Members update 31st Jan: Solidarity with Demonstrators at motion passed, national elections and hustings, Gaza protest, UoN finances, new national project, and Branch president handover

Dear UCU members,

At today’s members meeting, the attached motion [see below] including amendments was passed by a clear majority with only one abstention and one rejection. Our support for demonstrators in the School of Chemistry is testimony to the capacity of our local branch to support every member in every part of the university. Thank you!

Additionally, I would like to draw your attention to the current UCU elections. Information about the related processes and election addresses can be found on this webpage from UCU national. Importantly, hustings for the General Secretary elections are scheduled for tomorrow Thursday 1 February, 12.30-14.00 and for the position of Vice-President on Tuesday 6 February, 16.00-17.00  Over the last three to four years during our disputes over USS and the 4 Fights, we have learned how influential these roles are in determining UCU strategy. Please inform yourselves and make every effort to participate in these elections.

Please remember our local Gaza – Ceasefire Now protest on 7 February, 1 to 2 p.m. on University Park in line with general national UCU policy. Details about the event will be circulated closer to the time, but please put it in your diary already now.

Members will undoubtedly be concerned about the current rolling out of drastic financial cuts. Yet again, financial difficulties are immediately translated into cut-backs. I can assure members that the local committee observes the situation closely and is in regular dialogue with management. It will be important to raise critical questions at the various roadshows, currently underway at UoN. Please consult your local rep, who is involved in coordinating our UCU input. In general, some of you may still remember our Alternative Financial Strategy (AFS) from spring 2021. It may well be time for AFS 2.0.

Moreover, UCU is launching a new national project called The Future of Work in Post-16 Education. Its aim is to shape the future of education so that technology enables the work of staff and students, rather than acting as a barrier. This responds in part to the extended role of technology during the pandemic, and in part to AI developments since then. Online platforms may help members to innovate in the education and support they provide, and can make our lives easier. However, they also hold large amounts of personal data and mediate the intellectual property that members generate. The project will consider the threats and opportunities of technologies used in the sector, and how UCU should support members and branches to respond. Following a launch event this month, the next step is to establish a Working Group. Expressions of interest are sought from UCU members with all levels of knowledge of the technology arriving in our workplaces.

Finally, I have taken over the role of President of the local UCU branch from Howard Stevenson at the beginning of the current spring semester. I would like to thank Howard on behalf of the branch for his outstanding leadership in enormously difficult circumstances. As a result of the 4 Fights dispute and the related Marking and Assessment Boycott, especially August, normally a quiet month, was extremely busy with many local and national meetings. It is ultimately to Howard’s credit that we extracted ourselves from that dispute as best as possible.

In solidarity,

Andreas (on behalf of the local UCU branch)

Text of motion passed:

Motion on Solidarity with Demonstrators at UoN

This branch notes:

  • That demonstrators in the School of Chemistry had their pay cut at short notice by being moved from salary spine point 23 to point 18;
  • That there are worrying noises of demonstrators being ‘strong-armed’ into working despite the lower pay and that efforts are underway to bring in replacement labour from other schools;
  • That demonstrators continue to be employed via Unitemps rather than UoN directly even though they often work regular hours across the academic year;
  • That demonstrators have collectively organised and are refusing to continue working at the lower pay rate;
  • That due to a lack of postgraduates to demonstrate, academics in the School of Chemistry have been instructed to “prioritise lab demonstrating over all other tasks, except of course other teaching commitments, critical external activities or critical University committees.” Academics have been asked to cover “two four-hour slots per academic per week”;

This branch believes:

  • That any form of intimidation of demonstrators is completely out of order;
  • That pay cuts at short notice during a cost of living crisis are completely unacceptable;
  • That demonstrators, whose work involves great levels of responsibility for lab safety and often also includes marking of student work, deserve the same hourly pay as PGTAs employed in the delivery of seminars in the Faculty of Social Sciences and the Faculty of Arts and Humanities, i.e. pay at the level of spine point 23;
  • That demonstrators should be directly employed by UoN;
  • That it is unacceptable for (academic) staff to be suddenly roped into a full extra day of work per week.

This branch resolves:

  • That we support the group of demonstrators, who refuse to work at the lower pay level, with up to £3000 from local branch resources;
  • That we start a campaign for raising further funds in support of demonstrators in the School of Chemistry;
  • That we press for direct employment of all demonstrators with UoN in our ongoing negotiations with HR;