers and the sector".  We're expecting facilitated discussions on how to implement the recommendations to be the likely next step in the new year. It is important to note that the resolve of members in the strike action has significantly changed the dynamics of bargaining and progress is being made. The central issue remains the employers’ attempt to increase our contribution rate above 8%.  Employers continue to maintain that it is unaffordable for them to pick up the costs to keep this rate down, but the recent release of healthy financial results from many institutions (including Sheffield), in addition to the fact that post-92 institutions are already paying a higher rate, does not bear this out. Negotiators have also been pressing matters relating to the very serious problems concerning governance of the pensions scheme. Universities UK have attempted in recent meetings to hide behind a "lack of a mandate" from VCs to resolve the dispute. For that reason, it is imperative that we increase the pressure on VCs to force UUK to concede ground. While Koen Lamberts has assured SUCU that he will continue to do everything he can to try to resolve the disputes, we need to see not just words but action in this regard.   Requesting Money from -- and Donating to -- the Hardship Fund To help mitigate financial hardship from the strike, there are two sources of support: UCU’s national Fighting Fund and the local SUCU Hardship Fund. The national fund provides strike pay of up to £75/day for those earning under £30kpa, and £50/day for those earning more. You can apply once you have lost pay here. The SUCU Hardship Fund is for members who have been 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. We are encouraging members to apply in the first instance to the national UCU Fighting Fund, as UCU has vastly greater resources nationally than we do locally. However, we recognise that the national Fighting Fund may still leave individuals in hardship, and our local SUCU Hardship Fund can then assist. Application to the fund is via the online form. We are also appealing for donations to the fund from members and friends of SUCU, and particularly from those unable to take part in industrial action. Please send donations to: account name: UCU Sheffield 70 Hardship Fund; sort code: 60-83-01; account number: 20391171.   Calling Professional Services Colleagues - We've Started Regular PS Member Meetings If you're feeling a bit isolated and/or want to discuss issues you're facing as a Professional Services member of staff taking strike action or ASOS (or anything else) come and join colleagues at regular meetings, meet UCU PS members from across the University and build our community. So far there have been two gatherings, one pre- and one post-strike, each attended by at least one member of our branch committee. Members raised a number of issues, including the inclusivity of strike action and picket lines, the impact of pickets on students, particularly those considered vulnerable and needing to access services, being the only UCU member in a department and the challenges of working with colleagues from other unions. They have been constructive meetings with a supportive atmosphere and those who have attended already (c. 40 members to each meeting) have found them useful. The hope is that they will support Professional Services staff to build networks across the University. Our next meeting will be on Tuesday, January 14 from 12:00-1:00 in Richard Roberts B79. Please join us if you can and bring along PS colleagues who aren't in UCU if they're keen to find out more about it. Tea and coffee will be available and do feel free to bring and eat your lunch.   ACP Promotion Appeals and Action Group Our January 22 action group meeting will focus on academic career pathways. HR representatives from the university will be in attendance so that members can discuss with them directly any concerns or suggestions on the new framework and their experiences of applying for promotion (or not) this year. The meeting will be held in Hicks F41 from 1:00-2:00 pm. All members are welcome to attend. For those of you who took part in the first year of promotions round under the new academic careers pathways and were unsuccessful and unsatisfied with the decision, please note we have negotiated an extension to the deadline for lodging an intent to appeal. Previously, the deadline disadvantaged those taking strike action. The new deadline is 10am on 24 December. Those wishing to appeal will be asked in January to submit supporting documentation. Please visit the following link for further information: https://www.sheffield.ac.uk/hr/thedeal/arr#tab01 If you are not sure if you are eligible to appeal but would like to, please lodge an intent to appeal anyway. Your appeal can always be withdrawn but you cannot join the process at a later stage if you have not lodged your intent to appeal before the deadline.   