Motions passed at 1st May 2024 members meeting: 1. academic freedom and UKRI, 2. motion for SHESC, and 3. on Standing with Palestine.

These motions were each passed by a large majority of members attending a meeting on 1st May 2024 having been circulated in advance by email. They are posted here for subsequent reference.

1. UoN UCU Branch Follow-up Motion on Academic Freedom and
UKRI

For consideration at the next General Members Meeting

This branch notes:

  1. The motion UoN UCU Branch Motion on Academic Freedom and UKRI which passed
    at Extraordinary General Meeting on Monday November 6, 2023.
  2. The outcome of the UKRI’s investigation into allegations against members of its EDI
    Advisory Group made by Michelle Donelan, Secretary of State for Science, Innovation
    and Technology being a full exoneration.
  3. That the Secretary of State has publicly retracted her accusations and compensation
    has been paid by the Government.
  4. That the basis for the allegations made by the Secretary of State was a policy
    document by a right-wing think tank.

This branch believes:

  1. That the outcome of UKRI’s investigation and eventual exoneration of the individuals
    concerned are a positive development.
  2. That this investigation, and the damage to the reputation of the individuals
    concerned, could have been prevented by a more robust UKRI response to alarmist
    ministerial intervention.
  3. That the UKRI’s announcement of the outcome of its investigation, while inviting the
    members of the EDI Advisory Group to reengage, should have gone further in
    defending the necessity and value of its EDI work and academic freedom.
  4. That the use of public funds to settle claims related to the Secretary of State is
    concerning.
  5. That these events show a worrisome trend of anti-intellectualism, anti-‘wokeness’,
    and faux concerns about freedom of speech driven by right wing think tanks who
    provide little transparency on their funding.

This branch resolves:

  1. To advise that UoN UCU members reengage with UKRI activities, events, peer
    review, and other voluntary roles they had been called to boycott per the prior
    motion.
  2. To encourage UoN UCU members in professional associations to continue to express their concerns collectively to UKRI.
  3. To support UCU campaigns to pressure UKRI, and other funders, on matters of EDI and academic freedom.

2. Motion for SHESC on 17 May 2024: Increase branches’ financial and budgetary awareness and skills

SHESC notes:

  • The growing number of HE institutions (HEIs) attacks on jobs, terms and conditions.
  • HEIs claim that the financial challenges are sector-wide.
  • UCU branches have successfully challenged compulsory redundancies.
  • Congress 2024 motions ROC4, ED1, HE22 among others.

SHESC believes:

  • Branch officers and activists require financial literacy to challenge job cuts and other savings plans.
  • Respective expertise in this area is available amongst members, UCU staff and external consultants.
  • While HE funding needs reform urgently, financial management in many HEIs is poor.

SHESC resolves:

  • To instruct HEC to establish an HE finances working group, drawing on expertise from members and UCU staff to support branches with analysis of financial statements and budgets.
  • To engage external consultants for specialist financial expertise upon request by a Branch.
  • To develop training on analysis of financial statements and budgets for branch officers and activists.

3. Motion on Standing with Palestine

This branch notes:

  • Our General Secretary Jo Grady’s email to members that Wednesday 1 May, UCU is
    supporting the workplace Day of Action for Palestine;
  • The ongoing ‘educide’ in Gaza, where Israel’s current military offensive has resulted in the destruction of many universities and schools and the killing of thousands of students, hundreds of teachers and support staff, and nearly 100 professors.

This branch believes: 

  • That as an education union we have to speak up and mobilise against Israel’s
    ‘plausibly genocidal acts’; 
  • That we have to stand in solidarity with the oppressed Palestinians in Gaza and the West Bank.

This branch resolves: 

  • To donate £500 to Friends of Birzeit University (Fobzu; https://fobzu.org/), which
    provides scholarships to young Palestinians;
  • To donate £500 to Medical Aid for Palestinians (MAP; https://www.map.org.uk/).
  • To instruct the committee to explore affiliation with the Palestine Solidarity Campaign (PSC) in line with the affiliation of the national UCU and report back to next members meeting in this respect; 
  • To demand from UoN management to provide institutional scholarships for Palestinian students and academic fellowships for staff similar to the support provided to students and staff from the Ukraine.

Branch meeting 28th February 1-2pm and motion

The below email was sent to members on 22nd Feb, with initial notice for members of branch meeting circulated on 7th Feb.

