Happy (belated) St Patrick’s Day and Happy (belated) Spring Equinox

St Patrick’s Day, or the feast of St Patrick is a cultural and religious celebration held on 17th  March, the traditional death date of Saint Patrick (c.385 – c.461), the foremost patron saint of Ireland. The Irish have observed this day as a religious holiday for over 1,000 years and the holiday has evolved into a celebration of Irish culture with parades, special foods, music, dancing, drinking and a whole lot of green.

In the Northern Hemisphere, the March equinox (aka spring equinox or vernal equinox) occurs when the Sun crosses the equator line, heading north. This event marks the start of spring in the northern half of the globe. This year, the spring equinox happened on Saturday, March 20 at 5:37am. For many, the spring equinox or Ostara, is a time for rituals and celebrations surrounding the themes of fertility, new beginnings, and rebirth. Eggs and bunnies represent fertility, while eggs and seedlings are considered symbols of rebirth and renewal. The spring equinox marks the start of the new year in Iran.

Events (March 26th 2021):

1. Anti-Stress and Bullying Working Group – Monday 29th March 5-6pm
As part of the work developed by the NEC Anti-Stress and Bullying Working Group, UCU are holding a webinar on tackling stress in the workplace. This will launch the updated stress toolkit and focus primarily on stress risk assessment, good practice examples and training opportunities. We hope this will be the first of many sessions on this issue.

For more information and to register please follow this link.

2.  UCU Wales Climate Generations Event
Following on from the success of UCU introducing sustainability and embedding climate in the curriculum events in January, we are now inviting branch activists, members and non-members to our latest online climate generations Continuing Professional Development (CPD) event:
·       Date: Wednesday 21 April
·       Time: 14:00 to 15:00
·       Venue: online (Zoom)

If you teach or support teaching this event is for you and as it will give you the opportunity to discuss things that you can do to help move the climate generations agenda forward in your workplace. The CPD event will be led by Graham Petersen who is a member of the Greener Jobs Alliance (GJA) steering group which is a coalition of NGOs, trades unions and student organisations. The GJA has worked on a range of initiatives to promote education for sustainable development and jobs. Graham has written a range of climate change publications for the British and Wales TUC. He is a member of UCU and was previously our environment co-ordinator. He has also represented Education International, the global union federation of over 30 million workers in the education sector, at UN climate conference events. We very much hope that you will be able to find the time to attend this event. Register here.

3.  Workers Rising Everywhere – Follow up Strike School Course
Last autumn 400 UCU members and over 20 staff took part in ‘Strike School’ – part of the Organising for Power series of international online training courses run by the trade unionist and author Jane McAlevey and the Rosa Luxemburg Foundation.

Members can now register for the next instalment of the Organising for Power series, which is entitled ‘Workers Rising Everywhere’. There are six sessions taking place from 5-7pm each Tuesday from 18 May to 22 June.

Members of our branch participated in the previous course and will be happy to share ideas with others who might be interested in joining now (you do not have to have attended the first one to participate).

Please email the UCU office (ucu@cardiff.ac.uk) if you want more information. You can also hear this podcast on how Northumbria University UCU was inspired by the Strike School and other training courses to become the first union branch in the UK to run a successful industrial action ballot over health and safety relating to Covid-19.

You can find full details of the course and register for it using this form. The deadline for registration is 5pm on Monday 3 May.

Solidarity and Wider Campaigns (March 26th 2021):

1. UN Anti-Racism Day – #WorldAgainstRacism
Saturday 20 March marked the UN Anti-Racism Day and events were organised by the Trade Union Council (TUC) and Stand Up To Racism to renew the commitment to oppose racism across the world. You can read about the protests all over the world here.

2. Solidarity with Bristol – End Police Brutality
Over the last weeks, large protests have been organized around the UK against the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill 2021, which increases police powers to target protests (with potential implications for industrial action) and to target Gypsy, Roma and Traveller communities.

As news from the violence during the protests in Bristol earlier this week emerged, what initially seemed the result of the violent nature of the protest (police officers reported to be severely injured, police vans set on fire and the police station vandalized) was shown to be only one side of the story. The police retracted claims of grave injuries, journalists reported being harassed by the police and unable to carry out their jobs, and demonstrators claimed that the protest was peaceful until the police charged at them with horses, dogs, pepper spray and batons.

