Challenges and successes of trade unionism: NSSN Conference 4th July

You may be interested in the National Shop Stewards Network Conference, also this Saturday 4th July (and slightly overlapping the National UCU Activists meeting).

Established by Bob Crow, the NSSN brings together shop stewards and reps from all over the UK to discuss the challenges and successes of trade unionism. The conferences are excellent gatherings in which to swap experiences and discuss strategy.

This year’s annual conference will take place via Zoom starting at 11am. It will consist of a two-hour main session followed by separate workshops. You can register in advance if you wish by emailing  info@shopstewards.net

The link to join the Zoom meeting is here

You can find and share the Facebook event here

Response to the VC’s email

In his email sent on the 4th of June at 13:40, Vice-Chancellor Riordan wrote that management was talking to the campus unions ‘about voluntary reductions in salary or a collective agreement to reduce salary levels on a temporary basis’. He also hinted at even more unpalatable alternatives, likely compulsory redundancies.

We would like to reassure members that we have not agreed to any salary reductions.

The Cardiff UCU executive committee – along with the other campus unions Unite and Unison – received the university’s written proposals to save money two days ago (3rd of June) when we were sent the papers for the next Joint Consultative and Negotiating Forum (JCNF), which is due to meet on Wednesday 10th of June. The paper outlines the proposals mentioned by the VC in his email. They are very unpalatable, and we do not deem these plans acceptable.

Your branch negotiators have been attending weekly consultative meeting between management and the campus unions to discuss working conditions during the crisis. Within these meetings management have made references to the University’s dire financial situation and asked us to present ideas to address the situation. We requested detailed financial information and specific meetings to discuss this: two meetings have been held (22/05 and 29/05), where the university presented its financial projections for the 2021/22 academic year.

We are extremely concerned by management’s proposals. We are pushing for every possible avenue to be explored – including the reduction of non-staffing costs and the use of reserves – before contemplating reductions in pay or compulsory redundancies. The executive committee of the branch meets for an emergency meeting on the 5th of June to discuss the situation further.

We appreciate that the VC’s email will have caused distress and we would like to reiterate that we have not agreed to any salary reductions. As always, please contact the branch office or your local rep if you would like to feedback to us.

Management Refuse to Compensate Staff for Homeworking Costs

Our Cardiff UCU negotiators urged the University Executive Board (UEB) to agree to compensate staff for additional costs – electricity, heating, broadband – associated with working from home.

According to HMRC guidelines employers could reimburse staff £6 per week, and such payments would be non-taxable.

However, Cardiff University management have declined to show this gesture of good will, and instead have pointed out that staff can instead reclaim such costs from their tax bill. Unfortunately, this approach means that our most vulnerable members, i.e. those earning below the tax threshold, will not be able to claim any compensation.

We are also disappointed with management’s refusal to provide any assistance or guidance to staff on how to claim these tax benefits. We refer members to Martin Lewis’ blog for more information on how to proceed with claiming costs from HMRC

USS Divest from Tobacco, Fossil Fuel and Armaments Industries

USS announces significant divestment from the Tobacco, Fossil Fuels and Armaments industries.

We would like to congratulate the members of Cardiff UCU who have worked hard to persuade UCU to divest from these industries over many years.

The announcement doesn’t go as far as many of us would like; the divestment is only partial and the reasons cited are financial, rather than ethical.

But this divestment does reverse the longheld position of USS against divestment and sets an important precedent for the future.

Cardiff UCU’s Statement On Black Lives Matter:

Cardiff UCU acknowledges that our branch leadership is not as racially diverse as we would like. We would like to invite all colleagues to get involved and would particularly welcome colleagues from diverse racial backgrounds. In turn, we pledge to act as anti-racist allies and to work with members across our branch to address issues without placing the burden on people of colour. We believe that diverse teams make the best decisions and seek to support and develop those teams in all parts of our branch.

 

We recognise that whilst the recent disclosures of racism in the school of dentistry will have shocked some members, for others this news just draws fresh attention to longstanding issues that are part of their lived experiences. We are committed to providing support to members who are experiencing (or have experienced) workplace racism. Cardiff UCU is also committed to improving the working environment at Cardiff University for staff of diverse ethnic and racial heritage. Although this is an area that we have been trying to be more active in, we acknowledge that progress has been slow, and we must do more.

