Solidarity and Wider Campaigns:

1. UCU disputes across the UK

Our branch is not alone in its dispute with University management. UCU branches across the UK are fighting to defend jobs and conditions as the Covid-19 crisis continues to hit education sectors hard.

Please check this page for a round-up of the on-going campaigns and requests of support. Our branch will continue to send solidarity messages to our colleagues.

2. Research by Durham University on wellbeing during Covid-19

A team of researchers based in the Department of Psychology at Durham University is developing a research project that explores the impact of social class on the wellbeing of UK university staff during the Covid-19 pandemic and they are asking for participants to the survey they recently launched. With the aim of impacting on policy, they are requesting support from staff at a range of universities and employed in a wide variety of roles. Please use this link to access the survey or visit the project on Twitter: @SESWellbeing_HE.

3.  Black Lives Matter

In the last month or so, two Black men have been killed after contact with the police in South Wales. Following the death of Mohamud Hassan, who was tasered more than once and came into contact with 52 officers during his short stay at the South Wales Police station in Cardiff, another young black man, Moyied Bashir, died recently after being aggressively restrained by the police at his home in Gwent, whilst in a mental health crisis. You can read more about Moyied’s case here and support his family’s campaign to bring justice for him here.

Solidarity & Wider Campaigns (February 18th 2021:

1. Rural Primary School Closures 

 

A number of primary schools in Wales are at risk of closure with the implications that some pupils might have to attend school in England (without the possibility to learn Welsh) and/or travel greater distances to reach school. Schools are very important to small communities and governments should be investing in more schools with fewer pupils rather than fewer schools with more pupils. You can read more about it in this Guardian article  and sign the following petitions against the closure of two Welsh schools:

Ysgol Mynyddygarreg.

Churchstoke Community Primary School.

 

2. Free School Meals in Wales 

 

Child poverty across Wales, and the UK, is on the rise but the Welsh Senedd if failing to act on this, namely by refusing to provide free school meals to all Welsh children or even to expand their eligibility (currently only available to households with less than around 7K/year), despite pressure from a number of Welsh councils and groups like People’s Assembly Wales or the Child Poverty Action Group. It is even more shocking that in England and Scotland all children get free meals in the first three years of primary school but in Wales they don’t. You can support the campaigns requesting free school meals to all children and requesting guidelines on how these are delivered during the pandemic by signing the following petitions for the Welsh Senned:

Free school meals for all pupils in Wales

Revise the guidance for Free School Meals, removing the option for delivery of food parcels 

Ramadan Mubarak

Ramadan is the ninth month of the Islamic calendar, observed by Muslims worldwide as a holy month of fasting, prayer, reflection and community. It remembers the month the Qur’an (the Muslim holy book) was first revealed to the Prophet Muhammad. Muslims fast during daylight hours in Ramadan to get closer to God through prayer and contemplation. Many acts of worship apart from fasting are also done during this month, including the ‘Taraweeh’, an important prayer observed in the evening. It is also a time of joy that involves daily convivial meetings with family and friends for breaking fast at sundown, called ‘Iftar’. At the end of the month, many households partake in celebrations for ‘Eid al-Fitr’ (Festival of Breaking the Fast).

Ramadan in the UK began on the 12th April and will end on the 12th May. We wish Ramadan Mubarak to all our observing members.

Events (April 22nd 2021):

 

1.   Cardiff UCU Thursday Lunchtime Talks

We are happy to announce the latest in our series ‘Understanding Cardiff: perspectives from members’ – casual conversations in which members with particular expertise explain and take questions on some of the most pressing issues facing our branch.

In a timely intervention for Stephen Lawrence Day, today Thursday April 22nd we will host Understanding Inequality: Conversation and Q&A with Abyd Quinn-Aziz
https://cardiff.zoom.us/j/89561180131?pwd=emJMUUVIMThhdDNFT2lQNHFZdUlPZz09

Previous lunchtime talks will be available on YouTube soon.

2.  International Workers’ Memorial Day – 28 April
To mark Workers’ Memorial Day TUC has produced some resources to remind everyone why safety at work is so important. Here are 5 ways to get involved with Workers’ Memorial Day:

  1. Register for the TUC national zoom call with special guest speakers
  2. Check out the timeline of workplace tragedies and the fight for safer work
  3. Pay tribute to someone who lost their life to work in the online memorial
  4. Search for your local Memorial Day event or add your own
  5. Download posters and graphics to print off or share online

And you can find all the IWMD resources at https://www.tuc.org.uk/wmd

To share this with colleagues click to tweet or share to Facebook.

Solidarity and Wider Campaigns (April 22nd 2021):

1. Stand Up for Sleep-In Pay Unison Campaign

On 19 March 2021, the Supreme Court upheld a ruling that care workers’ sleep-in shifts do not count as working time and do not need to be paid in line with the National Minimum Wage.

The decision is an insult to care workers who have gone above and beyond during the pandemic – and there are real concerns that some employers will now use this as an opportunity to cut care workers’ sleep-in rates.

