February 2020 Branch Newsletter

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.