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.
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.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org 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.
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.