Welcome to the December 2022 newsletter. We are ending another year in dispute with our employers over long-standing issues affecting our workplace. Our unity and strength were highly visible during our three days of strike action last month. We hope this is enough to convince VCs to stand with their staff on these issues and to move UCEA and USS, but we need to remain energised and organised for the likely possibility of an escalation of action in 2023.
We will be calling for an Extraordinary General Meeting (EGM) in the first week of term and in the meantime, we warmly invite all members to an informal Zoom forum hosted by the strike committee,next Thursday 15th December at 4pm. The aim of this forum will be to take stock of our recent strike action and give members an opportunity to discuss what worked well and what we might want to do differently or learn from for future rounds of industrial action. The meeting will be hosted on Zoom, and we will send a reminder on the day. We would like to remind you that the strike committee is a group of members empowered by the executive committee to make decisions related to organising strike action and all members are very welcome to join and contribute. Please contact the UCU office (firstname.lastname@example.org) if you would like to participate.
In order to improve communication with members, particularly during periods of intense activity like this one, we created a Cardiff UCU WhatsApp channel, where members can receive notifications of events or relevant developments at national and local level. If you would like to join this channel, please use this link: https://chat.whatsapp.com/Hd8vclEmjUvCsanTJEDyL1 from a device with WhatsApp installed. We also have a Teams Members Forum, where members can debate issues and ask questions directly to the office or the executive committee. If you would like to be added to this channel, please email the UCU office.
Finally, we wish all our members a happy Christmas and a very happy new year, in hope and solidarity for better pensions, better pay, better workloads, more security and more equality!
Our branch president Lucy Riglin, who is on maternity leave looking after her baby son, sends her greetings and solidarity to all members. We wish her all the best as she ventures into motherhood and look forward to having her back sometime next year.
In this newsletter, you can read about:
Branch News & Updates
- Report on our EGM ahead of strike action in November
- Report on strike action
- Reporting your strike action
- Accessing the strike fighting fund
- Action Short of Strike (ASOS)
- Cardiff University Students’ Union votes to support UCU strikes
- Our branch’s commitment with equality and inclusion during the strikes and beyond
Events, solidarity & wider campaigns
- Worker can win book launch
- Network to challenge racism – call to participate
- Diolch initiative – put your reps forward!
- Protest to save St. David’s Hall
Branch news & updates
Report on our November EGM
Our branch chair called for an Extraordinary General Meeting (EGM) on the 17th November to discuss and plan for the upcoming strike action. At the meeting, our members passed a motion in support of students claiming compensation from the University for the disruption caused by strike action and a motion on supporting our most casualised members during the strike.
One of our members proposed a motion to financially support the Neil Davies and Ewan McGaughey legal case “Save university pensions, and save the planet” against the USS trustees and managers but unfortunately, our executive committee received communication from UCU national advising against branches carrying out such donations. The motion was withdrawn and we have since received more detailed information on the reasons why branches were instructed not to donate to the case; this detailed information is available on the branch website.
We do encourage members who are concerned about the way that the USS has been managed to read about this legal case and to consider making individual donations to hold the scheme to account. Neil and Ewan are currently crowdfunding to appeal a recent decision and the fact they have permission to appeal means there is a “real prospect of success”. Please consider contributing to their crowdfunding efforts.
Report on strike action
We’ve had three very well attended days of picketing, rallies outside the Main Building, a rally outside Senedd with other UCU branches from Wales and a benefit gig that raised more than £1000 for our local strike fighting fund. You can see our social media platforms (Facebook, Twitter) for more photos and details. Our action attracted a lot of media attention that you can follow on the branch website.
The pickets were busy with witty banners, hot drinks, music, constant honks, solidarity from students, other trade unions and other organisations, and dogs aplenty to keep our spirits high in the cold and amidst the grim prospects of the future of Higher Education as it stands. Even if you weren’t able to picket, by withdrawing your labour you were still making a very significant contribution to the action.
Our joint rally with the Open University, University or South Wales and Cardiff Metropolitan University (with one representative from Swansea University) counted with over 400 people gathering at the Welsh Senedd. MSs across political parties came out of the Senedd during their lunch breaks to talk to staff and students at the rally about the situation with the disputes and the state of HE in the UK and in Wales more specifically. Many of them agreed to write to Vice-Chancellors about our dispute. We encourage members to contact their local MP asking them to exert pressure for meaningful negotiations that can resolve our disputes. Speakers at our rally included George Phillips from the Cardiff University Socialist Society, Nathan Mintz from Cardiff University Labour Society (video on Facebook), Nicki Hughes from the Royal College of Nurses (RCN) (video on YouTube), Dave Bartlett from the Cardiff Trades Council, AJ Singh from the Welsh Trade Unions Council (and previous officer of the Communication Workers Union, CWU) and Layla Sadeghi Namaghi speaking in the name of the Iranian solidarity campaign (you can read a transcript of her speech on the branch website).
