LUCU News January 2023

LUCU News January 2023

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 ucu@lboro.ac.uk 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.

Branch membership

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 Committee

LUCU News – March/April

LUCU News – March/April

Restructures/Redundancy/PDR/Casework/LUCUDiscuss

Restructures and the Threat of Redundancy

Currently three areas are undergoing a restructure: Careers, Organisational Development, and the School of Science, where the restructure impacts on technicians.  Management is only obliged to consult where 25 jobs or more will be affected.  However, we are fortunate that in keeping with best practice the three campus trade unions, along with affected staff, are always consulted on proposed changes.  The purpose of consultation is to allow staff and/or their representatives input into the restructure. Note that ‘consultation with’ the campus trade unions does not necessarily equate to ‘agreed by’ the campus trade unions.

An unpleasant fact of restructures is that they may result in staff being required to apply for a new post when the role they currently hold is made ‘redundant’, and they have not been ‘slotted in’ to the new role (‘slotting in’ is where the new role contains at least 60% of the duties of the previous role, as determined by the list of duties in the new and the old job descriptions).  If there is a reduction in the number of posts available, then some staff may face redundancy. Whilst the direct impact of the current restructures is on Professional Services staff, the consequences may also impact on the workloads of academic colleagues.

The campus trade unions are united in opposing job losses because of these restructures. We will also fight against staff being asked to perform the same duties as previously at a lower pay grade or staff facing intensified workloads by being given additional duties for the same pay.

If you are/were involved in a restructure and believe trade union representatives have not been involved, we want to know: ucu@lboro.ac.uk. Please do this so that we can monitor whether a pattern is developing whereby work is being pushed down onto lower grades, with higher grades being made redundant.

PDR

It has been brought to our attention that recent updates re: the PDR have not reached all members. In response to the pandemic, the University has announced that the deadline for PDR discussions has been extended to the end of April 2021.

These are 3 points we feel that we should bring to your attention.

  1. No colleague will be assessed against objectives that have been so significantly affected by the pandemic that such an approach would be unreasonable. Last year’s objectives should be considered in-the-round and in the light of the challenges that we have all faced. This includes both different ways of working and domestic pressures such as home-schooling children or looking after dependents.
  1. If objectives remain relevant, calculate a new time frame for their completion to be discussed with your reviewer. If no longer relevant say so and write them off – long justifications are not necessary for undeliverable objectives. A clear explanation of the legacy impact of Covid on your research will help ensure that you are not held to a set of unfair objectives in future.
  1. The PDR discussion should focus on the coming year from the perspective of objectives, support and professional development.

Personal casework

Much of the work undertaken by the branch happens in plain sight: think, for example, of our brokering the Partnership Agreement with the University or our organisation of strike activity in support of national campaigns for better pay and pensions. By its very nature, however, personal casework, as undertaken on campus by a small team comprising a number of Committee colleagues and several department or section reps, is liable to go unnoticed. The work involves meeting members who contact us for support on a wide range of issues, reading material relevant to their cases, offering advice, and accompanying them to meetings with managers. The volume of work involved is significant. The rewards, however, are greater still, for in casework we encounter members who are facing difficult, worrying, even distressing situations, and we hope that they find our involvement supportive and constructive.

Sometimes a case with which a member approaches us can be resolved quite quickly and informally. On other occasions, however, the member may need advice in preparing a complex grievance claim or may be facing disciplinary action that has dismissal as one of its possible outcomes. High demands are made on the caseworker in these circumstances to be not only a source of support and counsel, but to be fully prepared.

In this academic year to date, we have offered formal casework support to 18 of our members. Many of these cases are ongoing. In the current, complex circumstances, we do not anticipate that the demands on the caseworking team will lighten.

We are grateful to those members who, either for the first time or as a refresher, attended the recent caseworker training session led by Joe Rooney from the union’s Regional Office. If you feel you might like to get involved in casework and want to find out more, please get in touch with our Personal Casework Coordinator Andrew Dix (A.Dix@lboro.ac.uk). Likewise, do contact Andrew if you would like union support and advice with any issue that you have in the workplace.

Launch of “LUCU Discuss”

Following the motion ‘Building LUCU’, the branch has set up a discussion list where members may raise issues of interest or concern, ask questions of each other, share ideas, and develop solidarity. We know work is especially isolating for many at the moment, and we hope that this might help bring our members together.

To join, please send an email to ucu@lboro.ac.uk with the subject “Subscribe to LUCU Discuss”. In the body, please write your name and the preferred email address you have listed for your UCU membership (this can be checked via MyUCU). You must join the list with the email address your UCU account is registered to (this is the email address through which you receive current UCU information).

Attached to this email are a set of rules and guidelines for LUCU Discuss that we would ask members to read before registering. We hope that members will find the discussion list useful and enjoyable. If you have any questions, please email ucu@lboro.ac.uk.

Meet Our Reps

Jen De Lillo, Library Services: I am Academic Librarian for English and Communication and Media Studies and work within the Library’s Academic Services Team. I’ve been in this role since 2016 having previously worked on research projects on digital scholarly editions of medieval texts after finishing my PhD in 2001. Given my experience, I understand first-hand the precarious nature of research positions.  I became the union rep for the Library as I believe it is important for professional service staff to be represented and, as a part-time worker myself, I feel that it is essential for us to have a voice. I have found union colleagues invaluable when it comes to discussing matters informally and hope to be able to support others whilst keeping the local branch informed of any issues we may be facing within the Library.  

Eef Hogervorst, School of Sport, Exercise and Health Sciences: I am a Professor of Psychology and UCU rep for SSEHS. I very much support the solidarity principle and have personally had much benefit from being a LUCU member over the past years. I research mental health, with a focus on cognitive impairment. My particular interest is in menopause and dementia. During peri-menopause, many women find it hard to focus on work and mental health issues such as anxiety and depression that play a significant role in midlife. With HR and colleagues, I am developing a course for WHEN to help women navigate this.  I have also given several lectures on career progression in academia. I am passionate about reducing gender differences in pay and career opportunities. I am training to become a LUCU caseworker.

LUCU Committee