April Branch News

April Branch News

The NSS looks set to miss its target, pay continues to erode and who knows about pensions?

With just a few days to do until the National Student Survey closes, it is very likely that the University of Sheffield will fall short of the 50% response rate at which its results will be published. This is due to the high-profile boycott being run by the National Union of Students which has the support of UCU nationally and locally. The boycott was motivated by the linking of fee-rises to the Teaching Excellence Framework metrics and almost certainly played a part in the House of Lords’ rejection of this aspect of the Higher Education Bill. The bill was rushed through the system yesterday to make way for a general election, and while there have been some concessions by the government, it still contains much that is malign.

The annual negotiations on pay have reached an impasse, with the headline offer on the pay spine equivalent to a massive 1.3% pay cut in real terms compared to RPI. There was an agreement for further joint work on the gender pay gap, but nothing further on casualisation, and an outright refusal to engage in negotiations on workloads and stress. The scale of the wage erosion is now such that starting lecturer salaries are lower in real terms than they were in 1999 and, when factoring in last year’s downgrade to the USS pension scheme, it becomes clear that the power balance in higher education remuneration is far from healthy.

The triennial valuation of the USS pension fund should appear soon. While the same calculations as in 2014 would produce another large deficit, there are signs that the arguments made by UCU and its actuaries last time are starting to bite. In Sheffield, a joint working group was established to firm up the institutional view of the area, and we were pleased to find fairly closely aligned priorities. It is hard to know what the outcome of all this will be, but the worst case could be another attempt to downgrade the pension scheme; such an attempt would need a robust response from members.

The work of the university’s Strategy Delivery Group continues, with the recommendations from major reviews imminent. We encourage all members to take part in the numerous consultation events that are occurring, as it is important that staff voices are heard. Sheffield UCU will have a role in ensuring that agreed procedures are followed in any restructuring that results from the reviews, and we will do our best to support members collectively as best we can.

Along with our sister campus unions, UNISON and Unite, we will be holding a drop-in event on Tuesday 16 May for non-members interested in knowing more about trade unions, what they’re for and their role in change management processes (details below). Please do encourage colleagues who are interested to attend.

Finally, our Annual General Meeting is approaching, and there is still time to volunteer to be on the branch committee (see below). With a lot of uncertainty at the university, it is important that the local union provides the collective voice and support that it is here to give. Any part you can play in ensuring this happens will be appreciated by members.

Sheffield UCU Committee

Introduction to trade unions for non-members (drop-in)

Please encourage those who show an interest in joining a trade union to come to our drop in session, held jointly with UNISON and Unite. We will outline what trade unions do, discuss how we make sure the university follows proper procedures in change management and answer questions from the floor.

  • Introduction to trade unions (drop-in), Tue 16 May, 13:00-14:00, Arts Tower LT7

Sheffield UCU Annual General Meeting

Our Annual General Meeting takes place on Thursday 8 June, 1-2pm, Council Room, Firth Court. Part of the business is to elect members to the committee for the next academic year, and we very much encourage people to put themselves forward for positions. Current committee members would be happy to discuss the roles and what being on the committee would mean.

The roles which currently make up the committee are: President, Senior Vice President, Vice President, Branch Secretary, Education Officer, Equalities & Diversity Officer, Health & Safety Officer, Treasurer, Pensions Officer, Membership Secretary, Communications Officer, and Anti-casualisation Officer. Additionally, we have 6 positions on the committee which can be held without taking a specific role.

To put yourself forward, you need to be nominated by two fellow UCU members, and contested positions will be put to the vote at the AGM in June. The deadline for nominations is Thurs 11th May.

We Stand with CEU!

Our March branch meeting voted unanimously in favour of a motion in support of the Central European University in Budapest, whose existence is under threat from a law passed by the Hungarian government. The move is seen by many as an attack on academic freedom, and has been condemned by over 650 universities and academic organizations worldwide. We will be writing to our Vice Chancellor to ask if Sheffield will join the list. In the meantime, you can show your support with the hashtag #IstandWithCEU.

Support for EU staff

We were pleased to see the university has committed to paying the fee for permanent residency applications for its staff from EU countries, backdated to the EU referendum of last year. The university are also offering free specialist legal advice for such staff. To enquire about either, email eu@sheffield.ac.uk.

TUC survey of LGBT+ staff

Are you LGBT+? Are you currently working or have worked in the last 5 years? The TUC would like to hear from you.

The TUC are launching a UK wide survey for all LGBT+ workers, whether you are in a trade union or not. They want to understand your experiences of work – good and bad. Have your say today by completing the survey.

Do you employ student ambassadors as casual staff?

If you engage any student ambassadors as casuals, the pay rate has changed for those on Grade 1 since 1 April 2017 due to the removal of point 1.1 on the pay spine.

  • Any work completed up to and including 31 March 2017 – £8.09 (Grade 1.1)
  • Any work completed since 1 April 2017 – £8.25 (Grade 1.2)

Please make sure all those you employ are properly paid!

Dates for the diary

  • Wed 24 May, 13:00-14:00, Action Group (theme tbc)
  • Thu 8 June, 13:00-14:00, Annual General Meeting, Council Room, Firth Court