TRAC:

Last week, the University issued a reminder to academic staff to complete the Time-Allocation Survey. This survey is designed to generate the data that the University is legally obliged to submit as part of an annual Transparent Approach to Costing (TRAC) return. This is a requirement for all UK Higher Education Institutions to be eligible to receive grant funding from Funding Councils.

For submission to be valid, the surveys need to reach a sufficient response rate (about 50% in large schools, and 75% in small schools) and our University is currently missing these response rates by some margin.  While we recognise that academic staff are overwhelmed by current workloads, we are also aware that financial penalties from failing to submit TRAC data will hurt us all at Cardiff University. Cardiff UCU is therefore asking academic members, if possible, to try and complete the time allocation survey before the deadline of 30 September 2020.

Last week, the University issued a reminder to academic staff to complete the Time-Allocation Survey. This survey is designed to generate the data that the University is legally obliged to submit as part of an annual Transparent Approach to Costing (TRAC) return. This is a requirement for all UK Higher Education Institutions to be eligible to receive grant funding from Funding Councils.

For submission to be valid, the surveys need to reach a sufficient response rate (about 50% in large schools, and 75% in small schools) and our University is currently missing these response rates by some margin.  While we recognise that academic staff are overwhelmed by current workloads, we are also aware that financial penalties from failing to submit TRAC data will hurt us all at Cardiff University. Cardiff UCU is therefore asking academic members, if possible, to try and complete the time allocation survey before the deadline of 30 September 2020.

Survey on LGBT+ experiences of structures, functions and lived realities of working life in higher education institutions:

UCU is running a survey in collaboration with colleagues in Kent and at Sussex on LGBT+ experiences in HE.

The aim of this survey is to provide a listening space for LGBT+ voices covering a wide range of areas within higher education institutions in the UK to address concerns about marginalised or excluded LGBT+ people, perspectives, teaching and research in higher education institutions.
UCU research and policy demonstrates considerable reason for concern about the position LGBT+ workers find themselves in within higher education institutions. Pride and Prejudice in Education (2016) reported that whilst many organisations had policies that included LGBT+  inclusivity these were not implemented effectively.

Members who identify as part of the LGBT+ community are encouraged to participate in the survey by following the link or by using the QR code.

The survey closes on the 12th of October.

1. Update on negotiations:

The three campus unions (Unite, UNISON and UCU) are pleased to announce that the projected deficit has reduced and the university are saying that they will fund the current projected deficit from reserves.  The proposed changes to terms and conditions are no longer being pursued by the university at this point in time.  As Unions our members’ collective will to push back on the proposals until there were more facts has been clearly vindicated.  Had we not done this members could have been in a worse position financially.  We will of course keep you updated as the financial situation develops.

This is the very positive result received at the last Joint Consultative and Negotiating Forum (JCNF) following our continued resistance to the University’s proposals to make staff cuts. Our negotiators were put under considerable pressure by senior management to agree to staff cuts and our strong position has paid off.

We also made progress on workloads, with management agreeing to hold a joint union partnership forum to properly address our serious workload problems. This is a positive step and our negotiators will continue to hold management to their commitment to engage in “open and honest” discussions.

Our negotiators have very firmly and consistently communicated our members’ health and safety concerns to UEB but these have not been resolved. These are more fully addressed in this Health, Safety and Wellbeing document, but our key concerns remain:

  • that meaningful consultation, a legal obligation of our employer, has not taken place across the board and we cannot give our members assurances about the safety of the workplace.
  • that staff will be forced to work on campus without enough consideration of their personal circumstances.
  • that the concerns of those whose health and wellbeing is at risk as a result of working from home have not been properly addressed.
  • that wellbeing issues emerging as a result of increasing workloads have not been addressed.

Return to campus – Risk Assessments and how to raise concerns:

Cardiff University as our employer owes us a duty of care. To challenge them when they are failing to take the necessary steps to protect our health and safety, we need to collect evidence. This is a precursor to taking any form of legal action. We also need to comply with the University’s own procedures. Should legal action follow, the legal authorities will expect individuals to have fully exhausted these procedures.