Dear members

In anticipation of the Branch Meeting on Wednesday 28 February, 1-2pm, the message below promised that Branch Committee would circulate today any draft Branch motions proposed for this year’s UCU Congress. One motion has been proposed:

Reporting back of NEC members to constituencies

Congress instructs the NEC to formulate rule change motions to ensure the following:

  1. NEC members canvass opinions from branches and regions in their constituencies prior to NEC and NEC subcommittee meetings.
  2. NEC members produce a written report within two working weeks of NEC and NEC subcommittees to be circulated in the appropriate constituency.
  3. Appropriate mechanisms to be established by UCU to support circulation of reports from NEC members to constituencies.

If you wish to propose an amendment to this text, please email uonucubranch@gmail.com by Monday 26 February at 12 noon.

The motion will be voted upon, and Delegates to Congress will be elected, at the upcoming Branch Meeting. If you are interested to put yourself forward to attend as a Delegate, there is still time – the message below explains the how to nominate.

Zoom details for the Branch Meeting will follow.

In solidarity,

Tony

Tony Simmonds (UoNUCU Secretary)

Members email: Full review of HR policy provision

Version of email below sent to UoN UCU members on 19th February 2024.

Dear UCU members,

The University is starting a full review of HR policy provision with policies revised and developed to promote best practice and support a culture of inclusion aligned with university values. This was initiated as part of the People and Culture Strategic Delivery Plan (SDP) 2023-2026.

Some of the concerns the University wants to address include inconsistent format and content (including supporting standards and procedures); related accountabilities and responsibilities not consistently identified or articulated; lack of regular review and update.

Many of these policies, including those for disciplinary and grievance issues, are conditions of employment, and therefore must be negotiated with the recognised unions (UCU, Unite, Unison). UCU is starting the negotiation process with the University next month. To assist us with this we need information as to how well (or not) UoN policies are working in practice for our members.

If you have had experiences with an HR policy and in the course of this identified weaknesses in the policy or how it is implemented in practice, please use the following google form to provide them to us. We will collate this information (anonymously) and use it in to focus our negotiations.

Many thanks!

Best,

Andreas (UoN UCU Branch President)

UoN UCU takes action following immigration policy changes

This April, substantial changes to migration rules and income threshold will come into effect. Nationally, UCU is opposing these callous measures and is finding common ground with employers (e.g., UCEA, UUK) to jointly lobby government. The Migrant Members Standing Committee are prioritizing work in this area.

Locally, we have written to the University to demand they take supportive action for individuals affected as well as use their influence to oppose these changes. Amongst other aims, we are pushing the university to facilitate renewal of visas or category switching where that would enable individual members to apply under current, less stringent criteria. Correspondence can be found below. We will continue to monitor the situation and ensure timely action is taken by the university.

If you, whether for your own visa or as a sponsor for a family visa, are affected by these changes, please speak to your rep or contact Gertjan Lucas, UoN UCU Equality Officer and UCU Migrant Members Standing Committee (gertjan@gertjanlucas.nl). Further advice is available here under the heading ‘Information for members affected by changes to the immigration salary thresholds’. General information for migrant members, including legal support by expert immigration lawyers Bindmans, is available here. Note that access to individual legal support is subject to specific requirements. Please contact the branch (uonucubranch@gmail.com) in the first instance for case work support.

UoN UCU email to the VC and HR director 08/02/2024

As you will be aware, the government has announced considerable changes to immigration salary thresholds and some other aspects of their visa regime that will take effect in April or thereabouts. UCU has strongly condemned these changes, and other proposals under discussion which will be damaging to staff as well as students in the HE sector and beyond. We are aware that UCEA and UUK have expressed similar concerns. UCEA and UCU are working on a joint statement to lobby the government in this matter. We ask you use your influence in UCEA, and more broadly in the sector, to echo our concerns and oppose the latest acceleration in anti-immigration rhetoric that is using the lives of international staff and students as a political punching bag.

Moreover, these changes will be affecting our migrant members subject to immigration control and any member who acts as a sponsor for a family visa. To that effect, UCU is asking employers to support our migrant members to ensure their continued leave to remain in the UK.

On behalf of the University of Nottingham branch and its migrant members, I am writing to ask the university does as follows:

  1. Since the threshold changes have not yet taken effect, we ask you to support anyone wishing to renew their Skilled Worker and Family Visa visas before the end of March 2024 by expediting matters such as confirming sponsorship, providing employer letters, and so on. It would be a good show of faith in staff’s contribution to the university if you would identify anyone potentially affected by these changes and encourage them to investigate the option of an early renewal of their work or family visas.
  2. Where staff will fall short of the threshold and are unable to renew their visas ahead of the changes taking effect, we encourage you to explore options for topping up salaries in order to retain staff, avoiding life-destroying consequences for staff and considerable costs for you in replacing staff making considerable contributions to the institution.
  3. Where staff are unable to reach the new threshold for visa renewals due on or after 1 April but wish to apply for another type of visa (e.g. global talent, family), that you offer ad hoc support (e.g. emergency loans) to enable staff to engage with this process.