In the aftermath of police violence at the vigil for Sarah Everard in London, and the ongoing cases of two young black men who recently died after contact with South Wales police, the violence against protesters in Bristol continues the worrying trend of excessive use of force by the police, legitimized by the new bill.

A protest in Cardiff to resist this is going ahead TODAY at 6pm by the City Centre Police Station.

Branch News and Updates (March 26th 2021):

1. Dispute Update
Following the latest negotiations between Cardiff UCU and University management mediated by ACAS, management has yet to offer solutions to the dispute and has proposed delaying the next meeting with our negotiators to the 16th April.

This demonstrates a disregard for the seriousness and urgency of our dispute. On the 18th March, the UCU Wales Regional Office sent the Vice-Chancellor a formal notification of the dispute (you can read it here) giving the University 10 working days to respond, after which we will initiate the balloting procedures that could result in members being balloted at the end of April.

We have also reached out to Cardiff Students’ Union president to discuss the dispute and ways we can support each other in our campaigns.

2. Media exposes Cardiff University’s ‘shocking use of Casual Labour’ 
Following the article in January on voice.wales featuring one of our officers, another piece came out this week containing lengthy interviews with Cardiff University workers exposing long-term issues related to casualisation that have been aggravated by the pandemic. You can read the article here. Please share widely to give voice to our colleagues who feel most vulnerable and to expose some of the shameful practices adopted by Cardiff University regarding employment conditions.

Our anti-casualisation working group is currently campaigning for contracts for postgraduates and the end of 2h-contracts and we are preparing a claim to submit to the University on the use of “relevant factors” contracts. If you would like to know more or would like to join the group, please contact our Anti-casualisation Officer, Renata Medeiros, at medeirosmirrarj@cardiff.ac.uk.

3. University Wellbeing Survey
Cardiff University launched a wellbeing survey asking for staff’s view on the support services provided by the University to support our wellbeing.

The options offered in the survey to tackle wellbeing do not go beyond wellbeing training, conversations and webinars. Nevertheless we strongly encourage our members to participate and use the comment section to suggest real alternatives such as offering security to staff, tackle the workload crisis and resolve our dispute by committing not to compel staff to work face-to-face.

The survey was launched on the 16th March, you can find it on your inbox or you can click here.

4.  Final Motions to HESC and Wales Congress
Below are links to the motions submitted to Wales Higher Education Sector Conference (HESC) and Congress from UCU branches in Wales. The motions will be discussed and voted on during the annual Congress on Saturday 29 May, Monday 31 May & Wednesday 2 June.

The annual congress is UCU’s supreme policy-making body. We encourage members to read the motions and suggest any amendments for our branch to submit. The branch is entitled to 2 amendments for the HESC and 2 for the Congress motions and these need to be submitted by Friday 2nd April.  If you have any comments or amendment suggestions, please let us know by next Wednesday (31st March).

Motions submitted to HESC
Motions submitted to Main Congress

You can use this link to leave your comments and suggestions.

5. Environmental Sustainability group
If you are interested in joining a working group around the branch’s work on environmental sustainability, please contact our Environmental Officer, Paul Rock, by email here.

Please also see ‘Events’ below for details on the UCU Wales Climate Generations CPD event.

6. End Gender-based Violence & Defend the Right to Protest
UCU National Executive Committee (NEC) members developed a statement in response to the shocking events that have taken place surrounding the murder of Sarah Everard, and the attempts by the government to curb our right to protest.

The full statement ‘End Gender-based Violence & Defend the Right to Protest: UCU NEC members statement’ can be read and signed here. Please note the list of signatories does not update automatically, but it will be updated daily.

7.  Funding for UKRI projects under threat
The UCU national office has responded to cuts to the Official Development Assistance funding for UKRI projects, which will initially lead to a £120m shortfall for research programmes in 2021-22.

In a letter to the Chancellor of the Exchequer, Rishi Sunak, Jo Grady said the scale of the cuts is unprecedented and the enforced cancellation of existing international research projects represents a massive breach of trust on the part of the UK government.

