Dispute Update and Ballot Results:

Members voted YES for strike action and YES for Action Short of Strike (ASOS). Thank you to everyone who voted in our indicative ballot on the dispute with the University over our demand that staff should not be coerced into working on campus: 77% voted yes for ASOS and 59% yes for strike action on a 36% turnout. This will continue to inform our dispute strategy. While we are continuing to try to resolve this dispute through discussions with management, we have not yet been given the assurances we need (highlighted by members’ rejection of management’s position on this at our last General Meeting): see management’s latest response here. These results show that members are prepared to take action to defend each other against forced face-to-face campus work during the pandemic.

The benefits of managing Cardiff University:

In October 2019, Cardiff UCU submitted a freedom of information (FOI) request to the University on “fringe benefits” incurred by, applied to or otherwise associated with, members of the University Executive Board and University Council. The FOI request was made after the University refused to provide this information.

These “fringe benefits” include, but are not limited to, provision of or financing towards accommodation, vehicles or transport services, IT equipment (except where directly associated with post-holders’ university offices), and mobile phones (and associated running costs such as contracts or other incurred charges).

After some pursuing, we finally received this information last week. You can access the University’s response here. It makes an interesting read and we will explore it further and keep you posted on any developments.

3.  Time = Money: Fight against the institutionalised Time Theft
Thank you to those who participated in our recent survey on workload. The results confirmed what the last 3 University Staff Surveys have found: the majority of staff are unable to fit their workload into their contracted working hours. The UCU workload survey helps us to understand the extent of the time theft – and as time is money this also constitutes money theft – that has been institutionalised in our University.

We asked respondents to estimate their average weekly working times (taking the whole academic year into account) and the results are as shocking as they are unsurprising:

Average weekly working times  < 35 h  36 – 40 h  41 – 45 h  46 – 50 h  > 50 h
Number of Responses  16  57  72  46  35
Average Annual Overwork  None  107h or
3 weeks
 321h or
> 9 weeks
 536h or
> 15 weeks
 750h or
> 21 weeks
Theft in Salary Assuming Wage of £20/h  None  £2,140 per   year  £6,420
per year
per year
 > £15,000
per year

In short:

  1. only 16 out of 226 respondents suggested that they work within their contracted hours and most respondents work between 41 and 45 hours per week.
  2. If we translate this into hours of overwork, those working 41-45 hours per week work about 9 weeks a year for free, which is far more than the usual annual leave allowance.
  3. If we translate this into money and we assume an hourly wage of £20 (roughly the hourly rate of mid-Grade 6 contracts), this stacks up quickly to substantive sums. Those overworking by 10-15 hours per week ought to have earned over £10,000 per year more than the University actually pays them.

We have presented this table to the UEB and suggested that part of the short-term solution is to put workload tariffs on an empirical footing so that they reflect roughly the actual time it takes to prepare lectures, to mark essays, to deal with personal tutees and so on. We eagerly await their response.

Workload Allocation Model (WAM):

Still on the theme of Time Theft, our workload representative Martin Weinel attended the latest Workload Allocation Model (WAM) Governance Group meeting, at which Colleges’ Pro-Vice-Chancellors (PVCs) provided feedback on the state of workload data.

The PVC for the College of Biomedical and Life Sciences admitted that there are problems in collating data, ensuring equal workloads and sharing workload data with members of staff, but he indicated that staff ought to have their own workload data and at least some indication of what the average workload is in their School.

The PVCs for the College of Physical Sciences and Engineering and for the College of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences claimed that every single member of academic staff covered by WAMs will have been given their own workload data and at least an average Workload value for their School.

Could you please take a few seconds of your time to answer five ‘yes or no questions’ letting us know the situation in your Schools? Please click here to access the questions. Thank you.

University statistics for COVID-19:

The Welsh Government publishes regular updates on positive cases of COVID-19 reported to higher education institutions in Wales, which you can access here. Note that these are presented only as 7-day rolling averages and not daily reported cases. Cardiff University publishes its own data on reported positive cases among staff and students and number of students isolating here. According to these data, there have been 42 reported positive cases among staff since October.

While the numbers of reported positive COVID-19 cases in Cardiff University (and HE institutions in general) have remained relatively low, it is clear by the peak in October that the number of cases can increase very quickly, that the University screening service detects a significant and worrying number of positive cases who are asymptomatic, and that these asymptomatic tests are being carried out on a very small proportion of the University community, particularly considering that staff working on campus should be going through regular testing (at least weekly).

