LUCU Memo to Students

LUCU Memo to Students

We suggest that colleagues send a message to students in advance of the industrial action to maintain the best possible relations at what can be a stressful time for everyone involved.  The branch has created the following message to make this easier: please amend as you see fit for your student groups.

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Subject: UCU Industrial Action – Beginning December 1, 2021  

Dear <usual form of address>,  

Many of you will know by now that the University and College Union (UCU), the trade union representing academic and academic related staff, has announced a first wave of industrial action over cuts to staff pensions, excessive workloads, job insecurity, and pay levels that have not kept up with inflation. This will impact universities across the sector including Loughborough.  

I regret that, unless the strike is cancelled (which, up to the last minute, is not impossible), strike action is likely to impact on your modules that are scheduled to occur between 1st and 3rd December. This means that teaching will be cancelled, and tutors will not be holding tutorials/office hours, nor answering emails.  

I will confirm nearer the time whether the module will be affected by industrial action.   If you would like to know more about why your lecturers are taking this action, you can access further information via our local Loughborough UCU YouTube channel.  

Kind regards
<your name>
Ends
Template Memo to Students

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Helping Branches Achieve the Ballot Threshold

Helping Branches Achieve the Ballot Threshold

Helping branches achieve the ballot threshold

UCU National are requesting volunteers to help message members at branches that did not make the threshold. The request is for people to use the ThruText system to help with get the vote out (GTVO). This is a really simple tool to use and can be accessed from most web browsers. If anyone is interested in taking part and helping branches across the country to achieve the ballot threshold please fill in your details here and the campaigns team will be in touch.

Helping the LUCU to help you
We used the ThruText system at Loughborough in the last ballot window and it was very effective. With further re-ballots looking likely, please do log onto MyUCU and check that both your contact details and employment details are up to date. We would like to encourage more of our members to list a mobile phone number on MyUCU for use in future ballots.

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LUCU News November 2021

LUCU News November 2021

GTVO – USS & Four Fights

We are very grateful to our Reps and members who volunteered their time to get the vote out! And thanks to all our members who endured with such good grace the many communications about returning your ballots. We are quietly confident that we are over the 50% threshold, and we will be writing to you again next week with the formal results for each ballot.

How You Can Help Build Support

Members have produced the following graphics that explain succinctly what is at stake regarding USS, workload, pay, and casualisation. We would appreciate members using the graphic as an email footer, sharing it on social media, and/or printing and displaying it on their office doors.

Video archive

If you haven’t had a chance yet to watch the videos by our Pensions Rep Matthew Inglis and our Negotiating Secretary Marc Gibson, you can find them on the LUCU YouTube channel: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCIx1LVG6eg71sYj_RwLIxnQ

Covid Update

The Dispute Process

We can confirm that the agreement reached with management last year following the dispute process remains in place. The dispute resolution process comprises a pro-active response from SMTs. Managers are asked to identify as early as possible staff who may be concerned about providing in-person teaching. Requests to teach online rather than in-person should be treated sympathetically, and HR business partners are available to assist in determining what action is most appropriate to help staff, without necessarily triggering an OH consultation.

The resolution process has been very successful, but we continue to hear of a few isolated cases across campus where members are being unduly pressured to teach in-person. These individuals are being supported by our caseworkers.  If you are facing pressure to teach in-person, please let us know at UCU@lboro.ac.uk, or contact our Casework Coordinator Andrew Dix – A.dix@lboro.ac.uk, and we will raise the case as a matter of urgency with HR.

Health and Safety on Campus

We continue to meet regularly with management to monitor how the University is responding to the pandemic and the health and safety measures it is putting in place to protect staff and students. We are hearing reports from members who are increasingly concerned about people not wearing masks while moving around buildings or in teaching spaces, students being unresponsive when asked to wear masks in teaching spaces, students complaining about requests to wear masks, overcrowding in some hallways and teaching spaces, and requests to work on campus when people could perform their duties from home.

