EU settlement scheme

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Since the result of the EU referendum in June 2016, we have been urging the University of London to explore steps to support colleagues who are EU nationals potentially affected by Brexit.

In recent months, our discussions have shifted to give particular emphasis on the opportunity for the UoL to follow in the footsteps of many other UK HE institutions in funding the £65 settled status fee for colleagues with EU passports. This was formally debated at the Joint Negotiation and Consultation Committee (JNCC) on 13 November 2018.

Already in 2019, we have received many enquiries from UCU members wanting to know where we are with this. Even if 100 of our colleagues decided to apply for this funding from UoL the total outlay of £6,500 is small, especially in response to a referendum result that colleagues with EU passport had no agency in.

We will continue to press for action on this.

A tool you can use to evaluate your stress levels

ayo-ogunseinde-202302-unsplashWorkplace stress is, in our view, one of the main health and safety issues faced by UCU members, colleagues who work in higher education and the wider workforce in the UK.

There are objective ways you can measure your own stress levels. One of these is a handy tool issued by the Health and Safety Executive. It’s a questionnaire you can use to reflect on your own stress levels. Download and complete it by clicking here. This tool is widely recognised, including by the University of London within its Occupational Stress Management Policy.

If you find yourself answering ‘always’ to many of the questions, we would recommend that you get in touch with your UCU rep for further advice about your options.

 

USS dispute: summing up the last month or so

9 November: Universities UK has said that ‘it is clear that there is support from most employers for the JEP’s recommendations’: Clear employer support for JEP recommendations, says UUK. UCU later called this is a ‘hugely important step’ for members

21 November: further evidence released by pensions experts First Actuarial indicates that USS do not need to increase contributions to resolve the 2017 valuation

22 November: USS announce that they will be conducting a new valuation. Michael Otsuka warns that this may be an attempt to subvert JEP recommendations

12 December: Michael Otsuka releases details of an exchange he’s had with the Chief Risk Officer at USS which suggests that USS has adopted a policy of de-risking assets to the extent that it refuses to allow a significant surplus.

So, the union (broadly) agrees that JEP recommendations are a helpful way forward for securing our DB pension in the future. Employers appear to be saying (via UUK) that they do. But USS seem to be dragging their feet, and this is concerning.

One thing you can day to express your frustration at this situation is sign this petition to call for the resignation of Bill Galvin:

We will of course keep you as updated as possible.

Solidarity with colleagues in SOAS

UCU Senate House branch would like to place on record its solidarity with our colleagues in SOAS, who are facing draconian cuts. These cuts will affect students and visiting researchers as well as staff.  Library services stand to be particularly badly affected with the potential loss of 25% of current staff. Other Professional Services teams are also facing significant changes.

We urge the management at SOAS to rethink these cuts which will have a devastating impact on jobs and services.  They will also undermine SOAS’s national and international reputation. 

Background information on the proposed cuts and their effects is here:

https://soasunion.org/news/article/6013/Library-Staff-Statement-on-SOAS-Cuts/

Report from our delegate to UCU’s sector conference on pay and pensions on 7 Nov

mosi manchesterI went to the Higher Education Sector Conference (HESC) on pay and pensions yesterday, held at the Museum of Science and Industry in Manchester. Here are some personal reflections. I wrote these notes on the train home, and other reports will undoubtedly be available through the usual channels. Apologies for brevity and typos in places.

Pay
There was a very lively debate about whether or not UCU should reballot us on industrial action over this year’s 2% pay offer. And, if so, how, when and what support and further research would be required to facilitate a successful campaign. There was also discussion about what the pros and cons of current UK-wide pay bargaining with one motion suggesting multiyear pay deals should be considered for the future.

On the specific issue of reballoting UCU members on this year’s 2% pay offer (with reference to the individual motions)
Motion 1 resolves (ii) reballot all branches in turnout range 35-50%: not carried
Motion 2 resolves (i) reballot all post 92 branches with over 35% turnout: not carried
Motion 3 “consider reballoting all branches where there is a realistic chance of getting a 50% turnout”: not carried

Motion 5 resolves (b) “as a consequence of the 2018/19 dispute remaining unresolved, the union should complete a statutory ballot by the end of March 2019 at the latest so as to enter 2019/20 negotiations with a legal mandate for industrial action”: carried.

This could give the joint negotiation process a different look for next year as we can ballot for striking earlier but it wasn’t entirely clear to me what we’d be voting for. The HEC will consider this in more detail.

For me, highlights among the other motions that were passed included:
– more research will be done into timing and duration of ballots, including whether e-ballots distract rather than support member mobilisation
– intensify political campaigning against the 50% ballot threshold
– in the next pay ballot, work towards a UK-wide aggregated 50% turnout rather than 50% at individual branch level
– redefine the next pay dispute to place greater emphasis on casualisation, equality and workload
– UCU called on to speak at branch meetings and produce local material to support Getting the Vote Out

Pensions

The afternoon session on pensions was not quorate due to registered delegates sending apologies or not turning up. Therefore any motions passed have advisory status only.

Confirmation received by UCU Head of HE that UCU’s negotiating position going forward will be one of no detriment. The Head of HE that UCU and UUK will meet today (Thursday) – UCU will get an initial sense of what the outcomes of the UUK consultation were.

UCU National Dispute Committee (NDC) co-chair gave a passionate representation that NDC, set up to give UCU representative steer on the pension dispute, should take a strong negotiating position and be fully integrated into UCU structures. They support the JEP but think it should have gone further.

Emergency motions (not currently online) submitted by the NDC, through the HEC, passed:
– affirmation that there is no justification for benefit reduction or contribution increases
– ballot members for industrial action if UUK attempts the above 
– demand an apology to staff and students by UUK and employers for their role in triggering the dispute
– call on employers to reimburse staff lost earnings 
– call on employers to compensate students for lost teaching during strike 

Motions we considered: click here

Some highlights:

  • Motion 1 was passed, except for further (i), which set an agreement deadline of 4 Jan 2019
  • All motions in section 3 (JEP phase 2),  section 5 were passed.
  • In section 4 (valuation), motions 11, 13, 15 and 16 passed. But motions 12 and 14 fell.
  • Conference voted to demand resignation of UUK Chief Executive but not the USS Executive. And demand a formal apology from UUK President.

Again, note inquoracy issue. Advisory status only.

General observations

  1. It was a really interesting day . Intense, stimulating and recommended. I hope other branch members will put themselves forward to experience similar events in 2019.
  2. At a few points during day, especially motion 5 on pay, votes (expressed by sticking up your voting card), were counted, recounted and recounted again. There were debates about quoracy and the standard items that govern the meeting. To me, this was a waste of time and could be easily solved by introducing electronic voting to congress and conference. UCU spent £250 on my travel and accommodation to attend this conference, most of which probably comes from member subscriptions. Electronic voting would give more time for debate and avoid us wasting time like we did today. I may well submit a motion to this effect to a future branch meeting.