April Branch News

Look out for the new edition of our printed bulletin, which will arrive in your mailbox soon!

April Branch News

Have your say in the pay ballot, tell us what you think about university parking, and consider coming to our Action Group.

The annual negotiations on pay are heading for a deadlock, with an offer of 1% on the pay spine and no firm action on the gender pay gap and heavy use of casual contracts falling way short of the joint unions’ demands. UCU is balloting its members over strike action, with a recommendation to vote in favour. It is highly unlikely that action short of a strike alone will be enough to win the dispute, so we reiterate that a vote for ASOS should be accompanied by a vote for strike action. If voted for, the action is likely to start on 23 May, the beginning of our exam period. Make sure you post your ballot by Friday to ensure it arrives on time!

In a related matter, if you look at your recent payslip you’ll find two changes which will have hit your take-home pay: both NI and pension contributions have gone up. The first hit is to do with a change in government policy related to the state second pension, and the second a result of the downgrading of the USS pension scheme, which could be summarised as ‘getting less for more’. The overall effect depends on how much you earn, but it is likely to be in the region of a 1.5-3% pay cut. Bear this in mind when looking at this year’s pay offer.

Recent changes to the university’s car parking policy have seen increases in fees, and extensions to the controlled hours in places. We have sent out a survey to seek opinions on the university’s decisions. Please do respond to the survey if you can, as we are interested to hear your views.

We presented a list of questions to management on the university’s recent activities in the outsourcing, spinning-off and setting up of subsidiary companies. Some of our concerns were discussed at a recent Joint Unions Campus Committee meeting, but we will push for full written answers. Recently, Occupational Health joined Staff Counseling in being outsourced to a third-party provider. We need convincing that this is in the interests of staff and the wider university.

We had a lively discussion on the subject of lecture capture at our April general meeting, with numerous concerns raised over the implications of it being rolled out across the university. We will be raising this issue locally to try to ensure any university policy protects the rights of staff, and are also pushing for UCU to develop a clear policy on this nationally.

As discussed in recent general meetings and mentioned in our last Branch News, a Gold Paper written as an alternative to the government’s Green Paper and forthcoming White Paper has been produced by Goldsmiths UCU. The paper is an alternative vision for the future of higher education, some specific to the institution where it was written, some more general. You can find it at https://goldsmithsucu.wordpress.com/the-gold-paper/.

Finally, Tuesday 17 May sees the launch of our new Action Group, which will be an informal monthly meeting for members to get involved in discussing fun ways to raise the profile of campaigns happening both locally and nationally. Our launch event will feature a light sandwich lunch, so please do come along!

Action Group Launch

Please do come to our first Action Group meeting, which will be an ideas-generating meeting to help raise the profile of local and national campaigns. Based on a model used at Leeds, we hope this will result in more visibility for the union. As an example, Leeds UCU recently sent a valentine’s day card to their Vice Chancellor with the message ‘Roses are red, Violets are blue, Support a fair pay rise, And we will love you!’ signed by UCU members (http://bit.ly/1YVbWQa). Please do come along!

Action Group Launch

Tuesday 17 May

1-2pm, Octagon Council Chamber

Committee Positions

Nominations are open for positions on the Sheffield UCU committee for the next academic year, and we very much encourage people to put themselves forward for posts. You need nominating by two fellow UCU members, and contested positions will be put to the vote at the AGM in June. You can find the nomination form here: http://bit.ly/1NWSwoa. Please do ask us about what is involved at ucu@shef.ac.uk.

Committee positions: President, Vice President, Branch Secretary, Education Officer (currently vacant), Equalities and Diversity Officer, Health and Safety Officer, Treasurer, Pensions Officer, Membership Secretary, Communications Officer, Anti-casualisation Officer. Additionally, we have 6 positions on the committee which can be held without taking a specific role.

Staff Survey

Please do follow the university’s request to complete the Staff Survey. It’s important to cover both positives and negatives and that you do voice any concerns, even if you have already raised them through the union (e.g. workload, stress at work, inappropriate use of PIPs, bullying and harassment, working conditions and environment, insecure contracts, use of targets and metrics).

Solidarity with Academics for Peace in Turkey – sign the petition

In January, over 1400 academics (including over 1100 working in Turkish universities) signed an open letter in which they criticised the Turkish government’s ‘deliberate and planned massacre’ of its Kurdish population, calling for a road map to peace. The response has been to accuse these academics of supporting terrorism, and signatories have come under sustained persecution including investigations, arrests, interrogations, suspensions and termination of positions. Sign the petition at http://chn.ge/1qWXhZO.

Related reading:
Academic freedom under threat in Turkey, THE, 14 April: https://www.timeshighereducation.com/features/academic-freedom-under-threat-in-turkey
Letter from Sally Hunt to the Turkish Embassy: http://btu.web.ucu.org.uk/files/2016/01/Letter-to-TURKISH-EMBASSY.pdf

Dates for the Diary

Wed 8 June, 1-2pm, Annual General Meeting, Octagon Council Chamber.


Thursday 28 April, Sheffield – International Workers Memorial Day: wreath laying ceremony and speeches outside Sheffield Town Hall.