Cardiff UCU Branch Handbook

Last updated February 2024


The aim of is document is to provide representatives of Cardiff UCU with information which will allow the branch to function effectively, transparently and consistently in its dealings with the employer and its members. The descriptions of roles and protocols are intended to support the work of caseworkers, negotiators, officers of the branch and staff working for Cardiff UCU.

Table of Contents


Executive Committee Member

The executive committee comprises up to 7 ordinary members, up to 6 co-opted members, any member of the branch who is a member of the National Executive Committee of UCU or an Officer of UCU Wales Council and the branch officers (rules 7.3, 8.1):

  • The president
  • The vice-presidents (2)
  • The chair
  • The treasurer
  • The secretary
  • The membership and recruitment secretary
  • The equality and diversity officer
  • The anti-casualisation officer
  • The health & safety officer
  • The learning representative
  • The pensions officer
  • The environmental officer
  • The media and communications officer
  • The staff wellbeing officer
  • The anti-racism officer
  • The disability representative
  • The LGBT+ officer
  • The organising coordinator
  • The policy officer
  • The PGR representative

Elections for officers are held over the 2 months preceding the AGM in March/April, and ordinary members are elected at the AGM, in both cases for a term of office of the following academic year (September – August). The executive committee or a general meeting can co-opt up to 6 additional members at any point during the year. The executive committee may also fill any casual vacancies. (Rules 8 & 9)

The executive committee is responsible for conducting the day-to-day business of the Branch. The committee normally meets every month.

At the first meeting of each newly elected executive, the committee should decide on its strategic priorities for campaigning and negotiation for the following year. It should decide who will take the lead and who will provide support on each issue (see: ‘Strategic priorities for campaigning and negotiation’).

Departmental Representatives

Departmental reps are, for many members, their first point of contact with UCU. At Cardiff we aim to have 3 departmental reps for each school or division.

Departmental reps should introduce themselves to new members in their area and explain the role of the union.

They should investigate complaints and pass them on to the committee if necessary. They should also convey to the committee members’ priorities and any concerns.

They should encourage members to attend meetings and get involved.


The casework team, led by a lead caseworker, are trained volunteers from among the branch membership who are competent to advise and support other members on work place issues.  Casework is co-ordinated by the Branch Administrator/Organiser.

Casework is a fundamental part of the union activities that the branch undertakes on behalf of its members. Many UCU members rely heavily on the advice and support they receive in the workplace from lay representatives of UCU. Our ability to provide that advice and support is also what encourages others to join the union.

Caseworkers can discuss issues relating to cases they are working on at caseworker meetings or through the secure caseworkers’ email/Yammer group. These communications should not include the name of the member concerned and must be done in accordance with the Privacy Notice (see the Casework Request Form)


The negotiating committee and the negotiating coordinator are elected by the executive from among its membership. For each campaign/issue that is agreed by the executive to be a priority within the branch negotiating strategy, the negotiating committee will allocate one of their members to lead on that issue.

The principal fora for negotiation are currently:

  • Thrice-yearly meetings of the Joint Negotiation and Consultation Forum (JCNF) and meetings of the Join Negotiating Committee (JNC) as necessary
  • Ongoing ad-hoc negotiations pertaining to given issues/policies (sometimes constituted as sub-committees for the JCNF)

The Joint Partnership Working Group meets thrice yearly, and discusses issues that can become the subject of negotiations.

The negotiating co-ordinator will liaise with the president and vice presidents along with the committee members with responsibility for particular areas (Health & Safety, Equality & Diversity, LGBT+, environmental, anti-casualisation, pensions) and will consult with caseworkers to identify areas of collective concern in order to propose updates to the negotiating strategy. The negotiating co-ordinator will liaise with the secretary and campaign leads to propose negotiators to attend meetings, and will maintain a database of the status of our ongoing negotiations.

Branch administrator supervisor

Cardiff UCU funds the employment of two members of staff to work on branch administration.

As an employer UCU has certain responsibilities which it must comply with.

The line manager of staff who undertake these roles is the Wales official. Given the constraints that places on the employment relationship, UCU requires that a supervisor is chosen from among the branch officers to ensure support and advice can be given to either member of staff in a timely manner. The supervisor will meet regularly with the grade D post holder, who will give direction to the grade B post holder.


The grade D post holder will choose one person to supervise their work, and to one or more substitutes to cover for absence and holidays, from a poll of volunteers.