REF Special Cases Panel Deadlines for the Research Excellence Framework 2020 are approaching, and internally that means that decisions are being made on who to return, what outputs to include, and so on. As part of the REF Code of Practice, Sheffield has developed a process for people to disclose any equality-related circumstances that may mean they are entitled to reductions in outputs, as outlined here. Reasons for these may be family-related leave, illness, disability, caring responsibilities and more. UCU is represented on the committee assessing these applications through our branch E&D officer Mark Pendleton. All disclosures are confidential and used only for the purpose of considering REF outputs. At this stage there are not a large number of applications, so we do have some concerns that not all eligible members have submitted such requests. The final deadline for doing so is 17 January. Should you have any concerns or questions about the process, please contact the branch at ucu@sheffield.ac.uk.   Widening Participation and Fair Pay Like every other university in the country, Sheffield has an obligation to carry out widening participation ("WP") activities in its local area: activities intended to improve the attainment and inform the higher education decisions of students from demographics which are under-represented at university. These activities are carried out by a wide range of academic and professional services staff, both inside departments and more centrally. Just as with many of the rest of the university's activities, these activities have been associated with increasing managerialist pressure upon staff in recent years. Some of the usual pressures simply take the form of a drive towards more detailed reporting. This is originally of governmental origin, and may perhaps be well-intentioned, though its burden on staff has not been analysed. Some of it is of a less welcome kind: a pressure to realign the goals of widening participation with the goals of admissions: from simply providing sales pitches for the University of Sheffield at WP events, to full-scale mergers of admissions activities with reportable WP activities. This is a clear reflection of neoliberal ideology: many staff feel that engagement with the local community is a worthwhile end in itself, but, in the neoliberal university, the only engagement that matters is that which increases the university's income. Over the past few months, however, Sheffield UCU has been faced with an unexpected challenge: word got about in several departments that there was an attempt afoot to fix the rates of pay for students delivering subject-specific WP sessions to grades 2 and 3 (depending on whether the session had been designed by the person giving it, or not). In many departments, these had habitually been given by experienced PhD students. Such students, of course, will be paid at grades 6 or 7 for their teaching of undergraduates. It is true that school students are less advanced than undergraduates, but, by their very nature, WP sessions require mentions of university-level topics, and presenting advanced topics in an elementary way is indisputably a skilled job. After pressure from SUCU, university management relented: PhD students will be paid more appropriately for this work, at grade 6, in future. This particular story has a happy ending, but it does serve to reflect how willing some managers are to undervalue their own business of learning and teaching, if there is money to be saved by doing so.   Report back from Equalities Group Conference This year's annual UCU Equality Groups conference was held in Birmingham between 21-23 November. The conference consisted of separate meetings for disabled, black, women and LGBT+ members across the three days, with a joint plenary on the morning of Friday, 22 November. The plenary session heard from our General Secretary Jo Grady, who outlined several priority areas for the equality work of the union over the coming year - continuing to confront sexual harassment in universities and colleges; developing and embedding the new migrant members representative structures to combat the Hostile Environment; and resourcing branches to better understand both the law and union policy and support transgender and non-binary members. Other speakers in this session were the Windrush campaigner Michael Braithwaite; NUS President Zamzam Ibrahim and trans advocate Sam Heyes. We also had a briefing from UCU bargaining and negotiating official Jenny Lennox, who led a session on strategies to address pay gaps. Our branch was well represented by Themesa Neckles, Jess Meacham, Robyn Orfitelli and Mark Pendleton. We will continue to grow our involvement with the UCU equality structures in the coming year, with Themesa continuing her term on the Disabled Members Committee; Mark being elected to the LGBT+ committee for a two-year term and, since the conference, Robyn being elected as one of two National Executive Committee spots for migrant members. Robyn will work with the equality officials and her fellow NEC migrant rep Dima Chami (Leeds) to create the migrant representative structures, initially through a stand-alone migrant members conference early in 2020. Stay tuned for details of how you can be involved in that. Any questions about this, or other equality and diversity matters, contact branch E&D officer Mark Pendleton at m.pendleton@sheffield.ac.uk.   Report back from USS Conference Friday saw four delegates from Sheffield UCU attend a special sector conference on the USS dispute, which was called as a result of a motion to this summer's Congress "to review the position and consider all actions available to UCU to defend USS". We're pleased that all motions and amendments put to the conference by Sheffield UCU were passed. The practical outcomes from that conference will be communicated to members by head office as soon as it's possible to do so, but you can see the motions debated and the publicly available outcomes here.   