LUCU News: August 2022

LUCU News: August 2022

Featuring news of the USS Governance Review, Covid-19, current campaigns and negotiations

USS Governance Review 

We are pleased to report that LUCU has been consulted by the University on the UUK-initiated review of USS governance. LUCU argued for early clarification of the review’s purpose; evaluation of the governing board’s composition and member competencies; formulation of clearer processes for recruiting and removing board members; assessment of the role of the ‘independent’ chair; channels for feedback from the scheme’s members, as well as employers, on reforms; better and more timely communication with members; and – crucially – the devising of a valuation process that is fit for purpose. We are pleased to report that these suggestions form part of the University’s response to the consultation.  

Further, management confirms that they stand by the terms of our joint statement on USS, specifically regarding benefit restoration as preferential to lower contributions. Sadly, this remains a minority position among SMTs across the sector, but Lboro SMT continues to lobby behind the scenes to increase support, and a member of SMT will be standing for a position on the USS Employer Liaison Group, which will offer a wider platform for influence. The possibility of another joint LUCU-SMT statement remains an option as the review and the pensions campaign progress.   

Covid-19 

Covid precautions 

Throughout Covid, LUCU has been campaigning for every protection possible for members, other staff, and students. Unfortunately, as precautions in wider society have been relaxed, we have found it harder to keep protections in place on campus. The University’s view is that if the precaution has been removed in the country at large (e.g. face coverings), then it cannot be imposed on campus. LUCU disagrees: we believe that we can continue to ask staff, students and visitors to take additional measures in the interests of public health.  

Teaching spaces 

All lecture spaces should have presenter positions that provide a natural separation from the other room occupants (usually 2 metres or more; where it is less than 2 metres, additional protections such as Perspex screens are available). This, coupled with the improved ventilation and CO2 monitors, means that teaching spaces should have a high level of protection from the risks of Covid. All teaching spaces should also have printed details at the presenter location of the room’s ventilation arrangements. If you find yourself in any locations where the information given is clearly incorrect (e.g. stating that windows should be opened where this is not possible), please get in touch with either the University’s Health and Safety department or with LUCU. 

FFP2 masks 

Where staff are concerned about additional risks (e.g. close working with students, visitors or other colleagues), then the University can provide FFP2 masks. These protect both the wearer and those around them. If you are interested in obtaining an FFP2 mask, please speak to your line manager in the first instance. LUCU recommends that FFP2 mask wearers undergo a Face Fit Test to ensure the mask is providing a high level of protection. 

Lateral flow tests 

The University has supplies of lateral flow tests and will continue to make these available to staff and students while stocks last. You may request LFTs here: You will be sent a QR code, and the tests can be collected from the Wavy Top building (at the rear near the steps leading to EHB) on presentation of your QR code or staff ID on Monday, Wednesday or Friday at either 11am or 2pm. This arrangement will be reviewed at the end of October.  Please continue to inform the University about a positive result, through the Connect and Protect service here.  

At the start of term, students will be encouraged to test but will not be required to show proof of a negative result before coming on to campus. LFTs will be made available to all students on arrival, and through the scheme above for students who wish to test. LUCU believes that the University should test students on arrival, but management will not agree.  

Contingency planning 

Should the rate and severity of Covid infections increase to the point of posing a significant threat to staff, students and visitors, management has plans to reapply proportionately the precautions developed over the last few years. The University will also be purchasing a limited supply of flu vaccinations, to be made available to staff later in the year; please look out for details on the University’s news channels.  

If anyone has specific concerns about Covid, Neil Budworth (Director of Health, Safety and Wellbeing) has offered to discuss these directly with staff: N.Budworth@lboro.ac.uk. LUCU is also happy to raise your concerns: please contact Alec Edworthy, our Health and Safety Officer, at A.Edworthy@lboro.ac.uk

Campaigns

UCU Rising 

On 10 August, UCU launched UCU Rising, which follows on from the USS and Four Fights campaigns. This initiative focuses on the connection between pay, casualisation, workload, and USS pension cuts. Further details may be found here: https://www.ucu.org.uk/article/12469/FAQs

All universities are to be balloted from the end of August on ASOS and strike action, and the results will be aggregated: therefore, any university where more than 50% of UCU members participate in the ballot and deliver a yes vote will be able to join the action.  

The decision to ballot at this time was made by HEC in June, following a branch delegates’ meeting, at which LUCU was represented. However, the timing is not in line with the voting preferences expressed by delegates: a minority wanted an immediate summer ballot, but a majority favoured a later ballot to allow for recovery from previous actions and to enable branches to build support for further campaigning.  

Branch officers will be attending a meeting chaired by Jon Hegerty, UCU Head of Bargaining, Organising, Campaigns and Education, on 17 August. This will offer an opportunity to ask questions about the rationale for an August ballot and other issues raised at the branch delegates’ meeting in June. We will organise an EGM once we know when the ballot will open.  

Help up grow the branch!  

We would appreciate members sharing the following social media recruitment posts via Facebook and Twitter. Due to the nature of social network algorithms, and with many of you being connected to other colleagues via these platforms, if members share these posts, they are more likely to be seen by colleagues who are not yet UCU members.  The bigger our branch the stronger our position to negotiate better terms and conditions for all staff!   

Facebook post – please share  

Twitter post – please retweet 

Negotiations 

Parking 

Negotiations with management on parking charges has resulted in a fairer system, especially for those on lower pay. One sticking point remains, however: whether visitors will be charged. LUCU supports visitor charges as a way of raising income to subsidise further reductions in parking charges for the lowest paid and to encourage more environmentally friendly ways of travelling to campus. We can report that any new software system introduced will provide the University with the ability to charge visitors. While there is a general view that visitors should pay to park, this has not yet been translated into policy; therefore, we will raise the matter again at the September meeting of JNCC.  

Fair pay 

The branch is currently negotiating on behalf of members in SDCA to ensure that staff receive the appropriate pay for work being done as University Teachers, in line with the University’s own policy (see here). We have received broad agreement and co-operation from senior managers and are working to resolve the issues to the satisfaction of the members concerned. 

LUCU Committee

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

LUCU Committee Advice to Striking Members

LUCU Committee Advice to Striking Members

The branch think it important that staff who are considering strike action understand what is legally required and understand the guidance being issued in relation to both the proposed strike action between Nov 25th and Dec 4th and action short of a strike that will continue thereafter.

We believe some managers are making suggestions which are not in keeping with current guidance.

You are not required to give of strike action to management, or to students – although when asked afterwards if you did take strike action, you are required to provide this information.

It is recommended that colleagues give notice on the morning of the strike that they will be absent, as they would if they were going to be absent due to sickness. This is the case whether it involves lectures, seminars, or project supervision. This gives managers the same time frame to notify students of changes. Even though, again, there is no need to do so.

The branch is concerned that some of recommendations from some managers are asking to ensure the ‘smooth running of the programmes’ after December 4th is a request to ignore the action short of strike, thus to act to minimise disruption lessens and undermines the impact of the strike itself.

For more information please see the FAQ’s on UCU’s website.

LUCU Committee

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: 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