Happy (belated) St Patrick’s Day and Happy (belated) Spring Equinox

St Patrick’s Day, or the feast of St Patrick is a cultural and religious celebration held on 17th  March, the traditional death date of Saint Patrick (c.385 – c.461), the foremost patron saint of Ireland. The Irish have observed this day as a religious holiday for over 1,000 years and the holiday has evolved into a celebration of Irish culture with parades, special foods, music, dancing, drinking and a whole lot of green.

In the Northern Hemisphere, the March equinox (aka spring equinox or vernal equinox) occurs when the Sun crosses the equator line, heading north. This event marks the start of spring in the northern half of the globe. This year, the spring equinox happened on Saturday, March 20 at 5:37am. For many, the spring equinox or Ostara, is a time for rituals and celebrations surrounding the themes of fertility, new beginnings, and rebirth. Eggs and bunnies represent fertility, while eggs and seedlings are considered symbols of rebirth and renewal. The spring equinox marks the start of the new year in Iran.

Events (March 26th 2021):

1. Anti-Stress and Bullying Working Group – Monday 29th March 5-6pm
As part of the work developed by the NEC Anti-Stress and Bullying Working Group, UCU are holding a webinar on tackling stress in the workplace. This will launch the updated stress toolkit and focus primarily on stress risk assessment, good practice examples and training opportunities. We hope this will be the first of many sessions on this issue.

For more information and to register please follow this link.

2.  UCU Wales Climate Generations Event
Following on from the success of UCU introducing sustainability and embedding climate in the curriculum events in January, we are now inviting branch activists, members and non-members to our latest online climate generations Continuing Professional Development (CPD) event:
·       Date: Wednesday 21 April
·       Time: 14:00 to 15:00
·       Venue: online (Zoom)

If you teach or support teaching this event is for you and as it will give you the opportunity to discuss things that you can do to help move the climate generations agenda forward in your workplace. The CPD event will be led by Graham Petersen who is a member of the Greener Jobs Alliance (GJA) steering group which is a coalition of NGOs, trades unions and student organisations. The GJA has worked on a range of initiatives to promote education for sustainable development and jobs. Graham has written a range of climate change publications for the British and Wales TUC. He is a member of UCU and was previously our environment co-ordinator. He has also represented Education International, the global union federation of over 30 million workers in the education sector, at UN climate conference events. We very much hope that you will be able to find the time to attend this event. Register here.

3.  Workers Rising Everywhere – Follow up Strike School Course
Last autumn 400 UCU members and over 20 staff took part in ‘Strike School’ – part of the Organising for Power series of international online training courses run by the trade unionist and author Jane McAlevey and the Rosa Luxemburg Foundation.

Members can now register for the next instalment of the Organising for Power series, which is entitled ‘Workers Rising Everywhere’. There are six sessions taking place from 5-7pm each Tuesday from 18 May to 22 June.

Members of our branch participated in the previous course and will be happy to share ideas with others who might be interested in joining now (you do not have to have attended the first one to participate).

Please email the UCU office (ucu@cardiff.ac.uk) if you want more information. You can also hear this podcast on how Northumbria University UCU was inspired by the Strike School and other training courses to become the first union branch in the UK to run a successful industrial action ballot over health and safety relating to Covid-19.

You can find full details of the course and register for it using this form. The deadline for registration is 5pm on Monday 3 May.

Solidarity and Wider Campaigns (March 26th 2021):

1. UN Anti-Racism Day – #WorldAgainstRacism
Saturday 20 March marked the UN Anti-Racism Day and events were organised by the Trade Union Council (TUC) and Stand Up To Racism to renew the commitment to oppose racism across the world. You can read about the protests all over the world here.

2. Solidarity with Bristol – End Police Brutality
Over the last weeks, large protests have been organized around the UK against the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill 2021, which increases police powers to target protests (with potential implications for industrial action) and to target Gypsy, Roma and Traveller communities.

As news from the violence during the protests in Bristol earlier this week emerged, what initially seemed the result of the violent nature of the protest (police officers reported to be severely injured, police vans set on fire and the police station vandalized) was shown to be only one side of the story. The police retracted claims of grave injuries, journalists reported being harassed by the police and unable to carry out their jobs, and demonstrators claimed that the protest was peaceful until the police charged at them with horses, dogs, pepper spray and batons.