We look forward to hearing you will stand up for international staff who are facing a cliff edge the moment these immigration changes come into effect.

UoN response via Director of HR Operations 12/02/2024

Thank you for your email addressed to Shearer and Jaspal.

The forthcoming immigration changes will undoubtedly raise many challenges and the global mobility/immigration team in the HR department have been working through what these changes will mean for our staff and students and have submitted a paper to the People and Culture Committee for discussion on the 11 March 2024.

We are committed to connecting with Trade Unions thereafter for conversation and to ensure what is proposed in terms of support is fair and reasonable,  mindful of our duty of care and internal affordability.  

In the interim period, we propose any colleagues who have immediate requests, continue to connect direct with the global mobility/immigration team br-staffimmigration@exmail.nottingham.ac.uk

Communication will be key throughout the next few months and I’m expecting to receive a draft plan to review this week.

Please don’t hesitate to connect with me direct should you have any further questions and I appreciate Shearer and Jaspal will wish to remain close to this sensitive people challenge.

UoN UCU follow-up email 13/02/2024

Many thanks for responding to our email on the April immigration changes.

Directing affected staff to contact the global mobility/immigration team to discuss their individual situation makes sense yet limits the university’s immediate response to a passive one with little visibility. We presented proposals on what proactive steps the university could take, i.e., encourage and facilitate early renewal (bullet point 1) and/or category switching (bullet point 3) where that allows making use of current, less stringent visa requirements. You could write to staff you are currently sponsoring, as well as include a general message in the staff newsletter.

We understand that longer-term steps are part of the paper to the People and Culture Committee and would appreciate receiving a copy, as well as for the draft plan once available.

Last, we had mentioned an ask to lobby UCEA and others in the sector to take a stance against these changes and the growing anti-immigration sentiment these embody. We hope you can affirm the university will be acting on this request.

UoN response via Director of HR Operations 14/02/2024

To reconfirm we are prioritising a communication plan, which will include communication in the next week to individuals impacted by the forthcoming changes.  In the interim, if colleagues have immediate asks, they can continue to connect in with the immigration team in HR.

I can confirm we are exploring a wealth of options, including points you have referenced.   As this has a financial consideration, this will be presented to the organisation for approval.

We appreciate this is an extremely sensitive and anxious time for colleagues, therefore we are aiming to address the immediate asks in the next few weeks, with longer-term arrangements routed to PCC in March, as requested by the Talent Group.

We understand UCEA has met with sector bodies including Universities UK and the Russell Group to discuss sector concerns and potential influencing activities. I understand there is an agreement to send a joint letter to the Home Secretary to express concern at the significant increase to the salary threshold and the potential impact of the increase in the sector and also to seek clarification on some of the measures. We will explore how the University of Nottingham is tapping into these conversations and can respond to this point once we have all the facts.

As part of the communication and engagement plan, we will be happy to reconnect in the next few weeks.  In the meanwhile, please do contact me direct if you have any further questions.

We will be working closely with Finance, Leaders, Trade Unions and impacted staff to find fair and reasonable solutions to a particularly challenging ask.

UoN UCU follow-up email 16/02/2024

Many thanks for the further details on the actions the university will be taking in the more immediate future, this provides some measure of reassurance. We would appreciate receiving updates as you are able to provide them, and opportunities to feed into decision making.

Member email: Update on financial situation!

A version of the below email was sent to members on 5th February 2024

Dear members,

My colleagues Lopa Leach, Cecilia Testa and I have been in regular contact with management about the university’s financial situation. While there is a projected deficit this academic year, the university has also built-up cash reserves of £124 million over recent years. These reserves must not go below £50 million, but in our view this still leaves ample room for manoeuvre and cannot justify the severe cuts to our research, teaching and administration budgets. Management argues that the cuts are only this and next financial year. We, however, point out that these cuts have rather medium- to long-term consequences for the university’s reputation and research capacity. We will continue to press for a change in financial policy that addresses long-term financial sustainability without damaging university core business.

To discuss these issues in more depth, we will hold a members meeting on Wednesday, 28 February, 1 to 2 p.m. Details to follow, but please put the meeting in your diaries already now.

Best,

Andreas