We have lobbied management to implement the following: 

  • To make mask-wearing mandatory as it is within their legal right to do;
  • To make public ventilation figures for every teaching space;
  • To provide CO2 monitors in shared enclosed spaces, including teaching rooms;
  • To allow home-working wherever possible (following SAGE guidance).

To be fair and transparent, we have offered management the opportunity to explain to members their reasons for declining these requests, and you will find their response attached to this newsletter.  

LUCU will continue to lobby management to agree to the above requests, because we believe that decisions should be based on scientific guidance rather than government guidance where the two may be in conflict, and our Health and Safety Officers believe the above measures would result in a safer campus environment.  Further, in relation to mask-wearing, we do not agree that it is appropriate to place the burden of enforcement on staff.   We would like the University to resource a plan for enforcement as they did last year.

We will also lobby management to provide appropriate support for staff whose requests for students to wear masks is being ignored and work to ensure that our members experience no detriment due to student complaints about reasonable requests to wear masks.  Please let us know if you have any concerns about Covid safety measures, especially concerning mask-wearing, in your work area: UCU@lboro.ac.uk.

LUCU Committee

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General Meeting: Professional Services Workload

General Meeting: Professional Services Workload

You are invited to a branch general meeting on the topic of Professional Services Workload. This meeting is targeted at Professional Services staff and not all of our members will have a direct interest in this topic but all members are welcome should you be interested.

The meeting will take place on Wednesday 3rd November from 12pm to 1pm.

The meeting will be held on teams and the link has been sent to you by email.

LUCU Committee

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Ballots Now Out and Video Update

Ballots Now Out and Video Update

Ballots have now been posted out and those being balloted in the USS and Four Fights disputes should have received them in the post. Look out for this envelope:

When you receive your ballot please open it up, vote Yes & Yes and Yes & Yes on the ballots and put them in the pre-paid return envelope provided. Please then post this back as soon as you can. 

Please click here for the latest video on the USS dispute, where Marc Gibson, Branch Secretary gives his views on the USS dispute.

To see previous videos the branch has released during the dispute please go to our YouTube channel, don’t forget to subscribe so you are notified of any new videos we post.

LUCU Committee

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USS Pensions Dispute – Video Update

USS Pensions Dispute – Video Update

Our Pensions Rep, Matthew Inglis, has produced another excellent short video to update you on the USS dispute explaining the UUK proposal and comparing it to the current scheme. Click here to watch now.

You can still see Matthews previous video that explains the cause of the pension dispute and demonstrates how the 2020 evaluation is flawed, here.

Please share the videos to help publicise this issue.

If you have colleagues who are not yet members of UCU it’s not too late for them to join and have a voice in the dispute. Please direct anyone interested in joining to https://www.ucu.org.uk/join

LUCU Committee

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LUCU Newsletter – October 2021

LUCU Newsletter – October 2021

In this newsletter, we report on USS, Covid-19 H&S, Anti-Casualisation, and Dynamic Working. 

USS

Our Pensions Rep Matthew Inglis has produced an excellent short video that explains the cause of the pension dispute and demonstrates how the 2020 evaluation is flawed. We encourage all members to watch this: you can find it here. Please share the video to help publicise this issue.

We would like to remind members of the EGM on the USS Pension Dispute on October 8, 2021 – 1:00 – 1:50 on Teams. You can join the meeting via link that has been emailed to all members. If you are unable to attend and wish to ask a question about the dispute, please contact UCU@lboro.ac.uk.

Covid Update

Face Masks

Following our last Covid update, some members raised concerns with the branch about the University no longer requiring the use of face masks; academic colleagues were especially concerned about higher risks posed by teaching in spaces where students were not wearing masks. At the Joint Negotiating and Consultative Committee meeting on 15 Sept., LUCU raised the issue with management, and they agreed to take a more robust approach toward encouraging the use of face masks on campus.  We appreciate the constructive response to the concerns we raised. In addition, so that colleagues can feel more secure about asking students to wear face masks, the University has provided a slide that can be inserted into lecture materials or used on LEARN to request that students wear face masks in teaching sessions (unless exempt). You can download the slide here.

