July Branch News: Pay offer rejected, local campaigns, and a new VC

July Branch News

This month has seen significant milestones in our campaigns to end casualised labor and sexual harassment at the university, the announcement of a new VC, a result on the pay consultation, and USS updates. Lots to follow!

National UCU news

UCU has now announced its USS negotiating team, to be chaired by Renee Prendergast (delegated by Douglas Chalmers as Chair of the HEC), and including our Branch President, Sam Marsh, Carlo Morelli and Amanda Williams, with Marion Hersh in reserve.

Sheffield was one of 20 HE branches to call for a special HE sector conference on USS, and we sent 4 delegates to the conference, held on 21 June in Manchester. A range of important motions were passed, particularly centering around transparency by the Joint Expert Panel, and their accountability to members.

Speaking of the JEP, they met for the fourth time this past week to hear evidence from actuarial advisors representing UCU and UUK, on the assumptions underlying the 2017 valuation, alternative valuation models, and Tests 1-3 used by USS (particularly Test 1). The JEP has since released the following, somewhat less than transparent statement about the meeting.

Pay offer rejected!

The results of UCU’s e-consultation on UUK’s final pay offer are in! With a 47.7% turnout, HE members have overwhelmingly rejected the pay offer (85%), and are prepared to take industrial action in defence of pay (65%). UCU has announced that, beginning in August 2018, it will ballot higher education members about industrial action. You will be hearing much more from us about this ballot over the next month, and it will be absolutely crucial for us as a branch and union to have the highest level of participation possible, in order to send a strong message that unfair pay is unacceptable.

Congress rescheduled

A recall UCU Congress has been rescheduled for 18 October, 2018, to continue the business of the meeting earlier this month, which was disrupted by staff walkouts (our delegates’ report). We have been informed that Motions 10 and 11, which criticise the general secretary, are on the agenda and will be heard without further disruption.

Local SUCU news

Following over a year of negotiations, we are very happy to be able to announce a significant milestone in our ongoing campaign to improve terms and conditions for teaching staff. The University has committed to a number of significant positive changes, and we hope to build on this major win in the continuing fight for fair and secure employment for all university staff.

After running an action group with UCU members in January, we have worked with representatives from the other campus unions to form a sexual harassment working group. We are meeting regularly with HR (approximately every 3 weeks) to work towards (1) creating bespoke institutional guidance, support and policy around sexual violence, (2) developing training in this area, and (3) revising reporting mechanisms and disciplinary processes related to sexual violence. This is an urgent issue which we’re hoping to make fast and meaningful progress on in the coming months, and we will keep you informed of how it developments.

We also want to highlight UCU’s dedicated 24/7 sexual harassment support helpline, in collaboration with Education Support Partnership. This helpline is confidential and free of charge to any UCU member, and can be reached at 0800 138 8724.

A new VC

Last week, the University announced that Professor Koen Lamberts will begin as VC on November 1, 2018. Professor Lamberts has recently stepped down from his prior role as Chair of the Employers’ Pension Forum for HE, which he held since 2015. In this role, he chaired the EPF’s writing of a report on HE pensions for UUK which “puts forward a set of principles, designed to underpin decisions on pension provision”. As we stated last Monday, the committee is looking forward to working with Professor Lamberts, and to discussing issues, including the USS pension scheme, which are important to our members.

Ongoing restructures

In last month’s branch news, we noted that the university has been conducting an extensive series of restructures, currently directed at Professional Services. Reviews and restructures usually mean a heightened period of uncertainty for staff as roles, teams and services are altered, with some staff at risk of redundancy throughout the process. In the past 18 months we have supported members in the restructures of Research Services, Student Recruitment and Admissions, Academic Programmes and Student Engagement (APSE; which is ongoing), and the restructures of many smaller teams — and there are more restructures scheduled to begin in Autumn 2018. These restructures have already impacted hundreds of staff members at the university, and we are increasingly concerned about both their scale and the pace at which they are being implemented, as well as the considerable casework pressure they place on trade union representatives. We are addressing these major concerns with university management, and are continuing to insist that restructures occur according the procedures they have agreed on with us.

Message of Solidarity

We would like to offer our support to the Hungarian Academy of Science and Central European University, and make our members aware of their fight against anti-democratic government encroachment on their academic freedom.

Upcoming events

On July 13 and 14, Stand up to Racism has organised local and national demonstrations against Trump and Tommy Robinson. We encourage members to sign their related petition “We must unite to halt the rise of the far-right”.

Further resources

Marketisation is destroying academic standards through rampant grade inflation – Dr Lee Jones