This is your March branch newsletter. This covers news from March and February – unfortunately, between re-balloting and industrial action we weren’t able to manage a February newsletter.The branch represents members’ interests to our employer. Your branch officers are in active negotiations with the University over many issues. The proposed agreements on pay and conditions (see the first item of the newsletter), if accepted, would mean more issues being ‘devolved’ to local branches.
We hope you will all manage to have a break at some point over the next few weeks.
In this newsletter you can read about:
Branch News & Updates
Challenging sexual harassment and sexual violence workshop
Dim diolch – submissions to University ‘Diolch’ initiative vetoed
February Town Hall Meeting
CO2 monitoring in buildingsBranch fundraising
Events, Solidarity & Wider Campaigns
Save Maindy Velodrome
Branch News & Updates
Industrial ActionThe current round of strikes finished on Wednesday 22 March. Thank you to all members who were on strike and on pickets
A meeting of the Higher Education Committee (HEC) took place on Thursday 30 of March to decide how to proceed with our disputes. The HEC decided to consult with members on the USS and pay & conditions dispute. You should have something in your inbox to vote on come Tuesday next week.The previous HEC meeting, a couple of weeks ago, decided not to put the proposed agreements to members. If you are interested in understanding why this happened and what different members’ perspectives on the decision was, the branch has been putting together a list of suggested reading.
The HEC’s decision yesterday was informed by the e-ballot of members, but also the Branch Delegates Meeting that took place on the 29 March. Renata Medeiros (Branch Chair) and Sandy Gould (Comms Officer) attended the BDM and voted on behalf of the branch.
Your branch delegates used messages from members, discussions from our informal branch meeting last week, and conversations from pickets to inform their voting at the BDM. Here are the questions put to the BDM (with the Cardiff UCU vote in brackets):
Do you support moving forward in negotiations with UCEA based on the terms of reference agreed at Acas? (Abstain)
Do you support UCU members being formally consulted over the commitments that have been agreed with UUK to restore benefits and lower pension contributions? (Abstain)
Do you support UCU members being formally consulted on the proposals that have been agreed with UCEA on pay, ending zero-hour contracts, workloads, casualisation and closing equality pay gaps? (Abstain)
If members vote for industrial action in the re-ballot, do you support beginning a Marking and Assessment Boycott over the pay and conditions dispute from w/b 17 April? (Yes)
If members vote for industrial action in the re-ballot, do you support beginning a Marking & Assessment Boycott over the USS cuts imposed in April 2022 from w/b 17 April? (Yes)
We voted to abstain on the first three questions – the feedback we had from members was quite mixed, and, (like other delegates) found the questions were still quite confusing (albeit less so than last time around). We were not able to fully grasp the implications of voting either way on each of the first three questions, and how these questions related to one another (e.g., the relationship between Q1 and Q3). We felt it was most appropriate to abstain, rather than fall definitely on a yes or no.
We voted to yes to Q4 and Q5, as this seemed more clear-cut; if members vote for action in the reballot and members vote to reject the proposals going to consultation, then it is logical that further industrial action would follow. Alternatively, if members vote in favour of the current proposals during the consultation, then any action is very likely to be called off if negotiations seem to be making progress in good faith. (And the reballot result becomes moot if members decide what is on the table is sufficient.)
The way the dispute has been run has become quite complicated, even for the most engaged members. We are now waiting to find out whether the reballot for industrial action has reached the turnout threshold, and what have voted for action. This result will have a significant influence on how these disputes progress, alongside member’s votes on the consultations next week. Despite the complexity, please do try and keep an eye on your inbox for messages about voting. Our employers do take notice of members’ levels of engagement in decision-making.
The University’s arrangements for workload management are inadequate. Uncompensated labour is rife, overwork has been normalised. The branch wrote to the University Secretary, Rashi Jain, the University’s unwillingness to negotiate over workload. This was the response received:
“You have asked where you can raise aspects of workload management. Your original request was unclear (para 2) on what aspect of workload you considered was covered by S3.2 of the Recognition and Procedure Agreement. For the avoidance of doubt consulting on managing workload is not a statutory obligation and is not covered by the agreement referred to above. That is not to say that there is no avenue for redress for staff. The Workload management policy sets out the appeal procedure in these circumstances.”
There is no dispute that workload allocation is, itself, a matter for Schools. The University has committed to meaningful involvement of UCU in allocation. However, workload more generally across the University is an essential component of our terms and conditions; pay for full time staff should reflect 35hrs of work, not 45 or 50 as staff are commonly working in order to fulfil the demands placed upon them. This is a systemic, University wide issue and the University should be negotiating with the recognised trade unions on such a core employment matter.