Arrangements for Absence

Recognising that the branch administrator’s supervisor might at times be absent for either personal or business matters, at least one other branch officer should be chosen to provide that support in their absence. If there is no one available during any given week then the default position is that the supervisor should notify the Wales official in a timely manner, to ensure that support can be provided from the Wales office for the duration of the absence.


The following are the required tasks the current incumbent has requested in terms of supervision. These will change with the post holder and should be a part of the probationary review to ensure ongoing support is provided by a local supervisor.

  • Advise on action to be taken on issues where necessary.
  • Re-allocate work where necessary to manage workload.

If there are any performance issues which arise, the supervisor must discuss these with the role holder in the first instance, before raising concerns with the Wales official. Any discussions of this nature must be recorded in writing and the notes agreed with the role holder. The executive meeting is not the place to discuss performance issues.


Diagram showing the branch structure

Figure 1: Diagram showing the make-up of working groups and how they feed into the decision-making structure. Dotted lines indicate membership.

Strategic priorities for campaigning and negotiating

The executive committee will agree its strategic priorities for campaigning and negotiating for the coming academic year at its first meeting. The president or vice presidents will ensure that a proposal is developed, in consultation with reps, and the meeting may amend this.

Before agreeing each issue that is identified as a priority, the executive committee will identify someone to lead on the issue, to ensure that nothing is prioritised without someone to take action on that issue. Where the lead is not a member of the Negotiating Committee (see below) it will identify someone who is to lead negotiation on this issue. It should also agree whether to involve a full time official in negotiations relating to each issue.

The lead on each issue will convene a working group comprising volunteers from the branch membership. When action is needed, the lead will bring proposals from the group to the executive committee for approval. The lead will act as a point of contact and any concerns relating to the issue should be raised with them in the first instance.

The working groups and the leads will be listed on the branch website. The leads will send relevant summaries and details of upcoming meetings to the communications working group for dissemination to members.

Changing strategic priorities

Where an issue arises that is not covered by the commitments already agreed as strategic priorities during the year, the executive committee may agree a proposal for action (or inaction) to amend the strategy.

Collective Negotiations

Our ability to effectively represent our members in relation to their terms and conditions of employment depends, to a very large extent, on the level of organisation which the branch engages with on behalf of its membership.

Preparation and organisation are crucial factors in achieving success at the negotiating table. Our success at the negotiating table and willingness to engage on behalf of members is what creates the momentum in relation to successful campaigns and recruitment activity.

It is therefore important that UCU branches have appropriate communications strategies and mechanisms to ensure that we publicise what we do and celebrate our successes. This collective negotiations protocol is an attempt to ensure we make the most of the efforts of our lay reps and are able to make their activity on behalf of UCU, as stress free as we can make it.

Negotiating Committee

According to our branch rules “The Negotiating Committee is the only body empowered to conduct negotiations with the institution” and “The executive committee shall elect (from among its own members) a Negotiating Committee to conduct negotiations.”

This should normally comprise nine members including, where possible, a member of:

  1. professional services staff
  2. precarious staff
  3. academic (teaching and research)
  4. post-graduate students

Prior to the first meeting of each new executive committee, at the start of the academic year, any member of the executive interested in joining the negotiating committee should send an expression of interest to the branch administrator.

If there are more than 9 expressions of interest at the first executive committee meeting the executive committee may choose either to approve a slightly larger negotiating committee, or to conduct a secret ballot. Any ballot will, in accordance with the branch rules, use the single transferable vote, but will prioritise the last remaining candidate in any of the above categories at the elimination stages to ensure each is represented where possible.

Any vacancies that arise during the year will be filled using a similar process.

Anyone expressing interest in joining the negotiating committee may also express interest in becoming the negotiating coordinator (see the role description under “Role > Negotiator”). The executive committee will elect the negotiating coordinator (again, where necessary, using a secret ballot with transferable voting). Anyone carrying out the role of negotiator who has not undertaken UCU’s Negotiating and Bargaining training must agree to undertake this training within the first year of selection. If at all possible, the negotiating co-ordinator should have undertaken that training prior to taking office.

