In the event of difference between the web version and the minutes agreed at the branch general meeting 14 May, the latter is the correct version. (Formatting is the most likely difference.)
Tuesday 28 April 2020, 1pm – 2pm
Chaired by branch president Ben Plumpton
Agreed to restrict speeches to 3 minutes for movers and 2 for debate.
Minutes of the previous meetings
7 November 2019 EGM. Minutes agreed.
22 January 2020 EGM. Minutes agreed.
2 March general meeting. Minutes agreed.
Update on local discussions with university senior management. We are meeting with HR regularly. We’re concerned about how frequently we’re being informed about decisions rather than being consulted on them. We’re not being involved in the decisions of the university executive group (UEG) – we’re being frozen out of decisions about how the university proceeds. Fixed term contracts is a priority – we’ve asked for extensions for all staff. The university made a minor extension to the end of May for most but we are trying to impress upon them the urgency of extensions for all staff as soon as possible particularly while the job market is frozen. There has been confirmation about how furlough will apply to universities, which is being worked through – the government says the scheme doesn’t apply where there is public funding. They have confirmed they will top up the government’s 80% of salary to 100% for furloughed staff. They are still exploring which staff can be furloughed. We’re asking them to pay for visa extensions and NHS surcharges.
On working from home, many staff are unable to do a full day’s work. HR are supportive face to face but haven’t changed the guidance to be as supportive as it should be. We’re pushing for better support and equipment for everyone, especially those needing reasonable adjustments. The University is treating is as temporary. Our advice is if it’s not safe stop and contact us. University has issued survey – we had no involvement or consultation – there are no demographic or equality questions. We have done our own survey which is better and in more depth so we can make more use of the data.
Sprung on us last week was that the university would like to introduce a new lecture capture policy. We are being consulted we have many concerns we will be circulating a draft.
We need everyone who has influence to use it however they can – officers and committee are working very hard, let’s all work together and make our presence felt.
Get in touch with us if things are happening. Decisions are being made at UEG and a lot of things are being worked out are school and faculty level.
UCU Congress was due to happen in May but has had to be postponed due to coronavirus and we don’t yet know what alternative arrangements will be made. UCU’s UK committees are continuing to meet electronically.
Negotiations on the ‘Four Fights’ and USS disputes are continuing. Further information is expected soon about the next steps, including a mechanism for branches to feed into the Higher Education Committee on these disputes.
Motion 1: Securing staff on casualised contracts
Casualised workers make up approximately 70% of researchers nationally in HE, and between 25-30% of the teaching staff in many universities. Like everybody, casualised university workers are struggling with the global crisis brought on by COVID-19, and are particularly likely to see our contracts terminate (while our Vice Chancellors are continuing to pay themselves salaries of £253,000 on average — many much more — from taxpayer money). There is no indication that this pandemic will be over any time soon, and some estimates suggest it could affect us up to 18 months or longer, which will take us through the next academic year at least. This does not even reflect longer-term economic impacts beyond the immediate tragedy of the pandemic itself. While this crisis continues, casualised staff members across the university — often the lowest paid on campus — must not be forgotten, and should receive guaranteed income along with permanent staff.
This branch recognises:
- that universities have already agreed to address casualisation due to the inordinate amount of suffering it causes, which will only be intensified by COVID-19
- that casualised staff whose contracts are ending will find it almost impossible to secure employment during a global pandemic, especially when university hiring is expected to freeze. This impacts international staff disproportionately whose immigration status are tied to their employment status. International staff face the threat of ‘legal limbo’ which is compounded by “No recourse to public funds”.
- that casually employed university workers (including hourly staff, fixed-term staff, and PhD students/GTAs) perform crucial, often poorly compensated, work, and deserve the same security as permanent colleagues, including contract renewals, extensions, or continued pay for the duration of the crisis
- that departments are going to need increased capacity as a result of the crisis, given potential illness of colleagues and the switch to remote working, making the work done by casualised staff even more essential
- This branch therefore demands an immediate contractual guarantee of two years of work at or above the current level of remuneration, for all casualised university staff.