The University’s stance on this issue is also at odds with the recent JNCHES proposal on workloads, which was negotiated nationally and includes provision for negotiation with recognised trade unions. It seems strange that national representatives recognise this need while Cardiff University continues to seek to atomise staff over workload issues.
Challenging sexual harassment and sexual violence workshop
We have arranged a workshop for the branch on challenging sexual harassment and sexual violence on 25th April, 2pm-3.30pm. This is a first step in addressing issues that have affected our branch in recent years and undertaking action points from the motion that was passed by the branch. You can sign up to the course here.
If you are interested in undertaking further training in this area and/or becoming a sexual harassment contact, please have a look through the details of a day-long course on 23 May in Exeter.
Dim diolch! Submissions to University ‘Diolch’ initiative vetoed
The University has been running its Diolch programme as a way for staff to publicly thank one another for their contributions. Much of the activity undertaken by branch representatives contributes tremendously to the functioning of our community, so several members sent messages for publication thanking colleagues for their organising efforts. Unfortunately, submissions from members to thank other members for their contribution to the University were not published. A note was later added to the call for participation; “All messages should relate to university business.” This doesn’t provide very much more clarity – the work done by reps is absolutely ‘university business’; bringing poor or capricious management to attention, ensuring that EDI policies are up-to-date, campaigning for healthier workloads. This is often work that ‘the University’ should have already done itself. Of course, the University is more than just the UEB, it’s a community, of which trade unions are an essential component.
Given that Internal Comms won’t publish our messages of thanks, if you have a Diolch message that was vetoed, send it on to the branch office. If the person you’re thanking is happy to appear online, we’ll put these messages of thanks on the branch website.
Town Hall Meeting
Our branch wrote to the VC on 4th January to request an open forum to discuss his position in relation to the industrial action.
In response, on Monday, 6th February, the VC organised a Town Hall meeting for all staff to discuss the industrial action and offer an opportunity to present the university’s and UCU’s positions. UCU was not involved or consulted on the details of the meeting, which was announced on ‘Blas’ on a Thursday afternoon before taking place on a Monday morning. You can watch the meeting on Panopto.
Our branch chair, Renata Medeiros-Mirra made an address to explain UCU’s position and ask the VC a question from the branch. This was followed by our questions submitted to us by our members, and then questions from the audience.
The VC answers can be summarised as:
Cardiff University’s finances are relatively healthy because they have been prudent, but the sector is unsustainable as it is, Wales universities are worse off than English universities, salaries are very expensive, and the sector cannot afford to increase them
While some universities could make higher pay offers, they have to go at the pace of the smaller ones.
We can’t ask him to break from his line of negotiations as he doesn’t ask us to break ours.
If they could resolve this, they would, but one VC alone can’t do much.
He reserves the right to deduct 100% if staff don’t reschedule lectures because it’s breach of contract.
CO₂ Monitoring in Buildings
Quality ventilation is important for reducing exposure of staff and students to contagious diseases (e.g., COVID, flu) and particulates. Your branch officers have been pushing the University to make clear how staff with concerns about air quality can get the University to act and maintain a safe working environment. Here are the instructions for anyone concerned about air quality:
Every School was issued with two CO₂ monitors, which can be used to provide an indication of ventilation levels within a space. If any member of staff has concerns about ventilation in a workspace (teaching room, office, lab etc) they should contact their School Safety Officer (or School Manager) and request that the space be monitored using the CO₂ monitors. This will involve placing a monitor (which should have been ‘calibrated’ to account for background CO₂) in the room in a suitable location (not next to the windows for example) and recording the CO₂ levels at the start and end of teaching (or every 30 minutes if teaching for longer than 45 minutes). The readings should be sent to Safety and if they indicate that ventilation requires further investigation this will be carried out. (Please copy the Cardiff UCU branch office on messages to Safety.)
The branch has been raising funds to help support striking members. The Moon Club allowed us to collect donations at a karaoke night in February, which raised £66.50. There was also a benefit gig at Brewmonster, which raised £213.60. This money, along with donations received, will go into our local fighting fund. The branch is always seeking donations to help build this fund – please consider contributing if you can, especially if you have not been striking.
Our next fundraiser social event will take place on Saturday 22 April, 8.30pm at NoFit State Circus. Organised by our queer UCU community, you can expect drag, cabaret and comradely mate-dating! More details to follow; allies welcome.
Events, solidarity and wider campaigns
Save Maindy Velodrome
Cardiff Council are planning to demolish Maindy Velodrome. Campaigners have been telling the council that the planned alternative provision is inadequate. Geraint Thomas, who learnt his trade at the velodrome, has come out against the demolition. Members who live in Cardiff and oppose the loss of this facility might consider making representations to their local councillors.