Negotiating strategy

The executive committee will set out the strategic priorities for negotiations at the beginning of each year (see above) and will agree a lead negotiator for each issue. The lead negotiator for each issue will work with a team drawn from Negotiating Committee members on that issue. The negotiating team for each issue will work towards the strategic aims set by the executive committee and may propose amendments to the executive committee where appropriate. The negotiating lead for each issue will liaise between their working group and the negotiating committee on tactics. Only members of the Negotiating Committee may participate in negotiations (rule 7.5).

Arrangements for negotiating meetings

Communication about negotiating meetings from HR should be sent to the office and the secretary (if anyone else receives such communications, they should forward them to the office and the secretary). The secretary will contact the negotiation coordinator and the relevant campaign lead(s) to discuss arrangements. The negotiating coordinator will send proposals for agenda items and attendees to the secretary who will inform HR.

After any negotiating meeting, the lead negotiator for the campaign/issue should produce a short summary of the meeting and circulate it to the negotiating co-ordinator, president, chair & secretary; and provide a copy to the branch administrator so that the action sheet can be kept up to date.

Negotiation procedures

UCU encourages reps who engage in negotiations on behalf of the branch to access UCU training to help develop their skills. What is provided here is a summary of the key attributes and decisions needed, to ensure UCU get the best negotiated settlement possible.

  • Set up a distribution list for the negotiating team for the issue and remember to cc the branch administrator, so that communications can be kept up to date for members;
  • Always do your preparatory reading;
  • Seek advice from full-time officials where appropriate (anyone can seek that advice, and share it with the rest of the team);
  • Discuss and agree at executive meeting the desired outcomes from the negotiations and decide on what you would be prepared to accept;
  • Make sure you know what happens in comparable institutions;
  • If it involves Unite and Unison, the other campus unions, always have a pre-meeting with them to prevent the employer playing one union against the other;
  • Be prepared to alter your tactics to keep unanimity with Unite and Unison where possible;
  • Avoid agreeing to negotiate at last minute meetings or meetings without a clear agenda.
Action sheet

This document is the responsibility of the branch administrator, but it can only be an effective tool if those involved in negotiations keep the Branch Administrator properly briefed on progress. It should list all active collective files. It must be completed as negotiations files are opened/closed. This will ensure that all negotiators are aware of open/closed files and who is responsible for them, in the event of absence/lack of availability. For each item listed there should be a corresponding paper and electronic file, accessible to all who may need to use it; see appendix A for the file structure.


Good communication is vital for the branch to function well. This includes internal communications (with branch members about branch and national-level campaigns, policies, and priorities) and external communications (with relevant publics and media organisations about branch and national-level campaigns, policies, and priorities). The media and communications officer is responsible for co-ordinating and carrying these out, and they are supported by a working group on communication.

Communication working group

The function of the communication working group is to develop a strategy for effective communication to be approved by the executive committee, and to implement it once approved. This includes:

  • communication within the Executive Committee
  • communication between the office and all UCU reps (Executive Committee members, Departmental Representatives, Health & Safety Representatives and Caseworkers)
  • the branch website
  • member updates
  • Twitter
  • Facebook
  • campaigns
  • media contact

The group is open to all members and must include the Media & Communications Officer, the Organising Coordinator and the Branch Administrator/Organiser.


Confidentiality when dealing with casework is vital, and it is equally important that the way that we use the personal information about members complies with the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). We need to be clear with members how their personal data will be used and get specific consent to share information about them. This must be considered particularly in relation to using individual cases for collective organisation. This is the purpose of the Privacy Notice that members receive when they submit a Casework Request Form (see below under “Casework referrals”).

Our ability to deliver consistent support that meets our confidentiality and data protection obligations is contingent on all caseworkers following the same rules and procedures. If we stray from that principle, it opens the union up to claims of discrimination, missed time limits and negligence. The purpose of this protocol is to set out the process and rules that we ask all caseworkers to follow.

Casework referrals

Requests for caseworker support from individual members are normally channelled through the Cardiff UCU Branch Office. Sometimes an issue can be resolved by the Branch Administrator/Organiser, often following consultation with a caseworker or the casework team.

When an individual caseworker is required, the Branch Administrator/Organiser will ask the member to complete a Casework Request Form [link]. This includes a Privacy Notice that explains when and how the member’s personal information will be used and stored; who it can be shared with, and in what circumstances.

Membership check

At this early stage, the Branch Administrator/Organiser will check the member’s membership details to see whether they qualify for access to the UCU legal scheme (e.g. he or she has been a member for at least 90 days before the issue arose, etc.). In the event they do not qualify, the Branch Administrator/Organiser will discuss with the Casework Co-ordinator whether to take on the case: this may be appropriate where it is part of a wider issue that affects a number of members.

