Statement regarding homeworking, flexible hours and caring responsibilities

The following statement/advice has been agreed by the Branch Committee, seriously concerned about the danger that members may be put under pressure to agree to unreasonable working hours alongside caring responsibilities.  If you are not able to work for any reason, this should of course be discussed with your line manager as usual. But contact the Branch as advised in the statement.

Heroes, not Superheroes

Earlier this week the Vice Chancellor wrote to all staff to commend the “commitment and professionalism” of colleagues, referring to the “whole regiments of unsung heroes who have kept working, often doing extra hours, to keep the University going and support rapidly changing operations.”

It is true that a great deal of work, much of it above and beyond normal expectations, has gone into keeping the University going in these difficult times.  The VC’s praise is well deserved.

But all this incredible collective effort must not be exploited.  There is a limit to what can reasonably be expected of us, and the Branch is determined that our Health and Safety rights and Terms and Conditions must not be compromised. We are heroes, not superheroes.

UNISON, alongside the other unions, has been pressing for recognition by the University that it is unrealistic to insist that staff conform to business-as-usual working patterns and rules during the current crisis. What is needed is pragmatism, flexibility, and sensitivity. Recent ACAS guidance emphasises the importance of this: https://www.acas.org.uk/working-from-home.  An outcome-oriented approach could be adopted, looking at carefully prioritising essential work and taking into account what can reasonably be expected in individual circumstances.

But last Thursday (19th March), the University published a daily email update, which included a section on “working from home with care commitments.”     It included this statement:

“We appreciate that our families and those we care for are our primary concern, and that this will be the focus of your attention whilst this situation lasts.  However, we would ask that you balance this with work requirements.  If you are unable to make alternative care arrangements to cover your normal work pattern, this may mean that during this period you need to undertake your work in a new or different way which supports these responsibilities. We wish to support you with this.

This could mean agreeing a new work pattern with your line manager where you undertake work in the early mornings, weekends or evenings.  Whatever your work pattern, once this is agreed with your line manager, you should keep in contact on a regular basis, either through WebEx or by telephone.  It is important that you and your line manager speak to each other at least weekly, and preferably more often.”

The Branch immediately received outraged protests from members, especially those furious at the prospect of being expected to work unsociable hours on top of acting as full time carers (of children and other dependents) due to the public health situation. It is not surprising that the statement caused anxiety and anger from colleagues in this position.  It is not acceptable to expect anyone to somehow squeeze a 37 hour week into weekends, early mornings and late nights, let alone those with additional, exhausting, responsibilities.

The idea that colleagues in this situation might be penalised by using up annual leave or losing pay is not acceptable.

This contrasts starkly with the Vice Chancellor’s instruction to “Look after your mental and physical well-being”.

Flexible working arrangements – yes.   A pragmatic and supportive approach – yes.   Putting people under pressure to work late nights, or at 2am in the morning, or at weekends – no.

UNISON Branch Committee met urgently on Friday and voted to reject and oppose the guidance.   We are advising members not to agree to any changes to their working conditions without seeking advice from the Branch.   We are calling on the University to provide clearer and more supportive and understanding guidance, and to withdraw and clarify the current advice.   We are urging the University to make facilitating safe homeworking its first priority, as this is the most significant problem.

UNISON Branch Committee

INVITATION TO UNISON SHEFFIELD HALLAM UNIVERSITY BRANCH AGMs

It’s nearly time for our Annual General Meetings (AGMs) 

UNISON AGM at Collegiate Campus Tuesday 3 March

12–1pm AGM Business

1-2pm  Networking lunch

Both events will be held in HC.0.17 Heart of Campus

 

UNISON AGM at City Campus Wednesday 4 March

12–1pm AGM Business

1-2pm  Networking lunch

Both events will be held in Owen Room 1029

What is the AGM?

It’s your chance to have a say in how the UNISON Sheffield Hallam University Branch is run and how your membership fees are spent. It’s important to attend, as the Branch can only make decisions if we meet a minimum required attendance.

What happens at the AGM?

At the AGM you will

  • find out what UNISON is doing for you at Sheffield Hallam
  • help elect your branch officers
  • learn about how your membership fees are spent
  • chat to stewards and officers
  • ask questions, make suggestions and have your say on the running of the branch

You also get a free lunch, free promotional items and free entry into a raffle to win John Lewis gift cards.  This year we have increased the value of the gift cards to £30, £20, £15 as well as the number of gift cards at the City AGM to six – it’s win win for members!!

Networking Lunch follows on from the AGM Business.  Lunch is open to members who attend the AGM.

Submit a Motion

If you would like to submit a motion to be placed on the agenda, please email me the details by Friday 8 February. The agenda for the meeting and the officers’ reports will be placed on the UNISON SharePoint site a week prior to the meeting.

Please confirm your attendance to unisonadministrator@shu.ac.uk with one of the following options:

  • I will be attending the AGM Business only at Collegiate Campus on Tuesday 3 March 
  • I will be attending both the AGM Business and Networking lunch at the Collegiate Campus on Tuesday 3 March
  • I will be attending the AGM Business only at City Campus on Wednesday 4 March
  • I will be attending both the AGM Business and the Networking lunch at the City Campus on Wednesday 4 March

 

 

If you have any special dietary requirements please let us know and we will try to accommodate them.

