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Hands off our money – fight to defend our pensions

With a single casting vote in the pension joint negotiating committee the financial security of current and future academic staff has been jeopardised.

Sadly this means that our strike action must go ahead. https://www.ucu.org.uk/article/9235/UCU-says-strikes-now-look-like-a-reality-as-pension-talks-end

Academics and academic related staff don’t like striking. We are here because we care about education and research. Most of us work longer hours than we are contracted for because we believe in what we do, because we chose service rather than profit.

But strike we must.

Here at Southampton UCU we are regarded (and regard ourselves) as a pretty moderate bunch. The turnout for the vote and the overwhelming support for strike action indicates that we have been pushed too far. This attack on our financial futures cannot be allowed to succeed.

The move to defined contribution pension with its frighteningly individualised risks (the value of investments may go DOWN as well as up) and attendant administrative charges, is nothing less than a pay cut. It is pay cut of between 10-40%, taken from our deferred salary. What is more, it is a pay cut supported by the members of the UUK side of the JNC who are most likely to be financially secure (http://www.ucea.ac.uk/en/empres/pensions/uss/governance/).

Not all VCs backed the UUK side or these damaging changes to USS. On Thursday last week, Warwick’s VC wrote that “there is a need to maintain a meaningful defined benefit scheme for those members of staff, present and future, who perceive pension provision as a key factor in their choice entering or remaining in higher education”. https://warwick.ac.uk/insite/news/intnews2/vc_letter_to_uuk.

Alongside him, the VC of Loughborough also stated his opposition in a letter (partially reproduced here https://twitter.com/sheffielducu/status/952873826475528192 ) .

Colleagues at Bristol reported that their employers had been keen to find a middle ground and planned to revise how much the institution was willing to pay in contributions.

Sadly our own VC, one of the highest paid senior academic leaders in this country, did not stand with us against the proposals. The senior management here have continued to support the move to defined contributions.

Members can expect more emails in coming days about the strike action. What we can say now is that we must strike to show our employer that our deferred salary is not theirs to bargain away.

Your executive committee will meet on Friday 26th Jan to plan the action here. In the meantime here are some of the things you can do now to help defend your pension.

  1. Volunteer for our picket lines.We will picket areas across our university campuses and need up to six on each picket line. Please email Amanda with contact details (ucu@soton.ac.uk)
  2. Pass the message on. Tell those who are not members that these changes could wipe £200,000 from their pension. See https://www.ucu.org.uk/article/9093/Overhaul-of-university-pensions-could-leave-staff-200000-worse-off-in-retirement. Urge non-members to join UCU https://www.ucu.org.uk/join and join us in action to defend our pension.
  3. Bookmarkhttps://www.ucu.org.uk/strikeforussfor updates on the action.
  4. email the VC vice-chancellor@soton.ac.uk and ask him why he did not defend your pension

Finally remember we are your branch. You are UCU. Send us your comments and ideas about how to make this strike effective. ucu@soton.ac.uk.

We may be reluctant to strike, but strike we must. We cannot allow this assault on our retirement security to go unchallenged.

 

the photo used is from https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Cardboard_ballot_box_-_Smithsonian.jpgorm  and depicts an early US ballot box which of course is not related to the USS vote in any way but is instead a rather lovely piece of history.

 

Why I’m a UCU representative – a personal account

Dear colleagues

I should start by explaining that you probably don’t know me, and if you do it’s because either you work with me, or I’ve met you over the last year as a UCU rep. All of what follows is drawn from my own experiences in that role.

 As a UCU rep, I have only one task, and that’s to represent members.  UCU has given me training, support and most importantly the voice to do this. When you meet me as your rep, for whatever reason you are probably not going to be in the best situation.

 I might have met you before a tense meeting with your line manager, who has been bullying you for the last year. After the meeting you thanked me for my actions and realised you don’t have to suffer alone.

 Alternatively, I am walking in with you to a meeting to discuss your future in a restructure, and I’ll make sure your voice is heard, adding my own if needed. If the worse happens and you find out you are leaving UOS, I’ll walk out with you and sit down to talk over your options.

 Since my volunteering to act as rep at UoS, I have sometimes seen working relationships broken, and have comforted people in tears at how they have been treated. I’ve also had a number of 1-1 meetings with HR where I’ve fed back on those experiences and offered to try and work together to stop this happening. I felt we were making progress, and I genuinely want things to be simply better, for everyone.

