LUCU News: Branch Committee, Casework Training, LGBT Group, Award for David Kerr

LUCU News: Branch Committee, Casework Training, LGBT Group, Award for David Kerr

In our latest newsletter, we introduce the newly elected members of the Branch Committee, including those who will be taking on officer roles. We also highlight a forthcoming Union caseworker training event that we hope will be of interest to colleagues. Other items cover the work of the University’s LGBT+ Staff Group and the award of a prestigious University honour to a long-time Branch activist who will be familiar to many members.

The incoming Branch Committee

Nominations closed several weeks ago for election to the Branch Committee for 2018-19 and so we are now able to name those colleagues who from 1 August will be representing the interests of members at Loughborough. Given that many people may not have found occasion in the past to scrutinise minutely the structure of the Committee, it may be helpful to say a little about this here, as well as to identify the coming year’s incumbents.

Among the Committee’s members, nine are designated as officers, indicating that they have particular areas of responsibility with regard to the Union’s business on campus; these are also the people most likely to represent the Union on committees alongside University managers and representatives of our two sister unions. All of these posts have now been filled for next year. With Matthew Inglis (Maths Education) stepping down as Chair, we are very pleased to confirm that Alan Bairner (Sport, Exercise and Health Sciences) is once more to fill the role. As Vice-Chair, Andrew Dix has been succeeded by his Arts, English and Drama colleague, Mary Brewer.

No other reshuffling of portfolios has been necessary, however, with officers continuing to occupy positions which they previously held. So, David Wilson (IT Services) remains as Negotiating Secretary, Marc Gibson (IT Services) as Admin Secretary, Marie Hanlon (Academic Language Support Service) as Membership Secretary, Dan Towns (IT Services) as Treasurer, Ian Jones (Maths Education) as Personal Casework Coordinator, Thomas Swann (Politics, History and International Relations) as Anti-Casualisation Officer, and Eugenie Hunsicker (Maths) as Equalities Officer.

The officer holders are supported by six ordinary members of the Committee. Andrew will continue to serve as one of these, along with five colleagues who represent a range of sections and roles in the University: Clare Bonham (Aeronautical and Automotive Engineering), Alec Edworthy (IT Services), Mark Murphy (Student Services), Steve O’Sullivan (Academic Language Support Service) and Steven Parfitt (Politics, History and International Relations).

While many advantages accrue to the Committee from people’s continuity of service in these various roles (indeed, for an example, see the last item in today’s newsletter), it is equally important for it to be energised by new members’ ideas and perspectives. We hope that the incoming Committee represents just such an opportune blend.       

Union caseworker training

We have regularly reported in newsletters about the invaluable support offered by caseworkers to members on campus who are facing difficulties or problems of various kinds. Casework is a challenging (though highly rewarding) activity – and so we are pleased to announce that a training session led by UCU’s Regional Official Sue Davis will take place on campus next month. The training will cover all aspects of support for Union members who have workplace concerns that typically include such things as PDR outcomes, bullying, discrimination, and disciplinary and capability investigations. Sue knows the subject extremely well, and similar training sessions she has run at Loughborough in the past have always been stimulating and informative. While the training will be particularly suitable for Committee members and Departmental reps, a warm invitation to attend is also extended to colleagues who are considering becoming more actively involved in the life of the Union on campus. The session will take place on Tuesday 17 July, from 12:30 to 4pm. Please contact the Personal Casework Coordinator Ian Jones at I.Jones@lboro.ac.uk if you would like to come along or have any questions about what will be involved.

News of the LGBT+ Staff Group

Having reported in a previous newsletter on the LGBT+ Staff Group at Loughborough, we are very happy to circulate details of its latest activities. The Group continues to populate its new website and has also just produced its first newsletter, giving details of achievements, initiatives and forthcoming events (which begin with a lunchtime social on 18 July). You can read the LGBT+ newsletter here.

David Kerr and the University Medal

Members may recall that in our newsletter of 3 August last year we interviewed David Kerr on the occasion of his retirement. During a long career teaching and researching in the Wolfson School of Mechanical, Electrical and Manufacturing Engineering, David somehow also found the time to be an indefatigable officer of our Branch Committee. As Vice-President and Negotiating Secretary over many years, he played a key role in advancing all members’ well-being on campus, not least through his painstaking efforts in helping to frame the terms and conditions we all currently work under.

We are delighted to report that, along with his distinguished academic achievements, David’s dedication to UCU members at Loughborough and his commitment to unions’ civilising effect on campus have now been recognised by his being awarded the University Medal. This award, as its description runs, is given to members of staff ‘who have made a distinctive and long-running contribution to the University […] and consistently performed above-and-beyond the call of their duties.’ With characteristic modesty, David says that he believed a mistake had been made when he opened the Vice-Chancellor’s letter, informing him of the award; those of us who have worked with David on the Branch Committee, however, are very clear there is no error here.

David will receive his award at the graduation ceremony of the School of the Arts, English and Drama on 19 July – and he can be assured of an enthusiastic reception from students and visitors at what is always one of the liveliest of the University’s graduations.

