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May, 2017:

Manchester Metropolitan University staff to strike over jobs row

30 May 2017

UCU has announced today that its members at Manchester Metropolitan University on both the Manchester and Crewe campuses will walk out on strike for two days on Tuesday 20 and Wednesday 21 June.

Two days’ strike action were originally planned for last week, but were cancelled after the attack on Monday night. The row is linked to job losses arising from the closure of the university’s Crewe campus.

UCU says strike action is a last resort after the university refused its suggestions to postpone planned compulsory redundancies for this summer, and turned down the offer of talks with conciliation service ACAS to try and resolve the dispute.

UCU regional official Martyn Moss said: ‘Strike action is always a last resort, but members will walk out next month if the university refuses to address the jobs issue. We have suggested postponing redundancies planned for this summer and to talk through conciliation service ACAS. The university has refused both suggestions, despite the fact that UCU members at Manchester Metropolitan University have made it quite clear that they are prepared to take strike action to defend jobs at their university.’

Conservatives have been an ‘unmitigated disaster’ for education, says Sally Hunt

27 May 2017

The Conservatives have been an ‘unmitigated disaster’ for people working in education, UCU general secretary Sally Hunt said today.

Speaking at the union’s annual congress in Brighton, Sally Hunt delivered a damning critique of the government’s record. Her wide-ranging address went through the challenges facing the union in its fight for better pay and conditions, and she said recruiting new members was crucial to securing UCU’s future as a strong union.

The three-day conference started this morning with a minute’s silence for those who lost their lives in Monday night’s attack. Sally Hunt started her speech by reflecting on events in Manchester and said:

‘UCU members working in and around Manchester make up one-fifth of our total membership. Our hearts are breaking at the dreadful events last week, not least as it emerges that among the many innocent victims were students at our universities and colleges.

‘We send our solidarity to all those affected including the incredible emergency service workers who ran towards danger in order to save lives. And, as the days pass, to the teachers working so hard to reassure frightened students.

‘Education is what this union is all about and our response to this horrific incident must be to continue to champion knowledge, truth, tolerance and diversity. These are British values that are worth fighting for.’

Criticising the government’s record, Sally Hunt said: ‘It is worth reflecting on what an unmitigated disaster the Conservatives have been for our people. They have tripled tuition fees. They have halved the adult education budget. They have decimated funding for English language classes.

‘They have opened the floodgates to privatisation of our universities and colleges. They have introduced the absurd and damaging Teaching Excellence Framework. They have cut money for widening participation.

‘They have held down public sector pay. They have encouraged casualisation. They have attacked the poor whilst giving freely to the already rich. They have allowed Britain’s future to be held hostage by the negotiating skills of David Davis and Boris Johnson.

‘They have cuddled up to the revolting Trump. They have made immigrants and refugees scapegoats for their own failings.

‘And they have introduced the vindictive, unnecessary and illiberal Trade Union Act – an act that has nothing to do with union democracy and everything to do with making it harder for us to resist, organise and win.’

Addressing the union’s future and how UCU must attract new members, Sally Hunt said: ‘For people starting in the profession now, joining a union is not simply a matter of course. They need to be persuaded that we are worth belonging to.

‘We need to make a big, bold offer to those staff who are new to further and higher education. An offer that recognises the pressures new staff are under in terms of their job security, income and workloads. An offer that shows we are relevant to their developing professional needs, and that we can, and will, stand up for them.

‘Our task is to transform the union. To rebuild it as a national force in the most challenging of circumstances. To build capacity and to deliver for members. To make joining the union the norm and not the exception.’

UK academics warn of low levels of protection for academic freedom

25 May 2017

UK academics report significantly lower levels of protection for their academic freedom, when compared to colleagues in other EU countries, says a report from Professor Terence Karran and Lucy Mallinson of the University of Lincoln.

Academic Freedom in the UK: Legal and Normative Protection in a Comparative Context also reveals that a quarter of UK academics (23%) say they have been subjected to bullying by colleagues because of their views. The wide-ranging survey was commissioned by the University and College Union (UCU) as part of its efforts to better define what academic freedom means and to ensure it is better protected.

The report includes surveys of UCU members and academics from the other 27 EU member states. Just two-fifths of UK academics (42%) said they felt they had an adequate working knowledge of the concept of academic freedom. Academic freedom is clearly important to academics though as four-fifths of (81%) said they wanted more information on the concept of academic freedom.