This branch resolves to:
- Call on members to support the @CoronaContracts campaign and to sign the national open letter on casual contracts: https://coronacontract.org
- Call on our University to support the principle of guaranteed employment for two years for all casualised staff and, if necessary, to seek to apply the government’s job retention scheme to all eligible precarious staff, which must be topped up by our University to cover 100% of wages
- Call on our university to support the welfare of research staff on fixed term contracts who are funded by external research bodies. Where any projects are adversely affected, the university should work with research bodies in order to ensure any/all extensions are funded and any/all gaps in income are covered
- Call on our University to enter into full and open consultation on any proposed redundancies, including redeploying staff instead of terminating them, and to confirm that staff on fixed term contracts will not be discriminated against or automatically dismissed and support international staff on visa extensions and renewals
- Call for protections for postgraduate students including extensions of scholarships, protections around access to paid work, suspension of fees for self-funded students and students in their fourth year of study, and to suspend deadlines and annual reviews
Moved by Arunima Bhattacharya. Seconded by Steven French. Carried.
This branch notes:
That COVID-19 has created a significant crisis in Higher Education, with reports that Universities are likely to be very badly hit financially;
That the core reason for this is the current HE funding model which makes university funding largely dependent on student fees, and a consequent strategic approach taken by institutions such as Leeds which creates high dependence on international student fees specifically;
That there is a legitimate concern that universities, including the University of Leeds, will try to impose job cuts and major restructures under the guise of emergency COVID-19 planning
That the most vulnerable staff, particularly staff on casualised contracts, on visas, and with disabilities, caring responsibilities and mental health, are those most likely to be impacted by badly thought- through responses to the crisis;
That Durham University is reported already to be planning wholesale moves towards online teaching as a response to COVID-19, which is unworkable in terms of staff expertise and workload; is pedagogically undesirable and is very likely to be an insufficient response to the challenges posted;
- Urges the University to engage in meaningful consultation with campus trades unions about the University’s response to the COVID-19 crisis
- Resolves robustly to defend jobs and working conditions throughout the crisis and beyond
- Resolves in particular to resist any strategic or organisational changes, in particular to modes of teaching, which are not wholly justified by the emergency measures required to respond to the COVID-19 crisis
- Agrees to send a message of solidarity and support to Durham University UCU in fighting off deleterious management plans
- Request that the university open their books in good faith (in case of threat of redundancies or pay cuts) and to mitigate against job losses. Including an account of current and future investments and what is planned, re buildings etc and details around governance restrictions on reserves.
Moved by Chloe Wallace. Seconded by Adam Booth. Amendment moved by Kate Hardy agreed. Motion as text above carried.
“Leeds University UCU notes the detailed equality and mutual dignity policies attached and linked below.
The University however, breaches its own policies by setting non-binary trans staff up to be dead named by the university and their colleagues through its failure to provide gender choices beyond female/male.
We note that dead naming is not a theoretical policy, it is currently happening to staff in this university.
We note that the University has systems that do not link properly; thus deadnames remain in the systems. Deadnaming is an act of violence.
This branch insists that the following choices are offered to all staff.
Female / Gender Fluid / Male / Non-Binary / Other (If Other is picked, no further definition is requested.)
We further note that the university states that its guidance on trans staff is ‘under review’. We are unaware that staff unions have been involved or informed of this review of policies which form part of our terms and conditions of service.”
University policies: https://equality.leeds.ac.uk/equality-inclusion-framework/policies/
Moved by Megan Povey. Megan’s amendment proposed by Simon Joyce, seconded by Alan Roe, carried. Motion as text above carried.
Motion 4: Home working cost reimbursement
The government website indicates an amount of £26 per month that employers can pay to employees working from home (without paperwork to account for the extra electricity etc). https://www.gov.uk/hmrc-internal-manuals/employment-income-manual/eim32815 . Leeds University UCU demands that the UoL does this for all staff with effect from 23 March 2020.
Proposed by Lesley McGorrigan, seconded by Alan Roe. Carried
Motion 5: Carrying over annual leave
Leeds UCU demands that the UoL agrees for staff to carry over annual leave not taken during covid-crisis to the next two years, as outlined on this Government documents for some workers:
Proposed by Lesley McGorrigan, seconded by Alan Roe. Carried.
Any other urgent business (please notify the president before the start of the meeting)
Action short of a strike ends today.
Reminder to fill in branch survey.
If members wish to raise any matters arising from previous meeting at the next general meeting, please could they email firstname.lastname@example.org to let the president know.