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.