Report Back from Democracy Commission Congress On Saturday 7th December the Special Congress to consider the recommendations of the Democracy Commission was held in Manchester. It was a lively day of discussion, and our delegates regret that much of the business wasn't taken due to lack of time. You can view a full list of what was heard, what fell and what carried here. We are pleased that some changes to the union's structures have been achieved via the Democracy Commission, and we hope to continue to work on this both within the branch and nationally over the coming months and years. We know that members are interested in this work, and interested in improving our representational structures at local levels, so please do get in touch with us if you'd like to discuss this further and look out for future meetings on work in this area.   Climate Organising  Thanks to all our members who supported the Youth Strike 4 Climate again and helped out in organising, banner making and stewarding! It is now more important than ever that we organise on campus and beyond for effective climate action and bring students and staff together. A first step in that direction took place during our climate teach-out during the strike, from which four campaigns emerged: education for sustainable development; transport and flying; UoS clean energy switch; and food/waste. If you want to get involved in any of these, please get in touch with branch committee member Elena Simon and watch out for Energy Switch's workshop in January and a teaching week on climate in February 2020. Another thing you can do is to participate in the consultation process for the University’s sustainability strategy. The publication of the strategy has been delayed until April which gives everyone the chance to build it and make it as ambitious as needed.   Confucius Institute Motion A member brought a motion to the November branch meeting expressing concerns about possible conflicts of interest between the academic mission of the University and the contract the University has with the Confucius Institute. This was a response to press reports in Australia where the Institute's practices were simply accepted by certain Australian Universities, with implications for academic integrity and freedom. The motion requires SUCU to ask for a copy of the agreement between the Confucius Institute and the University of Sheffield in order to reassure members this does not contradict the University's principles of academic freedom. The motion was passed nem com.   Chile Motion A member brought a motion to the November branch meeting in solidarity with the on-going protest movement in Chile against the continuation nearly thirty years later of hardline neoliberal reforms instituted during the Pinochet dictatorship which have produced skyrocketing levels of inequality. The motion additionally condemned the on-going violence perpetrated by the government against protesters. Academic members of the union are asked to add their names to a global sign-on letter available here. In addition, the motion committed the branch to support and promote solidarity activities and events; send a letter of protest to the Chilean government; and make links with universities in Chile in support of academics and students calling for a new constitution and the end of political repression.   Solidarity with Workers and Students in India Sheffield UCU committee expresses solidarity with workers & students in Indian universities facing serious attacks and violent repression by the Indian state. We join the 10,000+ signatories of a letter condemning in the strongest possible terms the police brutality in Jamia Millia Islamia University, New Delhi, and the ongoing illegal siege and curfew imposed on Jamia Millia Islamia and Aligarh Muslim Universities. With them, we affirm the right of citizens to peaceful protest and the autonomy of the university as a non-militarized space for freedom of thought and expression. The brutalization of students and the attack on universities is against the fundamental norms of a democratic society. We call on UK university workers to recognize the dangers of the Citizen Amendment Act (CAA) introduced by the Hindu-nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) on 12 Dec and to protest accordingly. The Act offers a path to citizenship for Hindu, Jain, Sikh, Parsi, and Christian refugees but not to Muslims. Combined with BJP’s promise to enact a National Register of Citizens across India (a citizenship audit) NRC, this will in effect force Indian Muslims to 'prove' their citizenship.  Such a move would dwarf the Windrush scandal in the UK and will affect millions of Indians. We also convey solidarity with JNU lecturers fighting for accessible education for all #UCUStrikesBack #JNU and with Delhi University teachers on strike against casualization #DUTAIndefiniteStrike #UCUStrikesBack.   New Committee Member Elena Simon has been co-opted to the branch committee as an ordinary member. She has played an active role in UCU’s climate strike organising committee.   Holocaust Memorial Day 2020 In honor of this January’s Holocaust Memorial Day, Sheffield UCU will be hosting a talk by Professor Brian Klug from Oxford University on understanding antisemitism today.