Ventilation

Ventilation levels have been checked in all areas that have mechanical ventilation and the details of the ventilation rates should be included in the risk assessments which are available for staff to read if they wish (please speak to your School Safety Officer is you are unsure where to find them).  CO2 monitors are being used in several locations where there are concerns about ventilation levels (especially those with poor or no mechanical ventilation).

Testing and Covid Cases

All students moving into on-campus accommodation have been required to take a lateral flow test before being permitted to collect their keys. Up to mid-afternoon on 29 September 2021, there had only been four positive results, and, given that approximately 2,000 tests per day are being carried out this is a good sign.  Students will continue to be required to undertake at least one lateral flow test per week; external funding for the current testing programme is in place to the end of October, but almost certainly will be extended to the end of the first term at least.  Staff are asked to take a lateral flow test at least once a week when they are coming onto campus. 

Returning to Campus

With term having started, many staff have been asked to return, at least part time, to working on campus.  This may be for a number of different reasons, but unless there is a specific health and safety risk which has not been addressed, in general our contracts oblige us to comply with these requests. LUCU’s position is that the University should follow Indie-Sage advice, which would see those staff who can work from home continue to do so, and those activities (e.g. area and school meetings) that can be done virtually continue to take place on Teams.  We will continue to make this case to management. If you have specific concerns (e.g. too many people in an office or teaching space, having to use public transport at peak times to travel to campus, etc.) then please discuss these with your line manager in the first instance. Don’t hesitate to contact the union if you do not feel your concerns are being adequately addressed.

Dynamic Working

In discussions with management, LUCU has been broadly supportive of the initiative to introduce dynamic working. We welcome the greater flexibility this mode of working offers – especially for colleagues in professional services – and its potential to benefit those who have caring responsibilities or a disability.  The opportunity for staff to work ‘dynamically’ is at the discretion of line managers, and LUCU is keen to ensure that the policy is applied fairly across job families, schools, and units across campus.  If you experience any problems in relation to Dynamic Working, please contact your area Rep or the committee at UCU@lboro.ac.uk so that we can bring them to the attention of HR.  If your request to work ‘dynamically’ is refused and you feel that you have been treated unfairly, you may also contact our Casework Coordinator Andrew Dix for individual support: A.Dix@lboro.ac.uk

Anti-Casualisation Campaign

The Casualisation Task and Finish Group, established following industrial action in 2018/19, has concluded its first phase. This has resulted in a Charter of Principles that the University has committed to in respect of casual employment, which is to be reviewed annually by management and campus unions. While we do not think this will eradicate the problems that casualisation causes, we hope that it will:

1) Improve pay and conditions for hourly paid workers in the immediate term;

2) Enable staff on open-ended contracts to make the case for more secure forms of employment when new staff are required;

3) Provide a platform for further organisation and negotiation.

The Charter of Principles can be read in full here. We’ll soon be publishing guidance for casual workers who feel these principles are not being honoured, and for staff on open-ended contracts who wish to support casualised colleagues. UCU has also recently produced some excellent materials for casual and open-ended staff: you can find them here. In the meantime, if you have any concerns, queries or suggestions, please contact David Bell on anticaslboro@gmail.com. If you are concerned that your employment at Loughborough is not in keeping with the spirit of the principles, please copy in your Department Rep, if possible (see here for a list of Reps).

LUCU Committee

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General Meeting to discuss USS Pensions

General Meeting to discuss USS Pensions

The branch committee have called a meeting of all members to discuss the USS pensions situation on Friday 8th October at 1pm. Please add this to your calendar and join us on the day.

Members ,check your email for a link to join the meeting.

