September Branch News
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September Branch News
The university’s finances are under scrutiny as it freezes recruitment, the branch responds to EU-referendum at an Extraordinary General Meeting, and members views are sought on the pay campaign.
The university announced a four-month recruitment freeze in July and launched its Strategy Delivery Group as a response to financial forecasts showing a deficit for the coming year. Announcements seemed to link the situation to the EU referendum, yet the university tells us that its forecasts predate the result. While the immediate focus has been on staffing costs, capital expenditure at the university has reached astonishing levels, with around £0.5bn spent over the past five years and another £0.3bn forecast for the coming four. With similar noises coming from other universities such as Leicester (see below), we ask: have universities lost sight of their finances in an arms race over their estate and facilities? A beautiful campus and top range facilities will not compensate for over-stretched, under valued staff.
This branch held an Extraordinary General Meeting in September to respond to the EU-referendum, discussing the effect on the national landscape, the university and the pay campaign. Four motions were passed. Themes included calls for UCU to campaign on the rights of university staff, particularly those from the EU, and to push for a delay to the HE bill. We also called on the university to improve transparency around its Strategy Delivery Group (SDG) and financial situation, to cease and rethink the recruitment freeze due to the effect it is having on workloads and redeployment opportunities, and, crucially, to honour union representation on the SDG. Read the motions in full.
Our EGM debated a motion regarding a branch response to the pay campaign. In the interest of hearing the broadest possible range of views, we sent a questionnaire to members to gauge the mood. Look for an email ‘Opinions needed on the pay campaign‘ sent on 15 September. The questionnaire will close on Thursday 22 September. Please do complete it to allow us to represent the branch properly at regional briefings happening the following week.
The university has decided to impose the 1.1% pay offer, backdated to 1 August; we believe it is the first in region to do so. It is important to note that the dispute is far from settled, and that this is not an improvement to the figure that members rejected in May. It is particularly concerning as negotiations are a joint process, not a consultation, so agreement must be reached before the annual round is finished. Importantly,
– any further increase to the pay award must also be honoured and backdated by the university;
– hourly-paid staff must contact the university to ensure they get an extra payment for work carried out since 1 August under the old rates (see below).
In positive news, with the new academic year approaching we are pleased to report that our membership continues to grow. Please do recommend joining to colleagues and forward them communications they may find interesting. Also, look out for emails or welcome meetings organised by departmental contacts, and support them where you can.
Sheffield UCU Committee
Hourly paid worker? Make sure you claim any backdated improvement to pay!
With the university imposing the 1.1% pay award as a stop-gap, if you are hourly paid you are unlikely to automatically get back-pay for work carried out from 1 August on the old pay rates and will be due an additional payment. The university has issued the following statement:
“For Casual/hourly paid Employees: As a result of processing timescales, it is likely that payments made for work you have undertaken since 1st August may have been processed in August and September payroll based on the former hourly rates. Please liaise with your line manager and/or departmental finance contacts to check whether adjustments have been made in subsequent payroll submissions.”
Please do chase this up and get what you’re owed! While you’re at it, why not also look at the descriptors at the link below to check you are being paid at an appropriate grade for the work you do.
University of Leicester and London Metropolitan University: a glimpse of things to come?
The University of Leicester has launched what it calls a process of ‘institutional transformation’ involving the closure of departments, subject areas and courses, including the Vaughan Centre for Lifelong Learning and the university bookshop. Hundreds of academic, academic-related and support staff are to be made redundant, many of them compulsorily. This is being done under the pretext of forecast financial deficits for the coming year while, at the same time, large amounts are due to be spent on capital expenditure. Some of this sounds worryingly familiar to us, especially the prioritizing of buildings over people.
You can read more about the situation at Leicester, and sign a ‘No cuts, no confidence’ petition at http://speakout.web.ucu.org.
The situation at London Metropolitan University is even worse, where the university plans to make around a third of the workforce redundant, and key members of the UCU branch have been targeted in moves that have been described as ‘a battle for the soul of higher education’ (https://www.theguardian.com/
UCU Black Members
As we start the new academic year, the region is seeking people to join its Black Member group which meets regularly at the UCU Regional office in Leeds. The next meeting takes place in October, as below. If you are interested in attending then you are most welcome!
Saturday 15th October 2016, 10:00-12:00,
Leeds Regional UCU office, 49 St Pauls Street, Leeds, LS1 2TE.
If you require any further information then please do not hesitate to contact Baldeep Thiara at the Regional office (firstname.lastname@example.org).
Dates for the Diary
Wed 5 October, 1-2pm, Action Group, Octagon Meeting Room 1 (tbc)
Wed 12 October, 1-2pm, Departmental Contacts Meeting, Chancellors Room, Firth Court
Thur 20 October, 1-2pm, General Meeting, Council Room, Firth Court
Sat 19 November, United For Education demonstration, London, joint UCU/NUS event: http://www.nus.org.uk/en/news/
– “Cash-starved campuses must raise fees or drop standards”, Keith Burnett, Times Higher Education: https://www.