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

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;

Motion on Defending Jobs at University of Nottingham – 12th December 2023

The below motion was adopted by the Branch with a strong majority.

This branch notes:

  • That UCU at UoN again easily reached the ballot threshold of 50% during the most recent, national ballot (local records indicate a turnout in excess of 60%);
  • That we are well organised locally and therefore ready to defend our conditions at UoN if and when necessary;

This branch believes:

  • That it is our key task to defend all jobs and working conditions;
  • That we need to maintain our readiness to take action through the continuing building of our reps network;

This branch resolves:

  • That any management plans for redundancies will immediately trigger an e-ballot as a first step towards a formal ballot on industrial action.

Motions from Extraordinary General Meeting of the Branch Monday 6th November

Members attending the EGM on 6th November voted to support three motions:

  • Motion in support of Professor Hakim Adi and the MRes in the History of Africa and African Diaspora.
  • Motion on the Current Situation in Gaza.
  • UoN UCU Branch Motion on Academic Freedom and UKRI.

The full text of each motion can be found below.

Motion in support of Professor Hakim Adi and  the MRes in the History of Africa and African  Diaspora  

This branch notes that: 

  1. In 2020, in the aftermath of the murder of George Floyd and the resurgence of  the Black Lives Matter movement, universities across the UK, including the  University of Chichester, pledged to better support Black Studies and Black  students and to decolonize the curriculum. 
  2. Hakim Adi, Professor of Africa and the African Diaspora, is the first African-British  professor of History and is one of only four Black professors of History in the UK and that only 0.3% of History staff are Black. 
  3. The MRes in the History of Africa and African Diaspora at University of Chichester  is the one of very few post-graduate courses of its type in the country and has  recruited students of Black Caribbean, African and African-British heritages.  
  4. By making Prof Adi redundant, at least 16 postgraduate students will lose vital  supervisory expertise and support.  

We recognize that: 

  1. Linking Professor Adi’s employment to the financial success of the MRes is  individually damaging and a threat to the whole sector.  
  2. Dismantling the MRes leaves current post-graduates without expert supervision  and support and undermines the future of Black history in particular, and Black  studies in general. 
  3. The loss of Professor Adi and the MRes is a step backward in commitments to  decolonize the curriculum and support Black staff and students. 
  4. The particular targeting of the MRes and the impact it will have on Black  students is an example of structural racism within the academy.  

UCU is committed to campaigning against all compulsory redundancies, to fighting  racism and supporting the decolonization of the curriculum. Professor Adi’s threatened  redundancy and the closure of the MRes goes against these principles.  

We support the demands made by the Black Members’ Standing Committee and call on  the University of Chichester to: 

  1. Retain Professor Adi in his post as Professor of the History; 
  2. Look for viable strategies to maintain the MRes History of Africa and the African  Diaspora.  

We call on all universities and HEIs in the UK to:

  1. Promote and resource Black history, and support Black students and staff for the  benefit of higher education and society as a whole.  
  2. Recognise and take initiatives to counter structural racism within higher  education.

Motion on the Current Situation in Gaza

We are utterly horrified at the violence that we have seen in recent weeks in both Israel and the occupied Palestinian territories. 

We condemn in the strongest possible terms the targeting of civilian life by both Hamas and  the Israeli military, and we also condemn instances of Antisemitism and Islamophobia that  we have witnessed since the violence unfolded. 

This branch notes:

  • That collective punishment of more than 2 million Palestinians living Gaza is a clear  violation of international law. 
  • The complicity of the British government and main opposition party through their  unequivocal moral and material support for Israel, its occupation of Palestine and its  crimes against humanity. 
  • The attacks in our sector on academic freedom and the right to protest in support of the  plight of Palestinian people. 
  • The increase in racism including Islamophobia and Antisemitism in our universities  and wider society. 
  • The events of recent days are part of a continuing cycle of violence that has been the  result of decades of brutal occupation. 
  • The targeting of civilians by Hamas was and is brutal and unacceptable. 

