January Branch News – Pay, casualisation and parking

Reminder: Sheffield UCU general meeting, Wednesday 27 Jan, 1-2pm, Octagon Council Chamber. We host a guest speaker from Leeds UCU to talk about campaigning, and table motions calling for an effective pay campaign and parity between staff and support support services. All welcome!

January Branch News

National campaigns on casualisation and pay are about to begin, while the university takes us for a ride on parking charges.

A new offensive against casualisation is being launched by UCU, with a letter to universities demanding action to tackle heavy use of fixed-term, hourly paid and zero-hours contracts. According to UCU statistics, two-thirds of researchers at UK universities are on fixed-term contracts. Additionally, 75,000 teaching staff are on atypical contracts. In Sheffield, we negotiated the right to be reviewed for a proper contract for anyone reaching a threshold of £750 or 10 teaching engagements per year, with an understanding that regular teachers should normally be on a contract. We are concerned that this agreement is not working out in practice, with only 11% of staff who passed the threshold getting a contract. We are currently pressing the university to do what we believe it promised. Please contact us if you have comments or experience of this, particularly if you are an hourly paid teacher who hasn’t been regularised or you are a manager who has experience or comments on the contract process.

In January, the university increased parking fees for staff. We are appalled by the large flat-rate increases and extortionate fines, which don’t take account of salary or number of hours worked and act as a pay-cut for staff who have to drive to get to work. We have made our thoughts known strongly to the committee which deals with car-parking, and will continue to do so. You can see the updated fees here: https://www.shef.ac.uk/parkingservices/type. You may also be interested by this guide to fines issued by private companies, such as those running the university’s car parks: http://www.moneysavingexpert.com/reclaim/private-parking-tickets.

We expect a national campaign to start imminently to demand a proper pay rise in this year’s negotiations, starting in March. Recent below-inflation pay offers have resulted in real-terms devaluation of around 15%. This trend cannot be justified by universities, who have built up cash reserves and reduced salaries as a proportion of their budgets, and must not be allowed to continue. With the downgrading of the USS pension scheme also happening in March, it is clear that the goodwill of staff is being exploited. We hope that universities will avoid disputes and recognise the need to offer a fair deal. We will be tabling a motion to press the national leadership for an effective campaign at our January general meeting tomorrow.

A major focus of policy in higher education of recent times, the government’s HE Green Paper, demands a robust response by UCU. With this in mind, a convention has been organised at UCL to discuss its implications, and Sheffield UCU is funding up to five delegates to attend the conference. You don’t need to be a regular attendee of meetings or consider yourself an activist to represent us, just an interest in this matter and willingness to attend. If you would like a return trip to London on Saturday 27 February, please do contact us. You can read a summary of UCU’s current response to the consultation here: http://bit.ly/1nkXowc.

Finally, we have been made aware of a recent update to the university’s IT Code of Practice which seems to require staff to be experts on legal frameworks in every country which hosts a service they might use, and additionally prohibits accessing content which is “indecent, offensive, threatening, discriminatory or extremist”, without defining those terms. We have raised the matter with the university, as we are concerned about restrictions on academic freedom, and the potential for disciplinary cases. You can read the IT code of practice here: http://www.shef.ac.uk/cics/codeofpractice/core.

Pick Apart a Policy

Can you help us by picking apart a policy? The policy subsection of the HR webpages, http://shef.ac.uk/hr/guidance, contains pages on all sorts of aspects of working at the university (equality and diversity, flexible leave, redeployment procedures, drugs and alcohol, and many more). The committee are involved in discussions over these policies continually, and work hard to try to protect members’ interests. We invite you to look at one policy relevant to you, and contact us with anything you find which looks worrying. All help very much appreciated!

Interesting reading

  • “‘Biased’ students give BME academics lower NSS scores, says study”, Times Higher: bit.ly/1JZmXNO
  • UCU’s Academic-Related Professional Staff newsletter, including an article “How ready is HE to embrace the future?”: http://bit.ly/1KBAExs

Dates for the diary

  • Wed 27 January, 1-2pm, General Meeting, Octagon Council Chamber
  • Mon 22 – Fri 26 February, UCU National Recruitment Week. Look out for the Sheffield UCU stall!
  • Sat 27 February, HE Green Paper Convention, 10am-5pm, UCL: https://heconvention2.wordpress.com/paper-and-convention/
  • Thu 3 March, 1-2pm, Departmental Contacts Meeting, Mappin Boardroom, Mappin Building Note venue
  • Wed 9 March, 1-2pm, General Meeting, Octagon Council Chamber

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