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July, 2016:

Newsletter July 2016

Dear Colleague

Firstly I hope that you are all surviving the heat and taking appropriate measures to keep cool – that probably means not meeting with management though as that is bound to get people heated regardless of the weather!

Once again I would like to thank all of you for the hard work that you have put in this year, representing your members, organising disputes, running picket lines in support of national action. It is all very much appreciated by all of us. I know that people don’t often say thank you, but THANK YOU from the regional office.

This email aims to give you a taste of some of the work of the regional office and our plans for next year, as well as important dates for your diaries and information regarding cover over the summer.

Brexit

We have had a number of queries coming in to the Regional Office relating to the implications of Brexit. Obviously it is too early to say and so impossible to provide members with concrete assurances, however as you will have seen, UCU is pursuing this matter at every level with government to work to ensure our members are secure. One of the key concerns for the regional office has been the rise of the number of hate crimes as a result of the vote and we are committed to opposing these and supporting our members where necessary.

The Regional Office is promoting active engagement on these issues as we believe that the only way to stop intolerance is to name it publicly and to state absolute opposition to it. Our members might be facing the consequences of this not only in the workplace but also in their home lives and we are asking branches to seek assurances from their employers that racist abuse will not be tolerated and that staff will be given appropriate support if they face it.

Many employers have issued statements regarding Brexit and we would ask you to urge your employers to make public statements opposing xenophobia and hate crimes. One example of this has come through from the University of Cambridge where the Vice Chancellor has written to staff saying the following:

” I am conscious, too, that times like these can reveal divisions within communities. These divisions, as we have heard from various anecdotal and media reports, can lead to a rise in abusive and xenophobic behaviour.

While there are no indications that these kinds of incidents are happening within the University, it would be wrong to assume that our staff and students are immune from them. I have personally had conversations with a number of senior figures, including the Bishop of Ely, to make clear my deepest concerns on this subject. I endorse fully both the Bishop’s and the Archbishop of Canterbury’s condemnation of intolerance in the House of Lords.

As I said this week at the Vice-Chancellor’s Annual Equality and Diversity Review, Cambridge has always thrived by seeking to maintain an open, diverse and multi-national community that is inclusive of all aspects of gender, race, disability, sexual orientation and religion. We need these values now more than ever, and I am sure that you share my commitment to ensuring that Cambridge remains an exciting and welcoming destination for all.”

Ideally we would like to see all employers issuing similar (or even stronger) statements to their staff and students so if you haven’t seen anything similar from your employer could you please raise it. It would be helpful to find out what your employer is doing about preparing for a break away from the EU. In Essex University for example they have set up a Brexit Committee and UCU has been invited to have a seat on the committee. This is a very positive and welcome move and is exactly what branches should be seeking from their employers.

Senior Reps briefings and training

The Region will be issuing you with notifications of training events as they come up. We do currently have some dates that you should put in your diaries:

Senior Reps briefings: 1 November and 29 March

Retired members briefing: 29 November

Casework briefing: 24 January

There will be more dates coming soon and of course if you can arrange to have at least six members in attendance then we are happy to come out to your branches and run local training for you on a wide variety of subjects.

Strategy Planning

In the past branches have found it extremely useful to have a strategy session for the following year to identify key priorities, and create organising plans as well as looking for new reps and members to get involved. Recently there hasn’t seem to be much time for branches to carry out this sort of activity but we know from experience that spending some time identifying key objectives can save a whole lot of time later and means that you are more prepared to face whatever might be thrown at you over the following year. The regional office can run strategy planning sessions in your branch that can last anything from a couple of hours to a whole day.

Please contact the regional office on eastern@ucu.org.uk to arrange a date if you would like us to facilitate a session for you in your branch. These strategy sessions are really effective regardless of the size of your branch and the level of activity that already takes place, so even if your branch has only a couple of reps you will find it helpful to plan out how to build your union organisation to get more people involved.

Racism and Student Complaints

The regional office is becoming more and more aware that there appears to be a link between staff facing action due to student complaints and either overt or more subtle forms of racism. To counter this we have developed a series of FOI questions that we can raise with your employer. The regional office would submit the questions and then share the results with you and then work out the steps that we need to take in light of the information. If you would be interested in taking this approach with your employer then please get in touch with the regional office.

The Regional Office takes up social media!

You can now follow the activities of the Regional Office on Twitter using @UCUEHCRegion and we also have a blog that you can follow at http://ehc.web.ucu.org.uk/. If there is anything that you want us to tweet or if you have events that you would like to publicise, or victories that you have achieved, or simply news to share with other branches then let us know. If this all seems a bit daunting then don’t worry, we are looking at running social media training in the region at some point during the year.

Summer Holidays

Hopefully you are all finding time this summer to have a proper break. The regional office staff are very much looking forward to their own summer holidays and we will be reduced in numbers over the next month or so. We will be providing cover as colleagues go on holiday but please bear with us if we can’t respond as quickly as you would like. You might find it easier to use the generic regional office email address until September rather than contacting your lead official as then it will be picked up by someone in the regional office.

Holidays of staff are as follows:

Ben    25 July – 12 August

Lydia  12 August – 2 September

Jane   29 July – 12 August and 31 August – 2 September

Alex   25 July – 29 July and 16 – 19 August and 22-26 August

Chris is saving her holiday until the Autumn so will be around for most of the summer but be gentle with her as she is having to sort everything out while everyone else is away!

I am hoping that everyone will come back from their holidays refreshed and raring to go as we have a lot coming our way in the next academic year, including the HE pay dispute, nearly all of our FE colleges being hit with the Area Reviews in November and changes to the prison education commissioning system coming up. And that’s just what we know about!

