On Friday, UCU national executive committee meeting began with a silence to commemorate the victims and all those affected by the terrorist attack which targeted mosques in Christchurch. Our emergency statement [here] confirms our commitment as an education union to take the lead in ensuring that people of faith are protected and have a safe environment to learn and pray.
Please join together today at the vigil for victims of the terrorist attack against mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand. This has been co-organised by the LUU Islamic Society, LUU Ahlul Bayt Islamic Society, LUU, and the chaplaincy. We will meet outside LUU (in the precinct) at 1.30 today, until 1.45pm.
Today and every day Leeds UCU stands in solidarity with our Muslim members and students here at Leeds, and around the world. We condemn all acts of hatred and Islamophobia. Together we are stronger. Today we send a strong statement that our university community says NO to Islamophobia.
Please do take 15 minutes to join the vigil if you are able.
Please come to the members’ meeting tomorrow: every voice matters! If you have never been to one of our branch meetings before, it’s a great one to start with: we have a very full agenda (attached!) dealing with many challenges we face as a sector and as a society. We have updates on local negotiations over the gender pay gap and imminent negotiations over casualisation at the University of Leeds, and a significant number of decisions to make as a branch regarding local policy and what we would like to take forward to the annual UCU Congress and Higher Education sector conference. We will also agree our delegates to represent the branch at Congress this year.
On Friday UCU announced the nominations process
and timeline for [electing a new General Secretary] after Sally Hunt’s resignation. Nominations are open
until 5pm on Monday 8 April 2019. Members and staff of UCU are
eligible if they meet requirements and nomination guidance outlined [here]. Once
nominations are confirmed, there will be an election by postal ballot
which will run between 29 April – 23 May 2019. As with the recent UCU
officer and NEC elections, the mechanism will be by Single Transferable Vote,
meaning members can vote for more than one candidate in order of
preference. The successful candidate will hold the position for 5 years.
This is an incredibly important election for the future of UCU. However, in previous years the turnout in elections for the role has been very low across the membership. We hope to address this democratic deficit at Leeds! It is our hope that every single member eligible to vote will return their ballot! As such, please let us know (firstname.lastname@example.org) what you would find useful in making your decision about who to vote for and in which order. We hope to organise a large hustings event at Leeds, and will seek permission from candidates to film this to widen access to it.
Bradford College UCU are due to strike for 3 days: 20th, 21st, 22nd March 2019. Members in Bradford have experienced a 25% reduction in pay in real terms, with no significant pay rise at all in 10 years. In comparison, school staff have received a 3% pay rise applied to pay scales that already tend to exceed the rates paid to staff in colleges.
The strikes this month follow an unprecedented 4 days of solidly supported industrial action at the college in November and January. It is hugely disappointing that a recent letter from (then) Acting CEO Chris Malish (now the finance director) to the Bradford College branch only offers talks with UCU on pay after the proposed strike days, on 1 April. Given members have already walked out twice, Bradford College UCU are quite justified in asking whether their management are playing April Fools…
Bradford College staff are suffering under hugely increased workloads and high levels of accompanying stress. Spending on the Bradford College senior management team has risen while the wage bill for lecturers has fallen. Consider this context of a refusal to move into meaningful talks for over six months, playing for time under the restrictive (anti-)Trade Union Act 2016 laws until the ballot mandate runs out, versus the positive moves made by the City of London Group where staff were awarded a 5% payrise and many casualised staff moved onto more secure contracts.
So what can we do to support Bradford College strikers? Here are 6 things:
Visit the picket lines (email UCU@leeds.ac.uk if you want to join a delegation and/or pop by on your way to work)
Contribute to our collection at the Leeds UCU General Meeting tomorrow (12 noon Roger Stevens LT 11)
Write to the latest Bradford College CEO Chris Webb: email@example.com to express disappointment at the failure of the executive to engage in meaningful pay bargaining (and their refusal to meet until after the next 3 days of action).
Write to the Chair of Governors, Cath Orange: firstname.lastname@example.org
Send individual messages of solidarity to the branch.
Members will have seen in last week’s all-staff communication the reminder that our USS pension contributions will be going up from 8% of Salary to 8.8% of salary, as from your pay slip at the end of April. We will be receiving letters from the USS this week with further details. We have communicated this known forthcoming contribution a few times in updates on pensions in the last few months. This is the first of a series of increases in contributions that were triggered last summer as a result of a failure to agree the 2017 valuation – the source of the big pension strike this time last year. Further increases will take place if no agreement is reached – and you will see these mentioned in the USS letter and by following links from the all-staff email – but please note that there are no employers who desire these further increases and the pressure is on to come to a conclusion and agree a way forward to avoid them.
Members will recall that the Joint Expert Panel was established on the back of our strike, and its first report came out last September. Partially in response to that, USS proposed to put forward a 2018 valuation that might replace the contentious 2017 one. This is currently being consulted upon by employers. The further increases that have been slated could be stopped or replaced as a consequence, and we’ll report on the outcome of these when we know them. Current pressures are growing around the issue of so-called ‘contingency contributions’, which employers would be asked to make in specific circumstances. Neither the employers nor UCU think these are a good idea, but USS remains reluctant to agree to all the recommendations of the JEP.
Sam Marsh outlines the implications of this misrepresentation of the Pension Regulator in a series of tweets early last week: https://twitter.com/Sam_Marsh101/status/1103589129328250882 Marsh here points out that the new information calls into question the integrity of the USS executive team, who had rejected some of the JEP proposals arguing that the Pensions Regulator had internal benchmarks that dictated what they could do. This having been refuted by the Regulator, USS appears exposed as having seemingly manufactured arguments to support their valuation methodology, something that has always been at the core of our dispute over projected deterioration of our pension.