The Branch Administrator/Organiser will also check that the member is paying subscriptions at the appropriate rate for their earnings. This is important because the UCU rules only allow members access to the legal scheme if they are making the correct payments and these are up to date.

If the subscriptions are wrong then we can alert the member to this fact and allow them to try and rectify the matter, so that should they need to access the legal scheme they will be able to do so. Not addressing their subscriptions early on in the process could lead to the member not getting the legal advice they seek.

If a caseworker is approached directly by a member for support, the caseworker must notify the Branch Administrator/Organiser so that she can send them the Casework Request Form to complete, and make the appropriate checks. It may also be that a similar issue has arisen elsewhere in the University and that it would be helpful for caseworkers to team up, or for the matter to be dealt with collectively.

Caseworker assignment

The Branch Administrator/Organiser will allocate the case to an available caseworker after establishing availability. The member will be allocated a caseworker from a different School/Directorate from themselves.

Specialisms within the casework team are encouraged and where possible cases will be allocated according to the caseworker’s experience or special interest in a subject.

Steps of the Casework Process
Step 1: Casework Request Form

Once the Branch Administrator/Organiser has received the completed form from the member, she will:

  • check the form for completion of required information
  • insert the membership number, join date and subscription status
  • allocate a case reference
  • open an electronic case file; this confidential file will record all correspondence between you and the Administrator
Step 2: Meeting with the member

We encourage the caseworker to meet with the member (in person or over the phone) to listen to their concerns. It is important that our members feel that their concerns have been aired and understood. Caseworkers should also use this meeting to manage the member’s expectations.

We encourage the caseworker to do a small amount of preparation before this meeting. This should include

  • Looking at the resources on the UCU website and reading the Handling Casework guide (see Appendix B). Use the search function in the online resources to look for specific subjects.
  • Checking the ‘Your Employment’ pages on the Cardiff University Intranet to access any policy which may apply and making sure they know what the main stages of that policy are and any relevant time limits, as they do apply in internal policies and procedures.
  • Starting a confidential file to record correspondence and file notes of conversations

During the meeting it is important that the caseworker take notes and go over their understanding of the problem/issue before closing the meeting. They should then record the agreed way forward on the Casework Request Form. It is important that they get the member to sign to say they agree the way forward and any later revisions of it, as that then limits any misunderstanding which could develop later in the process.

The caseworker should keep a systematic record of advice given to the member and meetings with the member. This will be needed when asking for support from the Wales office or the legal scheme. Please also remember that all reps are required to comply with the GDPR.

The Wales office officials are available to comment and advise on the caseworker’s proposed action(s). Please note how important it is to ensure that such advice is requested in a timely manner.

If the caseworker is unavailable at any time for a significant period (e.g. sick leave or a planned holiday) they must make available to the Cardiff UCU an electronic or paper copy of the file in case it is needed during their absence.

Step 3: Progressing the case

It is important to manage the member’s expectations of what can be achieved, and the limits of the legal remedies that are available. Setting timescales and reviewing what has been achieved and what further action can be taken are a good way to achieve this.

The Branch Administrator/Organiser will hold regular caseworker meetings and caseworkers are encouraged to attend these where possible. The Administrator/Organiser will also from time to time ask for an update on cases.

Step 4: Finishing the case

Once the caseworker has progressed the issue as far as they can, they must advise the member they are closing down the case. This does not mean that the member cannot approach the office again for support and it is helpful to make the member aware of this. However, that approach should come through the Cardiff UCU office and not directly to the caseworker who may already have taken on further cases.

Once the caseworker has dealt with the case or agreed to pass it on to the Wales office, they should forward the case file, including the Casework Request Form to the Cardiff UCU office so that our records are complete.

Note: Notwithstanding the need to maintain proper records, it is this anonymised information that we need to share with non-members to encourage them to join UCU.

Time limits

The majority of the cases that caseworkers deal with will not be suitable for litigation. However, it is essential to be aware of the time limits that apply in cases that are actionable. The vast majority of employment tribunal claims have a time limit of three months from the date of the act complained of. This means, for example, three months from the date of a decision that the member thinks is discriminatory. These limits are strictly enforced and if a trade union rep misses a time limit, and hence the member loses the opportunity to bring a claim, the UCU will be liable. If in doubt, speak to the Regional Caseworker.