On that basis should you be asked to return to work, your employer will be required to perform a risk assessment. However, their assessment of the circumstances may differ from yours. So the first step is to perform your own assessment of your working environment. If your assessment differs from the employers in that you have concerns regarding your health and safety, you should bring it to the attention of the appropriate person. In most cases this will be your line manager, but there may be instances where management have appointed a safety officer.

It is helpful if you use the forms provided by the University.  The University also requires you to complete the All Wales Risk Assessment. Arbitration bodies will look kindly if you have used the employer’s procedures.  It shows you are willing to support the employer, by following their guidance.   It also focuses the matter on the dispute in hand, rather than obfuscating procedural matters.

You can find relevant forms here.

  • HSE Health and Safety Poster (which should be displayed in a prominent visible place)
  • Risk Assessment forms
  • Workplace Inspection forms

 

Your line manager may have already completed a workplace inspection form.  There is usually a nominated person, within an office, to complete this for efficiency.  It would be quite acceptable to ask if this has been done, and could you have sight of the document to ascertain if your concerns have been highlighted, and what priority has been assigned to them.  If you are not given sight of the document, do not assume it has been done, it probably hasn’t been done well, if at all.  Your line manager is busy “spinning plates” too.

If you have to email your line manager, please use the following wording.  If we all use the same or similar wording then this reduces the risk of individuals being isolated.  Senior management will identify it as a collective action and will wish to identify the organisers, which is the union, and that is where they will focus their efforts.
Proposed wording: 

‘I am very concerned about the suggestion that I return to on-site work activities without knowing all suitable and sufficient risk management controls are in place making it safe to return. My union, UCU, will be advising me of the outcome of collective consultations over any proposed risk management strategy Cardiff University may have. I therefore request that this consultation takes place with UCU prior to any consultation with me individually

If, despite my concerns, you insist I return to work please find a Risk Assessment/Workplace Inspection Form, highlighting my concerns and suggestions on actions required to enable me to conduct my work without significant risks to my Health and Safety.

I would appreciate a response prior to my return to campus, so that I can take responsibility and appropriate steps for my own safety as required’

Solidarity with USW – A Message from UNISON:

The University of South Wales (USW) has announced plans to employ all new support staff in a new company owned by the University which will allow them to employ staff on lower wages, inferior pensions, and reduced terms and conditions. This is being done in the name of cutting costs despite the University sitting on cash reserves of £100 million pounds. In most cases, new starters will earn thousands of pounds less than existing colleagues doing exactly the same job. The proposed terms are the worst of any University in the UK. New starters will effectively be second-class employees.

New support staff will get:
+ Lower Wages

+ Far Inferior Pension
+ Less Maternity/Paternity pay
+ Less Annual Leave
+ Less Sick leave
+ No Flexitime
+ Performance Related Pay
+ No Cost of Living Increase (unless directors say otherwise)

These changes will affect staff working in IT, examinations, academic registry, libraries, estates, accommodation and student support. Academic staff will not be affected, which sends a clear signal that support staff are not important to the University Executive.

The University is sitting on cash reserves of £100 million pounds. The University takes its staff from communities with high levels of deprivation. By doing this the University will be taking money away from a poorer area and failing in its civic duty. Female employees will also be disproportionately affected as they comprise the majority of support staff. Existing staff could eventually be transferred to the new company and its inferior employment contracts.

 

If this is able to go through at USW it will soon come knocking on the doors of other Universities!

Staff unions, GMB and UNISON, are appalled by this divisive strategy and supported by the university lecturers’ union, UCU, we are determined to challenge and oppose these plans. We will be enlisting the support of students, the local community and politicians to resist these proposals.

Show your support, please sign and share their petition today!

Thank you

UNISON Branch Secretary

Pay Increments:

Are you one of the roughly 30% of staff in Higher Education who has just received an annual increment by moving up a spinal point on the pay scale? If so, congratulations – you earned it. It is not, as senior managers at Cardiff University like to tell members of staff, a pay rise but a recognition of gained experience and expertise.