8.  Health and Safety Information
After discussion with the Trade Unions Council (TUC), ACAS has updated guidance on Covid-19 testing and vaccines that might be useful for our members:

We also remind staff who are eligible for a vaccine (i.e. priority groups) that you can self-book if you have not received an appointment yet. You can use this link to check if you are eligible and to book.

Events (March 18th 2021):

1.   LUNCHTIME TALKS AND DISCUSSIONSEvery Thursday 1:10pm-2pm
Join us TODAY for another lunchtime talk, this time on Understanding Casualisation.

Dr Renata Medeiros will coordinate a conversation on ‘Myths and Mis-understandings about Casualisation’
https://cardiff.zoom.us/j/87265951924?pwd=VHNMY0swV2h4cWlWTGdmZFpNTXpsZz09

2. Public Meeting: Ending the Plague of Casualisation in Higher Education
Monday 29 March 6:00pm

UCU North West Anti-Casualisation Campaign is organizing a public meeting to discuss casualisation in HE:

  • Introduction: Anti-Cas 101 – your basic rights
  • Building in your Branch and Region
  • National & Cross-Union: mitigating the impact of covid / what do we need from our union?

Please register in advance for this meeting here.

3. Reimagine Research Culture Festival – March 22-26
Panels, workshops and articles include how to build a positive and inclusive research culture, new approaches and what’s already working, blog highlighting the need to tackle casual employment (including open ended contracts with ‘at risk’ dates). This festival is organized by Wellcome, an organization that supports discovery research into life, health and wellbeing.
Details here and on Twitter:

Solidarity and Campaigns (March 18th 2021):

1. Sexual Violence in the Workplace
UCU national put together a survey for members on sexual violence in the workplace. Please use the links below to take the survey – there are separate surveys for caseworkers/reps and members with no official role in the Union. You can find more information about UCU sexual violence task group here.
Caseworker/rep survey
Members survey

2. Closure of Newcastle Universitys London campus
Newcastle University’s London campus is set to close on 31 September 2021, and staff face the prospect of either a move to Newcastle or redundancy. Please sign this petition questioning and challenging the rationale for the closure of the London campus and rejecting the inadequate compensation that has currently been offered to staff for either relocation or redundancy if this goes ahead.

3. Global Women’s Strike (GWS)
GWS is an international network campaigning for a living wage for mothers and other carers, co-ordinated by the International Wages for Housework Campaign & the author and activist Selma James. You can find more information on their website and follow this link to endorse their open letter to governments demanding a Care Income for all caring workers.

4. People’s Assembly Wales Campaign – Free School Meals
Earlier this month, a Scottish budget was passed that will roll out free school meals to ALL primary school children in Scotland by August 2022. The Welsh budget, passed last week, will continue to deny free school meals to over half of children in poverty in Wales.

You can watch here the People’s Assembly Wales Rally for International Women’s Day – Poverty is a Feminist Issue, which included a message of solidarity to the Free School Meals campaign by our Anti-casualisation Officer Renata Medeiros.

Branch News and Updates (March 18th 2021):

1. Update on Annual General Meeting (AGM)
The branch’s AGM was held last week on Wednesday 10th March; you can see the notes from the meeting here. The AGM is where members vote on the Executive Committee for the next academic year and on delegates and motions from the branch to the Wales Higher Education Sector Conference (HESC) and Congress, which will happen on the 17th and 24th April respectively, and to the UK HESC and Congress on the 29 – 30 May and 2nd June.

You can see here the list of the new Executive Committee for 2021/22. We still have vacancies for the roles of, Anti-casualisation Officer, Policy Officer and Disability Rep – please get in touch with the office if you consider taking on any of these roles.

You can see here the delegates and motions voted for the Wales HESC and Congress. Members who wish to attend as observers (who can’t vote for motions) can still register until the 2nd April using this form. The delegates voted to attend the UK HESC and Congress were Lucy Riglin, Luzia Dominguez, Chris Graves, Renata Medeiros and Steven Stanley.

We were not able to cover all the agenda items at the AGM, so the Executive Committee called for an Emergency General Meeting yesterday to discuss the ongoing problems related to issues in SHARE, Academic Renewal, Professional Services strategy and democratisation of the University. We will report on these issues soon.

