Online Interim Higher Education Sector Conference – Tuesday 15th December

A higher education sector conference takes place on Tuesday 15th December, to deal with business that would have been taken at the cancelled interim online Congress and sector conferences on 28-30 October 2020. The delegates voted to represent Cardiff UCU are Lucy Riglin (branch president), Esther Muddiman (branch vice-president), Marc Buehner (executive committee ordinary member and dep rep in the School of Psychology) and Woon Wong (staff in the School of Business and USS UCU adviser).

For details of the conference, including motions put forward, please click here.

Cardiff Trades Council Protest & People’s Assembly Zero Covid campaign for Wales:

Trade Unions and political organisations including People’s Assembly and People Before Profit have been organising protests, petitions, workshops and other events across the UK in response to the pandemic. We urge members to support these when possible.


Last Saturday, the Cardiff Trades Council organised a protest outside Cardiff Castle against real term wages cuts in the public sector, which included a speaker from our branch.


People’s Assembly Wales is running a Zero Covid campaign and has organized a petition to the Welsh Government that you can sign here.  

With cases in Wales still on the rise and already higher than before the firebreak lockdown, this petition urges the Welsh Government to implement an effective lockdown that includes:

1) Stopping all classroom or F2F teaching in schools and universities during the lockdown;
2) Protection of jobs and incomes (including furlough and support for the self-employed) until there is a downward trend in cases;

3) Demanding funding from Westminster to enable Welsh Government to provide this protection;
4) Using the time gained to build effective Find, Test, Trace, Isolate, Support across the whole of Wales.

Happy Hanukka:

Hanukkah (or Hanukah or Chanukah), which means “dedication” in Hebrew, begins on the 25th of Kislev on the Hebrew calendar and usually falls in November or December (10th December this year). Often called the Festival of Lights, the holiday is celebrated with the lighting of the menorah, traditional foods, games and gifts. Here’s a personal reflection on this event by social worker and blogger Ermintrude @ermintrude

Request for evidence on workload

In January 2021, the three campus trade unions will meet with senior managers in the context of a so-called Joint Partnership Workshop that is supposed to improve the workload situation in the University. While there is ample evidence that workload is an issue and has been so for several years – successive staff surveys bear this out, for example – there is very little evidence that senior managers in this University understand the issues or care enough to do something about them. This survey is intended to improve the evidence-base that we can take into the workload workshop.

Fully recognising the irony of asking you to give up your precious time, we have tried to keep it as simple and as brief as possible. Most questions just require choosing an option or ticking a box, although we have also provided optional opportunities to give us more feedback. It should take less than 10 minutes to complete the survey. Your contribution is entirely anonymous (we ask you some questions about work context at the end) as we will not record any personal information and only aggregated results will be communicated to senior management.

To start, simply follow this link:

Please feel free to pass this link on to non-unionised colleagues as we would like to collect as many responses as possible. The survey is open until 18 December 2020.

Initiation of dispute:

Our negotiators met with management at the Joint Consultative and Negotiating Forum (JCNF) on 18th November to seek a commitment from the University that no member of staff should be forced to work on campus during the pandemic, following the mandate given by Cardiff UCU members at the General Meeting on 6th September.

The University refused to accept that staff are being coerced into working on campus or to make a public commitment to prevent such cases. As a result, on Tuesday 1st December we wrote to the VC to invoke the disputes resolution procedure in the following terms:

“Cardiff University has failed to give a clear and public commitment not to compel any member of staff or worker to attend face-to-face work on campus while the COVID-19 pandemic continues to pose a significant public health risk.”

We hope, as ever, that this dispute can be resolved through negotiation and that the branch does not need to resort to industrial action, but in the face of the University’s intransigence on this so far, it is likely that we will soon be asking for your views on a ballot for industrial action.

Update from the November General Meeting:

Cardiff UCU held its last General Meeting of 2020 on Wednesday. As well as an update on the dispute from Chris Graves (branch Negotiating Committee Co-ordinator), members heard from our branch Health & Safety Officer, Andy Skyrme, on the ongoing risk assessments for buildings across the university.

UCU General Secretary, Jo Grady, joined us for questions and discussion on national strategies. She emphasised that the number of branches already in dispute or initiating disputes with their employers is giving the national negotiations more leverage on demands, namely on reviewing face to face teaching strategies.

Update from the Governance Group on Teaching Delivery:  

In response to concerns raised by UCU regarding the working conditions of hourly paid teaching staff and postgraduates with teaching responsibilities, the University has set up a Teaching Delivery Governance Group, with the following objectives:

  1. in consultation with relevant parties, to create policies which are fit for purpose to deliver teaching in a flexible manner across the institution;
  1. to review how both teaching and scholarship are approached in our academic career pathways;
  1. to review progression between grades 5 to 7 on the academic career pathways;
  1. to review the engagement status for PGR students in relation to any form of paid work they undertake;
  1. to outline plans for training and support in relation to Teaching activities for staff on a-typical contracts and PGR students;
  1. to implement agreed proposals in a consistent manner across all Schools and relevant Professional Services’ departments.

The group met for the first time on the 19th June, with our two UCU representatives, Rowan Campbell and Renata Medeiros. Some recommendations from the group have already been made and include a revision of all current fractional and framework contracts to ensure that they accurately reflect the hours worked. Meetings on the three specific working groups regarding 1) terms of engagement of hourly paid teaching staff, 2) academic career pathways and career progression and 3) postgraduate students, are now happening across the university. If you have any evidence of bad practice in any of these areas or any other aspects you would like to discuss that might be relevant to this work, please get in touch with us.

Equal Pay Audit:

The University is carrying out a Gender Equal Pay Audit and UCU was asked for input in their first draft. Our Equality and Diversity and Anti-casualisation officers, Abyd Quinn Aziz and Renata Medeiros, met with Diggory Steele-Perkins, the Head of Policy, Reward and Employee Relations at Cardiff University and proposed that gender representation across grades should be considered alongside average pay per grade, that average salaries should be compared using both medians and means and an indication of variability should be included, and that when a very small number of staff are represented in any particular gender/grade, any conclusions about the gender pay gap should be taken with caution. The results of the audit will be shared with staff after the report is approved by the University Executive Board.

Homeworking Risk Assessment:

The University has the duty to carry out risk assessments for home working to ensure all staff have a safe environment in which to work. If you are carrying out any work from home, please take two minutes to let us know here if you had a risk assessment for home working. 

We are aware that some schools are asking staff to complete DSE (Display Screen Equipment) forms and are being asked to sign them even if their working conditions do not meet the standards required. We advise all members not to sign off any forms under these circumstances and to get in touch with us if you have any concerns.