|If you have any questions/comments, please contact the office (email@example.com), or our Anti-Casualisation Officer, Rachel Beaney (Rock@cardiff.ac.uk).
3. Dispute over choice not to work face-to-face during the pandemic
Following UEB’s recent good-will act of giving all staff a bonus payment in recognition of the hard-work and challenges that staff faced as a result of the COVID-19 crisis, we hope that another act of good-will empowering workers with a choice about face-to-face work will follow if the risks of the pandemic are still high at the start of the new academic year, as it seems likely to be the case.
As agreed at our General Meeting in June, if necessary, we will run a ballot in the Autumn to protect members who do not feel safe returning to face-to-face working on campus.
If you have been asked to work face-to-face during the summer and have concerns about that, please get in touch with your dep rep, the UCU office (firstname.lastname@example.org), or our Health & Safety Officer, Andy Skyrme (email@example.com).
In the meantime, discussions of health & safety are ongoing in terms of planning for the next academic year and this thread on Twitter about indoor risks of COVID-19 spreading, by Professor Jose-Luiz Jimenez, a specialist in aerosols and disease transmission can be very helpful to inform any discussions among staff who are expected to work face-to-face. His COVID-19 Aerosol Transmission Estimator is freely available here.
4. USS Pensions – The Fight Goes On
According to UCU Head Office, an amazing twenty thousand people have now used the UCU’s USS modeller to see how employers’ proposals would impact individual retirement benefits. It’s clear that university workers are extremely concerned about the future of the scheme. To find out how your pension might be affected, just input your date of birth and salary details then share how the cuts impact you by tweeting the results with #NotTodayUUK. Please also complete the survey at the end which will help inform our negotiations with employers and USS.
We submitted branch members’ views on the strategy to fight for our pensions at the last General Meeting and through a survey, these can be found here.
Cardiff University apparently shares concerns regarding the USS 2020 valuation but declined our request to make a public joint statement on these shared concerns. UUK’s position after consulting with its members (UK universities) is that there is support to proceed with the USS 2020 valuation that results in staff bearing the brunt of the proclaimed deficit and paying more into their pensions to maintain the current benefits.
The Financial Times published an article on USS, highly critical of 2020 valuation and referring to work by our member and pensions expert Woon Wong. Woon’s position is that we should fight to halt the October increase and replace the 2020 valuation with a new 2021 valuation that corrects the faults clearly highlighted.
Cardiff UCU executive committee will be calling an Emergency General Meeting that will include a vote on a branch’s financial contribution to a legal claim against the USS proposed by Ewan McGaughey, a reader in Law at King’s College, London, and KCL UCU branch president.
If you have any questions/comments, please contact the office (firstname.lastname@example.org), or our Pensions Officer, David Atkins (@cardiff.ac.uk).
5. University Car Parking
As members will be aware, University car parking suffered a number of significant issues for many years prior to the Covid-19 lockdown. Notably, eligibility to park was based on seniority and length of service and contraventions were unenforceable.
In 2019, UCU drafted a proposal for a more transparent, fair, needs-based scheme. In view of this and the University’s declaration of a Climate Emergency, a joint paper developed by UCU and Estates Operations requesting approval to review University parking arrangements was approved by the University’s HSE Committee. Shortly after that, Covid-19 changed the situation significantly!
As more staff are likely to return to campus from the autumn, it is essential that University parking works for those who need it most and UEB have now approved an outline proposal, based broadly on the original UCU draft – which all three trade unions have worked with Estates on, to introduce a new scheme from January 2022.
Detail around parking fees, management and policy compliance arrangements are still to be agreed but applications to determine parking eligibility will open soon and will be determined by use of a needs-based parking eligibility criteria aligned with the following agreed principles:
· Caring responsibilities
· Non-standard / out of hours contracted hours
· Access to Public Transport
This process will be supported by an appeals and exceptions panel which will include representatives of all three trade unions.
The University has scheduled two webinars to introduce the planned changes to parking which we strongly encourage interested members to attend:
You can register to attend here.
If you have any questions/comments, please contact the office (email@example.com), or our Environmental Officer, Paul Rock (Rock@cardiff.ac.uk).
6. UCU HE Special Sector Conference on HE Disputes
The UCU Higher Education Committee has resolved that a HE special sector conference will take place online on Thursday 9 September, on the topic of HE dispute(s), including New JNCHES, USS, TPS, and any possible links between them.
You can read more details in the meeting circular here.
We are entitled to a total of four branch delegates and two motions, that need to be voted at a branch’s General Meeting. The deadline for motions is 12 noon on 23 August; for delegate registration, 5:00pm, Friday 3 September.
If you would like to join the conference or submit a motion, please contact the office as soon as possible so that we can include these in the agenda of an Emergency General Meeting before the 23th August.
7. Discrimination in UK universities
A UCU report on the levels of LGBT discrimination in UK universities, particularly serious when intercalated with racial discrimination, with 100% of black LGBT respondents reporting either personal discriminatory experiences or having witnessed derogatory language towards others, and a recent report by researchers in Dundee University based on data collected in March 2021, showing that 50% of HE staff report high levels of anxiety and 47% report poor mental health, with poorer levels correlated to lack of control over their work and the sense of not feeling valued, bring to light that trade unions have an important role to play in fighting for better workplaces for all.
You can see here the motions voted at the UCU national congress in May-June this year. These include motions to defend our pensions, fight casualisation, resist cuts and fight for better pay, against discrimination in promotion, for academic freedom, on building up the national workload campaign, on the covid-19 impacts on black members, to decolonise curricula and support Black Lives Matter campaigns, to combat ableism, to promote equality of genders and fight gender-based violence, to promote trans equality, to defend the rights of LGBT members, to defend asylum seekers and fight the hostile environment policies, to defend the arts from government attacks, to promote environmental sustainability and fight climate change, against nuclear armament, on the right to protest, on the definition of anti-Semitism, on international solidarity, and others.
These illustrate the multitude and diversity of issues that a big union like UCU represents and the reach and impact it can have in society. In the words of UCU president, Vicky Blake, during the congress: “It is our collective responsibility to build the union, and we must always be vigilant not to fall into the dive-and-rule tactics of employers because our unity is our strength and when we are united, we are a force to be reckoned with.”