What you might not be aware of is that Cardiff University managers were keen to deny you the uplift in pay. They approached the campus unions in May 2020 to seek their agreement to scrap increments as part of a cost-saving drive to ‘save the University that we all love’. Management justified this cost-saving drive with an extremely pessimistic prediction of reduced income as a result of a catastrophic fall in students numbers because of the Covid pandemic.

The campus unions rejected this manufactured crisis scenario because not enough was known about student numbers for 2020/21 and also because the University was not able to demonstrate that they have made cost savings elsewhere, especially with regard to its £600m capital investment in new buildings (which actually costs £900m taking into account interest).

While recent projections of student numbers appear to have vindicated the campus unions’ stance in rejecting the removal of annual increments, the threat to your income has not gone away. There is already talk of a ‘headcount review’ and the UEB is still desperate to significantly cut staff costs to continue to finance their outsized building plans.

Cardiff UCU does not believe that this is compatible with the University’s status as a charity whose aim is to further education and research. We continue to believe that the success of the University relies on its staff and not its buildings.

Building anti-racist workplaces:

Our branch Equality and Diversity Officer recently attended a webinar run by UCU looking at building anti-racist workplaces and this is his report.

“The attendance was quite small and much of the time was spent with the facilitators hearing about the steps we at Cardiff University and Cardiff Met were taking in relation to challenging racism.  We (I and the rep from Cardiff Met) have planned to work together this coming year to carry out some joint ventures together with the UCU Equality section in relation to recommended action points such as:

  • Engaging with our employer in taking steps to create an anti-racist workplace and I will take this to the next university EDI committee to look at we and the other campus unions can work together in challenging racism.

  • Take time to reflect and recognise that unions are not immune to racism and we could do with a conversation about this at Cardiff Uni UCU.  Part of this could be looking at how we encourage allyship and create an environment where racism is not tolerated.

  • Start a conversation: I have highlighted the importance of union membership within the BAME+ Staff Network and it would be useful for us as a branch to reach out and show how we can be allies.  This group is also working to create a safe space for staff as is the Student Race Equality Steering Group for students.

  • Educate yourself: perhaps the branch could support staff and student initiatives for black history month (while recognising that black history should be part of our history and not consigned to one month a year).

  • Build connections: it has been heartening to see the UCU banner in partnership with other local anti-racist movements although this is often done by individual members.  There are potential allies and connections to be made with the student union and other anti-racist organisations.

For further details see this document and for information about the Staff Race Equality Steering Group contact Jeff Allen AllenTJ@cf.ac.uk for the Student Race Equality Steering Group studentraceequality@cardiff.ac.uk and for the BAME+ Network AllexisM1@cf.ac.uk

Some of us in the branch are engaged in this work and your support would be welcome!

Abyd Quinn Aziz”

All members four fights discussion:

In July, UCU members voted to reject the current offer from UCEA, as the latest step in our Four Fights dispute. We have an upcoming HE Special Sector conference, which was called to consider the union’s response to the attack on jobs, pay, and conditions resulting from the actions of employers during the Covid-19 pandemic. These issues, each exacerbated by the pandemic, relate directly to those at the heart of the Four Fights dispute, and the discussions at the conference will impact what we do next as a sector.

How should we continue our fight for secure work, reasonable workloads, and fair and equal pay? What different types of industrial action are available to us, and what kinds of leverage would we have with these different actions? What might an escalation strategy look like, and how can we resource sustained action?

The University of Sheffield UCU and Sheffield Hallam UCU branches are hosting an online discussion of all of these issues, centred around three questions:

1. Should UCU ballot for industrial action now (or very soon)? If so, what type of industrial action?

2. How do we advance our Four Fights campaign at a UK-wide level (either in parallel with a ballot or separate to that)?

3. How can we coordinate UK-wide campaigning with local branch work (particularly given attacks on casualised jobs during Covid)?

This discussion will take place on 3 September, from 5-7pm. We welcome activists from all branches, and we want to encourage participation from as many members as possible.

Register to attend here. Zoom login info will be set to participants on the morning of the event.