 Not everyone falls back to a confrontational style. Sometimes, I sit down together with the HR representative over a coffee.  We talk about our children, Netflix, Brexit and then we open our notebooks and try to navigate a solution together. I wish this happened more often.

 In all of these interactions, I’ve never knowingly misrepresented the truth, been offensive or breached trust. I try to keep to high professional standards, and I’ve even sought feedback from the senior managers I’ve sat across from. One Dean wrote to my HoAU telling them how impressed they had been with my actions in formal 1-1’s. I’ve been told the University needs more concerned citizens like me. Maybe that is true.

 For me UCU is about support for its members. If I think UoS isn’t meeting its own procedures or legislation it’s my role to tell them this, and I will continue to do so as long as members ask me to.

 So if you do meet me as a UCU rep, I’m sorry we have to meet like that. But I promise to help.

 If you think you can help as well, contact UCU. We need more concerned citizens.

Mark Dover, Southampton UCU Honorary Secretary and Caseworker

 

Southampton UCU consultative ballot on new contract of employment

Dear colleague

We are currently balloting members on whether to accept or reject the new master contracts of employment.  You should already have received an email with a unique voting link and you have until Tuesday 10 October at 5pm to vote on the proposals.  If you have not received this email please contact Amanda at ucu@soton.ac.uk as soon as possible.

Southampton UCU has been in negotiations with University of Southampton on the new master contracts of employment for staff at Levels 4-6 since summer 2013. These negotiations have been taking place with renewed intensity in the last academic year. The stated intent of University of Southampton in re-drafting contracts of employment is, “To produce a set of modernised contract of employment templates which are legally compliant, written in ‘plain English’, to make the terms and conditions of employment simpler to understand, and, where possible, to future proof standard clauses. It is important to note that the existing terms and conditions of employment are not being changed in this revision.”

The proposed contract is for new staff joining the University, or for staff who are taking up a new post. At present this does not affect contracts for existing staff, who will for the time being remain employed on their current contracts of employment. Southampton UCU is keen to ensure consistency and equity in terms of employment at University of Southampton, therefore if our members approve the new master contracts of employment for new staff, we will in principle approve these contracts being rolled out to existing staff at a future date.  During the lengthy negotiations we carefully considered the views of University of Southampton and the University considered feedback from your Southampton UCU reps. We feel that we are now able to present to our members the final version.

We encourage members to look at the new contract as well as the summary document, both of which can be found here:  https://groupsite.soton.ac.uk/Administration/Master-Contracts-Project/Pages/Home.aspx

PLEASE USE YOUR VOTE.

 

 

International staff survey

UCU is the largest post-16 education trade union in the world and we are committed to representing our international workforce and fighting for their interests in uncertain times.

Please help us to support international staff by completing our survey of non-UK education workers and sharing it with colleagues.

Most recently, UCU’s campaigning on behalf of international staff has focused on developing UCU’s immigration employment advice service for both EEA and non-EEA nationals which now includes support for member’s families. UCU’s on-going ‘UK universities and colleges are international’ campaign also provides resources and guidance for your local UCU branch.

The UCU post-Brexit charter, produced in December 2016, sets out eight key policy priorities, and UCU’s general election manifesto also called for further protections. The UCU submission to the ‘impact of exiting the European Union on higher education’ inquiry was prominently cited in the final report.

The union does much to represent international staff but we need to do more. Please help us to better support members and future members by completing and sharing our survey of non-UK education workers.

Many thanks, Sally Hunt

UCU general secretary

p.s. – Office for Students: The Department of Education is recruiting for board members for the newly established Office for Students. Members may wish to consider this opportunity to contribute at a senior level to post-16 education. The union does not have any formal role in this process but we recognise that members may be interested in the role.

UCU advice and support related to appraisal process

All staff should have completed an appraisal by 31st May unless on probation.

UCU understands that appraisal scores for staff at levels 4-6 will be moderated at an Academic Unit/Directorate level followed by ratification of these scores at Faculty/Executive Directorate level.

The University previously agreed with UCU that only scores of 4/5 would be subject to moderation.  (See https://intranet.soton.ac.uk/sites/hr/appraisal/SitePages/Home.aspx).  This assurance about the limited scope of moderation was key to the University of Southampton appraisal system being agreed by national UCU.  This feature was highlighted to our members when we balloted them about the Pay and Reward arrangements.  These arrangements, including the appraisal scheme, were endorsed by 94.5% of UCU members at University of Southampton in September 2014.

