Pay Increments:

Are you one of the roughly 30% of staff in Higher Education who has just received an annual increment by moving up a spinal point on the pay scale? If so, congratulations – you earned it. It is not, as senior managers at Cardiff University like to tell members of staff, a pay rise but a recognition of gained experience and expertise.

What you might not be aware of is that Cardiff University managers were keen to deny you the uplift in pay. They approached the campus unions in May 2020 to seek their agreement to scrap increments as part of a cost-saving drive to ‘save the University that we all love’. Management justified this cost-saving drive with an extremely pessimistic prediction of reduced income as a result of a catastrophic fall in students numbers because of the Covid pandemic.

The campus unions rejected this manufactured crisis scenario because not enough was known about student numbers for 2020/21 and also because the University was not able to demonstrate that they have made cost savings elsewhere, especially with regard to its £600m capital investment in new buildings (which actually costs £900m taking into account interest).

While recent projections of student numbers appear to have vindicated the campus unions’ stance in rejecting the removal of annual increments, the threat to your income has not gone away. There is already talk of a ‘headcount review’ and the UEB is still desperate to significantly cut staff costs to continue to finance their outsized building plans.

Cardiff UCU does not believe that this is compatible with the University’s status as a charity whose aim is to further education and research. We continue to believe that the success of the University relies on its staff and not its buildings.

Building anti-racist workplaces:

Our branch Equality and Diversity Officer recently attended a webinar run by UCU looking at building anti-racist workplaces and this is his report.

“The attendance was quite small and much of the time was spent with the facilitators hearing about the steps we at Cardiff University and Cardiff Met were taking in relation to challenging racism.  We (I and the rep from Cardiff Met) have planned to work together this coming year to carry out some joint ventures together with the UCU Equality section in relation to recommended action points such as:

  • Engaging with our employer in taking steps to create an anti-racist workplace and I will take this to the next university EDI committee to look at we and the other campus unions can work together in challenging racism.

  • Take time to reflect and recognise that unions are not immune to racism and we could do with a conversation about this at Cardiff Uni UCU.  Part of this could be looking at how we encourage allyship and create an environment where racism is not tolerated.

  • Start a conversation: I have highlighted the importance of union membership within the BAME+ Staff Network and it would be useful for us as a branch to reach out and show how we can be allies.  This group is also working to create a safe space for staff as is the Student Race Equality Steering Group for students.

  • Educate yourself: perhaps the branch could support staff and student initiatives for black history month (while recognising that black history should be part of our history and not consigned to one month a year).

  • Build connections: it has been heartening to see the UCU banner in partnership with other local anti-racist movements although this is often done by individual members.  There are potential allies and connections to be made with the student union and other anti-racist organisations.

For further details see this document and for information about the Staff Race Equality Steering Group contact Jeff Allen for the Student Race Equality Steering Group and for the BAME+ Network

Some of us in the branch are engaged in this work and your support would be welcome!

Abyd Quinn Aziz”

All members four fights discussion:

In July, UCU members voted to reject the current offer from UCEA, as the latest step in our Four Fights dispute. We have an upcoming HE Special Sector conference, which was called to consider the union’s response to the attack on jobs, pay, and conditions resulting from the actions of employers during the Covid-19 pandemic. These issues, each exacerbated by the pandemic, relate directly to those at the heart of the Four Fights dispute, and the discussions at the conference will impact what we do next as a sector.

How should we continue our fight for secure work, reasonable workloads, and fair and equal pay? What different types of industrial action are available to us, and what kinds of leverage would we have with these different actions? What might an escalation strategy look like, and how can we resource sustained action?

The University of Sheffield UCU and Sheffield Hallam UCU branches are hosting an online discussion of all of these issues, centred around three questions:

1. Should UCU ballot for industrial action now (or very soon)? If so, what type of industrial action?

2. How do we advance our Four Fights campaign at a UK-wide level (either in parallel with a ballot or separate to that)?

3. How can we coordinate UK-wide campaigning with local branch work (particularly given attacks on casualised jobs during Covid)?

This discussion will take place on 3 September, from 5-7pm. We welcome activists from all branches, and we want to encourage participation from as many members as possible.

Register to attend here. Zoom login info will be set to participants on the morning of the event.

Update on Health & Safety:

In our last meetings with management, we insisted organisation at School level needs to be improved to ensure consultation is taking place for all buildings.

We currently do not have enough evidence that buildings are safe and we are still awaiting answers to some of our questions regarding safe re-opening of buildings.

We do not know under which conditions the sports facilities and other specific places have been re-opened. If you have any information, get in touch with us.

Management have assured us that vulnerable staff with concerns will be supported, and if this does not happen, these staff should report to Cardiff UCU.

Any health and safety issues our members identify as problematic, we want to hear from you.

We also encourage our members to ensure a UCU rep is on the Health and Safety Committee for your workplace. Discuss with your UCU dep rep and colleagues the potential health and safety risks in your building. Discuss your health and safety concerns with colleagues in UCU, Unison and Unite, as well as non-union members.