To be continued

The next newsletter will appear near the end of July and will include a tribute to Matthew Inglis, our outgoing Branch Chair. In the meantime, do continue to contact us with your views and suggestions with regard to UCU activities on campus. The Committee’s contact details can be found here; we hope you will also follow us on both Facebook and Twitter.

LUCU Committee, 28th June 2018

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LUCU News: Pay, Pensions, TEF, IT Support Review and Fossil Fuel Divestment

LUCU News: Pay, Pensions, TEF, IT Support Review and Fossil Fuel Divestment

This latest issue of our newsletter is largely taken up with coverage of significant national issues impacting upon us: namely the current pay offer, the recent campaign over pensions, and the effects of the Teaching Excellence Framework. More locally, however, we also report on a proposed restructure of IT support and on a motion passed by members at the recent Branch Annual General Meeting that calls upon the University to divest from the fossil fuel industry.

Pay offer

UCEA, the university employers’ association, has made what it describes as a final offer of 2% in this year’s pay negotiations. In March, the various measures of inflation stood at 2.3% (CPIH), 2.5% (CPI) and 3.3% (RPI); so, however you choose to do the maths, the proposed pay increase amounts to yet another real-terms pay cut. The graph below is based on point 38 (the average in the higher education sector), and it shows rather soberingly how absolute increases in our salaries over the last twenty years become much less impressive when they are adjusted to take account of the different inflation indices.

Pay Adjusted for Inflation

On the basis of contributions made from the floor during the Branch AGM on 16 May, it is possible to conclude that members locally are not currently fizzing with enthusiasm at the prospect of another lengthy industrial dispute. The point was made that, rather than agitating at this point for a larger salary increase, it might be wiser to wait and see the outcome next year of the review of our pensions – an issue with much more drastic consequences for our long-term financial well-being. Also: in a moment of squeezed salaries nationally, would a campaign premised on a demand for higher pay have the same resonance with students and the public as the topic of significant pension loss? Nevertheless, a counter-argument was also made at the AGM: that, with the Union buoyant nationally from a magnificent recent show of force, this is precisely the moment at which to address also the creeping, dispiriting corrosion of our salaries.

UCU’s national negotiators have recommended that a consultative ballot be held in June to ask members whether they favour accepting or rejecting the current offer. The national position will be to recommend rejection – with the cautionary postscript that, if we do so, we will need to be willing to take concerted and sustained industrial action from the beginning of the 2018-19 academic year.

For the moment, we would ask members to reflect on the pay offer and to anticipate a national ballot within the next month.

Further reflections on the pensions dispute

We have reflected in recent newsletters on the pension dispute’s galvanising effects upon the Branch. Members may also be interested, however, in reading a detailed national assessment of the campaign and its aims and outcomes which has been prepared by UCU’s Superannuation Working Group (SWG). Depending on your preference, the report is available both in pdf form and in rtf format. Any observations you have on the SWG’s document, including the recommendations it includes, would be welcome.

Teaching Excellence Framework

Members will be well aware of the effects already upon our sector of the Teaching Excellence and Student Outcomes Framework (TEF) – to give it its full title – which was inaugurated in 2017 and is currently administered by the Office for Students. Now, however, is a suitable moment to offer your views on the scheme. UCU has commissioned a research project ‘on the impact and implications of the Teaching Excellence Framework’, and, as part of this, is very interested in surveying members. The survey is open until 8 June and will take approximately 10-15 minutes to complete: it can be found here and we hope that many members will want to participate. If you have any questions about the survey, please contact the research project team at TEFImpact@bcu.ac.uk .

 IT support restructure

Moving from the national to the local, the University is proposing a significant change in the provision of IT support. Rather than Schools having their own designated IT staff, as at present, the plan is for colleagues in these roles to be managed centrally by IT Services though continuing to be spread geographically around the campus. The Branch would greatly appreciate your thoughts on this proposed restructure, and so has prepared a short survey – including a brief outline of management’s plan – that we hope you will find the time to complete (it is even briefer than the TEF survey and will take you only a few minutes). All responses are anonymous.

Please complete the survey by midday on Tuesday 29 May. We apologise for the very quick turnaround time: usually at Loughborough a consultation period would last for a month, but on this occasion IT Services was slow in providing the campus unions with the necessary paperwork.

Divestment from fossil fuels

You may recall that our newsletter of 19 February publicised a campaign being run by People and Planet, a body of highly engaged students on campus. The group has been protesting against the University’s investment in the fossil fuel industry and has produced an open letter to the Vice-Chancellor, calling firstly for the withdrawal of any current investments Loughborough has in this sector, second for the release of a public statement committing to complete divestment from fossil fuel within five years, and thirdly for the updating of the Ethical Investment Policy so as explicitly to exclude fossil fuel companies from the University’s potential portfolio. We might add that these aspirations are not only widely shared across the higher education sector (almost 60 UK universities are now committed to a programme of divestment from the fossil fuel industry), but they accord with national UCU policy.

The recent Branch AGM voted overwhelmingly to support People and Planet’s objectives; members are asked therefore to consider signing the open letter. In addition, our Chair has written to the chair of Council about the issue.

To be continued

Do continue to contact us with your views and suggestions. The Committee’s contact details can be found here; we are also on Facebook and Twitter.

LUCU Committee, 25th May 2018

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