 

In order to achieve this we will work with Cardiff University – seeking collaboration but also pushing and challenging the university where appropriate. Cardiff UCU also encourages all members to equip themselves to recognise and respond to discriminatory behaviour. In addition to sessions on ‘Holding Conversations about Race’ with  Susan Cousins during anti-racism week in February this year, we are funding two UCU members to attend Dr Muna Abdi’s two-day workshop “Becoming Anti-Racist Educators” and are planning to deliver/promote more anti-racist training opportunities in the future.

Executive Committee 2020-21

Following the AGM we can confirm the following members of the new executive committee which succeeds the current executive committee in September 2020.

  • President: Lucy Riglin
  • Vice Presidents (2): Paul Brennan & Esther Muddiman
  • Chair: Steven Stanley
  • Treasurer: Phil Parkes
  • Secretary: Ryan Prout
  • Membership and recruitment secretary: Luzia Dominguez
  • Equality & diversity officer: Abyd Quinn Aziz
  • Anti-casualisation officer: Renata Medeiros Mirra
  • Health & safety officer: Andy Skyrme
  • Learning rep: Joey Whitfield
  • Pensions officer: Dave Atkins
  • Environmental officer: Paul Rock
  • Media and communications officer: Andy Williams
  • Staff wellbeing officer: Nick Russell
  • LGBT officer: Clea Rees
  • Organising Coordinator: Mark Aston
  • Ordinary members (8): Marc Bühner, Chris Graves, Joe Healy, Nicky Priaulx, Patrick Sutton, Laurence Totelin, Martin Weinel  and Chris Yewlett

If you would like to get involved on the executive committee, there are still vacancies for two positions: disability representative and policy officer. In addition, once it takes office in September the new executive committee will be able to co-opt up to 6 members in accordance with the branch rules. So do get in touch!

Edits following the June General Meeting:
Joey Whitfield was appointed as Learning Rep (correction to the minutes of the AGM)
Mark Aston was appointed as Organising Coordinator (agreed at the June GM)

 

Strike pay

If you took part in the strike, you are entitled to apply to both the National UCU Hardship Fund and the Local Cardiff UCU Hardship Fund. We have received some questions about this, which I aim to clarify below.

The National Strike Fund

The National UCU Hardship Fund is available to all staff.

Members earning £30,000 or more will be able to claim up to £50 per day from your third day onwards (subject to a cap of £800); members earning below £30,000 will be able to claim up to £75 per day from your second day onwards (subject to a cap of £1,100).

The Local Strike Fund

The local strike fund will pay for the first day or two of strike deductions that the National fund does not cover (see above). Payments will be made at the same rate.

Hourly paid staff

For hourly paid staff, where you might have only 2-3 days of missed work due to strike action and teaching patterns please feel free to apply to the Local fund only rather than make two separate applications.

For hourly paid staff who work on a more regular pattern and may have several days of work I would advise that you apply Nationally for the Strike Fund and Locally for the first day payment. If you require advice on this, please contact me.

The University will deduct pay for days that you were on strike as follows:

For strike days in February, a timesheet for February is submitted by the third working day of the month, (3rd March in this case), signed off by School admin and sent to Salaries for processing. Pay for the work carried out (or not) in February will be made at the end of March.

You have not lost any income for classes not taught due to strike action until the end of March.

For strike days in March, a timesheet for February is submitted by the third working day of the month, (3rd April in this case), signed off by School admin and sent to Salaries for processing. Pay for the work carried out (or not) in March will be made at the end of April.

You have not lost any income for classes not taught due to strike action until the end of April.

Evidence required (LOCALLY)

The Cardiff UCU accounts are audited and we have to provide evidence of any payments made (receipts/ other evidence) and every payment made has to be signed off by two signatories. An official accounts return has to be made at the end of our financial year and this evidence has to be collated in case of audit.

For members on a monthly salary – no payments are made from the strike fund until receipt of a payslip showing that pay has been deducted for strike action.

For members on an hourly salary – I am aware that with the current situation admin may be delayed and in order that you are paid for any teaching hours missed due to strike action I am following the guidance below. Please note that a number of you have specific individual circumstances that means some of this evidence may not be available. Please do not let this stop you from applying – I will personally contact you to talk through the evidence that you have in order to ensure that are given the appropriate support.

Where timesheets are available, please submit your timesheet. When you receive a payslip from which the hours indicated on the timesheet have been deducted (end of March, April, or even May), please email me with this payslip for our financial records.

