May Branch News

If you’ll only manage one Sheffield UCU meeting this year, make it our AGM! Wednesday 8 June, 1pm, Octagon Council Chamber.

May Branch News

The union takes action over pay and, with the help of ideas from our new Action Group, Sheffield makes a strong showing.

May saw the start of UCU’s action in the dispute over pay, starting with a two-day strike which saw many members stay away from work, and new members join. Turnout for picketing was noticeably high, particularly on day one when we ran out of armbands and flyers and had to request more from head-office. Buoyed-up by ideas from our well-attended Action Group launch meeting, and in coordination with Sheffield Hallam, the events in Sheffield made some waves, hit local media and spread across Twitter. Action Group meets again on 15 June: please come with ideas!

In addition to picketing main buildings across the campus, the Wednesday featured a ‘teach-in’ at the Student Union Auditorium, with speakers addressing a sizeable mixed audience of students, staff and interested others on topics such as the the direction of Higher Education and the threat to universities as we know them from the govenrment’s White Paper, the gender pay-gap, casualization, the student perspective on the action, and how stress is endemic in the profession and what to do about it.

The Thursday featured a rally at City Hall, coordinated with other local unions, and leafleting of the inauguration ceremony of Sheffield Hallam’s new Vice Chancellor, where we were pleased to find attendees prepared to takes flyers and give encouraging words of support. You can follow the action as it happened on our Twitter-feed, and also nationally on UCU’s live-feed wall.

The action now moves into the next phase: working to contract, the resignation of external examiners and a further, locally chosen strike day. This is a crucial part of the campaign, and we urge members to take part as fully as they can. Please do try to follow the guidelines we have issued on how many hours to work, not to routinely work at weekends, and not to perform voluntary duties out of good-will unless specifically instructed to do so. Please see the advice below on how to interpret messages from HR, and let us know if you run into any problems.

We will announce the choice of local strike date, as chosen by Sheffield UCU members, at our AGM next week.

Advice on ‘working to contract’

Working to Contract is technically ‘Action short of a Strike’ (as per UCU’s FAQs) but it is not such as will affect pay – you are simply doing your job. Indeed, we have previously advised members to take a similar approach to workload at all times, to avoid excessive stress. What has become ‘normal’ may well not be ‘reasonable’.

Sheffield UCU does not accept the definition of ‘reasonable’ workload in HR’s rather disingenuous page. Our position is that ‘reasonable’ means not having to routinely work more that 35 hours (or part time equivalent), and asking managers what work to drop if workload means routinely working over that. Researchers and others may choose to do additional work, but that should be freely done, not a requirement. It is absurd and unacceptable for HR to imply on their web page that ‘reasonable’ means any workload level that isn’t actually against the law.

If you are asked to do so you should fill in the ‘ASOS Working to Contract’ form provided by HR. However we advise that you delete the first text paragraph, beginning ‘Please note contractual duties…’. It is not necessary in terms of your notification, and it refers to HR’s contentious web advice. (However if you have submitted the form including that paragraph it does not imply acceptance of that contentious advice.)

If you have further queries that haven’t been addressed by this advice, or last week’s messages, please get in touch.

Dates for the diary

Please do come to the meetings below. Our AGM will give a summary of the Branch’s activity over the past year and elect new officers, and Action Group is an informal way to feed ideas into the local union’s campaigning, and proved very effective in coordinating the two May strike days.

  • Wed 8 June, 1-2pm, Annual General Meeting, Octagon Council Chamber
  • Wed 15 June, 1-2pm, Action Group, Meeting Room 1, Octagon

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