We also had a delegation of members attending the massive UCU rally in London.
Trade unions have re-entered negotiations with UCEA, our employer’s representative in national pay negotiations. These negotiations will wrap-up by the end of January, so let’s all hope for an acceptable offer (but plan for one that isn’t). We also expect reasonable negotiations on tackling casualisation, workload and equality. On our USS dispute, since USS announced a surplus of £5.6bn, it is difficult to understand which grounds they have to insist on cutting our pensions. We expect our VC to keep his word during our negations to prevent the marking boycott in May and to use his position in UCEA and UUK to resolve these disputes in the interest of his staff.
We await details from National UCU on the escalation of action for the new year and our strike committee wrote to the UCU head of bargaining, organising, campaigns and education, Jon Heggerty, to seek more information about it.
Reporting your strike action
Cardiff University HR emailed all staff requesting us to report our strike action using their portal. Although we are obliged by law to respond truthfully when asked whether and when we took part in strike action, the law does not specify a particular way in which we must respond. Hence, any means that you choose for reporting strike action should be accepted. However, our contracts oblige us to respond to employer’s reasonable requests and HR believes that the request to using their portal is a reasonable one. If you comply, we recommend choosing the option ‘STRIKE-Pension maintained’ as this ensures that the university makes their employer contribution to our pension even on strike days. The university will deduct pay at the rate of 1/365th of annual salary for strike day for those on salaries. Those who have to use time sheets cannot claim for hours they would have worked but did not work due to the strike. Members who are hourly paid will be able to submit their time sheets to our fighting fund to request support (see ‘Fighting fund’ below).
Important: at this time, we do NOT advise any members to report ASOS via the HR system (see ‘ASOS’, below).
Some members have been asked to report on disruption of teaching caused by the strike action. We have prepared template answers that you might find useful in dealing with these requests.
Accessing the strike fighting fund
For those who suffer hardship because of strike deductions, the UK-wide fighting fund pays out from the second day of strike (please see the national UCU guidance on how to do this). Our local fighting fund additionally pays out for the first day (for details and how to claim, please see the branch fighting fund policy). The procedures for claiming from fighting funds are designed specifically to ensure hourly-paid, low-paid, and casual staff are prioritised.
Please note that we cannot pay hourly-paid members from the fighting fund until we receive the timesheets and the correlating payslips, which people will not get until the end of the December, so we are expecting these applications to come in around the last days of December/beginning of January.
To donate to the fund and support our more casualised members, please use the following details:
Account Name: Cardiff UCU Fighting Fund
Sort code: 60-83-01
Action Short of Strike (ASOS)
Although UCU General Secretary Jo Grady reports that employers have returned to negotiations because of our determined strike action, we must keep up the pressure to achieve a result. This is why the union is calling all members to undertake the following types of ASOS (since 23 November): working to contract (meaning that we only fulfil the duties explicitly expressed in our contracts, in particular regarding our contracted working hours) not undertaking any voluntary activities not covering for absent colleagues refusing to reschedule classes missed due to industrial action (when applicable) not sharing materials for classes that would have taken place on strike days During ASOS, please consider setting up an automatic reply message using the bilingual ASOS templates.
The UCU head office’s FAQs has a lot of detail on ASOS, and we’d refer members who have queries to this FAQ in the first instance and to speak with their colleagues and dep reps to share ideas and to feel supported. You can email the branch office (email@example.com) if your question is not covered by the FAQ.
Navigating ASOS can be challenging and it does not help that communication received from HR has been less than helpful. You can read our prompt response (and subsequent correspondence) to the email sent by Sue Midha (director of HR) to all staff on 22 November, threatening 100% pay deductions for ASOS that constitutes partial performance. UCU General Secretary Jo Grady has labelled such behaviour ‘bullying’ and ‘intimidation’ issuing from panic on the part of employers.
The preliminary outcome of our communication is a clarification by the Director of HR that ‘where colleagues work with schools to mitigate the impact of any detriment to student learning outcomes, we cannot envisage a situation where it will be necessary for pay to be withheld.’ UCU have also published legal advice.
It is not clear which aspects of ASOS constitute a breach of contract and could therefore be subject to pay deductions. At this time, we therefore advise any member to seek advice before reporting that they are undertaking ASOS that constitutes partial performance, e.g. via the HR system.
We have prepared a series of templates that members can use if they need to communicate that they are taking part in ASOS. We hope you find them useful.
Cardiff Students’ Union votes to support UCU strikes
Cardiff University Students’ Union has passed a motion to support UCU industrial action. The AGM to vote on the motion of support had to be rescheduled, but in the meantime, the Union had given provisional support to the action. We are enormously grateful for the support of the Union, as we have been grateful for the support of students bringing hot drinks, placards and good will to our pickets. With a motion passed, the Union will be able to put more pressure on the University to go to its national representatives and demand a resolution to the disputes.
