LUCU News: August 2018

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 ucu@lboro.ac.uk 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 ucu@lboro.ac.uk if you want to find out more.

Leicester Pride

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.

Memis Acar

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: 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