We are aware that scores of 1-3 are also being moderated. UCU has not been consulted about this extended moderation process or Terms of Reference, and we have raised this with senior management, along with our other broader concerns about how appraisal has been conducted this year.  It appears that University of Southampton could be breaching the collective agreement with UCU on pay and reward, which includes arrangements for appraisal.

We are aware that some UCU members have been given a provisional appraisal score and have been required to attend a meeting with HR and Line Management, before appraisal scores have been moderated or ratified. If you are asked to attend such a meeting, please contact UCU for support. We advise you to request to be accompanied by a colleague or UCU representative into this meeting. You are entitled to ask the reason(s) for a meeting request and who will be present.

If you are asked to attend a ‘protected conversation/meeting’ you may be informed of capability, disciplinary or asked to consider leaving your job.  We advise you to request to be accompanied by a colleague or UCU caseworker into such a meeting and you are entitled to ask the reason(s) for the meeting and who will be present. You do not have to agree to settlement offers made to you in a protected conversation/meeting and we advise members to carefully consider any offers before responding.

University of Southampton has a Dignity at Work Policy statement which begins by stating, “The University of Southampton is committed to supporting, developing and promoting equality and diversity in all of its practices and activities. We aim to establish an inclusive culture, free from discrimination and based on the values of dignity, courtesy and respect. We recognise the right of every person to be treated in accordance with these values.”  We also note that the appraisal scheme approved by UCU members includes a commitment that “All appraisals should be carried out in a fair and equitable way, with due consideration paid to an individual in relation to the process and outcomes of appraisal.”  We are concerned that the practice of appraisal moderation outside of agreed processes, and the use of moderated scores to coerce staff into asking staff to consider leaving their job, appears to breach the commitments made by University of Southampton in these policies.

UCU is currently working with a number of members on issues related to appraisal. If you have concerns or comments regarding the appraisal process please contact us – you can do this via ucu@soton.ac.uk. (If you would prefer not to use university email please telephone the office on 023 8059 2364 and Amanda can provide alternative contact details.)

 

National Senior Management survey for UK University staff

The National Senior Management Survey (SMS) is an anonymous survey for university staff around the UK to complete about the practices of their senior management team. The survey is a form of audit that seeks to move the gaze from the narrow metrics of staff performance to the senior management teams who set the conditions through which staff performance becomes possible. The results will be disseminated as widely as possible and a league table of findings will be produced. In so doing it seeks to ask questions of the current trajectory of higher education in the UK and to broaden debate about what universities should and could be for our students.

You can complete the survey here:  https://smsproject.wordpress.com/

Preliminary findings were reported in the THE recently: https://www.timeshighereducation.com/news/overpaid-and-overbearing-uk-university-staff-management

Claim Tax Relief on UCU subscriptions

You might be interested to know that due to UCU’s status as a professional organisation, HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) gave approval for members to claim up to 67% tax relief on the total annual subscription they have paid to UCU during the last four years, and on an annual basis thereafter.  Further guidance can be found at:  https://www.ucu.org.uk/taxrelief .  Please complete this template tax relief claim form ucu_taxclaimform_Apr16  and return it to the tax office on completion.  The University’s tax office details are:

West Hampshire Area HM Revenue & Customs
Trinity Bridge House
2 Dearmans Place
Salford 
M3 5BS 

The tax office reference number is 663/U1.  

If you need further information please contact the UCU office.

 

Southampton UCU General Meeting – 29 March

Members are invited to attend the next UCU General Meeting which is being held on Wednesday 29 March at 12.15pm in room 85/2207.  The topics of the meeting are:

Experiences with appraisal, two years in; and

A forward look at REF and TEF

We are now into the second year of the new appraisal process and have received a variety of concerns from members, both appraisees and appraisers, on the new system, particularly in relation to moderation at Faculty and University level, and the requirement within Faculties for final scores to conform to the “bell curve” of expectations.  The meeting will provide a forum at which you can raise your concerns, which we can then take forward with management.

With both REF and TEF on the horizon we will be discussing the impact of these processes on your current roles: in particular, possible changes in pathways (from balanced to teaching only) and how this fits with your career plans. We welcome your ideas and contributions, especially if you have concerns you would like to raise.