The branch believes:

  • In the right of occupied and colonised peoples to resist that occupation as is  recognised under international law. 
  • Achieving a lasting peace in the region must start with an end to the occupation, a  release of hostages, and recognition of the rights of all people. 
  • In maintaining an unambiguous position of solidarity with Palestine. • the right of academics and students to express their solidarity with the Palestinian  people and to contextualise the unfolding violence. 
  • That these discussions can take place is crucial to academic and intellectual freedom. • that we support any colleague and student who is grieving as a consequence of the  current violence in Israel/Palestine. 

The branch resolves:

  • To call upon the British Government and the international community to collectively  call for an immediate ceasefire, release of hostages, and de-escalation, by Hamas and  Israel, including the lifting of the siege of Gaza. 
  • To call for a suspension of UK political and military support of Israel, which is used to  perpetuate war crimes and crimes against humanity.
  • To affirm in line with the position of the national UCU our support for the Boycott,  Divestment and Sanctions movement. 
  • To support campaigns of solidarity with Palestinians. 
  • To affirm our institution’s legal and normative commitments to uphold academic  freedom. 

As a trade union, we are committed to achieving peace and an end to violence and  oppression. We send our solidarity to all those affected by these events, especially education  staff and students. We know that many will be worrying about loved ones, and to those  grieving we send our heartfelt condolences.

UoN UCU Branch Motion on Academic Freedom and UKRI

This branch notes:

  1. There is a current wave of repression and censorship against those expressing  solidarity with the Palestinian people and their cause. 
  2. On 28th October Michelle Donelan, Secretary of State for Science, Innovation and  Technology, wrote a public letter to UKRI which singled out and named two  academic members of the UKRI EDI Advisory Group for their social media posts  criticising Israel’s actions in Palestine, and questioned the role of the Advisory Group. 
  3. UKRI responded with a letter to Donelan, dated 30th October, in which they  announced the suspension of the EDI group, an investigation into Donelan’s claims,  and a review of the future of both the EDI group and all other advisory structures  within UKRI. 

This branch believes; 

  1. Michelle Donelan’s letter represents a chilling attempt to silence and intimidate  academics speaking out, whether on Palestine and other matters deemed contrary  to a narrow, partisan political agenda. 
  2. The capitulation by UKRI leadership to political threats from a government minister  raises ethical questions about the independence of research and knowledge within  UK HE. 
  3. The letter, and UKRI’s response to it, undermines and threatens academic freedom.
  4. That the underlying political agenda served by Donelan’s intervention is to undo all  the important work on equality, diversity, and inclusion at UKRI.  

This branch resolves; 

  1. To advise that UoN UCU members in voluntary roles with UKRI resign from their  posts and do not accept future invitations to participate. 
  2. To advise that UoN UCU members boycott events organised by UKRI and refuse to  conduct peer reviews from UKRI grant applications. 
  3. To encourage UoN UCU members in professional associations to express their  concern collectively to UKRI. 
  4. To reaffirm its commitment to equality, diversity, and inclusion in UK HE and call on  the University of Nottingham to issue a statement to that effect. 

Composers’ note: This motion draws on a draft motion circulate to signatories of the UKRI Open Letter regarding the initial response of UKRI to Michelle Donelan’s letter by the Notes from Below organization.

Motions from AGM 19th June 2023

After the AGM business of ratifying members of the committee for next year, three emergency motions were proposed. All three were passed with significant majorities.

Motion 1) Fighting the 50% Deduction Threat

We note that:

1)     The university does not accept partial performance and has threatened staff who participate in the Marking and Assessment Boycott (MAB) with 50% pay deduction from their salary from 15 May-17 June 2023.

2)     50% deduction of pay for five weeks due to participation in the MAB is punitive, unreasonable, and disproportionate. 

3)   legal challenges to the deductions will be slow, conducted on an individual basis and the outcome of these remain uncertain.

4)  the best way to challenge the deductions in the short to medium term is through an escalation of local action by UCU, including strike action, a strategy which has already proven successful  at the University of Queen Margaret and Kings. 

