June Branch News: lecture capture, international staff and more

June Branch News

Our Action Group discusses lecture capture with Wyn Morgan, international staff stay in our attention and we welcome new committee members

Our June Action Group took lecture capture as its theme, and we were joined by Wyn Morgan for the second half of the meeting to hear from members directly. There was healthy discussion, taking in the potential benefits to students alongside concern over the wording of the policy. In particular, there was general agreement among members that final authority over the ability to opt out lying with the Head of Department is an unprecedented level of managerial interference in the pedagogical process and seriously undermines the professional autonomy of teaching staff. The policy as it stands was considered to be largely acceptable, but this key element is a sticking point for members which we will be asking the university to revisit.

A year after the EU referendum, the Government finally published its negotiating position on the rights of EU citizens, suggesting it put a ‘generous’ offer on the table. The treatment of EU staff, and international staff more generally, is of huge importance to higher education and directly effects many of our members. We are continuing to discuss the university’s support for international staff, in particular the rising costs associated with remaining in the UK for staff and their families. We think the university will have to do more to justify its #WeAreInternational hashtag if it wants to retain its international expertise and attract new staff.

With national pay negotiations having reached an impasse earlier this year – the final offer was of more real-terms pay erosion – and with a draft valuation for the USS pension scheme imminent, we are pleased that UCU has called a commission into industrial action and bargaining with a remit to look into the strategies that have been pursued nationally and how to make these more effective in the future. There is no justification for the huge pay erosion endured by staff over the past 8 years, and 2014’s pension downgrades were preventable. The question is: will universities change their approach to remuneration before anger reaches critical levels among staff?

Finally, our Annual General Meeting took place at the beginning of the month, and we were pleased to formally welcome new members to the committee. We also gave our thanks to two long-standing committee members who are retiring this summer – Jane Simm and Pablo Stern – who have both made huge contributions to the union’s work in Sheffield. Luckily, Pablo will continue to act as treasurer and Jane is planning to stay on committee as a retired member. We always have space on our committee for members who would like to get involved: if you can spare one lunchtime a fortnight to discuss the pressing issues and how we can make progress on them, please do reply to this email.

Wishing you a pleasant start to the summer,

Sheffield UCU Committee

EU negotiations – what is the current state of affairs?

The government’s newly published proposal for the rights of EU citizens in the UK outlines a new procedure that will in effect replace the current permanent residency requirement with a settled status, being compulsory for all who wish to stay after the UK’s departure from the EU. The published documents have left several crucial question unanswered, suggesting the Government will specify the timeframes and key deadlines at a later stage. It is important to note that the current offer is the initial negotiating position that might well change over the coming months. Moreover, several commentators (see below) argued that the outlined proposal is anything but generous, pointing to the EU 27’s offer preserving all existing rights of all citizens. A comprehensive analysis on the proposed changes can be found on Free Movement Website.

Local strikes in Higher Education

There have been a number of disputes occurring at other higher education institutions in our region and beyond. Leeds University called local strike action over a change to their statutes, with the university wanting new powers to sack staff. At Manchester Metropolitan University, there are job losses threatened due to the proposed closure of their Crewe campus. We give our full support to UCU members taking robust action in the face of questionable decision making by universities.

Interesting reading