In the aftermath of police violence at the vigil for Sarah Everard in London, and the ongoing cases of two young black men who recently died after contact with South Wales police, the violence against protesters in Bristol continues the worrying trend of excessive use of force by the police, legitimized by the new bill.

A protest in Cardiff to resist this is going ahead TODAY at 6pm by the City Centre Police Station.

Branch News and Updates (March 26th 2021):

1. Dispute Update
Following the latest negotiations between Cardiff UCU and University management mediated by ACAS, management has yet to offer solutions to the dispute and has proposed delaying the next meeting with our negotiators to the 16th April.

This demonstrates a disregard for the seriousness and urgency of our dispute. On the 18th March, the UCU Wales Regional Office sent the Vice-Chancellor a formal notification of the dispute (you can read it here) giving the University 10 working days to respond, after which we will initiate the balloting procedures that could result in members being balloted at the end of April.

We have also reached out to Cardiff Students’ Union president to discuss the dispute and ways we can support each other in our campaigns.

2. Media exposes Cardiff University’s ‘shocking use of Casual Labour’ 
Following the article in January on voice.wales featuring one of our officers, another piece came out this week containing lengthy interviews with Cardiff University workers exposing long-term issues related to casualisation that have been aggravated by the pandemic. You can read the article here. Please share widely to give voice to our colleagues who feel most vulnerable and to expose some of the shameful practices adopted by Cardiff University regarding employment conditions.

Our anti-casualisation working group is currently campaigning for contracts for postgraduates and the end of 2h-contracts and we are preparing a claim to submit to the University on the use of “relevant factors” contracts. If you would like to know more or would like to join the group, please contact our Anti-casualisation Officer, Renata Medeiros, at medeirosmirrarj@cardiff.ac.uk.

3. University Wellbeing Survey
Cardiff University launched a wellbeing survey asking for staff’s view on the support services provided by the University to support our wellbeing.

The options offered in the survey to tackle wellbeing do not go beyond wellbeing training, conversations and webinars. Nevertheless we strongly encourage our members to participate and use the comment section to suggest real alternatives such as offering security to staff, tackle the workload crisis and resolve our dispute by committing not to compel staff to work face-to-face.

The survey was launched on the 16th March, you can find it on your inbox or you can click here.

4.  Final Motions to HESC and Wales Congress
Below are links to the motions submitted to Wales Higher Education Sector Conference (HESC) and Congress from UCU branches in Wales. The motions will be discussed and voted on during the annual Congress on Saturday 29 May, Monday 31 May & Wednesday 2 June.

The annual congress is UCU’s supreme policy-making body. We encourage members to read the motions and suggest any amendments for our branch to submit. The branch is entitled to 2 amendments for the HESC and 2 for the Congress motions and these need to be submitted by Friday 2nd April.  If you have any comments or amendment suggestions, please let us know by next Wednesday (31st March).

Motions submitted to HESC
Motions submitted to Main Congress

You can use this link to leave your comments and suggestions.

5. Environmental Sustainability group
If you are interested in joining a working group around the branch’s work on environmental sustainability, please contact our Environmental Officer, Paul Rock, by email here.

Please also see ‘Events’ below for details on the UCU Wales Climate Generations CPD event.

6. End Gender-based Violence & Defend the Right to Protest
UCU National Executive Committee (NEC) members developed a statement in response to the shocking events that have taken place surrounding the murder of Sarah Everard, and the attempts by the government to curb our right to protest.

The full statement ‘End Gender-based Violence & Defend the Right to Protest: UCU NEC members statement’ can be read and signed here. Please note the list of signatories does not update automatically, but it will be updated daily.

7.  Funding for UKRI projects under threat
The UCU national office has responded to cuts to the Official Development Assistance funding for UKRI projects, which will initially lead to a £120m shortfall for research programmes in 2021-22.

In a letter to the Chancellor of the Exchequer, Rishi Sunak, Jo Grady said the scale of the cuts is unprecedented and the enforced cancellation of existing international research projects represents a massive breach of trust on the part of the UK government.

8.  Health and Safety Information
After discussion with the Trade Unions Council (TUC), ACAS has updated guidance on Covid-19 testing and vaccines that might be useful for our members:

We also remind staff who are eligible for a vaccine (i.e. priority groups) that you can self-book if you have not received an appointment yet. You can use this link to check if you are eligible and to book.