The timetable for UK-wide industrial action over USS pension cuts and Four Fights (pay, workload, casualisation, and equality) is as follows:

Mon 18 Oct – ballots open

Thurs 4 Nov – ballots close

Mon 8 Nov – HEC meets to consider results

See a video message from Dr Jo Grady, UCU President, here: https://twitter.com/ucu/status/1440745807716642818

Please let your colleagues know it’s not too late to join UCU and have a voice in the ballots: https://www.ucu.org.uk/join

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LUCU Update on USS Pensions

LUCU Update on USS Pensions

University staff will have received the recent communication from Chris Linton concerning proposed changes to the USS pension scheme. As Chris explains, the proposed changes have come about because USS continues to adopt excessively prudent assumptions when valuing the scheme. In particular, USS’s assumptions about asset growth are absurdly pessimistic. In the period since the valuation date (March 2020), the scheme’s assets have grown by £19.7bn. In contrast, the assumptions in the valuation suggest that this level of growth would not have been achieved until 2110. After just one year the scheme is a full 90 years ahead of schedule!

Unfortunately, our employers have decided to push the cost of this flawed valuation onto staff. While it is true that employers have agreed to increase the level of so-called covenant support, the cost of this is at best highly speculative, that is, of the form “borrowing might cost the University a bit more in a few years”. In contrast, we are being asked to accept cuts of between 20% and 35% of our pension now. You can find out exactly how much you are being asked to sacrifice by using the USS modeller: http://ucu.org.uk/ussmodeller

We would like to address one specific section of Chris’s email in some detail. He writes that UCU developed some alternative proposals, but that these were not “formally submitted to the [Joint Negotiating Committee] for determination”. Precise, and in our view eccentric, meanings for the words “formally” and “determination” are required for this sentence to be true.

In collaboration with branch pension officers, including Loughborough’s, UCU developed a set of proposals (which can be seen in this news article). These involved sharing the costs of the flawed valuation between employers and employees. The idea was that members might be willing to accept a short-term price to avoid industrial action, so that UCU could join forces with UUK and push USS into governance reform that would permit a sensible valuation to be conducted in 2022. UCU’s proposals were submitted to the Joint Negotiating Committee (as item 3.2 in the papers for the meeting of 13th August). Unfortunately, UUK decided that they were not able to consult with employers about the proposals during August, apparently because too many people were on holiday. As a result, UUK decided that they could not provide covenant support to any proposals that were not their own. Because no occupational pension scheme can operate if employers refuse to support it, this meant that UCU’s proposals could not be put to the vote in the JNC meeting on 31st August. In short, UUK vetoed them. Notwithstanding this, Loughborough UCU has asked Loughborough University to review the UCU proposals directly. We are pleased that the University has agreed to look at them in detail, to understand them and to comment on them.

There is still time to resolve this dispute without industrial action. UUK could choose to withdraw their proposals and engage in good-faith discussions with UCU about solutions to both the short-term and long-term issues that USS’s behaviour has raised.

Unfortunately, this looks unlikely. As a result, last week UCU’s Special Higher Education Sector Conference agreed to launch an industrial action ballot.

We have called a meeting of all members to discuss the USS situation on 8th October at 1pm, and further details will be circulated in due course.

LUCU Committee

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Meeting: Anticasualisation at Loughborough

You are invited to attend an open meeting on the topic of anticasualisation hosted by Loughborough UCU on Thursday 30th September at 1-2pm. The meeting will be held on Microsoft Teams.

What: This meeting will discuss UCU’s campaign against casualisation at Loughborough, and provide updates on agreements made through the Casualisation Task and Finish Group. It will explore how to ensure gains made are properly implemented, and discuss where the campaign against casualisation at Loughborough and Loughborough London might go next. It will also be a chance for those concerned about casualisation to ask questions, offer suggestions and meet others. 

Who for: Anyone concerned about casualisation in higher education, whether or not they are a member of UCU. You don’t need to be an experienced campaigner or knowledgeable about casual employment.

This might include:

·       Hourly paid workers

·       Employees on fixed-term contracts

·       Those who have previously undertaken, or would like to undertake work at Loughborough

·       PhD students concerned about employment during and after their PhD

Staff on open-ended contracts are also encouraged to attend to hear about why casualisation affects all staff, and how they can support anticasualisation efforts.

Link to join the meeting on Thursday 30th September: Click here to join the meeting.

LUCU Committee

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