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Academic-related staff: important changes made at annual meeting 5 March 2014

Academic Related Staff Committee will now be known as the ‘Academic related, professional staff committee’.  This motion was proposed by the ARC as it was felt that the term Academic Related was no longer used in many Universities and therefore it was a barrier to recruitment.  However, it was felt it was important to retain the status of Academic Related staff as being integral to the academic endeavour of a University.  Further it helped protect staff under existing recognition agreements.

On this point, there have been a few attacks on AR staff recognition in some Universities where management have tried to ‘derecognise’ this category of staff as being in UCU’s bargaining unit.  It was agreed that UCU had to resist all attempts to do so and this could be achieved by recruiting more AR staff into UCU.  We needed to ensure that our voice was strong and thus heard.

In general there were reports of continuing de-professionalisation, down-grading and grade drift in addition to threats from outsourcing and shared services models.  Delegates from the University of Hull reported that staff are being ‘warned’ (some may say bullied) about requesting re-grades with the disclaimer that “re-grading may result in down-grading or redundancy.”  There was also a report of the dismantling of the National Framework agreement as one institution insisted that a re-grading request had to be accompanied by a letter of support from the appropriate Head of Department agreeing that they can fund a higher grade if this was the outcome.

Another delegate warned the meeting of redundant positions being advertised by an outsourced company called Unitemps .  This company offered previously highly graded jobs at much worsened terms and conditions (NMW, zero-hours, short-term contract, no USS etc).  This is not only a concern for AR staff but academic positions (such as Research Officer) are also being advertised with this agency.

There was a report about the increase in student complaints being directed towards AR staff.  This was a concern as the rhetoric of student as customer becomes more pervading.  The worry was that Universities will be more inclined to support/believe students in their complaint and staff will be disciplined for not meeting increased and/or unrealistic student expectations.

In terms of our Branch, we need to start organising and recruiting more AR staff.  It may also be good to have an AR Officer on the committee and perhaps set-up an AR sub-committee to protect members here from some of the things that have been happening elsewhere.

Keir Mobbs and Marie Morley.

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