Even with most students still not back on campus, since the 5th January there is an average of over 90 students a day reporting to be in self-isolation, with an average of 35 a day reporting a positive COVID-19 test.

Statement of support from Cardiff UCU branch executive:

Cardiff UCU is providing personal support to a member of staff who is currently being vilified by the media and is receiving abuse and threats online. Cardiff UCU believes that all members of staff should be supported when they face difficulty. Cardiff UCU does not condone language that causes offence. In recognition of the upset and offence caused, an apology has been made. We recognise that staff and students are under severe pressure and may make mistakes.

Solidarity and Wider Campaigns January 27th 2021:

1. Zero-COVID Coalition
Campaigners, trade unionists and politicians held an online rally on Sunday with over 2000 participants to launch the Zero Covid Coalition demanding that the government pursues a “zero-Covid” strategy in order to eliminate the virus. You can find more details and support the campaign on their facebook page here and sign the People’s Assembly Wales zero-COVID petition here.

2. Black Lives Matter campaigns in Wales
In the aftermath of the death of Mohamud Hassan, following his detention by the South Wales Police, and with the Justice4Mohamud, FreeSiyanda and Justice for Christopher Kapessa campaigns ongoing in Wales, Black Lives Matter Cardiff and Vale is organizing a public talk, “Can the Police be Reformed?”, on Thursday 28 January at 8pm.

You can find out more about the talk and the campaigns here.

Dispute and indicative ballot:

We have to continue to push for a commitment from the University Executive Board (UEB) that no member of staff should be asked to work face to face during the pandemic against their own judgement, due to risk to themselves or their household members. This is a similar position to that taken by other universities (see here the statement from Sussex University  for example).

We are planning an indicative ballot for industrial action to run in  January and will launch a public campaign on the 4th January to expose the level of pressure that some of our members are feeling. There is a Joint Negotiating Committee (JNC) meeting on the 12th January which will be another opportunity for the University to change its position and avoid potential industrial action. We hope that our campaign and a strong vote for industrial action in the indicative ballot will be enough to convince the University to take action to protect its vulnerable staff.

If anyone is able to help with the dispute campaign, please join our first Campaign Committee meeting on the 4th January at 12h30 via zoom:

Topic: UCU Cardiff Campaign Meeting

Time: Jan 4, 2021 12:30 PM London

Join Zoom Meeting 

Password: 695409

Note from our President:

I want to thank everyone for their union work during this incredibly challenging year. It seems like much longer ago than February and March that we were on strike defending our pensions, pay and equality and against casualisation and excessive workloads. Of course these issues have not gone away, and have instead been intensified by the pandemic and international financial crisis. Nevertheless, I believe we’re in a stronger position to defend ourselves because our action earlier this year, which showed that attacks would be resisted.

I am proud that we have managed to maintain core features of democracy within our branch, despite the restrictions and thank everyone who has been able to engage in our General Meetings which have determined the branch’s positions this year. It is a result of these, as well as our branch survey results and feedback from branch Health & Safety and Department Representatives, that we have pushed University management to ensure staff are not compelled to attend face-to-face work on campus while the COVID-19 pandemic continues to pose a significant public health risk. While some members may feel safe to engage in face-to-face work on campus, we are committed to the position that no member of staff should be forced back to work on campus. Given University management’s refusal to give a clear and public commitment on this and our subsequent initiation of the disputes resolution procedure, we will begin a consultative ballot on this issue in the New Year.

We will join an increasing number of other UCU branches entering dispute over related issues. We must be united to defend our jobs, pay and our working conditions, as well as the education sector. We should not be forced to pay the price of the pandemic – or let management use this as an excuse to push through negative changes. Our position this year to not accept the proposed justifications for staffing cuts has been vindicated and shows the importance of combative trade unions.

I know that this year has been very challenging for many of us, whether working from home or on campus. I hope there is a chance for rest and recuperation during the University closure period and that we can come back refreshed and determined in the New Year.

Lucy Riglin
Cardiff branch President

Merry Christmas: 

Christmas (or the feast of Nativity) is a Christian holyday honouring the birth of Jesus. It has evolved into a worldwide religious and secular celebration, incorporating many pre-Christian and pagan traditions (namely the winter solstice festivals) and is marked by billions of people across the globe. Christmas is observed primarily on the 25th December and it’s associated with renewal, hope, family, giving, peace and love.

We wish everyone a Merry Christmas and a restful break!