Spring branch news: Solidarity to members facing redundancies nationally and restructures locally
Ways to get involved this month:
May Professional Services member’s meeting – Thursday 20 May, 1-2pm This is our last meeting of the Spring term, and we will be discussing the University’s ‘flexible working’ proposal, professional services pay and promotions, and other member issues. Come and bring a friend! Register using this form.
Our annual general meeting is coming up on Tues, 8 June from 1-2 pm. This meeting provides a chance to take stock of the year and discuss the large issues facing the branch now, and in the year ahead. You can find the agenda here, and can register to attend here. Also, as you will see from the agenda, we still have a couple of vacancies on committee. If you’re interested in being on the branch committee, holding an officer position, or otherwise getting more involved in the branch, please get in touch — the current members of committee are happy to answer any questions you may have!
Show support for branches across the sector facing redundancies by writing and signing letters, signal boosting local campaigns, and taking part in the UCU boycott of Leicester University. See below for more details.
Restructures and job security updates
Many thanks to those of you who attended the EGM on job security and workload issues on 5th May, where we heard updates on the current restructure programme and overwhelmingly passed a motion that mandates the branch to escalate our opposition to the attacks on job security, up to and including balloting on industrial action. You can view the text of the motion here. We have also sent the VC an open letter asking him to halt the Future of Languages initiative, signed by staff across all campus unions as well as non-members. If you were unable to sign the letter previously, but wish to add your name, you can still do so, using this form.
We are expecting to finally discuss the substance of the grievance that has been submitted by UNISON, Unite and SUCU over the proposed changes to the School of Languages and Cultures next week. Should the outcome of the grievance discussions be unsatisfactory, we will be in touch again with further updates and next steps.
We were incredibly frustrated to learn recently that yet another restructure has launched in one of the professional services departments of the University. We are currently representing staff in restructures across far too many of our work areas and faculties, and the University must slow down the pace of change. Staff are exhausted and demoralised, and the staffside trade unions cannot adequately resource our representation of staff. Under the terms of our agreement with the University, they are required to undertake meaningful consultation with us and at present this is near-impossible. Since March 2020 we have held and communicated the position that putting staff at risk of redundancy during a global pandemic amounts to a significant undermining of the University’s stated intention to support its staff.
The current round of restructures at Sheffield is not solely focused on Arts and Humanities but across the sector we are seeing concerted attacks on those programmes and research areas and we want to be clear to all colleagues, in FAH and elsewhere, that we will defend jobs and programmes across the entire University. We need your support to be able to do this. Please sign letters, come to branch meetings, and respond to any consultative communications you receive from us.
We continue to hear extensive feedback from departmental reps and members in meetings about serious stress and workload concerns, and we are in the initial stages of developing a health and safety oriented addition to our longstanding local campaign around workloads. We are working closely with colleagues in Health and Safety and HR on stress risk management and mental health but while those measures might improve things in some areas the root cause of workload and stress in HE remains consistent: under-resourcing and precarity.
We are pleased to report that UEB has very recently committed to implementing the principles of workload modelling and management for academic staff that were proposed by the Academic Workload Working Group, which was created in 2019 at the request of UCU (we are continuing to push for a comparable group to be formed to consider the workloads of Professional Services staff, and hope that UEB’s adoption of these principles may facilitate that). We are going to send out much more detailed communications on both these principles and tools for raising issues of workload related stress in your work areas very soon, but in the meantime, if you would like to become more actively involved with Sheffield UCU’s workload campaign then please email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Pay and promotions campaign
We are working closely with UNISON and Unite on a campaign to improve pay for the lowest paid employees at the University, those on grades 1 – 6. We are also in the initial stages of pressing harder for clearer progression routes for PS staff at all grades. If you’d like to be involved in this work, please get in touch.
National UCU Updates
Solidarity with branches facing redundanices
You may be aware that Liverpool and Leicester are currently undertaking industrial action relating to job cuts and redundancy threats at their respective institutions, and Goldsmiths has recently concluded a long campaign. We send our solidarity to them and all the other branches currently facing attacks on jobs and programmes, and ask members to send messages and signal boost their campaigns in every way that you can. UCU has called on members to greylist the University of Leicester in response to these redundancies, and this branch passed a motion at our most recent EGM supporting this. You will have received an email earlier this week describing what this involves, but simply stated, a greylist involves not engaging with the University in any way. If you have any questions, please get in touch. As a branch, we call on everyone to stand beside our Leicester UCU colleagues and participate in this boycott of the University, until they cease these attacks on staff and academic freedom of speech.
USS – Five principles for a resolution of the dispute
While Universities UK have responded to the 2020 valuation by bringing back from the dead a variation of the ACAS proposal from 2018 which prompted cries of “no capitulation” from the membership, UCU have announced five principles for a resolution of the dispute that will guide the negotiations:
Progressive contribution structures to enable more low paid staff to join and stay in USS.
An end to the downward spiral of contribution increases and cuts to retirement income.
The fund weighted towards return-seeking, ethical investments.
Commitments from employers on covenant support, governance reform, and lobbying for regulatory change.
Exploration of conditional benefits on terms acceptable to UCU members.
You can read more about those principles here.
Individual employers are currently being consulted on whether they back the UUK proposal, and the future of this industrial dispute – currently hanging in the balance – should become clearer when we find out whether they support another attempted attack on members’ benefits.
TUC Long Covid Survey
The TUC have launched an online survey for workers who are experiencing or have experienced Long Covid. They want to better understand your experiences at work and what additional workplace support you feel is needed.
Long Covid is an issue of concern for the union movement as ONS data has revealed that 1 in 5 people who’ve tested positively for Covid-19 have had symptoms that have lasted for 5 weeks or longer and that 1 in 10 have had symptoms for 12 weeks or longer. With over 4 million people having tested positive for Covid-19 those experiencing Long Covid could be as high at 800,000.