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July, 2013:

Happy 65th Birthday NHS!

Today our friends from the Southampton and South-West Hampshire Trades Union Council held a birthday celebration for the NHS, which turns 65 today.  Long may it continue!  Pictures are below.  For those who want to help protect the NHS from privatisation, please get in touch with Keep Our NHS Public — they have a branch in Southampton and meet regularly to campaign on NHS-related issues.

To follow the activities of the Trades Union Council in Southampton you can check out their Facebook page.  If you wish to become a delegate to the TUC, please contact the UCU office.

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Eric Silverman

Southampton UCU President

UCU letter to VC – Improving Staff Community

Dear Professor Nutbeam

We at Southampton UCU would like to express our thanks for your commitment to improving the mental health and wellbeing of staff at the University via the creation of the wellbeing taskforce.  We believe that there are many productive steps that we could take as an institution toward creating a better working environment here at Southampton, and we look forward to making further progress on this with you in future.

In relation to these efforts, Southampton UCU recently conducted a survey of our members to better gauge their opinions about working at the University.  We found that a full 69% of our members believe that the University provides insufficient support for collegiality and staff cohesion via buildings or programmes.  Comments revealed that staff would like to see the return of the Staff Club as a space intended only for staff and postgraduate researchers — a space where staff could meet with colleagues and guests and relax, free from the hustle and bustle of the term-time environment.  When asked about this, a straw poll of our extremely well-attended Annual General Meeting last week produced a unanimous vote in favour of reinstating the Staff Club.

Therefore, we ask that you take this idea forward to the University Executive Group on behalf of academic staff at the University.  Our investigations have proved that staff overwhelmingly support the return of the Staff Club, and we believe that doing so would make the working environment here less stressful, more collegial, and more appealing for academic visitors.

 Best regards

 Eric Silverman, Southampton UCU President

Draft Minutes of the Annual General Meeting held on 27 June 2013, Room 58/1009

Present:   Chair – Eric Silverman (ES), Honorary Treasurer – David Chillingworth (DC), Honorary Secretary – John Langley (JL) and 43 members of Southampton UCU

1      Apologies: 6 apologies received.

2      Minutes of Annual General Meeting held on 28 June 2012. These were accepted as a true record.

3      Chair’s report 2012/13
ES ran through the events of the past year.

ES noted that nationally UCU was very busy responding to pressures facing higher education – a particular campaign to note was the one against the spread of zero hours contracts. There has been a drop in membership nationally and associated budgetary problems which members have been informed of in national newsletters.  On the horizon is the prospect of industrial action on pay.

Local issues faced this year include:

  •  responding on the Academic Pay and Reward project (Catherine Pope gave an update on this); 
  • fighting for FTC and hourly paid staff pushed into zero hours contracts after asking for permanency;
  • supporting members regarding contract changes made as part of preparation for  REF2014;
  • increased case work associated with redundancy threats, REF and bullying and harassment.

UCU continues to fight against casualisation and over use of FTCs, and continues to build a strategy on this, notably on issues around equality.  

Southampton UCU needs to recruit more staff at level 7 to ensure that the University negotiates with us about their terms and conditions – at present the University wants to force these staff to use DAP (new appraisal) process which has been successfully blocked for levels 4-6. 

Bullying and harassment and stress: we continue to be concerned about these issues and the casework load centred on these issues.  We are negotiating about the stress policy with the University and participating in a wellbeing taskforce to ensure progress. 

Beyond the branch  

ES attends local Trades Union Council meetings for the branch. We have 5 delegate spaces so please contact us if you wish to attend. 

Recruitment and volunteers 

We need more members – caseworkers in particular are needed. Excellent training is provided to support these volunteers. We also need new ‘Workplace Contacts’ in each faculty/building to act as first point of contact and raise awareness of UCU. 

UCU strategy day will be held in September (date to be advised).  All welcome to attend. 

We have co-opted a new SUSU post grad liaison to help raise awareness and to share information with our Students’ Union colleagues. 

The fixed term contract working group is seeking more volunteers to assist their work trying to improve job security.  

4          Finance report
DC reported on the accounts for last year (paper circulated at the meeting).  Noted that the branch needs to raise more funds. There was a discussion about communications and awareness raising of the work of UCU. Laurie Stras noted the reduced rate for students offered by the Musicians’ Union. ES noted that PGR students could join UCU for free.

5          Nominations and elections of branch officers
As there was one candidate for each post these were duly elected. 

President:                                                            Eric Silverman
Honorary Secretary:                                      John Langley
Honorary Treasurer:                                      Catherine Pope
Health and Safety Rep:                                   Stuart Heron
Equality Rep:                                                     Ronise Nepomuceno
Environmental Rep:                                        Tim Chown
Fixed-Term Contract Rep:                            Joe Viana
Academic-Related Staff Rep:                       David Kinnison
Post-Graduate & SUSU Liaison Rep (co-opted):    George Disney
Ordinary Members:                                         Fiona Harvey, Mary Morrison, Denis Nicole, Laurie Stras

ES welcomed new reps and noted that DC was standing down as treasurer after many years’ dedicated service, and that Adam Warren environmental rep was standing down. ES thanked them for their contributions. 

6          Motions

Motion 1 – Cease the abuse of zero hours contracts
Southampton UCU notes that the University has begun moving hourly-paid lecturers who ask for permanency onto zero-hours contracts, in which there are no guaranteed hours of employment.  This devalues the immensely important work of these members of staff, who are dedicated to their roles and work very hard to educate our students.  We call upon the University to fulfil its legal obligations under European law, as affirmed by the European Court of Criminal Justice, to provide permanent contracts which do not impose worse terms and conditions than their previous fixed-term employment.

Further, we call upon the University to properly recognise the contribution of part-time and hourly-paid lecturers at this University, and to properly reward and compensate staff for the substantial time and effort they spend both inside and outside of the lecture theatre.

Proposer:              Eric Silverman             Seconder:  Catherine Pope                    Passed unanimously

Motion 2 – Solidarity for University of Liverpool staff
Southampton UCU notes that some 2,800 staff at the University of Liverpool are facing threats of dismissal if they refuse to accept new contracts with worse terms and conditions, including weekend, evening and Bank Holiday working without due recompense.  The University is also breaking its own local agreements with Liverpool UCU regarding redundancy consultation by providing a consultation period of only 45 days rather than the agreed 90 days.

We at Southampton UCU wish to express our solidarity for those staff under threat in Liverpool.  We call upon the University to withdraw the threat of dismissal and return to the table for negotiations immediately.  We believe this unprecedented action to be unconscionable and we offer our unconditional support to those affected. 

Proposer:              Eric Silverman             Seconder:  Catherine Pope                    Passed unanimously

The formal business concluded and was followed by an update from Catherine Pope on the Pay and Reward Project. There was discussion around the issues raised.

JL reported on the initial analysis of the UCU staff survey.  Members agreed that concerns arising from this survey should be taken to JNC and UEG. Staff club question put to the meeting and overwhelmingly the members agreed that it would be preferable to have a space for staff and PGRs only (one abstention by a colleague not based at Highfield). A member asked if future surveys could also ask how many people take their full annual leave as this was an important issue. Volunteers to help analyse the data were sought and Roger Ingham and Mark Weal kindly agreed to assist. JL noted that the survey would inform the branch strategy day.