Loughborough University, Loughborough UCU and Loughborough Students’ Union have been meeting regularly during the current industrial disputes to explore what is at issue and to consider how progress might be made.
While our perspectives are diverse, the collaborative way of working that we have developed has enabled us to address effectively and constructively those issues which have a local dimension. We have also discussed what is at stake nationally.
Our position on the several strands of the disputes is summarised here:
Pensions. We believe that an evidence-based valuation of the Universities Superannuation Scheme (USS) should be completed as soon as possible. This assessment of the scheme’s assets and liabilities, and its future performance, should be ‘moderately prudent’. Any positive adjustments resulting from this new valuation should prioritise the improvement of members’ benefits over reductions to employer /employee contribution rates from their current levels. We welcome the recent developments in relation to this.
Pay. We acknowledge that this is the most challenging of the current issues. The regulated undergraduate student fee that is universities’ most significant income stream has barely changed in a decade – and it remains frozen during this period of high inflation when institutions’ costs, such as energy, have increased sharply. The income of university staff has lagged similarly in this time, with a series of below-inflation pay awards – and current high prices are undoubtedly having a significant impact on staff, too. While the 2023 pay award has been implemented, we remain mindful of staff’s situation. We also join other voices in encouraging a longer-term review of the university funding model (a review that should be creative and not focus only on raising students’ fees).
Working conditions (pay inequality, casualisation, workload). We recognise that addressing these questions is crucial to the well-being and sustainability of the sector. Universities must offer a fair, decent and healthy working environment to all. At Loughborough, while further work remains to be done, good progress is being made on these fronts – and we encourage employers and unions at all HE institutions to tackle pay gaps, casualised contracts and high workloads in a similar spirit of partnership.
We do not underestimate the complexities of these multiple issues and the challenges involved in finding fair outcomes. However, it is crucial that lasting resolutions are achieved, so as to prevent further disruption to the lives of both staff and students.
We strongly encourage all those involved in the disputes to continue working toward our shared goal: student and staff satisfaction in a Higher Education sector fit for everyone.
Loughborough University Loughborough UCU Loughborough Students’ Union
Firstly, thanks to all those who attended our picket on the 1st February. It was great to see so many people out in support of the UCU Rising dispute. Following on from the picket we held a productive meeting to plan the rest of our action where many members contributed to an engaging discussion. It was really inspiring to see so many members getting involved and volunteering to take actions. A summary of the outcomes agreed by members at the meeting is below.
It was agreed that we would target picketing to 6 days (one per week of the strike action), please attend as many of these pickets as you can. As always friends, family and supporters are more than welcome on our pickets:
Thurs 9th Feb
Shirley Pearce Pedestrian Crossing
Thurs 16th Feb
Shirley Pearce Pedestrian Crossing
Wed 22nd Feb
Wed 1st March
Thurs 16th March
Mon 20th March
London picket details will be communicated in due course.
Although we are only picketing on the above dates, please remember that the following dates are also strike days.
We have also had several people volunteer to host Teach Out sessions. We hope these sessions will be hybrid meetings and will confirm details nearer the time. Anyone else interested in hosting a teach out session on any of the strike days please get in touch with the branch. Presently this is our plan:
22nd Feb at 2:30pm at the LSU (tbc) – Two members will host a teach out on the subject of Unions and the Media.
16th March at 11am at Charnwood Arts (tbc) – A member will host a teach out on Colonialism and Anti-racism – followed by a members meeting.
Resources for Staff
Please regularly check our website for updated versions of strike resources for staff such as out of office messages, email templates you can send to students or use on learn and slides for students.
Lboro UCULondon members and supporters, please join us on the picket line at the main entrance of Lboro London campus on Wed 1st Feb to fight for what we deserve. Contact Loughborough London Rep, Matt Vidal for times. The longer the picket line, the shorter the dispute. #ucuRISING#LboroFamily
Lboro UCU members and supporters, please join us on the picket line at the main gate of Lboro campus from 8:30am – 10am on Wed 1st Feb to fight for what we deserve. The longer the picket line, the shorter the dispute. #ucuRISING#LboroFamily
LboroUCU members, after the #ucuRISING picket please join us in the Loughborough SU Council Chambers to discuss & plan the industrial action in Feb & March, from 10am-1pm on 1st Feb. Free pizza provided. You can also join the meeting online (Teams) see your email for the link.
Addressing UCU Rising and local negotiations & campaigns
UCU Rising: Update
At the January BDM, branch delegates fed back members’ views as expressed at our recent GM and via email, where a majority of LUCU members backed escalating strike action in semester two and a marking and assessment boycott (MAB) beginning in April. Feedback from other branches and voting results at the BDM indicated that these views were also held by a majority of members across the union. Accordingly, HEC voted to call for 18 days of strike action, with the first day of action on Wednesday, February 1st (future dates yet to be confirmed), and members will be re-balloted so that action can continue after the current mandate ends in March 2023, that is, should current negotiations not bring about a resolution to the disputes on pay, workload, casualisation and USS pensions.
