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 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;

University financial situation – message to UCU members

This message was sent to UCU members at the University of Nottingham on 17th January 2024.

Dear UCU member,

On behalf of the branch committee, and somewhat belatedly, can I take this opportunity to send you best wishes for 2024. Unfortunately, it is already clear that the year ahead will be a difficult one for the sector, and at the University of Nottingham.

This morning you will have received an email sent from UEB to all staff that refers to ‘unprecedented financial pressures in the sector’ and the probability of a financial deficit at our university this financial year.

Against this background I am writing to make clear your union branch’s commitment to defend your job, pay and working conditions in the year ahead. Branch strategy is focused on 3 priority areas:

  1. We will engage constructively with university management to address problems where it is demonstrably in the interests of our members to do so. Branch officers are meeting with the Deputy Vice-Chancellor and Chief Financial Officer next week, and officers will take every opportunity to represent members’ interests and to seek to ensure that management decisions reflect the priorities of our members.
  2. We will take collective action, up to and including strike action, to defend jobs and resist redundancies (as agreed at our recent branch meeting). This commitment recognises in particular the experience of members on fixed term and precarious contracts who we know from the recent past are particularly vulnerable in these contexts [the union is currently supporting Demonstrators in Chemistry who work on casualised contracts and who recently experienced an imposed and immediate pay cut – please look out for an email later today announcing an extraordinary branch meeting on this issue on 31 January].
  3. We will hold our own management to account for any institution level decisions that serve to exacerbate the sector-wide situation. In the recent past, during the Covid crisis, branch officers worked with branch members who have specialist knowledge, and with an external expert in HE sector finances, to develop a coherent and credible Alternative Financial Strategy (AFS). The branch is already developing an AFS 2.0 that will, as before, offer a viable and sustainable financial model that prioritises the need for a secure and safe environment in which to work and study.

Alongside all of the above, and our response to current problems, the branch committee has a strategic plan for 2024 that focuses on three broad areas – quality of working life, open and democratic governance and equal rights. These plans contain short and longer term objectives, and we are determined that progress in these areas is not be deflected by immediate crises. All members are encouraged to contribute to developing work on these issues and, as with all branch activity, we commit to always being transparent and democratic and to give members every opportunity to shape branch policy and activity.

Let’s keep in touch, let’s work together and let’s look out for each other in 2024.

In solidarity

Howard