Key findings:

·         Nearly a quarter (23%) of UK academics said they had been bullied by colleagues because of their views, compared to 14% of EU colleagues

·         Two-fifths of UK academics (42%) said they have an adequate working knowledge of concept of academic freedom. A third (34%) said they did not.

·         81% of UK academics wanted more information on academic freedom. Three-quarters (74%) of colleagues in other EU countries wanted more information.

·         UK academics feel they have far worse levels of protection of academic freedom than EU colleagues

·         Over a quarter of UK academics say they have a low level of protection (28%), compared to 13% of EU colleagues.

·         Half (49%) of EU academics say they have a high level of protection, compared to just 22% in the UK

·         Half of UK academics (52%) compared with a third (34%) of EU colleagues say protection of academic freedom in their university has diminished in recent years

·         Over two-fifths (43%) of UK academics say individual academic freedom for teaching has declined, compared to a quarter (25%) in EU countries

·         Two-thirds of UK staff (67%) say employment protection for academic staff has declined in recent years, compared to just over half (54%) in EU countries

The report’s authors argues that to be able to defend academic freedom you must understand it. They also makes the case that people need job security if they are to be really free to challenge certain notions, and be fully involved in university governance.

The union said it hoped the release of the report would kick-start a debate within the union and on campuses about what academic freedom is and how academics should defend it.

The union said it would be considering a range of options in response to the report, including looking at the possibility of exploring whether or not the UK fulfils its requirements with regard to the UNESCO 1997 recommendation on academic freedom. Author Terence Karran will be discussing the report with delegates at UCU’s annual congress in Brighton on Saturday lunch time.

UCU general secretary Sally Hunt said: ‘This wide-ranging and important report highlights the surprisingly low numbers of academics who feel they have a decent understanding of what academic freedom really is. Less surprising, and somewhat reassuring, is the high percentage that regard it as important.

‘In the current climate, where facts have been relegated to secondary importance, it is absolutely vital that experts start to be heard again as dangerous policy and political positions can be taken by those who do not fully understand an issue.

‘We believe a free society is one that is defined by robust self-governing institutions that regulate themselves within the law, but outside government influence. The launch of the report at UCU Congress also represents the start of a wider debate on what academic freedom is and how universities must defend it. This is a debate we hope the entire sector will get involved in.’

UCU responds to Conservative manifesto immigration plans

18 May 2017

Responding to commitments in the Conservative party manifesto to keep international students in net migration targets and toughen visa rules, University and College Union (UCU) general secretary, Sally Hunt, said:

‘International staff and students make a hugely valuable contribution to our universities and colleges, but the Conservative party’s unhelpful stance on reducing net migration and toughening student visa rules sends a negative message that overseas talent is not welcome in the UK.

‘Instead of pulling up the drawbridge, the next government needs to ensure that the UK remains an attractive destination for academics and students from around the world. They should start by immediately guaranteeing the rights of EU nationals currently working and studying here rather than using them as a bargaining chip in Brexit negotiations.’

Regional Casework Training Days CW1 22 May & CW2 10 July Carlow Street

Casework Training 1 & 2:  22 May  (Day 1) and 10 July (Day 2) 2017

The Regional Office is rolling out some more dates for reps undertaking or interested in undertaking casework. Casework 1 is a basic introduction to casework looking at the role of the caseworker, different types of cases that branches deal with and how to interview members.

Casework 2 is a more advanced day looking at the law in detail and providing specific advice for representing at formal meetings under procedure.

The two days will be repeated throughout the year so that reps new to casework can attend the first course and then gain some experience before attending the second day, either in July or at a later date.

Experienced reps who have already undertaken our introduction to casework course can simply attend the second day, scheduled for 10 July .  There will be more dates in September and October.

If you’d like any more information or you would like to register for either or both days please e mail caitken@ucu.org.uk. If there is someone else in your branch who you think would be interested in this training please feel free to forward this e mail.

Disability Training for Reps 20 June Carlow Street

The Regional Office has developed new training days for reps on the subject of disability. This training will focus on:

  • supporting members with hidden disabilities, such as mental health issues and neuroatypical configurations.
  • increasing understanding of the social model of disability and of some of the barriers disabled people face both in employment and in accessing Trade Unions.
  • increasing reps understanding of some of the main issues that disabled people face and looking at how we can support members both in terms of requesting and making reasonable adjustments for members
  • in ensuring effective representation of members
  • how the law can be used to challenge discrimination and explore possible solutions to overcome some of the common barriers faced by disabled people.

If you’d like any more information or you would like to register for this course please e mail caitken@ucu.org.uk. If there is someone else in your branch who you think would be interested in this training please feel distribute.