January 2020 Newsletter

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.