You can sign a petition to show your support for care workers and send a message to the Prime Minister here.

2. Kill the Bill Protests

The Police and Crime Bill is a new piece of draft legislation that includes major government plans on crime and justice in England and Wales and, among other things, will hand police and the Home Secretary greater powers to crack down on protests. This can have great implications for Trade Unions and our ability to effectively organize industrial action (our main bargaining power). Protests against the bill have been going ahead in England and Wales since it was announced and have already resulted in a delay of amendment votes by the bill committee, now scheduled for June. Protests will continue to maintain the pressure and resist this dangerous bill. A strong union presence is paramount.

People’s Assembly Wales shares regular updates and details of protests in Cardiff on their Facebook page and you can also subscribe to their mailing list by contacting them on cardiffpeoplesassembly@gmail.com

Branch News and Updates (April 22nd 2021):

1. Update on dispute – latest meeting with ACAS

ACAS mediated conversations with University management over giving staff a choice about working face-to-face are ongoing but we are approaching the final stages of negotiation. If no resolution is reached by next week, we will need to commence formal balloting procedures and we will keep members updated on expected timing of the ballot.

Yesterday, members of the Cardiff UCU Executive Committee met with the Student’s Union President, Tomos Evans, to update them on the dispute from UCU’s perspective. Tomos is naturally concerned with the impact that more industrial action might have on students but welcomed the opportunity to discuss it. We are open to further and regular engagement with the Student’s Union and will be keeping them informed of any developments.

We are still hopeful for a resolution to the dispute. Some staff members have now been facing extreme anxiety about their working conditions for over a year and this is likely to impact severely on their mental wellbeing. Furthermore, with the University currently not making a commitment to all staff, different line managers are using different judgments causing unfairness across the institution.

2.  Report from Wales Higher Education Sector Conference (HESC)

The Wales HESC was held on Saturday 17th April. Our branch submitted two motions, both of which were carried with amendments. The final wording of the motions can be found here.

Our delegates requested for a late motion on UCU’s position on the Camm report to be proposed from the ground, but this was rejected by the Chair and could therefore not be heard.

The Camm Report is a document that the Welsh government is using to inform changes to governance of universities in Wales. UCU Wales announced its endorsement of the report but our Executive Committee has concerns that this position might not be beneficial to our members and was not sufficiently debated with branches. We believe it should be paused until that process is carried out.

We will submit the motion to the next UCU Wales meeting in June and we encourage our members to read the Camm Report and the UCU Wales Review of the report so that we can discuss with the branch what members feel is the best approach to take.

3. Workload campaign

After many years of engagement with University management over workload, we are still faced with a widespread problem for which management fails to propose and implement any meaningful solutions. We are looking for alternative campaign methods to take this issue forward. You can access here a presentation by our Workload lead, Martin Weinel, on the issues and the attempts to resolve them with management.

4.  Update from members in SHARE

UCU is supporting members in the School of History, Archaeology and Religion, who are facing a series of top-down decisions (including the abolition of degrees and cutting modules) made with little or no consultation with staff or the unions. You can read here a report by one of our members who is a senior member of staff in SHARE on the issues the School and its staff are facing.

It is a real possibility that SHARE has been made a guinea pig for the imposition of a template which will then be imposed more widely by management. It is important that members are aware of these issues in solidarity with our colleagues in SHARE and for us to respond quickly if similar approaches are used in other Schools.

5.  Update on USS pensions

Universities UK (UUK) has launched a consultation of employers proposing very significant cuts to the defined benefit element of USS. Here is an overview of the situation. Woon Wong will represent the branch at the HE USS pension reps briefing on 26th April and we will feed back to members.

A USS organising conference, open to all members, is also booked for Friday 23 April and we encourage our members to join, if possible. The meeting is called by the UCU solidarity movement. Confirmed speakers include Sam Marsh, Neil Davies, Sarah Joss, Tim Wilson, Deepa Driver, Vicky Blake and others.

Please register here for the conference – Friday 23 April, 11.30-1:30pm

6.  Professional Services: Blended working

Cardiff University management are introducing their ‘Better Ways of working’ programme within Professional Services. This is intended to allow staff the opportunity to commence blended working patterns on and off campus except where business need suggests otherwise.

The aim of this initiative is for the university to reduce estate costs, reduce staff carbon emissions and support flexible working. This will involve ‘working across different physical locations, digital platforms and IT infrastructure’. A needs assessment will soon be conducted by line managers in schools and colleges that will consider the requirements of students, staff, and the university.

Cardiff UCU cautiously supports this move to blended working with certain caveats i.e., no staff member will be pressured into working off campus, the BWoW programme will be regularly reviewed, meaningful consultation will take place with unions, and staff will be fully supported with the necessary training and equipment to work effectively both on campus and at home.

