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