Our branch’s commitment to equality and inclusion during the strike and beyond
During our strike rally on the 30th November, by the Welsh Senedd, our branch’s senior officers Andreas Buerki (branch co-vice-president), Joey Whitfield (branch co-vice-president) and Renata Mirra (branch chair) reiterated Cardiff UCU’s commitment to equality and inclusion with the following speech:
“One of the issues at the heart of our dispute is pay equality, and most commonly we speak about the gender pay gap. Most of us will have already heard that in our sector women are paid on average 20% less than men. Discrimination related to pregnancy or care duties, which more often fall on women, can add layers into this.
Another issue that women are often faced with is sexual harassment, which can affect them at work, as students, and in many organisations such as political parties and indeed trade unions.
This is a sad and unacceptable state of affairs and we all need to play a role in ending this. We all need to play a role in ending discrimination, in fighting for justice for victims of sexual harassment and in fighting to prevent it. We are calling on our employers to do more and we are calling on ourselves, as a trade union, to do more.
Unfortunately, women are not the only group of people facing discrimination. In fact, they often suffer from the intersection of other types of discrimination that we have in our workplaces. The gender pay gap is only the tip of the iceberg. People of colour, people with disabilities, or those who are LGBTQ+, are also facing great levels of discrimination, but we don’t hear about the figures, because in most part they don’t even exist. And here too, the intersections are important – trans people of colour are among the most marginalised, persecuted and discriminated in the world – you can look into the statistics and I promise you, you will be shocked. It is also shocking to learn that 1 in 4 employers in the UK won’t hire someone with a disability. And it doesn’t end here, class, age, or religious beliefs are among other factors that can contribute to discrimination at work.
What kind of world is this?
This is why equality is a very important part of our dispute and our demands. This is also why we, senior branch officers of Cardiff UCU, will be reading statements written by members affected by discrimination related to disability, race, and gender identity, to reiterate our own commitment to equality and inclusion and to remind our employers of theirs.”
You can read those statements here: Statement of solidarity and support with disabled membersStatement of solidarity and support with Black, Asian and minority ethnic membersStatement of solidarity and support with trans members Professors from Cardiff University who are UCU members on strike also spoke at the rally in solidarity with more junior colleagues and calling for a culture of greater community that depends on dignified working conditions for all.
Please engage with our branch EDI survey to help us defend the interests of all members and inform our priorities for action.
Events, solidarity and wider campaigns
Workers can win podcast
On the 27th November Ian Allison, a longstanding UK trade unionist, came to Cardiff to launch his book: Workers can win: a guide for organising at work. The event was organised by Cardiff People’s Assembly and the independent media platform voice.wales and was chaired by our branch Chair, Renata Mirra, and by our retired member, Steve Davies. You can listen to the voice.wales podcast of the event at anchor.fm, which includes an interview with Renata about the UCU strikes.
The DivestUSS group has produced a report on USS’s carbon intensive investments and their (inadequate) plans for ‘net zero’. The report and summary along with USS’s response are all at https://divestuss.org/report/
We plan to hold a Teach Out around USS’s approach to investment in the new year.
If you have any questions about the report, Divest USS or the Ethics for USS campaign, please contact Paul Kinnersley.
Network to challenge racism
Do you identify as Black, Asian or minority ethnic? Abyd Quinn-Aziz, a Reader at SOSCI, is working with UCU Wales office and TUC Wales in developing a network to challenge racism and in publicising the anti-racist toolkit. As a branch we do not hold this kind of data on members, and so Abyd is asking members who identify as Black, Asian or minority ethic to contact him or to contact AJ Singh (the Wales TUC contact for this piece of work) directly if they are happy to do so. The information will be used to help the formation of a Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic network in Wales.
Diolch initiative – put your reps forward
Your local UCU representatives are absolutely vital to the functioning of the branch. They are often the first port of call for members having issues at work. They help to make sure everyone is able to vote in ballots. They help to bring the views of members to wider attention.
The University is currently running its ‘diolch’ scheme, which allows staff to thank a colleague, and have their thanks recorded on the University intranet. Please consider saying ‘diolch’ to one of your dep reps by filling in the University’s form.
Protest & lobby to save St. David’s Hall
Cardiff council announced plans to privatise St. David’s Hall in the centre of town. If you would like to support the campaign to oppose these plans, you can join the protest and lobby on Friday 9 December, 3 pm – 4.30 pm, outside City Hall, Cathays Park, Cardiff, CF10 3ND and/or sign the petitions below.
Facebook event page: https://www.facebook.com/events/885321925963766
Sign the ‘Save the National Concert Hall of Wales’ petition opposing any council plan to sell off St David’s Hall to a commercial company. This petition gives lots of useful background information on concerns about proposals: https://t.co/57ymXiamMs
Sign the petition to Senedd asking the Welsh Government to directly intervene to secure the future of the venue as a publicly run and publicly funded Welsh cultural institution. If enough people sign it could trigger a debate in the Welsh Parliament: