These are suggestions to try to improve how UCU University of Leeds branch meetings work, in part by helping members to understand how they can use the branch rules. These suggestions are from a working draft and have not been formally approved by the branch. For the official rules, see the standing orders for the conduct of business at local general meetings in appendix 1 of the branch rules.

Turning your idea into a collective decision

  • To make a collective decision any member writes a proposal (‘motion’)
  • When notified of the date of the next general meeting, you submit your motion by the deadline
  • The motion is circulated to all members in advance of the general meeting (general meetings are meetings of all members of the UCU branch who can attend)
  • At the meeting members vote whether or not we agree
  • If we agree your idea has become branch policy or action

If an issue arises after the deadline for motions, you can submit an emergency motion.
(Note that local general meetings cannot depart from national UCU policy)

Writing a motion

A motion can be a simple one-line instruction about what the branch agrees to do:

“This branch resolves to …”.

More complex motions often use the form:

“This branch notes … [relevant background facts, sometimes numbered or with bullet points]

“This branch believes … [what you hope everyone feels in response to those background facts]

“This branch resolves to … [what you hope everyone will agree the branch should do about it]”

Please keep it short and don’t include links or attachments. (Word limits)

Proposing an amendment to a motion

If possible submit your proposed amendments to in advance of the meeting so they can be circulated to all members to consider in advance.

If you haven’t submitted your amendment in advance, if possible please tell the chair before the start of the meeting that you will propose an amendment so they can factor in the time needed to discuss it.

You can propose an amendment during the debate and normally the chair will allow that, but the chair can refuse to accept amendments and might do if they think there is not sufficient time to discuss all the items on the agenda.

Joining online meetings

  • Please don’t share the link
  • There’s a phone number in case you can’t join online
  • You can log in 15 minutes before the start time to test your audio and video
  • Test your audio before the start so you don’t need to ask if people can hear you
  • Please join with your full name so a moderator can check you’re a member
  • If you don’t want to use your full name, or are phoning in, please use the chat or email to let a moderator know your full name

Participating in online meetings

  • Mute your microphone when you’re not speaking
  • Use the ‘hands up’ icon to let the chair know you want to speak
  • When you’re called in to speak you don’t need to ask if people can hear you – the chair will alert you if there is a problem
  • When you’re called in to speak you can post your contribution in the chat box instead if that’s easier for you – ideally have your contribution ready to send when you’re called in
  • Using the general chat when you haven’t been called in is like speaking over the person who is talking


In face to face meetings decisions are either made by show of hands, or, if no-one disagrees and typically for less formal decisions, by general assent.

In online meetings, voting will depend on the platform used. In Blackboard Collaborate, for less formal votes there is an agree/disagree function (click the person icon to see the options), and for formal votes there is a poll feature.

If your calling into an online meeting by phone you will need to verbalise your vote.

Making your contribution

  • Start with your name and (conventionally) where you work
  • It’s helpful to say early on if you are ‘for’ or ‘against’ a motion
  • You will usually only get one opportunity to speak on each subject so try to make all your points, and within the agreed time limit
  • You can propose an amendment to a motion
  • You can propose that a motion is voted on ‘in parts’ (‘taken in parts’), and explain why you are for most of it but want to vote against a particular part

Point of order

You can make a point of order to the chair at any time to ask the chair to make a ruling on any aspect of the meeting and how it relates to the rules.

A common point of order is to ask the chair to rule on whether if the meeting carries one motion a later motion will automatically fall (because it contradicts the first one).

Another common point of order is to ask the chair to rule on whether something said or done in the meeting is ‘out of order’ – such as not speaking to the question, making abusive or offensive comments, breaching the union’s rules or the law – traditionally phrased as: “Is it in order that … ?”

If you indicate you want to make a point of order the chair will bring you in to speak straight away, unless you indicate it can wait till after the current speaker.

Challenging the chair’s ruling

The chair will often seek the approval of the meeting for decisions, but when the chair makes a ruling it’s final, unless …

  1. Any member present can challenge the chair’s decision by saying they wish to do so
  2. The chair will step aside and the meeting will be chaired by another officer temporarily
  3. You will be asked to move your challenge – to explain why you think the chair was wrong
  4. Your motion of challenge must be seconded ‘formally’ (which means with no speech)
  5. One person will be invited to speak to defend the chair’s ruling (it can be them)
  6. The challenge will be put to the vote and will need a two-thirds majority to pass

Motions to close a debate

You can propose one of three ways to close a current debate at any time. Such a proposal will be put to the vote immediately.

  • ‘I move that the question now be put’ (less formally: ‘I propose we move to the vote’)
  • ‘I move that the meeting proceeds to next business’ (less formally: ‘I propose we move to next business’) – if passed that means we don’t vote on that item and move on to the next item on the agenda
  • ‘I move that the motion is referred to the committee’ – entrusts the committee with making the decision or redrafting the motion (specify which) – typically used if the meeting thinks a motion needs more thought or can’t be adequately amended in the time available

Correcting misunderstandings

At any time you can ask the chair if you can make a ‘point of information’ – you can interrupt someone speaking to do so but please consider if it can wait until they finish.

If a contribution you made has been misunderstood or mischaracterised by another speaker you can ask the chair if you can come back and make a ‘point of explanation’.

Fitting everything in

Meetings usually start at five minutes past the advertised time and end five minutes before the advertised time, so we get breaks between back to back video meetings.

The chair will try to get the right balance between having a thorough debate and dealing with all the items on the agenda.

Exceptionally the chair will ask the meeting if we want to extend the meeting, but the normal expectation is members present for the full advertised time of the meeting can participate in the whole meeting.

If we run out of time to vote on a motion it automatically falls.

Suspending standing orders

At any time a member can propose that a particular standing order (the rules governing the meeting) is suspended for a specific purpose. This proposal needs a two-thirds majority (abstentions not included in the calculation). Different organisations have different traditions of suspending standing orders. In some it is commonly used to vote to extend the time of a meeting (suspending, for a set period, the standing order which defines the meeting end time), in others there is a tradition of suspending all standing orders so the formal meeting stops (a ‘time out’ without formal chairing or formal voting). There isn’t a common tradition of suspending standing orders in this branch so members will need to specify which standing order or orders they propose to suspend, and for what purpose (or duration) so that members can be clear when that purpose has ended and normal standing orders can resume.

Amendment 3 July 2023: addition of section on suspending standing orders.

This page was last updated on 3 July 2023