University management have devolved decision-making on health and safety to school-level, so it is important our UCU members and reps take the initiative for the safe re-opening of their particular building.

If you need support or guidance, please be in touch with us.

Strike School:

UCU have teamed up with US trade union organiser Jane McAlevey to offer UCU members free attendance at her six session online “Strike School” this September and October.

Cardiff UCU activists are very excited to take part in this training. McAlevey is a fantastic organiser who recently completed her PhD on trade unions at CUNY and worked as a postdoc at Harvard Law School. We have been gaining inspiration from her books No Shortcuts, A Collective Bargain, and Raising Expectations (and Raising Hell).

We encourage members of Cardiff UCU who might like to attend the Strike School to join this webinar. In this session, Jane McAlevey will talk to UCU members and general secretary Jo Grady about growing UCU branches, winning disputes and keeping workplaces safe.

If you attend this webinar, or cannot attend but would like to attend the Strike School with fellow Cardiff UCU activists, please reply to this email to let us know. But please do not register for the six session Strike School yet, as the registration process will be clarified by UCU closer to the time.

What? Back To School: Organising to Win in 2020-2021

When? 7pm-8pm, Wednesday 2nd September 2020

Where? Twitter, FaceBook or YouTube:

The dates for the six sessions of Strike School are as follows:

Taking place Tuesdays and Thursdays: September 24 & 29 / October 1, 6, 8 & 13
Running twice daily: 12pm New York / 17h Lagos / 18h Berlin / 19h Baghdad / 21h30 New Delhi
And again: 5pm Los Angeles / 7pm Mexico City / 8pm Washington DC / 21h Buenos Aires / 8h Manila (following day)

Management planned to scrap staff pay increment:

Are you salaried staff and did you receive an annual increment this month by moving up a spinal point on the pay scale? Congratulations! This is a recognition given to roughly 30% of higher education staff of gained experience and expertise. It is not a “pay rise”, as senior managers at Cardiff University are telling members of staff.

University management were keen to deny staff this uplift in pay. In May 2020, they sought permission from campus unions to scrap increments, as part of a cost-saving drive to “save the University that we all love”. The campus unions refused to give their permission for these unnecessary cuts.

University managers’ cost-cutting plans were based on apocalyptic predictions of reduced income, due to students apparently not wanting to study at the university. Campus unions rejected this manufactured crisis scenario. Not enough was known about student numbers, and managers failed to demonstrate that they made cost savings elsewhere.

Recent projections of expected student numbers appear to be vindicating the campus unions’ stance on rejecting the scrapping of annual increments.

NHS Staff Protest this Saturday!:

“We are feeling undervalued, demoralised, overworked and exhausted. We have lost 540 of our colleagues to COVID-19 and the fight is not over” 

We support NHS staff in their demand for a 15% pay rise and encourage all UCU members to show their support.

30 protests led by frontline NHS staff will be taking place across the UK this Saturday.

Cardiff UCU will attend the Cardiff protest with our banner. Please join us and say hello, especially if this is your first protest!

If you have clapped for NHS staff, show your support again to help them win their demand for fair pay.

“We are calling on NHS staff and supporters to mobilise with us on Saturday 8th August to send a clear message to the government.

We do not accept your plans to exclude us from the public sector pay increase, and we will make ourselves heard until you listen.

This event is a peaceful protest against the government’s decision to leave NHS staff out of the recent pay increases.

Please observe social distancing, and wear a mask or face covering”

When? Saturday 8th August 2020

Where? Millenium Centre at 10.45am; march to the Senedd for 11am

Tweet your support: @NurseSayNo

FaceBook: @NHSworkersSayNo

Negotiations with management:

The Joint Consultative and Negotiating Forum (JCNF) was due to meet on Monday. This is the formal negotiating meeting at which the three campus unions discuss all matters relating to collective bargaining with senior management.

The main item for discussion was an update and discussion on the University’s financial position. Unfortunately, the university failed to provide written information in advance of the meeting. We expected this to include a redrafted version of its financial position, which takes a less pessimistic position on student numbers and acknowledges the government assistance that was recently announced.

Without the time to consider such crucial and detailed information in advance of the meeting, the three unions considered that we were unable to engage constructively in discussions. We notified management that the JCNF would need to be postponed until the information has been provided and we now expect the JCNF to take place in September.

Update on Health and Safety:

Conversations with management continue. The Unions have stressed the importance of management engaging in meaningful consultation with the Unions, and communication for this purpose has been intense.

We do not feel we were adequately consulted on the initial move back to campus for some staff and we are still hearing reports of a lack of meaningful consultation in some Schools. Please let us know if this is the case in your School.

All concerns raised by union members and representatives have been communicated to management. Some of these have been clarified and others need further discussion. We are asking for clarification on issues including individual risk assessments, which remain a concern for many of our members.

Building Risk Assessments:

Management have been sending Building Risk Assessments to trade unions and building users, but we have received reports that consultations with unions are not being done in all cases. There is also confusion about deadlines.

UCU have requested that clear deadlines are communicated to unions for these consultations and have reiterated that it is a legal requirement to consult trade unions about them.