Please look out for your postal ballot arriving from the 30th August and make sure you complete it and post back in time for the ballot closing on 19th October. If you have any questions please feel free to contact the Officers of the branch or see the link below.
LUCU News: August 2018
In this month’s newsletter, we report on the work that our committee members and departmental reps do for your benefit, collectively in our negotiations with the university and individually in our case work. Also, there are opportunities to get involved in the local branch with a vacancy for an Equality Officer and in the wider trade union movement as we give details of UCU-run training courses, Leicester Pride and announce our affiliation to Leicester and District Trades Union Council. There is a reminder of the upcoming ballot on pay and finally, we pay tribute to Memis Acar, a branch committee member for many years, who has recently died.
Our LUCU Negotiators report back
At the last joint negotiating meeting with management, the Unions raised a number of issues, including this year’s PDR round, immigration support and mental health and wellbeing. We will be feeding into a review of the PDR process so please note the email we sent on this topic offering you an opportunity to provide feedback about your experience. Meanwhile with Brexit still meaning “Brexit” and much else being left to be decided, our valued international colleagues continue to be concerned about their status in the UK. While the University has for several limited periods offered welcome financial help to those wishing to become naturalised, we have been working with the International Staff Group to urge the University to produce long term, consistent support.
Mental health is an ongoing concern, exacerbated by increased workloads and performance pressure. At our recent meeting, the Health and Safety Executive noted that stress and workload have already been flagged to them as serious issues at the university and that they were disappointed to find that this is still the case. While we recognise these problems are by no means unique to Loughborough, we must maintain a focus on ensuring that demands made upon staff are realistic and sustainable and that support mechanisms are sufficient.
The past year has also seen an unprecedented number of restructures and organisational reviews within schools and services which has tested the support capacity of all the campus unions to the limit. The conduct of these processes has varied considerably, and we are working with HR colleagues to establish better guidance and operating principles for future changes, including early involvement of the unions. Given the threat of industrial action over planned redundancies at the University of Leicester, we are pleased that Loughborough’s management seem committed to a less savage approach to cost saving, but more must be done to ensure that changes are implemented competently, at a manageable pace, and that the results are sustainable.
It is also important to recognise that while tuition fees have not risen with inflation, the University’s operating surplus grew from just over £1m in 2015 to £19.8m in 2017.
Our Reps working for you
Occasionally members experience difficulties due to structural changes, conflicts with colleagues, health problems and other issues. Your local UCU committee supports people in such situations by assigning volunteer case workers. A personal case worker meets with a member, represents them in formal meetings, assists with administration and paperwork, and provides advice as to how best to handle a tricky and often distressing situation. At present over 20 members of staff across the University are receiving support on issues ranging from reducing unwieldy administrative burdens through to defending members under threat of redundancy. If you have any issues you wish to discuss with a case worker, please email email@example.com or call the branch office on 228299.
Want to get more involved?
Loughborough University UCU would like to thank our previous Equality Officer, Eugenie Hunsicker, for her hard work and dedication, as she has now stepped down from the role. This means we have a vacancy on the 2018/19 LUCU committee for an Equality Officer. If you are interested in taking on the role, please get in touch with the branch administrator or any of the LUCU officers who can help you decide if it’s the role for you. For some general information on the role please see the UCU Website and in particular the document at the bottom of the page called “Organising for equality – the role of the equality officer”.
Looking to learn?
As with most trade unions LUCU encourage our members to improve their education about what trade unions are and how they operate. Whether you are an existing UCU activist or you are considering taking on a more active role within this UCU branch there is a training course for you.
For information on free training courses provided by UCU please see here.
For a list of courses in the region and dates, please see here.
All our committee members and departmental reps are eligible for time off for training under the Trade Union Act; other members may be eligible on a case by case basis. Get in touch with our Branch Administrator by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org if you want to find out more.
Leicester Pride 2018 takes place on Saturday 1st September at Victoria Park. We encourage our members to attend. If a group of members are planning on going and would like to take the branch banner for the march, please get in touch. For more details see the website for Leicester Pride.
Our involvement in the Trade Union movement
Loughborough University UCU has this month affiliated to Leicester and District Trades Union Council. The L&D TUC is made up of branches from many different unions in Leicestershire. This affiliation gives us more influence to shape the trade union movement locally, more opportunity to show our solidarity with other union branches in their fights, more support and resources to call upon when we need to fight. We have already appointed two delegates to the L&D TUC from the LUCU committee and we have two more delegate places to fill. If you are interested in finding out more, please contact the LUCU branch administrator.
All meetings of L&D TUC take place in the City Hall, Charles Street, Leicester. The full Council meetings are held monthly on the 3rd Thursday of each month except December and commence at 7pm. In December a joint Council/EC meeting is held on the 1st Tuesday commencing 7pm. You can also see some information about L&D TUC’s history and purpose on the Leicester NUT website.
2018 Pay Ballot
Please look out for your postal ballot arriving from the 30th August and make sure you complete it and post back in time for the ballot closing on 19th October. If you have any questions, please feel free to contact the Officers of the branch or click this link to read more. We will be starting our Get The Vote Out campaign the week after next so look out for more information on the pay ballot and expect a call from the committee.
Members will be saddened to hear of the death of Memis Acar, a vivid presence in the life of the union on campus over several decades. He will be remembered by his colleagues in the School of Mechanical, Electrical and Manufacturing Engineering (where he was Professor of Mechanics) as a distinguished researcher and teacher, whose work in fields such as the modelling of car interior design so as to reduce injury in the case of accidents had significant public benefits.
We particularly remember him here, however, as an active participant in Loughborough UCU. Memis was a member of the branch committee for many years, retaining his staunch commitment to the union even as he came to occupy senior management roles in his School, culminating in his time as Associate Dean for Teaching (2011-15). David Kerr, our recently retired Vice-President and Negotiating Secretary, and a School as well as union colleague of Memis, recalls that ‘In Wolfson he was quick to defend colleagues in difficulties whenever he could. He was very passionate about fair treatment for everyone.’
Memis was also supportive of members’ interests during the periods he spent on both Council and Senate. Here, too, as David remembers, he was ‘fearlessly vocal’, unafraid of ruffling ‘quite a few feathers’. As a stalwart of the branch, someone who passionately believed in the civilising mission of the union on campus, Memis will be greatly missed. We extend our condolences to his family and friends.
To be continued
Our next newsletter is scheduled to appear in the latter half of September. In the meantime, continue to contact us with your views and suggestions about LUCU activities on campus. The Committee’s contact details can be found here; we hope you will also follow us on bothFacebook and Twitter.
LUCU Committee, 24th August 2018
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.
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.
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
LUCU Committee, 25th May 2018