If the university does not rescind its threat of 50% deductions, we resolve to escalate our action by

1)     Leafleting at Open Days 

2)     Carrying out an indicative e-poll in order to gauge members’ willingness to take strike action during Welcome and Induction Week

Motion 2) Retraction of Conflict of Interest re Senators who are also members of UCU

We note that:

1)     The University Senate has been asked to note that senators who are also members of UCU have a conflict of interest when discussing issues related to industrial action and that they must declare this conflict in advance of these discussions.

2)  This note is based on the assumption that UEB acts in the university’s interest on such matters, but UCU members–who serve on Senate in an individual, non-union capacity–do not. 

3) Trade union membership is sensitive data under GDPR and many join a trade union to express and act on strongly held political beliefs.

4) UCU members who serve on Senate do so in an individual capacity and act independently of UCU.

5) The prosperity of the University is in the interests of all university staff, including UEB and UCU members. UCU members who serve on Senate in an individual, non-union capacity, may or may not agree with UEB on how this prosperity is best achieved, but their membership of UCU does not prevent them from acting in what they believe to be the University’s best interest. 

6) The University’s articles of incorporation mention no one should be treated differently because of trade union membership.

7) UoN UCU and the University have a longstanding recognition agreement which states both ‘have a common interest in the wellbeing of the University’  

8) UCU members elsewhere in the UK have fallen victim to similar campaigns of silence, including exclusion from exam boards on the grounds of CoI

9) At  Senate on June 13, the relevant item was discussed and sent back for further legal consultation

This branch will call on the University to immediately retract any declaration regarding the conflict of interests of Senators who are also UCU members, and to apologise for the initial intimidation.  If the university fails to do this, this branch resolves to

1.     Initiate a publicity campaign, locally and nationally, to draw attention to this abuse of power by UEB against members of UCU

2.     Support any of its members serving on Senate who are being unfairly treated as a result of the declaration  

Motion 3) Ukraine, Union Solidarity, and Self-Determination

 The University of Nottingham branch notes

1   2023 UCU Congress passed Motion 5 “Stop the War in Ukraine—Peace Now” by merely 9 votes out of 288, with 37 abstentions.

2  This motion has been divisive, supplied fodder to an already hostile press, distracted the union from the main struggle at hand, and led to resignations of scores of members disgusted by its wording, not least within Slavonic studies and among those of Ukrainian descent. 

3  The motion transpired without any prior discussion of the issue in our branch—or, presumably, the vast majority of branches.

4  This motion was composed without any serious attempt to involve scholars in such fields as Slavonic studies or international relations, when our union is meant to value research and knowledge.

5  The motion contains no reference to the Ukrainian labour movement, whose two federations have thrown themselves into the resistance to the Russian invasion and simultaneously struggled to uphold workers’ rights in wartime, or to Ukrainian trade unionists, who have been among those fighting and dying on the front lines.

6  The motion states that “wars are fought by the poor and unemployed of one country killing and maiming the poor and unemployed of another,” a cliché true of some wars that does not well describe Ukraine’s fight for independence, in which professionals, students, intellectuals, technicians, and university lecturers have volunteered.

7  The motion does not affirm the right to self-defence or principle of self-determination, which would require respecting the Ukrainian people and government’s urgent requests that the world supply them with arms.

8  The motion calls on “government to stop arming Ukraine” when that would result in victory for the Russian state’s aggression and annexationism.

Therefore, the Nottingham branch

1 – Calls on the NEC to

a)   Put Motion 5 “Stop the War in Ukraine—Peace Now” to an immediate e-ballot of the whole UCU membership, since in this instance we believe a direct consultation is essential to determine whether Congress accurately represented the union’s membership.

b)  Place resources and emphasis on Congress 2023 Motion 6 (which emphasised self-determination and solidarity with Ukraine) and not Motion 5.

2  – Calls for a special Congress for the purposes of repealing Motion 5 “Stop the War in Ukraine—Peace Now”, commits to submit a motion to that effect to that special Congress, and asks other branches to call for such a special Congress.

3  – Acknowledges why many members resigned over this issue and respectfully requests them to rejoin our union and help us forge a sound internationalist policy.

4  – Urges all members to remain in UCU and carry the current campaign to victory against neoliberal management’s disastrous course in the post-16 education sector.