2. Update on the dispute
Our dispute with the University over giving workers a choice about working face-to-face on campus is still ongoing and we are waiting to hear from ACAS (The Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service) if we are able to resolve it through the ongoing facilitated discussions with management.

We are still hopeful to resolve the dispute through ACAS but the discussions have been ongoing for a number of weeks without resolution and, considering the urgency of our dispute, we felt we had no option but to ask the Wales Regional Office to send the Vice-Chancellor an official dispute letter which will result in balloting for industrial action if a resolution is not achieved very soon.

We continue to ask all our members to ensure their postal addresses are up to date on their UCU account (here) so that you don’t miss the ballot for industrial action if we cannot resolve the dispute through ACAS.

Please continue to engage with us so that we are aware of a range of views across the branch regarding our dispute. You can get in touch with the office (ucu@cardiff.ac.uk) or share your views or ideas via this link.

3. Academic promotions – University changes rules after UCU pressure
Following our communication with the University regarding the decision to delay promotion awards this year, the University Executive Board (UEB) responded to our latest letter sent to them on the 12th February (which you can read here) confirming that they will meet our request for the award to be back-dated to August, so that no member of staff incurs a detriment when applying for promotion this year. You can read their response in full here 

4.  Vacancies for Senate
The University Senate is part of the University Governance structure and is the highest authority on academic matters in the University. Any changes to curriculum, degree programs, assessment, but also research focus etc. should be driven by and require the approval of Senate. Senate also has power to instruct Council (the University governing body) on certain matters.

The Senate is a very important forum where Academic staff can make themselves heard and the more active members it has, the better the health of the university. Senate meets three time per annum for around 2 hours and papers are circulated in advance for members to read.

The current vacancies include:

  • 4 professors (only from ARCHI, CHEMY, COMSC, DENTL, GEOPL, JOMEC, MATHS, MLANG, MUSIC, OPTOM, PHYSX, SOCSI, WELSH)
  • 8 academics grade 5+ (not from CARBS, CHEMY, ENCAP, LAWPL, SHARE)
  • 1 PS grade 5+ (not Academic & Student Support Services, IT & Programme Management, Strategic Planning, University Secretary’s Office)

If you would like to discuss it with any of our members who are Senate members, please let us know. You need to submit a nomination form by noon on 24 March 2021, which you can do here.

5. Universities Superannuation Scheme (USS) 2020 Valuation
As you may be aware, the USS has now published their Section 76.1 report, which details the assumptions they are proposing to use for the 2020 valuation. If implemented these assumptions would require members to pay between 42.1% and 56.2% of their salaries to earn the same amount of DB benefits each year as currently, up from 30.7% of salary. You can read the UCU response to this here.

University College London UCU branch voted 84:1 (with 1 abstention) for a motion for UK Congress for rebuilding the USS campaign from the grassroots, including committing to building an industrial action ballot.

The assumptions the USS are proposing are very similar to those they published in September 2020, which were the basis of a letter of complaint sent to USS at the end of January, coordinated by Neil Davies from Bristol University. This has now been acknowledged by USS with the expectation of a response next month. If you signed this complaint then you will have received this further request directly from Neil Davies about a follow up letter has been prepared to send to the Financial Times.
If you are willing to sign then please add your details to the Google form, where you can also find a link to the letter.

Please share this with colleagues who are members of USS, whether they are members of UCU or not – we must keep what USS are doing in the public view as this valuation process moves on.

6. Four Fights: final offer 2020/21 
Following the New Joint Negotiating Committee for Higher Education Staff (JNCHES) meeting and in line with the decisions made at the national HE Sector Conference (HESC) last December, an e-ballot consultation of members on the final offer made by UCEA took place from 8 to 23 February. Members voted overwhelmingly to reject the employer’s final offer as recommended by HESC and the national negotiators.

Accept: 13.8%
Reject: 86.2%

Another round of industrial action is being considered to continue the national four fights over loss of pay, pay gap, workload and casualisation.

7. Results of the UCU national elections in 2021
The results of ballots to elect the honorary Treasurer and National Executive Committee (NEC) members, which closed at noon on 2 March 2021, are now available here.

