May Branch News: USS latest, international staff and more!

Come to our event on Casualisation in Education, featuring Lousie Haigh MP on 10 May! Full details lower down this email…

May Branch News

As the USS dispute pauses, attention turns to pay; we make progress on the rights of our international staff; and the university listens to our ideas on combating sexual harassment.

With the dispute over USS paused and the defined contribution proposal officially withdrawn, the current focus is on the establishment of a Joint Expert Panel to provide an assessment of the valuation. Applications to be one of the three UCU-nominated members are open until 14 May, and are not restricted to UCU members or to those working in higher education. If you know of any ideal candidates, please encourage them to apply (or apply yourself!).

Controversy has been generated by a confidentiality clause in the terms of reference for the panel. We think this is a worrying development, as a lack of transparency over the valuation methods has been a running feature of the dispute to date. If you agree, please join those who have signed this petition to try to get the terms modified.

In Sheffield, we are hoping to reform the USS Working Group that met with university management in the year preceding the dispute to understand the technical material behind the valuation. We expect to put out a call for expressions of interest for serving on that panel soon: please put your name forward if you have relevant skills.

With the annual pay negotiations well under way, the employers’ opening offer sees yet another real-terms cut of 1.7%, accompanied by resistance to national action to address precarious employment and workload issues. The gender pay gap will receive some further work, with the approach in Sheffield – where we were involved in the gender pay gap reporting process – being held up as good practice.

A newly formed working group to discuss the University’s approach to sexual harassment met for the first time this week. We hope that this group, requested by us, will be able to make significant progress on the University’s policy, based on the work of the 1752 group. We’re keen for the Students’ Union to be represented on the group, especially when considering the rights of postgraduate students who also work for the University. We will keep you updated as things progress, but initial discussions have been positive.

Our campaigning for better treatment of our international staff has resulted in the University Executive Board agreeing to significant amounts of extra support. Funding has been allocated for Tier 1 and 2 visa, NHS-surcharge and indefinite leave to remain fees for staff, along with the provision of dedicated HR support and some external legal advice. Costs associated with dependents are to be supported through interest free loans. We will continuing to work on reimbursement of costs for existing staff who are out of pocket to work at the university. We’re eager to hear from any such members, particularly those who applied for visas, extension or ILR in the year prior to the start of this new scheme on 1 April 2018 and were denied reimbursement.

We have also raised concerns with the UEB about how current Home Office regulations prevent our international staff from fully participating in collective bargaining and strike action. Deputy Director of HR, Ian Wright, has agreed to meet with UCU members currently on Tier 2 and 5 visas to discuss Sheffield University’s approach to addressing this unequal treatment of workers. The meeting is on Wednesday, 16 May at 1:30 pm in Hicks F35, and any members who are unable to attend are welcome to send questions and concerns to us to be raised.

Finally, our Annual General Meeting is approaching (add to Google calendar!), and nominations are still open for committee positions (deadline 4pm, 10th May). Please get in touch if you want further information. We are starting to organise a celebratory end-of-year party for all UCU members for the evening of the AGM: if organising parties is your thing, please get in touch to offer help!

Sheffield UCU Committee

Louise Haigh MP on Casualisation in Education, Thursday 10 May

In 2016, the Guardian ran a series of articles exposing “the new world of work” which focused on poor employment practices across the UK economy. Higher education came in for particular criticism, with high numbers of staff employed on insecure terms including zero-hours contracts, casual worker agreements and fixed-term contracts. We are delighted that Louise Haigh, Labour MP for Heeley, has agreed to come to speak to us. Join us for a discussion of the plight affecting tens of thousands of higher-education workers across the sector, and to hear about the work that Sheffield UCU is doing to secure better terms of employment at this university.

Casualisation in Education with Special Guest Louise Haigh MP
Thursday 10 May, 7pm
Arts Tower LT4
Facebook event

Dates for the diary

  • Thu 10 May, 7pm, Casualisation in Education with Louise Haigh MP, Arts Tower LT4
  • Thu 7 June, 1pm, Annual General Meeting, Council Room, Firth Court
  • Thu 7 June, evening, Sheffield UCU end of year party! (Details to be confirmed)