September 2023 Newsletter

As we begin a new academic year, this newsletter will reflect on what we achieved last year and cover what will be happening in the branch in the next few weeks. Contents of the newsletter: 

  1. Welcome and reflections 
  2. PGR contracts 
  3. Get The Vote Out – a new ballot 
  4. USS Pensions consultation 
  5. Get involved with Cardiff UCU 
  6. Workload Reps Training

Welcome and reflections

It has been a difficult year for members and students. We had two consecutive mandates for industrial action covering the whole academic year and took part in the first ever national Marking and Assessment Boycott (MAB). Of course, we have not achieved some of the wins nationally that we wanted in this timeframe and many members are no doubt feeling frustrations with how things have gone. It is important to acknowledge how tricky the MAB has been and how divisive it has proved in some departments. Some colleagues have made great personal and financial sacrifices on behalf of all of us, and we owe them an enormous debt. We acknowledge that some members could not take part for as long as they might have wanted to and that they may feel awkward about re-engaging with the branch as a result. To those who have felt alienated or who have not been able to participate, we warmly invite you to re-engage actively with the branch. 
It is crucial to recognise that we have also made progress locally and had some significant local successes. The success and progress we have had has only been possible because we have worked together. See below for details of how to get more involved. 

Our local successes have included:

  • Local MAB. Strong support for those who took part and lost pay for all of us; and an amazing amount of funds raised to help MABers with the financial cost. Our strategic knowledge has been tightened up and given us a solid foundation to build on. 
  • PGR contracts. This will be discussed more in this newsletter [link] 
  • Improvement of variable hour contracts  
  • Equal parental leave for all staff 
  • Sanitary products freely available across the university 
  • More input from union representatives in shaping the workload model, which in some schools resulted in massive improvements  
  • More input/insight from union representatives in the pay gap reports – although union input was limited, the latest report (2022) already includes a more thorough analysis of the gender pay gap as well as race and disability pay gap information  
  • More insight from union representatives on the staff survey 
  • Change in university procedures so that metrics from student feedback will no longer be used for probation, PDR, and promotion purposes and will be removed from the promotion application forms  

The branch is also engaged in ongoing discussions on issues such as: visa payments for staff; management procedures; contracts with ‘relevant factors’ (a term that our employer uses to obscure the number of staff on fixed term contracts); or the items we are currently working on such as privatised/third party providers; and the need for a policy and clear procedure for those who have experienced sexual harassment in the workplace.

Get the Vote Out – a new ballot

You should have received your ballot paper to vote for industrial action as part of the ongoing UCU Rising campaign. We are reballoting to regain a live mandate and continue fighting for pay in line with inflation and an end to casualisation; gender, ethnicity and disability pay gaps; and excessive workloads. The progress we made on USS pension restoration would not have been possible without the live mandates we successfully secured twice in 2022-2023.

  • Restrictive trade union legislation requires not only that we carry out postal ballots (rather than quicker and easier electronic ones) and that we meet a turnout of at least 50% of members in ballots, but also that we renew our mandate every six months. 
  • without a current mandate, UCU has no leverage at all – the employer organisation UCEA know that we could not call any kind of industrial action, including action short of a strike, without a mandate and their treatment of negotiators is commensurate: UCU’s claims are ignored.  
  • without a renewed mandate, therefore, UCEA will conclude that we are happy enough with what they have offered. In their words, at typically 5% uplift to pay, this is the best they have offered in the last 20 years. Only, it makes for yet another real-terms pay-cuts to add to all the others and 5% lags significantly behind the average pay increases of both the private and public sectors.  
  • until we have another mandate that restores UCU’s ability to negotiate, it is unlikely there will be any further movement on any of the 4 fights (pay, casualisation, pay gaps and workload). 
This is why we are re-balloting again and we need everyone sending in their ballots at the earliest opportunity.
When you have voted, please let us know by using this form:<< Test Membership Number >>
We will be holding a member’s meeting soon to discuss the campaign, and we are also looking for volunteers to help with contacting members and running the campaign. Please email to get involved.

PGR contracts 

It is an incredible achievement that contracts for Postgraduate members who teach or demonstrate are now being implemented. This was a member-led campaign since 2018, and shows that with perseverance we can make some of the changes we so desperately need to improve job security and workers rights for casualised staff. However, we are aware of some issues around the implementation of the contracts (UCU were excluded from contributing to the implementation phase and not consulted regarding implementation) and as such our first anti-casualisation meeting of the year will be focusing on this. PGR members are invited to attend on Monday 2 October at 11am, link:
Click here to join the meeting

Get involved!

The local successes we have are only possible through the work of members, and there are many ways you can get involved with your union. Some particular areas we’re seeking volunteers for are: reasonable adjustments, environmental action, pensions and communications.


  • Members with knowledge and/or interest in reasonable adjustments to help develop better policy and processes. 
  • Members with an interest in advancing environmental sustainability at Cardiff to join the working group or contribute to developing claims around Scope 3, sustainable travel etc. 
  • Someone to fill the newly vacant Pensions Officer Role on the branch Executive Committee 
  • Someone to be the new branch treasurer 
  • Someone to be the anti-casualisation officer 
  • Departmental reps in departments where we don’t currently have them. These include CARBS, EARTH, MLANG, ENGIN, MATHS, Ysgol y Gymraeg (Welsh), PCE, HCARE 
  • People with an interest in comms to help us with newsletter and social media content, or discussions around comms strategy. 
Our principal method of working tother in-between industrial action is through the branch working groups. These are open to ordinary members to join and comprise the Equality Diversity and Inclusion, Anti-Precarity, Workload and Democratisation working groups. Get in touch with Rowan on to express an interest or find out more.  
You can also join our branch WhatsApp group by e-mailing the branch to request a link

Workload Reps Training – Wales HE

We know that workload continues to be an issue for many members, and we would like to invite anyone who is interested in becoming a Workload Rep to join our Wales HE training courses. Workload Reps 1 will take place online, 4th October, 1-4pm. Registration link here:
Cardiff UCU