Solidarity with UoN students in view of eviction threat by management!

This is a version of an email sent to UCU members at the University of Nottingham on Thursday 16th May.

Dear UCU members,
Even though the student encampment on Jubilee campus in support of Palestine has been entirely peaceful, UoN management has moved towards their eviction. In response, I have written today to the VC on behalf of the UCU committee urging management to reconsider their approach to our students (see underneath this message).

The Court hearing will take place tomorrow morning [Friday 17th May] at 11.30 a.m. at Birmingham Civil Justice, Birmingham District Registry, King’s Bench Division, Priory Courts, 33 Bull Street, Birmingham, B4 6DS. If you happen to be close or can make the time, please go there in support of our students.

Finally, there is currently an online petition organised by staff [full text below]. The committee strongly encourages you to sign. [At time of posting, over 150 UoN staff have signed the original petition.]

Committee email to VC, 16 May

Dear Vice Chancellor,

It is with great dismay that we have learned that yesterday the University served the student encampment – which UoN itself pointed out as being peaceful (see https://www.nottingham.ac.uk/currentstudents/news/conflict-in-israel-and-gaza-accessing-support) – with papers as a first step towards their eviction. And this without even having attempted to engage constructively with the students and their demands. Considering that yesterday marked the anniversary of the Nakba, when 750,000 Palestinians were expelled from their homes 76 years ago, management could not have chosen a more inopportune moment.

We would like to remind you that the encampment has neither occupied any buildings, nor has it obstructed the normal functioning of day-to-day University business. We therefore urge you to reflect carefully on management’s next steps and whether a constructive dialogue, similar to what has happened at other UK universities, may not be preferable over the application of brute force and the high financial costs this involves.

We also note that similar concerns have already been brought to your attention by staff in the Department of Philosophy with other parts of the university likely to follow.

We have to be clear that should management choose a course of confrontation with the encampment, we as UCU UoN would be left with no alternative but to speak up and condemn this course publicly.

Yours, Andreas (on behalf of the UCU Committee at UoN)

Statement regarding the peaceful protest encampment at the University of Nottingham

As members of staff at the University of Nottingham, we believe that the freedom to protest is essential to our democracy. The right to protest should be respected and protected, especially by institutions such as universities.

Currently, students are engaged in peaceful protest on university campuses across the UK, including an encampment at the University of Nottingham. We are concerned that some universities are not upholding these students’ democratic rights.

The University of Nottingham camp is positioned intentionally such that it does not interfere with the normal use of the university. Students, lecturers and other staff are able to go to work and class without interference. They are friendly, approachable and communal. They are conscientious about safety, tidiness, waste, and hygiene.

The students are a credit to the university. They display the very principles that a university education should be working to instil in students: conscientiousness, passion, the active pursuit of social justice, the advancement of the human condition and a commitment to improving health and wellbeing of all people, wherever they are in the world.

This is a protest that aims to ensure that the university is not contributing to the Israeli military bombardment and invasion of Gaza, which has killed many thousands of people. It is understandable that supporters of Israel’s actions may oppose the camp, but this is not evidence of discrimination or intimidation. It is a diverse and inclusive group. For example, during a vigil for the victims of the current invasion, Jewish students took part and led a prayer of remembrance. The students have created a friendly, welcoming space for all who visit.

We see no reason why the students should be removed from the camp.

Signed statement link: https://docs.google.com/document/d/1YYXQR9yr1b3N9v-bkiVm0bjPLVY5mfq3-Mx1fDtqFFw/edit

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)

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;