Author Archives: UCU - University and College Union

Mass resignation of external examiners at UK Universities: How to join in

You may have seen the news this week about a group of UK senior academics, all of them UCU members, resigning from their external examiner duties at UK Universities in protest over the system-wide failure to deal with staffing problems and associated issues such as casualisation and workload. You can read about their action in the Guardian, here. The full letter from the group can be found here.

Mass resignations of external examiners were an important supplementary part of forcing an end to our 2018 pensions dispute, but this is the first time that members have used the tactic this time around. It has the potential to very disruptive, and a useful addition to the more established forms of industrial action we’re taking such as strike action and action short of a strike (ASOS).

Their statement reads: “We are refusing to act as external examiners because although we believe that this role is crucial in underpinning the quality of education provided to students, so too is the need to provide fair pay, pensions and job security for those who work in universities.”
“It is long past time for universities to address these festering problems, and we believe we have a responsibility to staff at the start of their careers to make a stand now. Please join us by resigning external examiner posts and refusing to take on new contracts until universities take action to address these issues.”

After lots of members asking for guidance on how to follow suit, UCU has since provided guidance to members on how to do so, and have also included a very useful draft resignation letter to institutions where you do external examining work.

If you do heed the call of these colleagues, and resign your post as an external examiner, please email the branch office at UCU@cardiff.ac.uk so we can keep a record of how many of our members are doing this, and if you make any statements about your action on social media, please tag in the branch account so we can help boost your signal.

Members with queries about this should contact UCU’s Matt Waddup for help on: mwaddup@ucu.org.uk.

Call for nominations to the Cardiff UCU branch Executive Committee: 2020-21

In a very real sense the Union is powered by its members, and is only as effective if an active, informed, and engaged membership steps up to fill the voluntary posts which keep our Union going.

The Cardiff UCU branch Executive Committee co-ordinates the work of the branch between general meetings, negotiating with management, planning strategy, and generally keeping the show on the road. And we could use your help!

Nominations for next year’s Branch executive committee are now open. There are a range of officer positions and 8 ordinary member roles which allow you to ease in gently and make a valuable contribution to the Branch however big or small. All positions are up for election, some of the current committee will be standing down while others are running again. You can stand for more than one position (though if you are successfully elected to a position, votes for any others will be discarded).

You would be taking up the role in September, so there is time for a handover period, and time is allowed for the work through our facilities agreement with the University.
Have a word with any current member of the exec if you’d like to know more about what’s involved, and then download your nomination paper and send it in to Sally at the office or at SBuffard@ucu.org.uk.

Nominations close on Weds 19 Feb at 4pm.

Call for Delegates to UCU Congress 2020

We are inviting nominations to the national UCU Congress 2020 which will take place in Bournemouth Wednesday 27 – Friday 29 May. Accommodation and travel & subsistence expenses will be provided.

Delegates to Congress, which is the main democratic decision-making forum for our Union, can come from rank and file members, as well as those who are more active already in local branch work.

Would you like to be one of our delegates? Please nominate yourself by email to Cardiff UCU’s paid organizer SBuffard@ucu.org.uk.

Nominations close on Weds 19 Feb at 4pm.

Motions for UCU Congress 2020

At congress every year, members and branches are able to influence the future direction of the Union by submitting “motions” about any aspect of UCU’s work. In the past Cardiff members have submitted motions on issues as diverse as: how the Union is run democratically, equalities issues, the future direction of disputes and industrial action, the Union’s campaigning priorities, and much more.

The branch is currently inviting motions for national UCU Congress 2020 which will take place in Bournemouth Wednesday 27 – Friday 29 May. Each branch is entitled to submit 1 motion (excluding rule motions, to which no limit applies).

Please submit any proposed motions by email to ucu@cardiff.ac.uk by Weds 12 Feb at noon to allow us time to call a general meeting ahead of the submission deadline so that it can be considered, and voted on, by Cardiff members.

Book Launch: Stolen, by Grace Blakely, 7th Feb, 6pm

Grace Blakeley’s book, STOLEN, will be launched in Cardiff on Friday 7 February 2020; 6pm at the Glamorgan Building. You’ll have a chance to meet the author, and ask questions in a debate chaired by a great friend and supporter of Cardiff UCU, the PCS’s Shavannah Taj.

