National Pay Dispute.
A very good campaign led to a successful ballot outcome: 61.5% in favour of strike action, 77% in favour of action short of a strike (ASOS). This is a significant increase in voting for strike (16%) and ASOS over the consultative ballot.
UNISON ballot – a majority in favour of strike action and keen to work with other unions.
UNITE ballot to be declared on Monday (also majority in favour of strike action)
EIS (Education Institute of Scotland) is still in dispute on pay, but not currently balloting (other than consultative ballot of teachers).
There was an extended discussion of the strategy. UCEA (the employers’ body) will be approached first using the ballot result as leverage. The importance of coordinating action was other unions was recognised. The overlap between their work and that of academic related was noted, making it important to have action on the same days to avoid pressure on the other unions to cover for them. November 5 was suggested as it is half term in England the previous week and there has been a call for a day of action on this date. The dates will be decided nearer the time. There will be up to three days of strike action by December. It was agreed to produce guidance on working to contract.
The following campaigning suggestions were made:
• Members add a standard signature to emails to indicate they are working to contract and replies may be delayed.
• Branches should approach their student unions. Members should also contact their own students and a standard letter to do this would be useful.
• Members should tell managers about things they are not doing as part of the work to contact.
• Members should be given information about being involved in strike action and encouraged to take part.
• Joint rallies with the other unions.
• Branches should invited HEC members, include vice-president Liz Lawrence to speak and HEC members should be proactive in making contacts with branches.
It was agreed to hold an additional HEC in early December to review and discuss the second phase of action (if required).
NB. A decision was made at the FEC meeting to hold a national ballot over pay, following consultations with branches.
Local Draft Agreements
Support will be given to branches where threats to the national contract is underway (particularly post 92). We heard from the national officers that any branch lay officers engaging in any activity with management to undermine any part of the post 92 national contract will be dealt with severely. It is imperative that the national contract is upheld. Constant vigilance is needed and where local negotiations are taking place, that there are clear communications between the national ratification panel, the regional officers, the national official and branch negotiators. Where contracts have been defended there has been success.
Zero hour contracts.
A lot of discussion on this. Some view definition of zero hours should be all encompassing i.e. to include all workers who do not have substantive contracts. Congratulations to Edinburgh and we now have to build on that. There has been some work over the summer on the campaign and branches have been informed through the campaigns update and a HE circular (13th September). Head office (in conjunction with other TU’s) wrote to each HEI asking for a clear commitment that they will not use zero hour contracts, that FOI’s will be used to gather data and use that data to inform the government (BIS) review and to progress our campaign against the use of these so called contracts/casualised work. Results from the survey (144 replies) found the use in the pre 92 sector is 59% and in post 92 is 49.4%. Contracts cut across teaching, research and academic related. The use of these contracts ranged from single figure staff in some institutions to an excess of 1000 in others. UCU is working closely with the TUC (is taking a leading role as post 16 education has the second highest casualised workforce). Results of the survey to date, is available through regional offices.
A motion was tabled (Jane Hardy and Mark Campbell) and with some slight amendments was carried. It called on the UCU to:
• Continue a campaign across HE to demand the scrapping of zero hour contracts and their replacement with fractional or defined contracts.
• Vigorously campaign for the implementation of fractionalisation agreements where they exist.
• Seek to lobby parliament, ideally in conjunction with other TU’s and the TUC, demanding the outlawing of zero hour contracts
• Use a HPL charter to form the basis of the campaigns demands
• Use the above as an opportunity to recruit and organise casualised workers.
(There is a second reading of Andrew Sawcroft MP, private members bill on the 24th Jan)
Teaching only contracts.
Following annual conference motions work is underway on this. There is a need to work with other campus TU’s on this through the TUC to develop joint positions. There will be a survey done later in the autumn.
Model procedures to be included in the branch negotiating pack on: national guidance on bullying and harassment, disability leave and probation is almost complete and will be sent to branches shortly.