The branch committee is already mobilising for a re-ballot and planning for a MAB. Branch officers have undertaken training on MAB and will produce guidance that is specific to LUCU members in due course.
Interestingly, new research by Loughborough’s Centre for Research into Social Policy underscores the need to continue the fight for restoration of our benefits, as inflation adds 20% to the cost of retirement, while UUK chooses to cut our pensions by c. 30%:
Our action has already resulted in positive movement on the pay front, with UCEA making an improved offer to UCU negotiators. However, negotiations on pay are ongoing, as the offer of a pay rise between 4-5% was not deemed sufficient considering the insufficient pay rises awarded over the last 10 years and current inflationary pressures. Negotiations on workload and insecure contracts also continue at national level.
At local level, discussions continue with University SMT about workload, pay and pensions. The University remains committed to the position it set out in our joint statement on USS, which we were pleased to hear from the visiting speaker at our recent GM has proved helpful to other branches in moving their SMTs toward a public statement supportive of improved benefits, as well as to UCU’s national negotiators. We are currently exploring with management the idea of another joint statement addressing other issues in the dispute – workload, pay, precarious contracts.
We have had some promising discussions with senior leadership regarding workload. The matter was discussed at the Vice Chancellor’s Reports meeting on Monday 16 Jan, and it will be discussed in more detail at University Executive Board (formerly known as ALT) in early February. We have a meeting scheduled shortly after this and will provide an update in next month’s newsletter.
Tri-partite meetings involving LUCU, SMT and LSU also continue, which offers a valuable space for us to present our perspective on the disputes to student representatives.
Local Negotiations and Campaigns – Re-structures
We can also report that LUCU has been meaningfully consulted on a new restructure in IT Services, where we do not envisage any negative impact to members. However, we remain available to support any member affected by this restructure. Any member who would like a caseworker to attend meetings with them should contact their area Rep in the first instance.
The Enabling Programme:
The Enabling Programme – comprising six projects – has been established to collectively drive positive change in the areas of Loughborough’s reputation, digital capabilities, workplaces, compliance levels, processes/ways of working, and culture. Details of the projects and their aims can be found via the Organisational Development website. All six projects are now live, with Projects Enable, Workplace and Compliance being the most advanced.
LUCU is regularly consulted by management on programme developments as these initiatives impact on our working conditions, and we can raise issues of concern in our monthly meetings with SMT, as well as via JNCC and ARSNC.
We would like to update members on key examples of Project Enable’s success so far:
Changes to the ethics approval process: ethics applications made by UG and PGT students classified as low risk will be signed off by the supervisor without further review. This will remove over 1500 additional checks from the process each year.
Changes to assessing student placements, will save over 800 staff hours (academic and Professional Services), whilst it is estimated that the change to a greater number of online progress meetings will save over 4,500 hours per year.
Project Expectations’ workstreams have been defined, focusing on strategy engagement; leadership development; reward and recognition; internal communications; development and performance. The findings of the recent Staff Engagement Survey will also help to shape the project, and an independent review of the inaugural Vice-Chancellor’s Awards has commenced to inform enhancements for 2023. Projects Reputation and Digital have set up their governance and Programme Boards and have begun scoping the project workstreams.
If you have a question(s) about any of the projects, please feel free to contact the Enabling Programme Manager Meg Stafford, who is taking over from Jenna Townend. We would like to thank Jenna Townend for working so collegially with LUCU committee members on Project Enable.
Casual drop-in meetings; UCU annual meeting of staff on casual contracts
The first two drop-in meetings with our colleagues on casual contracts went really well. Attendees are steadily building a sense of community, and we were able to discuss their concerns at the meeting. We have since progressed some issues through our casework. We are happy to announce a third meeting on Friday 27th January at 2-3pm, which is open to all Lboro staff (UCU members and non-members) on these types of contracts. To get a link to join the meeting please email email@example.com and encourage folk to come along!
The annual UCU meeting of staff on casualised contracts takes place on Sat 25 Feb, online. If you are interested in being one of our Lboro UCU branch delegates for this meeting, please email the branch. More details can be found here.
After reaching a low point in October 2022, membership secretary Marc Gibson is very pleased to announce that branch membership has subsequently been rising, while we have also recruited 3 new area reps. As one of LUCU’s priorities this year is to ensure this upward trend continues, we’d like to ask you to consider adding one of the following logos into your email signature. Video instructions for adding signatures with logos to your email can be found here.
LUCU General Meeting & UCU Branch Delegates Meeting (BDM) Results
The results of the voting at our branch meeting combined with email responses were as follows (abstentions mean the results do not add up to 100%):
Escalating strike action – 67%
MAB Jan 2023 – 35%
Immediate Re-ballot Yes – 76%
Indefinite strike action – 13%
MAB April 2023 – 42%
Immediate Re-ballot No – 6%
At the Branch Delegates Meeting, our branch delegates cast LUCU’s votes as follows: for escalating strike action, for MAB April and for re ballot. The voting at the BDM was in line with LUCU voting and the results have now been released:
Escalating strike action – 57%
MAB Jan 2023 – 26%
Immediate Re-ballot Yes – 91%
Indefinite strike action – 31%
MAB April 2023 – 56%
Immediate Re-ballot No – 4%
Full question/answer text and results of the BDM can be found here.
