LUCU June News: Workload / USS & 4 Fights / LSU

LUCU June News: Workload / USS & 4 Fights / LSU

Workload: Project Enable

Colleagues involved in Phase 1 of Project Enable, the University’s review of workload, have thus far identified 77 areas where work could either be removed from the system or processes could be revised to create more headroom in staff workloads.  For example, a new triage system has been set up in the Research Office so faster decisions can be made on contract approvals, and bureaucracy is being reduced in the staffing approval process.

Changes are being made to the Ethics Approval process for both staff and student projects, which will reduce the amount of checking and save time for both PS and RTE colleagues, particularly in SSEHS and SDCA where staff have highlighted this as a workload stressor. Also, changes to a range of practices around learning and teaching, such as module and programme approval processes, are either underway or are being planned. LUCU welcomes these initiatives as they afford potential to free up time for professional services & RTE colleagues. 

The work carried out by the branch committee on the Task and Finish workload groups for RTE and Professional Services staff informed Phase 1 of Project Enable. In June, the Programme Board, chaired by Richard Taylor, will meet to carry out a prioritisation exercise to determine the workstreams for Phase 2 of Project Enable.  This exercise will consider the impact, effort required, beneficiaries and appetite for change in each of the items identified in Phase 1.

LUCU will be represented by Mary Brewer in Phase 2, who will join the Project Group. She will work closely with Sue Hignett as Equalities Officer to assess the EDI implications of proposed changes. Management recognizes that Phase 1 is unlikely to have captured all the activities where we might change working practices; therefore, members are encouraged to pass on ideas/suggestions for smarter working in their areas by speaking to their Department Rep or emailing UCU@lboro.ac.uk.

USS and 4 Fights: LUCU solidarity with assessment boycott at University of the Arts, London

UCU members in a relatively small number of branches began a marking boycott on the 23rd of May, in support of the USS and Four Fights campaigns.  As we are not taking part, our branch has “twinned” with the University of the Arts, London, who are undertaking this action despite threats of 100% pay deductions for partial performance.  The branch committee will offer practical campaign assistance where possible, and to further support our colleagues at UoA, £500 has been donated from our hardship fund to theirs.

We also urge you to consider donating to their Just Giving page if you can afford it.  This small number of colleagues are taking on a huge burden on behalf of us all, and any financial solidarity we can offer them will make a real difference to those who face having their pay withheld.

LUCU and LSU

At recent EGMs, members have asked us to prioritise establishing supportive exchanges with Loughborough Students’ Union (LSU), and we can report good progress on this front. Though mindful of the need to reflect a range of student opinion on campus, LSU has been helpful in soliciting material from us about our reasons for taking industrial action and in posting this on their social media platforms.

With a possible marking boycott in the air, Freya Mason, the LSU President, recently contacted us again. Mary Brewer and Andrew Dix then met with Freya and four of her team. We’re glad to inform members that this was a warm and productive conversation. While it would be unreasonable to expect LSU to be on the barricades with us, they are keen to play whatever role they can in finding solutions to current disputes (most pressingly, the pensions issue). With this in mind, we will be exploring the possibility of tripartite meetings, involving management, LSU and ourselves. At present, exchanges are only bilateral – and we would welcome the chance to make our case with student leaders, as well as managers, in the room.

We will say more in future newsletters as these initiatives develop (there will be opportunities for collaboration with LSU on other fronts as well, including mental health and equity and inclusion). For the moment, we’d just like to thank Freya and her colleagues for their support this year and to say that we look forward to working equally productively with the incoming LSU team. 

We hope you have a good break over the extended bank holiday!

LUCU Committee

Global Boycott of University of Leicester

Global Boycott of University of Leicester

UCU announced a global boycott of the University of Leicester, starting yesterday 4th May 2021, as the union hit the institution with the ultimate sanction of being greylisted. The announcement comes as Leicester staff also begin a marking and assessment boycott.

The greylisting sanction is part of a long running dispute over redundancies at the university. The sanction means UCU is asking its members, other trade unions, labour movement organisations and the international academic community tosupport its members at Leicester in any way possible, including by:

  • not applying for any advertised jobs at Leicester
  • not speaking at or organising academic or other conferences at Leicester
  • not accepting invitations to give lectures at Leicester
  • not accepting positions as visiting professors or researchers at Leicester
  • not writing for any academic journal which is edited at or produced by Leicester
  • not accepting new contracts as external examiners for taught courses at Leicester
  • refusing to collaborate on new research projects with Leicester.

The University of Leicester also faces action short of a strike, which begins today after 84% of UCU Leicester members who voted said they were willing to take industrial action. The action includes a marking and assessment boycott and Leicester staff will stop marking all work from today. The action could impact students’ graduations. UCU said Leicester must lift the threat of compulsory redundancies to end the dispute.

The university had originally threatened 145 staff with compulsory redundancy, although that number is now slightly lower due to some staff taking voluntary redundancy or accepting inferior contracts. Managers deny there are any financial reasons for planned redundancies and refuse to share data on finances with campus trade unions. But the university’s 2019/20 financial statements show the institution is having to borrow money in order to remain financially viable.

UCU general secretary Jo Grady said: ‘We will not stand back and allow the University of Leicester to be destroyed by dismal management. Nor will we allow staff and students to pay the price for catastrophic failures of governance. It is rare for UCU to call for a global academic boycott, and doing so reflects the seriousness of the situation. Leicester staff have the support of the whole union in their ongoing action; we all stand alongside them in this fight against brutal job cuts. The university needs to lift its threat of compulsory redundancies if it wants to end this dispute.’

LUCU Committee

Solidarity with Leicester UCU

Solidarity with Leicester UCU

The following letter of solidarity has been sent to Leicester UCU

Dear Leicester UCU,

We write as the committee of Loughborough UCU to express our full solidarity with you and your members in the face of threatened redundancies. We are in full agreement with the analyses you make in your statement on this matter, and are dismayed by the actions of the  University of Leicester’s senior management. Every proposed redundancy concerns us, though we note that trade union activists and academics undertaking critical research are among those targeted. We are also especially appalled by the suggestion that proposed redundancies in Medieval Literature have been justified in the name of ‘decolonisation’. Such a cynical misuse of this movement is a clear attempt to turn movements critical of higher education management against one another, and is an affront to those who fight for racial equality within and beyond the academy. 

Solidarity should not, of course, be contingent on proximity. But as near neighbours we recognise we may be in a strong position to provide support to your branch in the struggle ahead: please feel free to get in touch if there is anything we can do. 

In solidarity, 

The committee of Loughborough UCU