Branch news and Updates(March 18th 2021):

1. Update on Annual General Meeting (AGM)
The branch’s AGM was held last week on Wednesday 10th March; you can see the notes from the meeting here. The AGM is where members vote on the Executive Committee for the next academic year and on delegates and motions from the branch to the Wales Higher Education Sector Conference (HESC) and Congress, which will happen on the 17th and 24th April respectively, and to the UK HESC and Congress on the 29 – 30 May and 2nd June.

You can see here the list of the new Executive Committee for 2021/22. We still have vacancies for the roles of, Anti-casualisation Officer, Policy Officer and Disability Rep – please get in touch with the office if you consider taking on any of these roles.

You can see here the delegates and motions voted for the Wales HESC and Congress. Members who wish to attend as observers (who can’t vote for motions) can still register until the 2nd April using this form. The delegates voted to attend the UK HESC and Congress were Lucy Riglin, Luzia Dominguez, Chris Graves, Renata Medeiros and Steven Stanley.

We were not able to cover all the agenda items at the AGM, so the Executive Committee called for an Emergency General Meeting yesterday to discuss the ongoing problems related to issues in SHARE, Academic Renewal, Professional Services strategy and democratisation of the University. We will report on these issues soon.

2. Update on the dispute
Our dispute with the University over giving workers a choice about working face-to-face on campus is still ongoing and we are waiting to hear from ACAS (The Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service) if we are able to resolve it through the ongoing facilitated discussions with management.

We are still hopeful to resolve the dispute through ACAS but the discussions have been ongoing for a number of weeks without resolution and, considering the urgency of our dispute, we felt we had no option but to ask the Wales Regional Office to send the Vice-Chancellor an official dispute letter which will result in balloting for industrial action if a resolution is not achieved very soon.

We continue to ask all our members to ensure their postal addresses are up to date on their UCU account (here) so that you don’t miss the ballot for industrial action if we cannot resolve the dispute through ACAS.

Please continue to engage with us so that we are aware of a range of views across the branch regarding our dispute. You can get in touch with the office (ucu@cardiff.ac.uk) or share your views or ideas via this link.

3. Academic promotions – University changes rules after UCU pressure
Following our communication with the University regarding the decision to delay promotion awards this year, the University Executive Board (UEB) responded to our latest letter sent to them on the 12th February (which you can read here) confirming that they will meet our request for the award to be back-dated to August, so that no member of staff incurs a detriment when applying for promotion this year. You can read their response in full here 

4.  Vacancies for Senate
The University Senate is part of the University Governance structure and is the highest authority on academic matters in the University. Any changes to curriculum, degree programs, assessment, but also research focus etc. should be driven by and require the approval of Senate. Senate also has power to instruct Council (the University governing body) on certain matters.

The Senate is a very important forum where Academic staff can make themselves heard and the more active members it has, the better the health of the university. Senate meets three time per annum for around 2 hours and papers are circulated in advance for members to read.

The current vacancies include:

  • 4 professors (only from ARCHI, CHEMY, COMSC, DENTL, GEOPL, JOMEC, MATHS, MLANG, MUSIC, OPTOM, PHYSX, SOCSI, WELSH)
  • 8 academics grade 5+ (not from CARBS, CHEMY, ENCAP, LAWPL, SHARE)
  • 1 PS grade 5+ (not Academic & Student Support Services, IT & Programme Management, Strategic Planning, University Secretary’s Office)

If you would like to discuss it with any of our members who are Senate members, please let us know. You need to submit a nomination form by noon on 24 March 2021, which you can do here.

5. Universities Superannuation Scheme (USS) 2020 Valuation
As you may be aware, the USS has now published their Section 76.1 report, which details the assumptions they are proposing to use for the 2020 valuation. If implemented these assumptions would require members to pay between 42.1% and 56.2% of their salaries to earn the same amount of DB benefits each year as currently, up from 30.7% of salary. You can read the UCU response to this here.

University College London UCU branch voted 84:1 (with 1 abstention) for a motion for UK Congress for rebuilding the USS campaign from the grassroots, including committing to building an industrial action ballot.