I have my fingers crossed that everything stays calm over the summer but we all know from bitter experience that these months are when employers decide that it is nice to reorganise things and bring in new policies.  If you are going on holiday then do not under any circumstances be tempted to check your email. Everything will wait for you when you come back and holidays should be proper breaks away from it all.

 

Getting involved in your branch

Not everyone can be, or wants to be, a union rep but we DO need people in each area to pass information, discuss issues with their colleagues, put up posters or pass on information to colleagues. Each branch is constantly exploring ways in which more members can be drawn into playing a role, however small.

Getting Involved in Your UCU Branch

Model branch rules are available on the UCU website ( www.ucu.org.uk/ucurules ) but in general, branches try to ensure that they have a core of officers as per below:

  • chair/president
  • secretary
  • membership secretary
  • equality officer
  • health and safety reps
  • departmental reps
  • caseworkers

Every branch needs to consider its own specific circumstances and may decide to have further positions, but the suggested job description for the above are usually as follows:

Chair / President

In Further Education (FE) the role is normally referred to as “Branch Chair”, in Higher Education (HE) it is most often “President” but the job is the same.  The chair/president will chair all general meetings and all committee meetings of the branch / local association (LA) and perform such other duties as are laid upon the chair/president by any rule or are decided upon by the committee. In accordance with normal practice, the chair/president may, between meetings of the committee, take any action on behalf of the committee which is both urgent and necessary. Such chair’s action must be reported for approval to the next committee meeting.

Secretary

The duties of the secretary are to call general and committee meetings of the branch/LA; to ensure that minutes of those meetings are kept; to organise membership communications as the committee deems necessary; to arrange notification of local election and ballot results to all members; and to perform such other duties as are laid on the secretary by any rule or are decided by the committee. In the absence of the secretary, the secretary’s duties will be performed by another officer as the committee decides.

Treasurer

The treasurer will have custody of the funds of the branch/LA and authority to make payments from them in accordance with the rules as the need arises. The treasurer’s duties will be to keep the books of the branch/LA; to present the accounts of the branch/LA for auditing as necessary; to present these audited accounts to a general meeting of the branch/LA; to publish them to all members of the branch/LA and to submit a copy to the treasurer of UCU.

Membership and Recruitment Secretaries

The recruitment secretary will be responsible for setting recruitment targets, planning, coordinating and reporting back on recruitment. The membership secretary should ensure that central membership records are accurately recorded for the UCU members with their branch/LA to enable statutory and rule requirements of membership recording to be met. Although these two roles are often combined it is often better to have dedicated recruitment and membership officers.

Equality Officer

The equality officer will:

  • have knowledge of and commitment to relevant equality issues and be willing to undertake training according to the needs of UCU, monitor the implementation of equality policies within the institution, and, where appropriate, encourage and support local negotiations on equality matters
  • monitor the volume and nature of personal casework which involves equality issues to ensure that the branch/LA has appropriate mechanisms in place for handling such cases
  • where appropriate, provide information, encouragement and support to members about equality issues
  • ensure that UCU’s national annual meetings, and any other relevant events and opportunities for women, black members, lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender members and disabled members are publicised locally, that members from all groups are encouraged and enabled to participate, and that the branch/LA maximises the opportunities for recruitment and organisation amongst all groups.

Health and Safety Representatives

Health and safety reps are unique in having a detailed basic statutory framework of functions and rights outlined for them, which derive from the fact that their trade union is formally recognised by the employer. These rights and functions are supported by a number of absolute (i.e. unqualified) duties on the employer, including:

  • a duty to allow safety reps time off, with pay during working hours to undertake their functions
  • a duty to allow safety reps time off (as above) to undergo training in their functions approved by UCU or the TUC
  • a duty to provide such facilities and assistance as the reps reasonably require to help them
  • undertake their functions (note: the ‘reasonableness’ test relates to the rep’s needs, NOT to restrict what the employer has to provide)
  • a duty to consult in good time with safety reps on a range of matters.

Departmental Reps

Departmental reps fill an organising role within the branch,  talking and listening to members’ and non-members’ views; finding out their problems and concerns; identifying areas with low levels of membership or membership involvement; educating and informing members on issues of importance to them; encouraging members to get involved.

Caseworker

Caseworkers provide individual support and advocacy with the everyday problems which arise in the workplace. These may range to advice on college policy to  representing UCU members in matters of disciplinary and grievance (where members have a legal right to representation).

Getting involved without being a rep

A strong union branch is democratic and follows the wishes of its members. It follows, then that the more people who are involved the better. It is also a key tenet of the trade union movement that Equality is central to everything we do. We therefore seek that officers and reps within a branch are representative of the diversity of the membership in terms of gender, ethnicity etc..

Lots more information on being a UCU rep can be found here: www.ucu.org.uk/rep

EU nationals must not be used as pawns in Brexit negotiations, says UCU

EU nationals must not be used as pawns in Brexit negotiations, says UCU

5 July 2016

UCU has called on the government and all Conservative party leadership candidates to make a firm commitment that all EU nationals already in the country can stay.

The union was responding to a refusalOpens new window from Tory frontrunner Theresa May to confirm that EU nationals could stay and the suggestion that their status could be up for negotiation as part of Britain’s Brexit strategy.

EU staff make up around 15% of UK universities’ academic workforce and the union said they make a huge contribution socially and economically to the country. UCU said refusal to confirm they are welcome to stay in the country or even doubt about their future status risked causing serious damage to the UK’s reputation.

UCU general secretary, Sally Hunt, said: ‘Politicians have been ducking the difficult fall-out of the Brexit vote for too long. It is simply not acceptable to try and use EU nationals who have been living, working and paying tax in this country as pawns in any Brexit negotiations.

‘It’s time for the government, and those who wish to lead it, to clearly state that EU nationals can remain in this country.’