Appeal for volunteer case workers: Your colleagues need YOU!

All union branches are powered by oodles of “unseen” voluntary work carried out by branch officers and active members. In this very real sense the Union is powered by its members, and is only as effective as its membership is active, informed, and engaged.

Case work is one of the most important, but least appreciated, examples of this invisible Union work. It involves representing and supporting individuals or groups of members experiencing difficulties in their jobs.

The Cardiff UCU Case Work team is always very busy, but it is currently going through a big spike in demand – made even worse by the current (and unnecessary) “Transforming Cardiff” cuts.

  • If you have previously done Case Work at Cardiff or one of your other workplaces, and don’t currently, please consider volunteering again now;
  • If you’ve never done case work but would consider volunteering to help out with this extremely good, and often very rewarding, job please get in touch (ucu@cardiff.ac.uk)

You can find out more on the national UCU site about what case work involves, and how it’s done. If you volunteer, you will not be sent into the field unsupported, and the union has excellent training which prepares you very well.

(Yet more) Cardiff Uni focus groups to review the workload model

Cardiff UCU has been negotiating and campaigning to get the unworkable and unrealistic Workload Allocation Model reviewed for years. Last year, the University finally listened, and many of you took part in a series of useful workshops run by Cardiff Uni’s Tina Blomme.

The upshot of this is a new, big, review of the workload model involving a number of Task and Finish Groups, as well as further staff focus groups to monitor and feed back on the process. It’s all outlined in Blas.

It might seem frustrating that the outcome of last year’s consultation is yet more consultation, but we’re making real progress here, and we need to keep up the pressure to humanise the workload model.

We need:

  • Volunteers (those who already participated in last semester’s focus groups, but also those who didn’t) to sign up for these academic focus groups – having rank-and-file UCU members on these will be highly important (please read the info on the intranet, and get in touch with Tina Blomme by Jan 25th to sign up); and
  • Some more-expert/experienced members to volunteer to be the named UCU reps on the more substantial Task and Finish groups also outlined in the Blas story (get in touch with ucu@cardiff.ac.uk to express an interest in this).

Cardiff Uni consultation on the 2021 Research Excellence Framework (REF) Code of Practice

The University has published a draft REF code of practice which you can read about on the intranet. They have asked staff to send in their views on this draft as part of a consultation exercise.

We encourage you to engage with this process, but Cardiff UCU will also be sending a co-ordinated response on behalf of members. Please send us your thoughts (to ucu@cardiff.ac.uk), as well as engaging with this as individuals.

TWO active strike ballots in January/February: Vote early, vote twice, and vote “YES”

As you know from these updates, we’re currently facing two active strike ballots (see our new year appeal to action, and in our flyer):

  • One locally (postal vote: 1st-22nd Feb), with the simple demand of “No Compulsory Redundancies” at Cardiff University, which is about challenging the brutal cuts Transforming Cardiff will inflict on us. Let’s match the huge efforts of other local branches (e.g. Queen Margaret in Scotland) facing similar cuts, and defend our jobs; and
  • One nationally, which is about addressing the inter-related scandals of stagnating and unequal pay, casualisation and the rise of McUniversity working conditions, and the mental-health effects of unsustainable workloads (postal vote 15th Jan-22nd Feb – you should all have your ballot papers for this one already, either in work or at home). More info in this flyer from UCU nationally.

What can you do to help? The biggest challenge we face as a branch is in getting out the vote so we can meet the 50% threshold for action, so please make some time to do some of the following:

  • Join our new dispute committee, which will guide our strategy and campaigning in these disputes, and is open to all members (existing department reps especially welcome/needed). The next dispute committee meeting is on Tuesday 22nd January, 1pm-2pm, in the John Percival Building, room 1.29A;
  • Attend local UCU meetings (the next General Meeting is 23rd January, 1.20pm, Glamorgan Building, Committee Rm 1).
  • Attend the All-Staff meetings we’ll be holding along with the other campus unions Unite and Unison in the coming weeks and months to raise awareness and build resistance: Next All-Staff meeting is on Wed 30th January, 12.30pm, Birt Acres Lecture Theatre, Bute Building, King Edward VII Ave – speakers include Ron Leach (Unite), Katie Hall (Unison), and Cardiff UCU Exec members;
  • Come to our weekly Monday-lunchtime “Resist Transforming Cardiff” gatherings, 12-1pm in the foyer of the Main Building on Park Place to learn more about the current disputes, chat with colleagues, show solidarity, and get involved;
  • Discuss, share, and publicly complain about the ballots and the issues we’re campaigning on. These emails aren’t read by all members, so we need to be vocal in getting the message out face-to-face and digitally. If you’re on social media share our Facebook and Twitter posts, and write about the issues (use the hashtags #WeAreTheUniversity and #VoteYesYes or post photos of you posting your ballot paper under the Twitter hashtag #HowDidYouPostYours).
  • Join our Get The Vote Out activities – in the coming weeks the Dispute Committee will be organising door-knocking and phone-banking initiatives to make sure we contact all members personally (more details to follow);
  • Update your member details (workplace, correspondence address, etc) on the UCU website, so you can be sure of getting your postal ballot cards, and if you haven’t got the first ballot paper already, contact ucu@cardiff.ac.uk to look into why); and finally,
  • Vote, vote, vote: We recommend you vote “YES” to Strike Action and ASOS in *both* ballots, but even if you disagree, please vote. Abstaining offers tacit support to the punitive, anti-union 50% threshold for industrial action.

Journalism is Not a Crime: NUJ film screening of the documentary “No Stone Unturned” & talk with the film-makers

Our comrades at the Cardiff Trades Council have asked us to share the following info about (what looks like) a great Alex Gibney documentary about a brutal murder during the Norther Irish troubles screening Thursday 7th Feb, 6.30pm-9.30pm: Rm 0.06, Cardiff JOMEC, Two Central Square (one of the Uni’s “shiny new buildings)

Hosted by the NUJ and Cardiff JOMEC, there’ll be a free screening and a talk with some of the film-makers, who were arrested on trumped-up charges in an attempt to stifle their work. For more info and free tickets see the Eventbrite page.

Cardiff UCU Members: A New Year Appeal to Action

We begin 2019 in very turbulent times.

We are at a low-point in the marketisation of UK Higher Education and we face numerous and related challenges: unprecedented attacks on pensions, jobs, and pay; stifling and intransigent managerialism; rising inequality (between male and female staff, senior managers and the rank and file, as well as permanent and precariously-employed workers); endemic casualisation and the spread of gig-economy style working conditions; and sky-rocketing workloads (with a consequent creeping mental health crisis among colleagues).

But we’re also at a high-point in resisting all of this. Although they were emotionally and physically bruising and exhausting, the struggles of 2018 unified and strengthened us. Our collective understanding of these problems has never been clearer. The UCU, both locally and nationally, is bigger, stronger, more active, more democratic, and more able to fight back than ever before.

Please read our important updates below, inform yourself of the evidence behind our planned actions, read what you can do to join in, and ready yourselves for a year of solidarity and struggle.

The union makes us strong; the University belongs to us.

The Cardiff UCU Executive Committee

Our jobs are at risk: Vote for local action to empower your negotiators to save them

As you know from our newsletters before the winter break, Cardiff UCU has declared an Industrial Dispute over the danger of compulsory redundancies associated with the “Transforming Cardiff” cost-cutting exercise.

Our jobs are under threat, and the only effective way we can protect them is to have an active mandate for industrial action ready when/if compulsory job cuts are announced later in the year.

We have now received authorisation for a postal ballot for local Strike Action and Action Short of a Strike (ASOS) between 1st-22nd February 2019.

We will do *everything* we can to avoid industrial action over this issue, but without the threat of local resistance we’ll have little leverage to do protect our jobs.

This local ballot period will overlap with a second national strike ballot on the issues of Pay, Equality, and Casualisation (see below).

The evidence against “Transforming Cardiff”

As you know, “Transforming Cardiff” is a restructuring exercise being carried out at Cardiff University. At its core lies the third voluntary severance scheme in under 6 years, and the danger of compulsory redundancies in the future.

As well as declaring the dispute discussed above, we have also found that the whole cost-cutting exercise is rooted in sustained mismanagement and misleading analysis.

The USS strikes taught us that our Union is strongest when combining expert analysis and evidence with unified industrial action, sour expert Finance Working Group has been looking in detail at the Uni’s accounts, as well as its case for cutting costs and shedding staff. Based on our findings, we’ve asked management to pause the whole scheme, to take stock, and address our evidence-based concerns.

