LUCU News – July
In this month’s LUCU newsletter you will find:
A LUCU/LU joint statement is in progress and having responded to a first draft we now await amendments and continue to push for this to be finalised soon. In the meantime, the university has agreed to internally publish an update on the work that has been ongoing on the issues of concern. We are pleased to share that senior management has agreed to consult locally with LUCU on their response to the USS consultation which is currently in progress.
UCU is supporting branches and members in challenging the pay deductions made for MAB. Their advice is that this process is likely to be a breach of contract claim which would be made via the County/Sheriff Court. However,the first step would be to go through the internal grievance process.
Should you wish to raise a claim, guidance on the steps to follow and who to contact can be found here.
The University has recently chosen to suspend its provision of in-house counselling to staff who need support in overcoming personal and professional problems that are affecting their well-being. Instead, they are offering a confidential advice service that is run externally via the Employee Assistance Programme (EAP). We are seeking UCU members’ feedback on this service to ensure that members are receiving high-quality and ethical support in this important area of occupational health. Responses will be held securely and confidentially by LUCU committee and will be fed back to senior management in an anonymised way. Please share your experiences with us by clicking the link in the email version of this newsletter.
After discussions with UCU National, we have had confirmation that you are eligible to claim from the National Fighting Fund for 50% MAB deductions for the weekdays where these deductions are applied. We strongly encourage you to make use of both the national and local fighting funds. For many of us this is a challenging time financially, and we want to make sure you know you can claim for strike or MAB days where you have lost wages/had deductions taken. For more information and to make a claim from the national fund, please see here.
The local fund is available to hourly paid staff and staff who are facing immediate financial hardship as a direct result of industrial action e.g. difficulty paying for essentials for themselves or their dependents. The local fund will pay out for the first day of industrial action, and any later days which are not covered by the national fund. To make a claim from our local fund, please contact our treasurer David Wilson.
Our local fund is quite healthy currently so if anyone wishes to donate you can find out how to donate to the national fighting fund, here.
Congratulations are due to Professor Matthew Inglis, who has been elected to membership of Council for a period of 3 years from 1 August 2023. Congratulations also to Dr. Giulia Piccolino and Dr. Sarah Parker, who have been elected to Senate, both representing the School of Social Sciences and Humanities.
Vacant Council Seat
We would like to call your attention to another vacancy on University Council for a member of Academic Staff from August 1, 2023, for a 3- year term of office. Because Council is the governing body of the University and is responsible for its strategic direction and overall governance, having positions filled by colleagues who are sympathetic to the union’s aims is important. If you are eligible, please consider standing, and let us know if you put yourself forward so that LUCU can support your bid to represent Academic Staff.
The General Assembly, called by members in response to the University’s policy of pay deductions for participation in the Marking and Assessment Boycott, offered an opportunity to question the Vice-Chancellor.
Questions from the floor covered a wide range, beginning with the University’s decision to timetable the General Assembly for a Friday afternoon and without the possibility of online participation. Though we appreciate the VC’s point that his busy diary left few other scheduling options, we remain concerned at the lack of remote access and believe this represents poor practice with regard to important university-wide meetings.
From this starting-point regarding the GA itself, questions turned to the University’s response to MAB. The Vice-Chancellor was asked among other things about the fairness of applying equivalent deductions when colleagues’ marking loads and other assessment duties differ significantly (he reiterated the point made to us previously that deductions actually applied are at the discretion of Deans); about the loss of good will caused by this policy (he did not deny that there has been damage); and about the incompatibility we perceive between this policy on the one hand and the new University Strategy’s emphasis on valuing staff on the other.
The VC was also asked how the University settled on a figure of 50% pay deductions for participation in MAB. His response was that the number is somewhere in the middle, as regards the sector, with several institutions applying no deductions at all and others at the opposite end of the spectrum deducting 100%. Our position remains that the Loughborough policy is punitive, demoralising, and shows the University more squarely entrenched in the UCEA mainstream than at other times when it has engaged in coalition-building towards progressive positions in industrial disputes.
LUCU is grateful to members who attended the General Assembly and asked questions. It was valuable to be able to raise concerns about University policy directly with the VC.
In our June newsletter we reported on our work with senior management to revise the Casual Employment Charter, which was initially created following our 2018 industrial action. This work is now complete, and the revised LU Casual Work Principles have been shared on University News (5th July) and are on the HR website. Deans were consulted prior to completion of the Principles and should now have disseminated these to staff involved in organising casual work contracts.
To ensure casual staff are informed of their rights, work is currently underway to produce a shortened version of the Principles for inclusion with future casual work contracts. Going forward, HR Partners will monitor compliance in schools. Further, a member of HR has been assigned to review all existing contracts. Where issues are identified, they will meet with Deans and managers, and where needed will provide training to ensure the casual staff are contracted to the correct grade and have been given the correct information regarding their role and rights. It has been agreed that where grades are found to be incorrect, this will be corrected and the potential for back-pay will be considered on a case by case basis.
We request that any members on casual contracts who have concerns get in touch by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
The branch held a well-attended AGM. We’d like to extend our thanks to all members who took the time to come along and take part in branch democracy. Next year’s committee members (Term of office begins on 1st August for 1 year) were announced as:
Chair: Mary Brewer; Secretary: Marie Hanlon; Treasurer: David Wilson; Equalities Officer: Ellen Nicholls; Health, Safety and Environment Officer: Alec Edworthy; Personal Casework Co-ordinator: Andrew Dix; and Ordinary Committee Member: Marc Gibson.
Several vacancies remain for officers and ordinary committee members, so please get in touch for information if you have any interest in joining the branch committee.
The branch passed a motion in support of Ukraine and are raising a similar motion at the UCU East Midlands Regional Committee. As requested by the motion, the branch committee will discuss signing up to the Ukraine Solidarity Movement at the next committee meeting.