Record keeping

It is vital that all records, including email correspondence, are kept securely and only for as long as is necessary. These should be forwarded to the Cardiff UCU office on completion of the case.

Legal Scheme

Our legal scheme [see Appendix B] only covers matters connected to employment or trade union duties or activities (see clause 1.3). If a member’s issue is not related to the employer, caseworkers should be very careful about raising expectations, as it is likely that the legal scheme will not be able to help them.

It is important that members have realistic expectations of what can be achieved via the legal route. A problem is much more likely to be dealt with to the satisfaction of the member if it is resolved at a local level. However, there are cases where this is just not possible and therefore all UCU members who meet the scheme criteria in sections 3 & 4 are allowed to request access to the legal scheme.

Access to the scheme is via the Wales office. All members seeking legal advice will have their subscriptions checked against their salary and the waiting period will be checked before their papers are sent to our agent solicitors. Paid officials are required to apply the scheme rules and there may be circumstances where the staff in the Wales office refuse access to the legal scheme, but in such circumstances the member will be offered a right of appeal (section 7). This fact is frustrating to all concerned, but it is important that caseworkers understand that the only group who are able to set aside the legal scheme rules are the National Executive Committee of our union.

The application process requires the member to provide a bundle of documents and a chronology to aid understanding, so it would be helpful if caseworkers started this process with members seeking help and encourage them to start looking for key documents. A copy of their contract being the crucial document; if they don’t have a copy encourage them to obtain one from HR and to keep it safe.

Paid officials are only allowed to authorise a certain level of expenditure before the file needs to be sent to the legal department in head office, effectively after the initial assessment is received. The legal scheme is structured so that members seek services in stages and, if they receive an initial assessment which indicates that there is the potential for a claim against the university, then they must apply again for further services. It is important that members understand the process and therefore it is important that this information is shared at an appropriate stage, again so that members do not have unreasonable expectations about what they can expect from the legal scheme.

Branch Meetings

Effective branch meetings play a significant role in the healthy functioning of the branch.

General Meetings

These meetings are opportunities for the whole membership to debate motions, hear updates on campaigns and direct the work of the union.  General meetings also often hear from an invited speaker.

The are usually 4 general meetings per year (the rules require at least 3), the third of which in March/April is designated as the AGM. The AGM elects the committee for the following academic year. Extraordinary general meetings may be called at the request of the committee or the membership (see the branch rules, section 14).

The secretary will give all members at least 14 days notice of the meeting (42 day in the case of the AGM). The secretary will circulate the agenda at least 10 days in advance (see the branch rules section 13).

Executive Committee Meetings

Executive committee meetings make decisions about the day to day work of the branch.

The executive committee usually meets monthly, except in August (the rules require meetings at least every 4 months).

Any items for the agenda should be sent to the branch secretary at least one week before the meeting.

The agenda will be agreed and prepared by the branch officers, who will allocate timings to each item on the agenda. The agenda will be circulated at least 2 days in advance of the meeting.

The chair will ensure that each item on the agenda does not exceed its allocated time, whilst ensuring that matters which the executive committee wish to action are properly debated and decisions are clear and unambiguous.

[Section on kindness and self-care at meetings]

Emails and UCU email Account

It is important that you cc the current branch administrator, Isaac, into any correspondence you send on behalf of the branch so that they can be kept up to date with developments and not have to resort to chasing for information. If you wish to ask Isaac to undertake a task then please use the office account to ensure that it can be actioned.

Appendix A: File Structure for Casework & Collective Negotiation

A file should contain all correspondence with parties involved and papers should be ordered in the following basic structure. This reflects the file structures used in the Wales. The papers should be filed in date order with the most recent exchange on the top of the sub section within the file. Electronic files should also use this folder structure.


  • Correspondence employer
  • Correspondence member
  • Policies/procedures


  • Correspondence employer
  • Correspondence members
  • Correspondence branch
  • Drafts (if policy/procedures)
  • Policy/procedures

Appendix B: Training and Support for Casework

Online resources are available on the national website here:

A guide written for caseworkers, Handling Casework: a guide for UCU reps, is available as a PDF here:

These resources do not replace the need for training, which will be available periodically through the Regional Office, but outline the legal framework and provide answers to many common workplace problems.

Appendix C: Legal Scheme