1. Cardiff UCU Annual General Meeting (AGM)
Our Annual General Meeting will be held online next week on Wednesday 10 March at 1.10pm.
We will be voting motions to submit to the Higher Education Conference Sector and the UCU Wales Congress in April and members of the new Executive Committee, starting in September, will be selected. We will also update you on our dispute with University management and discuss further actions. The full agenda can be found here.
A link to the registration form will be sent on Monday.
You can still submit motions by emailing them to the office (firstname.lastname@example.org) by Tuesday 9th March.
2. Update from the Joint Consultative and Negotiating Forum (JCNF)
The campus unions met management at the JCNF on Monday 22nd February at 9am for 90 minutes.
University Executive Board (UEB) members presented papers on a) Professional Services strategy and b) Academic Renewal. Both initiatives are intended to bring about consequential changes across the University.
Both initiatives have commenced and the position of UEB members is that as these are a development of “Transforming Professional Services” and “Transforming Cardiff” there is no need to consult, but simply to inform.
Cardiff UCU branch negotiators and executive committee members are not surprisingly somewhat unhappy about the approach UEB members have taken. The branch will be pushing forward with measures to ensure that effective and meaningful consultation commences as soon as possible.
In the meantime, the “Academic Renewal” initiative is already pushing ahead with measures to curtail programmes in one AHSS school with a deadline of 12th March.
On the one hand UEB members are adopting a UK Government framework called the 7 Lenses of Transformation as good practice to follow, where for each “lens” warnings about things to watch out for are set out. On the other hand, they have not heeded many of those warnings and have commenced short timetables that don’t incorporate listening or consultation.
Members with any information about either of these two initiatives and measures being put in place are asked to contact their department rep or the UCU office (email@example.com).
3. USS 2020 Valuation – Trustee’s Update
USS have feedback response from the Pensions Regulator for the Rule 76.1 report where they have indicated that pension contributions will need to rise sharply if existing benefits are to be maintained. This now moves the 2020 valuation to the next stage of consultation and UCU has provided a response to the USS trustee update.
In the Rule 76.1 report, USS have ignored most of the concerns expressed by members, universities and many external experts presenting the same picture they have been doing for a long time now that pension scheme has a large debt and only very large increases in contributions can resolve this to continue with the current benefits.
As part of the previous valuation, in 2018, there is already an increase set for October this year where contributions will rise to 34.7%, split as 23.7% for employers and 11% for members (which is a further contribution increase for us from the current 9.60% level that came into effect from October 2019).
Discussions will continue and a consultation period must now involve members in the official response. The lateness of this means that it is now unlikely that there will be a resolution to this within the original timeframe and so this is likely to take any actual changes into next year. But that doesn’t change the fact that by doing this USS are setting up an inevitable dispute between employers and members and that this could result in large dropouts due to the cost which will take the scheme itself into even more problems and even closure.
4. Update on Teaching Delivery Governance Group
The teaching Delivery Governance Group was set up by University management in response to UCU’s concerns on the extent of casual staff across the University. The group falls short of what is needed to tackle casualisation but aims to improve in the short-term the teaching conditions for staff on variable hours contracts and for postgraduates with teaching responsibilities.
The progress of the group has been slow and a number of scheduled meetings have been cancelled. We recently wrote to HR to enquire about this and to push for the group to act with a matter of urgency to protect workers who are most vulnerable, particularly since the pandemic. They confirmed that following initial conversations with all schools/departments, they will be contacting them again to review information gathered and inform the next steps.
We urge our postgraduate members and our members on variable-hours contracts to raise any issues relating to their working conditions, including in relation to the pandemic, with their line managers and heads of school and/or to contact their UCU departmental reps so that HR cannot claim not to be aware of these in discussions with us. You can contact our office (firstname.lastname@example.org) or our Anti-casualisation Officer, Renata Medeiros (email@example.com), if you have any questions or would like more information.
5. Meeting for Staff with Caring Responsibilities
Several members have contacted us to raise issues related to their caring responsibilities, especially relating to home-schooling children while working.
We remind you that you can always request a case worker to support you
, if you would like to raise concerns with your manager.
We have contacted management to address this collectively, and we have arranged some meetings where members facing similar issues can come together to share experiences, let us know of their concerns and discuss what further action by the branch would be the most useful to them. We held two meetings yesterday and our third is today – 4th March – at 6pm using this link https://cardiff.zoom.us/j/82230701484?pwd=NjdhSksybjZ1Z3R4ZTN4OTJzd3hHZz09
6. Members’ experience of the immigration system
UCU is currently supporting some research into migrants’ experiences of the UK immigration system; if you’d be willing to be interviewed for this, or for similar research in the future please contact Jenny Sherrard, the UCU National Head of Equality and Participation, on: firstname.lastname@example.org