The assumptions the USS are proposing are very similar to those they published in September 2020, which were the basis of a letter of complaint sent to USS at the end of January, coordinated by Neil Davies from Bristol University. This has now been acknowledged by USS with the expectation of a response next month. If you signed this complaint then you will have received this further request directly from Neil Davies about a follow up letter has been prepared to send to the Financial Times.
If you are willing to sign then please add your details to the Google form, where you can also find a link to the letter.

Please share this with colleagues who are members of USS, whether they are members of UCU or not – we must keep what USS are doing in the public view as this valuation process moves on.

6. Four Fights: final offer 2020/21 
Following the New Joint Negotiating Committee for Higher Education Staff (JNCHES) meeting and in line with the decisions made at the national HE Sector Conference (HESC) last December, an e-ballot consultation of members on the final offer made by UCEA took place from 8 to 23 February. Members voted overwhelmingly to reject the employer’s final offer as recommended by HESC and the national negotiators.

Accept: 13.8%
Reject: 86.2%

Another round of industrial action is being considered to continue the national four fights over loss of pay, pay gap, workload and casualisation.

7. Results of the UCU national elections in 2021
The results of ballots to elect the honorary Treasurer and National Executive Committee (NEC) members, which closed at noon on 2 March 2021, are now available here.

Events (March 4th 2021):

1. LUNCHTIME TALKS AND DISCUSSIONS: Every Thursday 1:10pm-2pm

Today we had another lunchtime talk of the series Resist! The future of collective action and unionisation with Dr Jonathan Preminger talking about ‘Ideational Power: The Strategic Use of Ideas in Union Struggle’. Please let us know if you would like a link to the recording.

Join us next week for ‘Understanding Workload: Conversation and Q&A’ with Dr Martin Weinel, our Workload Officer – Thursday March 11th 1:10-2pm
https://cardiff.zoom.us/j/83086759621?pwd=Y1dIRnlqVHlIWW1pSmJWckxUNWpLdz09

2. UCU #BLM Stop Deaths in Custody/Justice for Refugees public meeting – TODAY 5pm

Solidarity runs both ways. Racism and fear blights our lives and keeps us divided.

You can still register here for this important event supported by our branch. Speakers include Shavanah Taj from the Wales TUC and Hilary Brown, Mohamud Hussein’s family’s lawyer. Please do encourage friends and colleagues to join us.

3. Food Poverty Is A Feminist Issue – Monday 8 March 6-7pm

People’s Assembly Wales has been campaigning for the new Welsh Budget to include giving free school meals to all children in poverty, as a step towards free school meals for all children. Join this rally broadcasting live on their Facebook page with Welsh and international speakers including author and activist Selma James and Rebecca Boden from the University of Tampere, Finland. Our branch is supporting this campaign and our anti-casualisation officer Renata Medeiros will share a message of solidarity from UCU at the event. You can find more details of the event here.

4. UCU Annual Meetings

Casualised Staff – Saturday 13 March 11am-4pm
This meeting is open to any member on a casual contract, including postgraduates. Members can join as branch delegates or self-register to attend. The registration deadline is tomorrow – 5th March.
The meeting elects an anti-casualisation committee to advise the national executive committee. It also sends motions to the union’s annual congress meeting to inform its work for the year, and it’s an opportunity to discuss how to step up the fight in all our branches.
For more information and to self-register, please use this link.

Academic related, professional staff – Thursday 18 March 11am-3.30pm
This meeting is open to those on professional roles in grades represented by UCU in Higher Education. Members can join as branch delegates or self-register to attend. The registration deadline is 11th March. Please get in touch with the office (ucu@cardiff.ac.uk) if you would like to attend as a delegate.

The meeting will hear reports on the work of UCU in relation to academic-related staff and discuss motions submitted by branches and local associations. The meeting will provide an opportunity to debate the challenges facing the union in general, and academic-related members in particular. Workshops will address particular issues for academic-related members.
For more information or to self-register, please use this link.

4. LGBT+ mental health webinar – Wednesday 17 March 4pm

UCU LGBT+ will host an online event about LGBT+ mental health on Wednesday 17 March 2021, 4.00- 5.30pm. You can register to the event here.