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

December 2022 Newsletter

December 2022 Newsletter

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:

  1. working to contract;
  2. not covering for absent colleagues;
  3. 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;
  4. not rescheduling lectures or classes cancelled due to strike action;
  5. 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

Casework training 

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. 

Local Negotiations

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.

Instructions below:

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

Click Ok

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!

LUCU Committee

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

General Meeting: Professional Services Workload

General Meeting: Professional Services Workload

You are invited to a branch general meeting on the topic of Professional Services Workload. This meeting is targeted at Professional Services staff and not all of our members will have a direct interest in this topic but all members are welcome should you be interested.

The meeting will take place on Wednesday 3rd November from 12pm to 1pm.

The meeting will be held on teams and the link has been sent to you by email.

LUCU Committee

LUCU News: June 2021

LUCU News: June 2021

AGM Report

Matters of interest going forward that were reported on/discussed are as follows: ongoing negotiations with management have resulted in a formal review of the PDR process, promotions process, and Grievance process being initiated this year – these reviews will conclude at different points through 2021-22. A Charter to improve and protect the working terms and conditions of Casual Staff is in the final stages of negotiation following the work of the Anti-Casualisation Task and Finish Group, and we will report back when this has been adopted. 

Three motions were debated: 1) Rule Change Motion (Annual General Meeting) – passed; 2) Rule Change Motion (Rules for Local Motions) – withdrawn; 3) Local Subs Motion 2021 – passed. 

Local Subs Motion 2021

The majority of our local branch income pays for our excellent administrative support, without which the branch would not be able to achieve all it does.  Branch officers would spend much more time doing administrative tasks and would have far less time to spend negotiating with the University and supporting members through casework.  UCU staff are members of the USS pension scheme alongside us.

This motion had two aims:

  1. We needed to stem a current deficit in the branch finances and allow for expected staffing cost increases, especially due to USS;
  2. We hoped to move from a regressive flat-fee structure to a progressive tiered structure.

As a result of this motion passing, local subscription rates will move from a flat fee paid by all members (whose earnings vary enormously) to a tiered structure based on the pay bands used for your national UCU subscriptions.  This does mean a small increase for our highest earners but allows for a decrease for those earning less.  Our very lowest earners (under £5,000 per year), typically employed part time and often on precarious contracts, will no longer pay local subscriptions.  Previously they paid over three times more for their local subscription than their national subscription.

The changes are as follows:

TierNationalNew LocalCurrent totalNew totalChange
£60,000 & above (F0)£27.11£6.87£30.61£33.98+£3.37
£40,000 – £59,999 (F1)£23.94£4.58£27.44£28.52+£1.08
£30,000 – £39,999 (F2)£21.06£3.44£24.56£24.50-£0.06
£22,000 – £29,999 (F3)£17.96£2.52£21.46£20.48-£0.98
£15,000 – £21,999 (F4)£10.71£1.72£14.21£12.43-£1.78
£5,000 – £14,999 (F5)£4.67£0.57£8.17£5.24-£2.93
Below £5,000 (F6)£0.99£0.00£4.49£0.99-£3.50
Changes to contributions rates

77 of our lowest paid, often most precariously employed, members have their subscriptions reduced
84 pay roughly the same
319 pay just over £1 more
66 highest paid members pay £3.37 more – to use a now somewhat hackneyed phrase, “the price of a coffee”.

I’m grateful to all of the members who voted in favour of the progressive option which makes our subscription model much fairer.

David Wilson, Branch Treasurer

The composition of the LUCU Committee for 2021-22 was announced:

Chair – Mary Brewer

Negotiating Secretary – Marc Gibson

Casework Coordinator – Andrew Dix

Health and Safety Officer – Alec Edworthy

Equalities Officer – Sue Hignett

Pensions Rep – Matthew Inglis

Treasurer – David Wilson

Membership Secretary – Marie Hanlon

Ordinary member – Joanna Boehnert

EGM on Workload – Report

Our most recent EGM addressed how workload for next year is being managed across departments/schools.

There was some good news from members in SDCA, where SMT is taking a more progressive approach to workload, which involves open discussions at school meetings where staff (and our LUCU Reps) can raise the question of tariffs, un-costed work, EDI, and other issues of concern.  This effort at genuine consultation, transparency, and inclusion is welcome!  We are also pleased to report that the Dean of Loughborough London responded immediately and positively to working with us on workload and EDI related issues as part of the planning for next year’s workload. 

While these are hopeful developments, members in other schools reported limited or no consultation on workload, tariff reductions to make staff appear to be working within the 1598 agreed workload, tariffs that bear scant relation to the time needed for tasks, stress from overwork, a lack of transparency/fairness relevant to workload, and uncertainty regarding the appropriate consideration of EDI and workload. LUCU will be running a workload campaign in 2021-22, with the aim addressing the problems with workload that have been highlighted by members.

In response to issues raised by the Workload Task and Finish group (which is ongoing),  the Provost and Deputy Vice-Chancellor is preparing a paper on the new workload model that will be presented at the next ARSNC, and we will report back to members about this in due course.  

If you would like a copy of the minutes from the AGM and/or EGM, please write to UCU@lboro.ac.uk.

Covid Update

LUCU continue to work closely alongside the other campus unions, HR, and Health and Safety to monitor the situation surrounding Covid-19.

Loughborough still has the highest student testing compliance rates in HE, and it is because of this that cases remain very low.  We have seen a slight increase in cases recently, reflecting the national situation, but with the prompt action from Connect and Protect the numbers are being kept low and full contact tracing is taking place (no links between the cases have been identified suggesting that they are community acquired rather than University related).  With the likelihood of further relaxation of the restrictions, we’re anticipating campus getting busier and more people returning to the office.  As and when this happens, we will work to ensure that our members’ working environments are managed safely and appropriately.

LUCU would like to remind our members that we must not get complacent – social distancing, face coverings (except where exempt), regular hand washing and plenty of ventilation are still essential.  If you feel comfortable, please do politely challenge others where you see these rules not being observed, or, if you prefer, please alert the relevant Health and Safety contact in your area so that they may ensure compliance with Covid safety rules. And please continue to let us know of any concerns you may have about health and safety in your area of work.

Alec Edworthy, Branch Health and Safety Officer

USS Pensions

We would like to remind members to use the UCU modeller that has been developed, which will show how your pension will be affected if the changes to USS advocated by UUK become a reality: UCU – UUK pension proposal modeller.

The modeller may be used by non-members as well, so please share widely with colleagues.

LUCU Committee