Concerns have already been flagged by UCU members around equity and fairness, the student experience, incurred expenses due to homeworking as well as other day-to-day considerations such as ‘hot desking’ and office equipment.

Therefore, following the webinar delivered by management on Wednesday 21st April, the branch are holding a meeting for UCU members in Professional Services to discuss these matters further together with mechanisms for giving your feedback to the UCU branch. Academic staff are welcome to join and contribute too.

Wednesday 28th April at 1:00 – 2:00 pm : Zoom link here: https://tinyurl.com/hf2txs

If you would like any further information please contact Graham Getheridge: GetheridgeGR@cardiff.ac.uk

Happy Easter

Easter is a Christian holiday that celebrates the belief in the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Although a holiday of high religious significance in the Christian faith, many traditions associated with Easter date back to pre-Christian, pagan times.

The naming of the celebration itself, ‘Easter’, seems to go back to the name of a pre-Christian goddess in England, Eostre, who was celebrated at beginning of spring as a symbol of life renewal.

Rabbits usually give birth to a big litter of babies (called kittens), so they also became a symbol of new life and eggs were an ancient symbol of fertility. The Easter Bunner tradition originated in America, first introduced in the 1700s by German immigrants in Pennsylvania, who reportedly brought over their tradition of an egg-laying hare named “Osterhase” or “Oschter Haws.”

The holiday falls on April 21 this year and will be celebrated all across the globe.

Solidarity and Wider Campaigns (March 31st 2021):

1. Support Independent Media

Independent media platforms are increasingly important as mainstream media becomes more dependent on political and economic powers.

voice.wales is a media platform giving voice to workers in Wales and the people and topics often ignored or misrepresented by mainstream media. voice.wales has covered UCU disputes and issues faced by Cardiff University staff many times, including twice this year. Please consider supporting them by subscribing to their website: https://www.voice.wales/

 

2. British Gas 

British Gas is forcing its workers to accept a 15% pay cut, on top of worsening terms and conditions, or face getting the sack. British Gas workers have been striking for weeks about this, but you wouldn’t know it from looking at the news. The more companies get away with putting the brunt of the pandemic onto the workers, the bigger the post-pandemic crisis will be. Please help their action by signing a petition against making workers choose between accepting a 15% pay cut or losing their jobs and by sharing their struggle widely.

Branch News and Updates (March 31st 2021):

1. Dispute Update 

We are waiting until tomorrow for University management to respond to the formal notification of the dispute over giving workers a choice regarding working face-to-face on campus sent by the UCU Wales Regional Office to the Vice-Chancellor on the 18th March. If the University management fails to respond to resolve the dispute, we will initiate the balloting procedures that could result in members being balloted at the end of April and industrial action starting in June.

With many staff required to be on campus already and blended teaching due to start on the 12th April, many colleagues are fearing for their safety and experiencing great stress and anxiety, which are impacting heavily on their general heatlh and their mental health. This is regretful and unnecessary and we still hope that University management will recognize this and seek to resolve the dispute with us as soon as possible.

 

2. Democratize the University Campaign 

Universities across Wales have been significantly restructured over the past two decades. These changes have centralised decision-making and created a top-down ‘command’ management structure, similar to that of traditional corporations. At Cardiff University, for example, power has been concentrated into the hands of a few largely unaccountable individuals in the University Executive Board (UEB) and Council (the governing body), most notably the Vice-Chancellor (VC), Deputy VC, and the Chair of Council. The governing Council largely picks its own members following the VC’s suggestions and the Senate has been substantially weakened over recent years, with a membership dominated by those directly influenced by the same UEB (Vice-deans/Heads of School), again dominated by the VC.

The resulting top-down management has proven to be inefficient and largely unaccountable. It has led to poor decision-making, including scandals covered by the press, and to waste of time and money and loss of goodwill – with UCU strikes several years in a row, and exceptionally poor staff survey results for confidence in senior management.

In a ballot carried out by our branch in 2019 the vast majority of our members voted in favour of democratizing the University. If you would like to join the working group for democratizing the University, please contact our office (UCU@cardiff.ac.uk).

 

3.  Professional Services 

Following the restructure of the professional services at Cardiff University as part of Transforming Cardiff only two years ago, another review of professional services has been recently announced. Our officer Chris Graves has been following this process and you can read his detailed update here.

 

4. Casualisation Among Research Staff  

Research staff are badly affected by job insecurity, with many staff on fixed-term contracts or on open-ended contracts with relevant factors, which do not offer much added security.  The Cardiff University Research Staff Association (CURSA) has recently produced a report on Research staff experience at Cardiff University, which highlights the issues with security, lack of progression pathways and others (you can read the report here).

Our Anti-casualisation working group is drafting a claim to submit to the University to improve working conditions for research staff and has recently met with CURSA reps to discuss the claim and other ways in which the branch can help support research staff. If you are interested in this topic, including in reviewing the claim, please get in touch with our Anti-casualisation Officer Renata Medeiros (medeirosmirrarj@cardiff.ac.uk).