This (12-minute) video summarises our analysis in detail.You can also find our analysis in text form, or check our shorter (4-minute) summary video here.

National Postal Ballot: Pay, equality, and casualisation, 15th January-22nd February

Last November we, along with most other UCU HE branches, narrowly missed out on reaching the 50% threshold for members voting in a ballot for industrial action over stagnating/equal pay and the scourge of casualisation. A special UCU HE Sector Conference agreed to re-ballot members on the same issue, but using an aggregate ballot (which takes the UCU HE membership as a whole, rather than workplace by workplace). Postal ballots will be sent out to your work or home address between 15th January and 22nd February.

When we voted on this last year, in Cardiff we achieved a turnout of 44%, which is the highest ever for a dispute over pay. But it’s not enough. We urge you again to vote early, and vote “Yes” for strike action and for ASOS.

Check out our FAQ on the issues, and please read our members’ Rowan Campbell and Steven Stanley‘s persuasive accounts of why action is needed, and why you should vote for it. You can also check out this video piece about casualisation at Cardiff from BBC Wales Today, which covers the work of Cardiff UCU’s Anti-Casualisation Working Group (health warning: highly misleading claims are included from the employers about the proportion of staff on secure contracts).

If you didn’t vote last time, please do so this time

  • Not voting plays into the hands of the architects of the punitive 50% threshold for strike action – please do not tacitly support this regressive, anti-union law by abstaining;
  • Yes, this is about pay, but arguably more important are the issues of inequality and casualisation. Marginalised and precariously-employed University workers stood with more established colleagues in (often selfless) union to protect our pensions last year;
  • If you are in secure employment and wavering about this vote, now is the time to stand together and repay this solidarity.

Take Action: How to help resist these cuts, protect our jobs, improve pay and conditions, and make the University a more equal employer?

  1. Update your member details (workplace, correspondence address, etc) on the UCU website, so you can be sure of getting your postal ballot cards;
  2. Vote, vote, vote: vote early (don’t put it off): please vote Yes to Strike Action and ASOS in both ballots; give our local and national negotiators a strong mandate and real leverage;
  3. Discuss, share, and raise concerns about the issues and the evidence/analysis in the videos above (as well as the posters and flyers we circulate). When you hear colleagues expressing fear, concern, or unease, persuade them to join the UCU, and follow up with an email to show them how to sign up;
  4. A good place to do do this will be our regular Monday-lunchtime “Resist Transforming Cardiff” gatherings in the foyer of the Main Building on Park Place (see also the attached flyer). Come along for an informal opportunity to chat, learn, organise, engage, and show solidarity.
  5. Attend local UCU meetings (the next General Meeting is 23rd January, 1.20pm, Glamorgan Building, Committee Rm 1) as well as the all-staff meetings we’ll be holding in the coming weeks and months;
  6. Join our new dispute committee, which will guide our strategy and campaigning in these disputes, and is open to all members. The next meeting will be held in the John Perceval Building, room 1.31, 1pm-2pm, Monday 15th January.

 

Uni Travel-to-Work Survey

The University is currently surveying staff about their travel/commuting routines. In the past responses have helped us to build successful cases for the Season Ticket Loan scheme, the Cycle to Work scheme, Nextbike sponsorship, increases to cycle parking, and more. The more of you who fill it out, the better we’ll be able to argue for policies which make our commuting lives easier.

Stop Trashing Cardiff – The Video

“Transforming Cardiff” is a cost-cutting restructuring exercise being carried out at Cardiff University. At its core lies the third voluntary severance scheme in under 6 years, and the danger of compulsory redundancies in the future. The Cardiff branch of the University and College Union has declared a Trade Dispute with the University to oppose the threat of compulsory job losses. We also think that the whole cost-cutting exercise is rooted in mismanagement and a poor analysis. Our expert finance group has been looking in detail at the University’s accounts, as well as its case for cutting staff. This video summarises their findings. Continue reading

Resist Transforming Cardiff – Every Monday 12.30 in Main Building

Please consider joining us for regular informal lunch-time gatherings (bring your lunch) every Monday in the Foyer/Viriamu Jones Gallery of the University’s main building. We think this is an excellent opportunity to meet colleagues from other schools, to discuss the situation of the University and to generate ideas for a more sustainable future. Continue reading