Appointments to committee
Equality officer: Lorraine Youds
Anti-casualisation officers: Xanthe Whittaker and Joanne Armitage (role share)
Committee member (lead on climate and the ecological emergency): Jennifer Fletcher
The following motions were agreed:
Motion 1: opposing redundancies at Leeds University
Faculty of Biological Sciences management communication which hinted at compulsory redundancies if not ‘enough’ staff leave through the voluntary redundancy scheme.
that UCU branches (eg. Heriot Watt, Brighton, Northumbria Universities) have recently won ballots for industrial action, despite the obstacles to campaigning during Covid-19 restrictions.
Re-affirms our opposition to all redundancies.
urges all members to sign the Leeds UCU petition opposing the ‘voluntary’ redundancies in the Faculty of Biological Sciences and the School of Medicine.
demand a commitment from management that no compulsory redundancies will be proposed or made in FBS or SoM.
call a dispute if management will not rule out compulsory redundancies.
trigger the steps for an industrial action ballot if management pursues compulsory redundancies.
Motion amended as above text and carried without opposition.
Motion 2: Response to Funding Extensions for PGRs
The Leeds UCU Branch notes that:
- The COVID-19 pandemic has negatively impacted many post-graduate research students (PGRs) because of their reduced ability to perform meaningful research since the initial lock-down. While PGRs and their supervisors have made great efforts to perform useful work from home, this has not been effective for many projects.
- PGRs who in their final year, and are funded by UKRI, have been provided with funded extensions. PGRs in their earlier years of PhD study will not receive automatic additional funding, despite having lost the same research time as those in later years. For many, the lab closures and travel restrictions affecting fieldwork occurred at a more critical time, e.g., when data are being collected, and thereby having a bigger impact. To ask academics and students to ‘restructure projects’ is not an adequate response.
- Self-funded PGRs requiring extensions, some of whom are international, are receiving no additional financial support from the University, or UKRI. The international students are paying substantial fees, and many have lost several months of access time to research laboratories.
- PGRs feel unfairly treated by the University’s, and UKRI’s, COVID pandemic response, which is impacting their mental health. The effects of the unfunded extensions will have a disproportionate effect on PGRs from disadvantaged backgrounds.
- PGRs with chronic illnesses or other circumstances such as shielding and caring responsibilities will have been negatively impacted by a greater extent.
- The University benefits from many of these PGRs, because they contribute to many of the Research Excellence Framework (REF) submissions, contribute to teaching, and contribute to research impact of the University.
- PGR students are the next generation of academics and are being disenfranchised before their research careers begin. Acting on this issue will send out a message that PGRs are part of the academic community, who contribute to research and teaching, and are UCU members. This complements the national campaign for ‘PGRs as Staff’.
The UCU Leeds branch asks that:
To negotiate with the University to implement a financial package to enable PGRs to complete their research degrees. This should include a fair and transparent process to requesting funded extensions for all PGR students affected by COVID-19 lock-down.
That the branch raises this issue with NEC for a national campaign to ask that other Universities, and the UKRI, to reconsider their funding decisions for PGRs. Specifically, UKRI should consider allocating additional funding towards providing PGR extensions for all year groups affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.
An open letter is prepared by the branch and sent to the VC regarding this matter.
Motion amended as above text and carried without opposition.
Motion 3: campaigning for de-carbonising housing in Leeds
Background: This motion responds to a call by Regional Trades Council calling for union support to a programme of retrofitting of Leeds homes with energy efficiency measures, and for a collaboration between trades unions, the local authority, educators and others to expedite such a programme.
This branch notes:
- That in 2019 our UCU Leeds University branch has declared a Climate Emergency arguing that we must rapidly eliminate the burning of fossil fuels in order to reverse the increase of global temperatures.
- that the energy used for domestic heating and hot water accounts for around 20% of the UK’s greenhouse gas emissions, and that working from home can lead to higher costs from heating.
- that great strides have been made in the development of renewable sources of energy for electricity generation in the form of wind, solar, tidal and geothermal energy.
- that Estimates by the Parity Project suggest that getting all UK homes to an Energy Performance Certificate level C by 2030 would require 223,387 additional tradespeople immediately, rising to around 400,000 over the decade
This Branch believes
- that our HE sector unions have a crucial role in promoting critical education on sustainability, and campaign for the organizational and economic change needed to avoid disastrous climate crisis.
- that regardless of what energy source is used, the key to eliminating emissions from domestic heating and hot water essentially depend on capacity to reduce demand by retrofitting/upgrading all homes with insulation and other measures, to excellent standards of energy efficiency.
- that an ambitious domestic energy efficiency programme would also create a large number of high quality skilled jobs- whose creation is a pressing concern, more than ever in the context of an economic recession resulting from the COVID pandemic.
- that the government funding currently available for upgrading/retrofitting homes is a fraction of what is needed. The Green Homes Grant, worth a total of £2 billion, is a welcome step, but far more is needed.
The branch resolves
to join our Regional TUC Environmental committee’s call on local trades councils, trades unions, local authorities, education and training establishments (e.g. Leeds College of Building), as well as community organisations and retrofitting practitioners, to work together to enable whole house retrofits to be carried out within the region, in particular by:
- Urgently utilising Green Homes Grants and demanding their extension
- Seeking and campaigning for further financial methods of funding whole house retrofits.
- Ensuring that the skilled workforce is available and proper apprenticeships are provided using the facilities of the College of Building
- To join a meeting involving all the parties above at the earliest opportunity, to explore the detail of such a programme.
Motion carried without opposition.
Motion 4: Oppose management’s decision to scrap M and N Drives
Leeds University UCU:
- management’s decision to get rid of M and N Drives by December 2022.
- management’s instruction to staff that they are required to move all their files to Microsoft Office 365 cloud storage ie on OneDrive, Teams, or SharePoint.
- consultation with staff was not part of the decision making.
- Believes that:
- University in-house IT infrastructure is necessary to do our work effectively and efficiently
- cloud storage options are a useful addition to University hosted systems but are NOT a substitute.
- using Microsoft Office 365 cloud storage ie OneDrive, Teams, or SharePoint can take more time than using existing in-house storage.
- significant strategic decisions being made about how staff and schools conduct their academic work and operations without input from the University staff community.
- the increase in workload that this particular decision will place on already overworked staff
- To demand that management moves to a model of consultative decision making involving the staff within the campus community.
- To campaign against this regressive move.
Motion amended as above text and carried.