Pensions - USS.
Currently the policy is to close the gap with TPS in the discriminatory second tier career average part of the scheme. There was discussion of the funding position of the scheme and some of the problematical assumptions. The funding position and ‘deficit’ is based on the ridiculous assumption that all members stop paying in and USS has to pay out to all members. The valuation figure has increased significantly from its low in March, but is still much lower than the valuation when the employers imposed disastrous changes to the scheme. It was noted that the best possible (though not particularly good) agreement for transfers of ‘support staff’ from other schemes to USS had been achieved.
Currently the main negotiations in USS are being carried out in the Finance and Benefits Group (FBG), but decisions are made in the full negotiation committee, the Joint Negotiating Committee (JNC) In line with a sector conference motion the so-called ‘independent’ chair of the JNC is not involved in the FBG. However USS has refused to provide actuarial information to FBG while the chair is excluded. A proposal to take negotiations out of the FBG to JNC to involve all negotiations was not voted on. A meeting of pension officers will be organised, with the date to be decided by the chair of the Superannuation Working Group (involving all UCU members involved in JNC, USS committees and USS directors).
Pensions - TPS.
Fairdeal. In respect of staff transferring from HE and FE institutions to alternative providers, the government has noted that FE and HE are not classified as part of the public sector. The UCU, other teacher unions and the TUC have objected vigorously. Talks on how to communicate the changes under the new scheme in 2015 is now underway. Detail on this was flagged up and will be relayed to the national pensions officials. Unknown to many members is that there will be further increases to pension contributions in 2014 (i.e. the third year). There is also to be changes to the boundaries of the second year teiring to reflect increases in pay (!!). There is an aim to protect the lower full-time equivalent and new starters. Again, detail about this was asked for and a request that members are informed. The point was raised that the TPS dispute was still live and that members may want to take further action. The timing of the next NEC is November (29th) – and after the national pay ballot results of members in FE. Please discuss at branches and get motions to the NEC.
REF Survey Report.
Full report is available on the UCU ref blog. http://ref.web.ucu.org.uk Around 7,000 responses for staff at 153 HEI’s. Consistent with concerns expressed through motions at annual conference – namely a detrimental impact on working conditions, career development, increased workload, links to performance management and capabilities procedures and resultant stress.
Professional Development and Performance management – revised guidance. The revised guidance has been circulated to branches – UCUHE206.
Academic Related Committee – a report was tabled.
Staffing changes at head office.
The implications are not clear about staff that left (under VS) and a review of services is taking place by the GS. We expect some update on this at the next NEC. However there were strong hints that work would have to prioritise further, such as responding to annual conference motions. There is a debate to be had about what is prioritised as all work is important.
Speakers from the National Tertiary Education Union in Australia .
They have many similarities, though also differences with UCU members issues. Membership has grown about 10% in the last two years, mainly through employing people to carry out door knocking. They do not have national bargaining, but try to keep a balance between strongest branches winning higher pay and reducing differences in pay at different institutions. Casualisation is a problem with a large number of hourly paid. The largely Murdoch owned papers regularly attack them.
We also held a brief NEC meeting during the lunch break. One agenda item – to decide on the number of delegates to the annual TUC equality conferences. It was noted that we should not be voluntarily decreasing our representation particularly when progress on equality was threatened. A motion to support the status quo was defeated (Surprisingly some equality committee members voted against the motion) and an amendment to reduce the numbers from 16 to 12 was carried. The reduction will be reviewed in 2 years. N.B. Reminder to members to register for the annual equality conference (15th November). Details on the national website.
Education Committee – there was a brief meeting during what was left of the lunch break to discuss arrangements for a national education conference, following congress decisions ‘from the cradle to the grave’ – for any member to attend. Details will be out in due course.
If you want any further details on these notes and or if you wish me to come along to branch meetings, please get in touch.
Veronica Killen (NEC HE UK wide)