Text of email from branch president Ben Plumpton to members on 26 June 2020
You will have seen the email today from Jo Grady, our General Secretary, about UCU taking a levy from members of £15 (in two instalments) for the Fighting Fund, so that the union can continue to support members taking industrial action. Obviously it’s important that the union can help members in this way: many members in our branch have been supported by the Fighting Fund over the recent strikes, and the union has prioritised low-paid and casualised staff in disbursing strike pay. However, your branch committee is concerned about the lack of consultation on this, and that it wasn’t possible, according to the UCU rule book, to make this a progressive levy dependent on salary. We know many hourly paid, part time and low paid members will find this levy difficult to afford. (Note: members on the full free membership are excluded from the levy). Some members have already offered to contribute to cover the levy for low paid members of this branch (thank you!), and we would be glad to hear from any other members who feel able to do the same. Also, the branch committee are going to propose to the next General Meeting that the rules of our local Hardship Fund (http://www.leedsucu.org.uk/local-hardship-fund/) should be changed so that it can be used for this purpose. Come to the General Meeting to have your say on this (Thursday 9th July 12 noon), and let us know (firstname.lastname@example.org) if you have questions or ideas about this.
Job losses in the sector
You will have heard of some pretty awful things going on across the higher and further education sectors, with some institutions announcing large scale redundancies, voluntary severance schemes, cuts to working hours or even ‘voluntary’ pay cuts. UCU is gearing up to fight this at a UK level, and to pressure government to secure the future of the post-16 education sector through government financial support (the “Fund the Future” campaign). Many from Leeds have attended online solidarity meetings called by a group of UCU branches where particularly drastic cuts and job losses have been announced. These branches, with their Twitter handles so you can show your support if you use Twitter, are:
- Imperial College (75 redundancies in IT to start with https://twitter.com/ImperialUCU)
- SOAS (nearly 12 million to save through job losses https://twitter.com/UCUSOAS)
- Roehampton (large VS scheme, voluntary pay cuts https://twitter.com/RoehamptonUCU)
- Liverpool (536 job losses by end of July https://twitter.com/ULivUCU2)
- Reading (500 FTE to go, and/or threat to fire everyone and re-hire on worse terms https://twitter.com/ReadingUCU)
A short video giving info from these branches is here https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UfUsHJ5dot0
We expect to see more national action on this soon.
Follow @ucusolidarity on Twitter for up to date news.
For members on fixed term contracts coming to an end, let us know if you want UCU support in attending meetings with management/HR. We suspect end of contract letters are being sent out too freely when some of these posts will be renewed, because of course the work hasn’t gone away.
Leeds UCU officers are negotiating on job losses at university level. We’ve been sent lists of all the fixed term contracts due to end in the next few months, and we are arguing that ending these posts is
a) cruel, because in the current pandemic and hiring freezes, people are very unlikely to find new jobs (this is a particular problem for our migrant members whose visas will be affected) and
b) short-sighted, because the university needs these roles for the future.
Also Leeds has reserves and has saved itself a lot of money through the furlough scheme and through the university being largely closed for many months.
Initial discussions with management at last week’s Joint Committee of the University and UCU (JCUU) meeting indicated that they were quite receptive to these arguments.
We have been sent formal letters about 240 job losses proposed in the period to September, including many on fixed term contracts and 28 on permanent contracts. The three campus trade unions are pressing for a formal consultation on this, so that we can argue to protect those individuals, and we hope to prevent some or all of these job losses.
HR have finally agreed to start talking to the unions about casualisation more generally (18 months after we submitted our anti-casualisation claim, see http://www.leedsucu.org.uk/ucu-anti-casualisation-claim-submitted-to-university-of-leeds/) and the first meeting about this is on 8th July.
The branch is also in discussions with HR/management on many other issues of concern to our members, including return to campus planning, health and safety, progressing anti-racism, working from home allowance, plans for one-off staff visits to campus, issues with pay for casualised staff in specific areas, organisational change, workloads, promotions, furlough, Metro cards and more. Our interventions in many of these areas (especially health and safety) have brought some improvement. There has also been a slight improvement on university communications, in that they are informing staff before they inform students, although not much before!
Thank you to all our reps and caseworkers who have been working hard to support members. And thank you to those who have recently volunteered to help their union in various ways (see my email last Friday “Your union needs you!”). And of course thanks to everyone for supporting each other – we need solidarity across roles, contract types and diverse backgrounds – together we are strong!