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Free membership for all postgrads – even if you are in paid work

Thousands of postgrads are signing up for UCU’s free membership offer. UCU negotiates your pay, your contract and your pension. The more of us there are the stronger we can be in our negotiations with the vice-chancellors and their similarly well paid representatives. To join UCU for free see here.

The Prevent Duty: a threat to academic freedom and civil liberties

UCU National President Liz Lawrence leads an open discussion of the Government’s new ‘Prevent Duty’ on Monday 16th November 1.15 pm in 5W2.1.

Section 26 of the Counter-Terrorism and Security Act 2015 contains a duty on specified authorities, including universities, to have due regard to the need to prevent people from being drawn into terrorism. This duty is usually referred to as “Prevent Duty’’. UCU is opposed to the government imposed Prevent Duty as a matter of principle for many reasons. For example, the Prevent duty seriously threatens academic freedom and freedom of expression, it puts pressure on UCU members to spy on their students and the broad and vague definition of terrorism adopted in the Act will stifle open political debate and legitimate political dissent on campus.* (more…)

“I’m worth it” – Vice Chancellor defends her enormous pay increases

As we have done each year since 2011, campus unions wrote to members of the University Remuneration Committee before their annual meeting on 9th July.   We have not so far heard back from the Remuneration Committee, and its decisions were not reported to its parent body – University Council – which met later the same day.

In a newspaper interview, Vice Chancellor Glynis Breakwell has defended the enormous pay rises she has received in the last eight years.   Using words that will inflame most people working in higher education she said  “I’m worth it.   I’ve been in the job a long time and you do tend to get increases over time in most jobs.”  Most people working in HE have seen  the value of their pay fall by 15% in the last eight years.

UCU is challenging the Vice Chancellor’s refusal to disclose her expenses, in line with disclosures made by most other Vice Chancellors, and published recently in the national UCU report Transparency at the Top.

UCU members reject 1% pay offer

Members have rejected the employers’ 1% pay offer for 2015. With private sector pay deals approaching 3% and members facing increased pensions contributions from April 2016, the 1% offer will mean a further cut in the value of our pay.   UCU will write to the Universities and Colleges Employers Associate (UCEA) and invoke the New JNCHES dispute resolution procedure.

Students and graduates hit hard by budget changes

Students from the poorest families will leave university owing “substantially more” to the government than their richer peers, warns analysis of changes to student funding in the budget released today.  UCU general secretary, Sally Hunt, said: ‘the government has created a situation where the poorest students that aspire to university will have to take on much larger debts and be hit with bigger annual repayments once they graduate.”

Bath Vice Chancellor Glynis Breakwell has publicly expressed her support for the Government’s plan to scrap maintenance grants and extend loans.   In the past she has also supported calls for increases in tuition fees.

The British Universities Directors of Finance Group adds in its recent briefing:

“In a week in which universities minister Jo Johnson confirmed the details of student support packages for 16/17, a briefing note from the Institute of Fiscal Studies (IFS) found that the average student debt owed by graduates from poorer backgrounds could hit £53,000 following the changes to student loans outlined in the recent budget. The briefing note explains how the increase, from an average of £40,500 under the current system, will result from the moves to replace maintenance grants with loans, and freeze the loan repayment threshold.

The study also found that government finances will not be much better off in the long-term as a higher proportion of graduates from poorer backgrounds do not repay their debt in full, and so much of the extra amount lent will not be repaid. IFS estimates put the short-term reduction in national account spending at £2bn a year, but only £270million actually saved per cohort over the lifetime of the loans. There is further analysis of the figures on the BBC website and in the Times Higher.

In related news, Jeremy Corbyn MP, a candidate for the Labour leadership, has proposed to launch a policy of scrapping tuition fees altogether if he becomes Labour leader, and replacing them with grants. “

UCU Congress 2015 – pay, pensions and job security at top of the agenda

This weekend sees UCU hold its annual congress in Glasgow.   The Congress has been cut short by one day because of the strike action by railworkers, but there will still be time to discuss:

  • The threat of new, even more repressive anti-trade union laws
  • The miserly pay offer of 1.0% by our employers
  • A legal challenge to the Trustees of the USS pension scheme
  • The growing threat of casualization in our sector and beyond
  • The campaign against huge cuts in adult and further education (there will be a lobby of Parliament on 16th June
  • http://fefunding.org.uk/
  • The increasing number of redundancies at universities and colleges across the UK – especially in professional services
  • The victimisation of trade union reps at Bolton and Salford Universities
  • Working with other trade unions to challenge ‘austerity’ in social and economic policy

and lots more.

BRANCH MEETING

Our Congress delegates Chris Roche and Michael Carley will be reporting back to a meeting for members on Wednesday 3rd June 1.15 pm in 1E2.4

New laws threaten to make most strikes illegal

Proposals to change the laws on strike action have been outlined by the Conservative Business Secretary and criticised as ‘an aggressive assault on our rights and our democracy’ by TUC General Secretary Frances O’Grady.  According to Union Solidarity International, almost half the Cabinet would not have been elected under the ballot rules propose by the Tories.

Assessment boycott suspended until 16th January – but more action likely to follow

UCU HE Committee decided yesterday that as the employers are prepared to talk about their proposals to change the USS pension scheme, the assessment boycott will be suspended until January 16th.

Harriet Bradley, who attended yesterday’s HE  Committee meeting , will speak to a meeting of members in Bath on Monday 24th November 1.15 pm in 6E2.1.  Read Harriet’s report here.

Thanks to all members who have supported this action since 6th November.  It is only through your action that we have prevented the employers from forcing through the changes they want to make to the USS pension scheme.

Another report from yesterday’s meeting  suggests that while our negotiators may be prepared to hear what the employers have to say over the next six weeks, the employers have so far made no significant concessions on their proposals to change the USS pension scheme.

“The dispute is not over.    Indeed it was emphasised by everyone that we needed to be prepared to take hard-hitting action in January.  The employers have not retreated from their deficit estimates and ‘de-risking’ strategy.  We have a substantial political job to do in Senates, Academic Boards etc to put pressure on our own employers to challenge the proposals.”  (Sean Wallis UCL).

Monday’s branch meeting will consider a call for a special HE Sector Conference in January for delegates from ALL 69 pre-1992 universities involved in the USS dispute

Pay docking

HR have informed us that

“in accordance with the agreement reached nationally, we will not be withholding pay for breach of contract in respect of any individuals who participated in the action short of a strike between 6 and 19 November 2014 on the condition that those individuals make up all work missed in a reasonable period of time.”

The University has been informed of the suspension of the boycott so you do not need to contact HR.

HE members called on to support FE staff in Lambeth College dispute

UCU Congress also called on all members to support the action of staff at Lambeth College who are taking indefinite strike action in defence of their contracts of employment.   Changes to contracts include loss of 2 weeks holiday, cuts to sickness pay and extra working hours for no pay. You can find out more here and sign the petition in support of their action.

Strong support from UCU Congress for Bath moves on VC pay and tuition fees

There was overwhelming support for Bath motions at last week’s UCU Congress in Manchester. (more…)