Summer 2019 Newsletter
It’s been a busy summer for Sheffield UCU as we’ve worked to settle a claim facing a large number of casualised members and have campaigned on career pathways for academic and professional staff. But it will be an even busier autumn as prepare for the possibility of a new round of industrial action and support this month’s Youth Strike 4 Climate! In this summer’s edition of the newsletter, you can learn about all of this and more.
Pay and Pensions Dispute
Beginning this month on September 9, our national union will be balloting for industrial action on both our pay and pensions disputes.
Deadlock at the last meeting of the USS Joint Negotiating Committee resulted in the independent chair once again siding with employers on how to divide up increased costs arising from the 2018 valuation. The latest valuation, a response to the report of the Joint Expert Panel, has landed on significantly higher rates than those proposed by the panel, with member contributions rising to 9.6% of salary this October, then 11% in October 2021. The first step up will cost members hundreds of pounds more per year than the pre-strike rate of 8%. By October 2021, many will be paying over £1,000 more for the same benefits. With no sign of USS listening to anyone but themselves, and employers allowing them to ignore the findings of the JEP, we are once again forced to resort to strike action to defend the future of the scheme. For further information and updates on pensions negotiations, please follow Sheffield UCU president and national pensions negotiator Sam Marsh on Twitter.
Unfortunately, the employers have been unwilling to make substantial revisions to their offer on pay. The final offer they have presented does not substantially address a number of the priorities UCU members have identified, including reducing equalities pay gaps and taking adequate steps to remedy the workload-related health crisis and reliance on precarious labour that we see across the sector. In addition, the employers have proposed allowing institutions with ‘extenuating circumstances’ to delay pay increases for 11 months with no backdating! For further information and updates on pay negotiations, please follow Sheffield UCU Vice President and national pay negotiator Robyn Orfitelli on Twitter.
In order to prepare for the possibility of industrial action later this term and to recruit new members, Sheffield UCU has formed an organising committee that has begun to meet over the summer. All members are welcome to participate — the more the merrier! We will be holding an organising training on Wednesday, September 11 from 2-3 in B19, 301 Glossop Road. If you are not able to attend but would like to get involved, please email branch Communications Officer Katy Fox-Hodess at email@example.com.
Local SUCU news
September 20 Climate Strike
For the past year, young people around the world have demonstrated leadership on the climate crisis. At Sheffield UCU, we’re organising to show solidarity to the Sheffield Youth Strikers on their next international Earth Day, as they have asked that 10,000 Sheffield workers show support. We will meet at the Students Union at 12.00 and hold a short rally for those who can’t take a longer lunch break. For those that are able to take more time out, we will walk down to join the students in the town centre, returning to campus by 13.30.
We’ve written to Prof. Koen Lamberts asking that he not impose any sanctions on any staff participating, and that he join us in person. Updates to come shortly, but for now please talk to your colleagues about the event and sign up for updates here. If you have ideas about how to encourage or enable more people to attend, or have any questions, please email George firstname.lastname@example.org.
In March 2017, we filed a claim with the university around casualised teaching, demanding the university take action to improve pay and conditions for precariously employed GTAs. That built on several years of action by our branch and resulted in extended negotiations with management. The principles underpinning our claim can be found here. While casualisation remains a major problem across the sector, and here at Sheffield, we have made significant progress locally, with the university agreeing that all scheduled teaching will be delivered by staff engaged on employment contracts.
This saw the creation of a new Graduate Teaching Assistant contract which saw GTAs (usually Postgraduate Research Students who teach) move from casual worker agreements (zero hour contracts) to more secure contracts of employment. These won GTAs the right to holiday pay, sick pay and maternity pay as well as access to the USS pension scheme. The new contract was agreed at Grade 6. In recognition that much GTA teaching requires more advanced skills, including design of teaching, we entered into further negotiations with HR this summer, which resulted in the creation of a new Grade 7 contract for Graduate Teaching Associates. This sets an exciting precedent for GTAs across the university to fight for pay at Grade 7 – a potential pay increase of £2.76 an hour for those currently on grade 6. Please get in touch with anti-casualisation officers Eda Yazici (email@example.com) and Steffan Blayney (firstname.lastname@example.org) if you want to fight for improvements in pay in your department!
These developments also largely address our claim in 2017 and we have agreed to settle that particular claim. We won’t be taking our eyes off the ball though, with casualisation rolling into our regular set of negotiations with management.
Career Pathways Survey
Many thanks to everyone who completed the online survey on promotions, which was sent out to all Sheffield UCU members early this month. We had over three hundred responses from both academic and professional staff, painting a clear picture of members’ views of the short-comings of the current promotions pathways. Please find the full summary of the survey results here: UCU Promotions Pathway Survey.
Vacant VP Position
Expressions of interest are sought for one of our two Vice President positions. Our outgoing VP Emma Nagouse is leaving soon to take up a national role for UCU. The VP position involves working closely with the President, and chairing Branch and SUCU Committee meetings in their absence. If you are interested please contact our Branch Administrator Jane Rodger (email@example.com).