Summer Branch News – Recruitment freeze and more!
We want to hear your opinions! Please drop in to our Post-Brexit Discussion Meeting, Wed 10 August, Octagon Meeting Room 1, 12-2pm (light lunch provided).
Summer Branch News
The university freezes recruitment, we solicit members views on Brexit, USS announces its defined contribution section and the HE Bill gets through its second reading.
The university announced a four-month recruitment freeze in July, citing the result of the EU referendum and a forecast deficit for the coming year. We are watching the situation closely and are keen to understand the full picture behind this response. In particular, is the university in any kind of financial difficulty? If so, why, when it’s been consistently running operating surpluses in recent times “to ensure that the university’s activities remain financially stable in the long-term”? It certainly isn’t due to pay for the majority, which has eroded as a proportion of income. Could the university have planned for too much growth in student numbers and over-stretched on construction projects? Does it have too loose a grip on salaries at the top end? Did apathy in the face of a flawed pension valuation bite back with increased costs? Or is this a spot of opportunism to justify actions it wanted to take anyway? If you have the skills to help us dig around, please see ‘Can you help?’ below.
The nationally coordinated pay campaign may have gone into a summer lull, but you should continue to work to contract, and national discussions have started on how to implement a marking and assessment boycott in the autumn. In addition, Unite and UNISON are consulting with their members over possible action.
In Sheffield we think it’s important to listen to our members’ views and, with this in mind, we are holding a special Post-Brexit Discussion drop-in meeting on Wednesday 10 August to allow members to informally discuss the impact of the Brexit vote nationally, on this university and on the pay campaign. The discussion at the meeting should help formulate a branch response, and we have arranged an Extraordinary General Meeting in September which would be able to formalise our position, with motions if applicable. If you have opinions on these matters, please do participate!
We have seen an increase in recent months on the number of reviews and restructures the university has announced, and take our role seriously in pushing for fair treatment of staff affected. If you are involved in a team that is being restructured, please remember to talk to colleagues about how important union representation is in such matters and encourage them to join.
The implemented changes to the USS Pension Scheme are nearing completion, with the introduction of the Defined Contribution section coming into effect in October. Branded as the ‘USS Investment Builder’, this primarily affects those earning over £55,000, but all staff have the option of paying in an extra 1% of salary, matched by the employer. You should have received information on this from USS, including what you need to do to opt-in, but you may be interested in this presentation which explains the changes in full.
Finally, the government’s HE Bill passed its second reading in July, and UCU continues to work to oppose a number of matters it contains, not least increased marketisation and the introduction of degree-awarding powers for private providers. You may be interested in reading an Alternative White Paper which came about as a result of the Second Convention for Higher Education which Sheffield UCU sent three delegates to in February. You can read more about these matters on their website.
University finances: can you help?
We are keen to dig around in the university finances to try to get a good understanding of the reasons behind the university’s recently announced recruitment freeze. Do you have a good head for figures and balance sheets? Are you willing to look through annual reports to look for interesting patterns? The union is its members, and the more members do to help, the better we function. Please get in touch at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Are you on an insecure contract?
An MA (Resource Management) student at Keele is conducting an empirical research survey with a small number of follow-up interviews. The aim of the “research is to look at the use of casualised contracts among university lecturers and examine how this affects their commitment.” The student is very keen to access staff who have or are working on casual contracts. If you fit the bill, please take part in the survey.
NUS Extra Cards
University of Sheffield staff are able to purchase an NUS Extra card and take advantage of discounts from various companies, including travel and money off days out. To purchase a card visit https://cards.nusextra.co.uk/. You don’t need to be a student although the website says you do; when prompted for your Course, simply select “Other”. You need to use your University email to complete the sign up process.
Don’t forget to use other benefits you are entitled to, including those offered by UCU and, although we have our reservations about the skew towards corporate multinational companies, the offers through The Deal portal.
Dates for the Diary
- Wed 10 August, 12-2pm, Octagon Meeting Room 1: Post-Brexit Discussion Drop-in, light lunch provided.
- Wed 7 September, 1-2pm, venue tbc: Extraordinary General Meeting to discuss Brexit implications
- Wed 12 October, 1-2pm, Departmental Contacts Meeting, Chancellors Room, Firth Court
- Thur 20 October, 1-2pm, General Meeting, Council Room, Firth Court
- UK joins Greece at bottom of wage growth league, Guardian, 27 July: https://www.theguardian.com/money/2016/jul/27/uk-joins-greece-at-bottom-of-wage-growth-league-tuc-oecd