Delayed by the calling of the General Election, the launching of this book remains a major contribution to the debate about economics and power in Britain today.

Here is a Twitter link to an interview with the author:

https://twitter.com/graceblakeley/status/1199345085239816192?s=12&fbclid=IwAR3XHQt0w8cwbml38Q-hUMx6DXoRsz7n7oHDSIQH1RwFhGN2AiGPfv1MpjI;

and here’s a Facebook link where people should register their interest in attending the launch:

https://www.facebook.com/events/476734312982080/ .

Tackling the Climate Emergency in Cardiff: Panel Discussion, Thursday 30th January, 6.15pm – 8pm, National Assembly for

Hope for the Future (HFTF) work to equip communities, campaigners and groups across the country to communicate the urgency of climate change with their local politicians. This event will address the questions:

  • How is the Welsh Government approaching the climate crisis?
  • How can you hold your elected representatives to account on climate change?
  • How can you get involved?

Panellists will include:

The discussion will be chaired by Sarah Robinson, Deputy Director of Hope for the Future. Please register on the Eventbrite page if you’d like to attend.

Further legal guidance from UCU: action short of a strike (ASOS), “voluntary duties”, and how to refuse them

UCU General Secretary Jo Grady this week released the following guidance:
“Following our strike action in higher education branches last year, UCU members have been taking ASOS. A number of you have asked me how you can use ASOS to help the union achieve its objectives, and specifically which ‘voluntary duties’ we are asking you not to perform. UCU has now produced detailed, updated guidance based on legal advice about the range of activities you may be able to refuse to undertake.
Industrial disputes are about more than picket lines and there are plenty of other ways you can join in and increase our leverage. This guidance should allow you to take a more expansive approach to ASOS and increase the pressure on employers to address the issues which we are in dispute over.

In particular, we are asking you to withdraw, where possible, from activities relating to the REF, TEF, the new Knowledge Exchange Framework (KEF), and the National Student Survey (NSS). 

These activities are important to employers but they damage our sector. They rely on inappropriate metrics of ‘quality’ that create perverse incentives and prevent us from doing the front line teaching, research and professional services work that really matters. Exercises like the REF tend to increase our workloads, waste money that could be invested in staff, and exacerbate our anxiety and insecurity by subjecting us to unfair, unhelpful performance management procedures. Often our involvement in these activities is voluntary. It’s time to challenge the unsustainable ‘goodwill economy’ which our employers depend on to make them work.

Please talk to your colleagues and fellow members about the activities you are withdrawing from and publicise what you are doing as much as possible via social media, using the #UCUASOS hashtag.”

Progress in the Four Fights and USS disputes so far:

This week UCU General Secretary Jo Grady updated members on the progress made so far in negotiations forced by our recent strike action, as well as the anticipated future shape of our second wave of strike action this year. You can read the detailed report here.

You can also remind yourself of the UCU’s aims in the “Four Fights” part of the dispute here.

You may also want to remind yourself of the reasons we’ve been driven to strike action, as well as the achievements we’ve made so far, by watching some of the following speeches made by Cardiff UCU members during our recent strike rallies:

UCU activist meeting, London, 25th January, 11am-4pm: Organising for the 2nd wave of UCU strike action in 2020

Called by Goldsmiths UCU, Imperial UCU, Queen Mary UCU and UCL UCU. Organised by UCU London Region. More info here.
“Our union is on a war footing in Higher Education to defend pay and pensions, and to fight casualisation, rising workload and pay inequality. The first wave of HE strike action saw 60 universities strike for eight days over pay and pensions. Many more are now re-balloting. HE Sector Conference voted for 14 further strike days in the Spring Term and for branches to start strategic planning to hit the Summer Term.
Ordinary members are leading pickets and getting involved in their union with a gusto. We have a huge responsibility. This one-day meeting is organised to give reps from all over the UK, in FE and HE, a chance to meet to discuss how we can best defend our sector, how we can build our union and fight to win.”
Any union is strongest when it is led and informed by grassroots members rolling up their sleeves, informing themselves, and getting involved. This kind of national planning and discussion forum is essential to ensuring a strong voice for members and branches in UCU.
If any Cardiff UCU members would like to attend this meeting, particularly those who’ve been active on the Strike Committee or branch Executive Committee (or those who’d like to get more active this year), please contact ucu@cardiff.ac.uk for more info about being one of our delegates.