If a timesheet is not available (your only teaching hours in February / March were on strike days) then I have asked that a module leader / colleague (often a fellow UCU member) or School administrator confirm that the teaching did not go ahead and this will be appropriate evidence for our financial records. As no payslip will be available, as you will be receiving no pay for that month, the written evidence above is in lieu of this.

If you have any concerns about evidence please apply anyway and I will contact you to talk you through this. Cardiff UCU have committed to supporting hourly paid staff who took strike action and I am making every effort to ensure this happens.

Phil Parkes (parkes@cardiff.ac.uk)

Cardiff UCU Branch Treasurer

 

Cardiff UCU executive committee – ballot now open

The Cardiff UCU ballot is now open to elect our branch president and chair for the 2020-21 academic year.

Please check your inboxes! You should have received by email a personalised link this morning (Tues 3 March) from yoursay@ucu.org.uk. Follow the link to read the candidates’ election statements and cast your vote.

If you have not received a link, please check your spam folder and if it is not there please email Ed Bailey.

The ballot will run for two weeks, closing at noon on 17 March. The results will be announced at the AGM on 18 March.

An appeal for strike solidarity to Welsh unions, political parties, branches, and individuals

For the third time in two years, tens of thousands of staff at 74 UK Universities are striking to defend their pensions and improve pay and conditions, which have deteriorated beyond belief in the last decade.

UCU members beat the punitive 50% threshold for action with convincing mandates to strike to prevent the erosion of our USS pensions, as well as to improve our pay, unhealthy workloads, gig-economy style precarious working conditions, and pay inequality.

In response to our members successfully defending their USS pensions in 2018, the pension trustee, along with our employers, are trying a different tactic: to incrementally increase contribution rates until the scheme becomes so unattractive to new members it becomes truly unsustainable. UCU’s own expert analysis, confirmed by the independent body set up after the USS Strike last year (the Joint Expert Panel, or JEP), shows that the scheme is currently healthy, and just needs to be valued more appropriately. This is purely an attempt to save money and run the current scheme down.

This time, we’re also striking on further pressing issues. As well as a convincing mandate for action on pensions, we are now striking to improve:

  • Our pay (which has fallen 20% in value in 10 years);
  • Unsustainable and unhealthy workloads, which are fuelling a creeping mental health crisis among University staff (we all know colleagues leaving the profession because of stress, going off sick, and even in some tragic cases taking their own lives);
  • Insecure employment in Universities (more than half of all staff are employed on casual contracts, zero-hours contracts persist, and most PhD student members who teach are not even recognised as employees, leaving them vulnerable to exploitation, with little employment protection); and
  • Pay inequality in Universities (where the gender pay gap is currently 15%, the BME pay gap is a disgrace, and where inflated senior management salaries are incredibly high – e.g. the VC at Cardiff earns more than £250,000 in basic pay, even before considerable perks and bonuses).

Our programme of Cardiff strike events can be found here.

All supporters are welcome at any of these.

What can Welsh Unions, political parties, branches, and individuals do to support our striking workers?

  • Encourage people to attend our mass rallies and bring Union/Party branch banners (Thursday 5th and 12th March, 11am, Alexandra Gardens/Cathays Park);
  • Come to our picket lines and support us in building and sustaining the strike (8.30am-11am, outside key University buildings, go to the Main Building picket on Park Place for guidance);
  • Come to our rallies, give speeches, play music, sing, and resist (every day apart from 5th and 12th, outside the Main Building, Park Place, 11am);
  • Send messages of support from your unions/parties nationally or locally to UCU@Cardiff.ac.uk or post them on Twitter mentioning @cardiffUCU and @UCU;
  • Donate to our local Cardiff strike fund, which will target those who are paid least and employed most precariously to help us to keep this strike solid (payment details below).
  • If you’d like us to come and give an update about our strike at a Union meeting to give mutual solidarity with your own struggles please just ask – we’d be very happy for the chance.

To donate to our local Cardiff strike hardship fund, please use the following options:

Our GoFundMe crowd-funding page.

Bank transfer:

Name: UCU Cardiff LA12 Fighting Fund
Account No.: 20341260
Bank Sort code: 608301
Bank: Unity Trust Bank

Send cheques to:

Cardiff University and College Union
49b Park Place
Cardiff
CF10 3AT

Cardiff UCU contact details