As we will be providing a light sandwich lunch could you please email Amanda (ucu@soton.ac.uk) if you will be attending, and any special dietary requirements, by Thursday 23 March.  Lunch will be available from 12.15pm with the meeting commencing at 12.30pm prompt. 

1 Day Without Us – 20/2/17

Southampton UCU is proud to support 1 Day Without Us, a National Day of Action on 20th Feb 2017 to celebrate the contribution of migrants to the UK, to coincide with UN World Day of Social Justice.

 

We have an infostand as part of the University’s Diversity Showcase Day on 20th February in Garden Court.  Come and chat to us, join in a bit of fun, and share your stories with us.

We would also ask all supporters to take photos and post them on social media using the hashtag #1DayWithoutUs. We also invite you to take selfies individually and  post them with your personal messages of support using the hashtag.

More details here: http://www.1daywithoutus.org/

Find out more about UCU’s campaign to defend the rights of EU nationals and how you can become involved. https://www.ucu.org.uk/we-are-international

Southampton UCU is holding an open meeting at 12.30pm on Wednesday 1 March in room 6/1083 (Nuffield) to discuss the impact of Brexit on our international staff and students.  We would be interested to hear your views and concerns so please do come and join us – ALL WELCOME.

UCU Elections – PLEASE USE YOUR VOTE

You should by now have received papers for the current UCU elections for the post of General Secretary and members of the National Executive Committee.   Your local UCU executive committee think it is important that you vote in these elections.  UCU is active on your behalf right through the year not only in representing individual members with problems of one sort or another, but also in the formulation of the policy of the university in its role as an employer. So we are a participatory organisation, not a contracting organisation acting on your behalf for a fee. Part of that participation will be in voting in UCU elections, for posts which contribute to the setting of policy at a national level.

We have had a number of enquiries at Union House from members as to how to vote in these elections. There is a long list of candidates and it is always difficult to know which candidates to support.

1) Southampton UCU President, Dr Denis Nicole, is a candidate as Southern HE representative on the National Executive Committee, and is the only Southern HE candidate supported by resolution of a quorate branch general meeting (rather than the signatures of ten UCU members). He is fully supported by the branch as a result. For those who don’t know him personally, Denis is a Reader in Computer Science with a special interest in cybersecurity. Denis has worked hard as local president over the last year, and before that as vice-president. He will continue to represent us all at NEC if elected, and will put members first before partisan politics. (Indeed, those of you know Denis will know that it would be impossible to bind him!)

2) The post of General Secretary is up for election, as are other Officer posts and Trustees. Whereas members of the National Executive are unpaid lay members, the General Secretary is the full-time leader and an employee of UCU.  The current General Secretary is Sally Hunt; she is a candidate for re-election, and has reiterated her Independent status. The other candidate is Jo McNeill of the University of Liverpool. Whilst a committed Trade Unionist, and known personally to some of the Committee, Jo is endorsed by “UCU Left”.  UCU Left has been described as a Union within a Union and had its formation within the Socialist Worker Party. UCU Left candidates by association are not independent candidates.  Most of your Executive Committee will be supporting the re-election of Sally Hunt, some very strongly so.

3) Given that independent polls suggest that university lecturers are in general somewhat centrist in outlook (if strongly anti-Brexit), it may be somewhat of a surprise to see two diametrically opposed slates of candidates, or the political affiliations associated with them. (Apparently, nobody in UCU is “right”, unless they be a “right idiot”). The consequence of “UCU Left” success in NEC and Officer Elections will be a UCU that will not be independent. It will still serve its members, but will also be steered by a political agenda and objectives tied to Socialist Worker Party aims. The consequence of Independent, or Independent Broad Left candidates in NEC, Officer or Trustee roles will be a union that will serve its members, without one political agenda dictating the course and objectives of that service.

All candidates are required to make clear their political affiliations, so read their statements and make an informed choice.

Above all participate, it’s your Union so use your vote. The ballot runs until 12pm on 1 March.

If you have not received a ballot paper, please contact Kay Metcalfe (kmetcalfe@ucu.org.uk.) at UCU HQ.

A link to the website containing the election statements is here. https://www.ucu.org.uk/article/7228/UCU-elections-2017

Southampton UCU Committee