The next steps are for the results from the BDM to go to the HEC on Thursday for consideration with the aim of a clear outcome from HEC on our next steps in the dispute. We will let you know as soon as we have the outcome.
Marking and Assessment Boycott (MAB) Training
We strongly encourage members to attend one of the two upcoming sessions on Marking and Assessment Boycott training. Please pre-register for one of the following 90 minute online training sessions held later today and Friday:
Session 1 – Wednesday 11 January – 16:00 to 17:30 – Register here
This month we report on industrial action, caseworker training, and local negotiations.
UCU Rising Update
We would like to thank members who took part in pickets at the Loughborough Midland and London campuses – the turnout was fantastic! Our branch also made a good showing at the virtual picket, and members helped swell the numbers at the London Rally on 30 Nov.
We would like to remind members that Action Short of Strike – ASOS began on Wednesday 23 November and will continue until further notice. ASOS entails:
working to contract;
not covering for absent colleagues;
removing uploaded materials related to, and/or not sharing materials related to, lectures or classes that will be or have been cancelled as a result of strike action;
not rescheduling lectures or classes cancelled due to strike action;
not undertaking any voluntary activities.
It can be difficult to ascertain the duties that fall under ASOS. If you are unsure whether a task is covered by ASOS, or if you feel that you are being pressured to undertake work that is covered by ASOS, please contact your area Rep – you can find their contact details here: https://tinyurl.com/3hw4h6sb
We reported in our last newsletter on the scale of personal casework undertaken in support of our members. Additional volunteers to join the casework team are always very welcome. If anyone is interested in taking on this role, then please come along to an online training session that will be delivered for the branch by UCU’s Regional Office from 2-5 pm on Tuesday 17 January. From past experience, this will be a friendly and supportive occasion; existing members of the casework team will also be attending. Anyone who would like to take part in the session should contact our Personal Casework Coordinator Andrew Dix (A.Dix@lboro.ac.uk) for further details. Andrew will also be happy to meet with anyone to discuss more generally the personal caseworker role.
UCEA Consultation on Pay: As you may be aware from Jo Grady’s recent comms, the strikes have brought the employers back to the table to discuss pay and working conditions. Loughborough management recognizes the need to reward staff fairly for the University to retain and recruit staff. We can report that management responded to the consultation carried out by UCEA in November in favour of bringing forward the March pay negotiation round. This has been agreed by UCEA and the unions at a national level and negotiations regarding the 2023/24 pay round will commence in December with the aim of being concluded by the end of January.
Working Group on Pay, Pensions and Workload: The new working group to explore how Loughborough University might address the issues at the heart of the industrial disputes held constructive meetings in November and December. The first meeting refined the group’s objectives and scope, while the second meeting followed up on national developments and preliminary plans to make meaningful changes to local teaching loads and modelling good practice around evenings and weekends. The group will meet monthly, and we will keep members informed on progress via the newsletter.
Review of Promotions Process and Criteria: As part of the consultation regarding the promotions process and criteria, LUCU recommended an additional focus group to capture the experience of colleagues with disabilities. The focus group has met, and the views expressed will inform the final draft documentation that will be submitted to for approval by Senate and Council. We would like to thank Lisanne Gibson (Dean SSH) and Chris Reily Dean (AACME) for working with us to facilitate this additional focus group.
Working with LSU: We are pleased to report that the first meeting between LUCU, Loughborough Students’ Union (LSU) and University senior management will take place in January. We look forward to working collaboratively with student union Reps alongside management to progress matters of common interest.
Health and Safety – Rest Breaks: We raised the issue of back-to-back Teams’ meetings with management following reports from members of difficulties experienced after spending too much time in front of a screen without a break. We would like to thank management for actioning a change to Outlook so that meetings are scheduled by default for 25 or 50 minutes. This cannot be automated across all computers, so staff are advised set up their own Outlook accounts if they wish meetings to follow this pattern.
Open Outlook and go to the “File” tab at the top of the page and select “Options” at the bottom on the left-hand side
Click on “Calendar”
Put a tick in the box next to “Shorten Meetings and Appointments”.
Select “End Early” in the drop-down list next to this
Next to “Less than one hour” select 5 minutes from the drop-down box
Next to “One hour or more” select 10 minutes from the drop-down box
A communication has also gone out to line managers so that large group meetings are also scheduled to allow staff time away from the screen between Teams meetings.
Have a great break over the holidays and a very happy new year!
UCU are encouraging people to attend a national demonstration at Kings Cross Station in London on Wednesday 30th November starting at 1pm. If you are interested in attending this, University of Nottingham UCU have booked a coach, it will be leaving from Nottingham around 8-8:30am (exact pick up points to be confirmed). Members, friends and supporters are all welcome to join. Tickets are £15 per person. Anybody who’d like to join can fill out this form and UoN UCU will get in touch to confirm details.