SUTR 2020 TRADE UNION CONFERENCE

Saturday 8 February 12-4:30pm

Building on the success of the last couple of years’ trade union conferences, the event will bring together trade unionists from across different industries and sectors to discuss and organise how we can raise anti racism in our unions and workplaces.

From the threat of a far right street movement breaking through, to the anti racist movement’s defeat of fascist ‘Tommy Robinson’ in Britain, to the rise in racist populism and intensification of a ‘hostile environment’ we are seeing in the form of Boris Johnson and Nigel Farage – there are both victories for the anti racist movement to discuss, as well as major challenges now facing the anti racist movement.

The result of the general election and the reality of a Johnson led Tory government has made clear that anti racism is going to continue to be an important issue that should be at the heart of our unions.

Speakers include:

Margaret Greer Unison national race equality officer

Wilf Sullivan TUC race equality officer

Daniel Kebede NEU NEC

Riccardo La Torre FBU Eastern regional secretary

Registration 11.45am

Opening plenary 12.30pm: CHALLENGING RACISM IN THE WORKPLACE

Workshops 2pm – 3.15pm

  1. BUILDING ANTI RACIST EDUCATION
  2. FIGHTING THE ‘HOSTILE ENVIRONMENT’ IN THE NHS
  3. SOLIDARITY WITH REFUGEES
  4. ROOTING ALL FORMS OF RACISM OUT OF THE WORKPLACE
  5. LOVE MUSIC HATE RACISM: CULTURE AND THE ANTI RACIST MOVEMENT

Closing plenary 3.30 – 4.30pm: MOBILISING FOR MASS DEMOS ON 21 MARCH (UN ANTI RACISM DAY) #WorldAgainstRacism #M21

If you are interested in attending this event please email Lucinda Wakefield at l.m.wakefield@shu.ac.uk

AGM NOMINATIONS: GET INVOLVED

This is your chance to become a Steward and make a difference.

Workplace stewards are at the heart of our union. They are the first point of contact for our members in your local workplace, and they work to make your workplace a fairer and better place to work.

And we need more! We have vacancies in lots of areas at Sheffield Hallam. As new ways of working are rolled out across all professional services in the University, we need stewards in as many areas as possible.

THE ROLE OF A STEWARD INVOLVES:

  • Participating in a range of activities including organising, recruiting and representing UNISON members.
  • Being involved in how the Sheffield Hallam University UNISON branch is run.
  • Being the first and main point of contact for members in your constituency.
  • Supporting and advising members on workplace issues, both individual and collective.
  • Acting as a spokesperson for the members in your constituency and informing and involving members in branch activities.
  • You will receive facilities time in order to carry out your role – facility time
  • You will receive training and support from UNISON in order to carry out your role.“But I don’t have the skills!”

    Ever thought of becoming a steward but you’re worried you don’t have the right skills or the time? Don’t worry – you receive excellent training, plus paid time off work for your union duties.

    Here are six common worries you may have about becoming a steward – and how you can overcome them.

    1. I don’t do public speaking…

    …but I do raise issues I am concerned about in team meetings at work.

    2. I don’t do negotiation…

    …but I did complain when my gas bill got too high, and I did sort out a better deal with the company.

    3. I don’t do campaigning…

    …but I did support my local library when it was threatened with closure.

    4. I don’t do recruitment…

    …but I do get my neighbours to support the local school

    5. I don’t organise meetings…

    …but I do organise outings and holidays with my friends and family

    6. I don’t do representation…

    …but I did go to the doctors with my partner to make sure they got their views across.

  1. I don’t think I will have time for this…

…as a steward you would be allowed time to carry out UNISON related work, see the ‘Facility Time’ link above

Sound like you? Your colleagues need you!

WHAT TO DO NEXT:

Should you wish to find out more about becoming a steward, please contact one of our current stewards or Branch Officers, details here or for more information visit
http://www.unison.org.uk/for-members/support-us/work-with-us/become-a-rep/

Should you wish to stand as a steward, you need to:

    • Complete the attached Shop Steward Nomination Form – which requires two members of your constituency to nominate you. If you are unsure of the UNISON members in your constituency please email unisonadministrator@shu.ac.uk and I will supply you with a list.
  • Return the form back to me by 12 noon on Tuesday 11 February. Return address – UNISON, Room 109, Sheffield Technology Park, Cooper Building, City Campus

 

  • We will send you the information about the training that is being offered locally: the Organising Steward, and the range of training that UNISON offers regionally.The nominations will then be circulated to members in your constituency and provided no objections are received, you will be elected in time for the AGM.

    CONSTITUENCIES

  • Students Union (Students Union)
  • Library and Student Support Services (part of SAS) (L&SSS)
  • Academic Services and Directorate Office (part of SAS) (Academic Services)
  • Technical Operations, Resources and Services (TORS)
  • Digital Technology Services (DTS)
  • Corporate Operations (Corporate Operations)
  • Strategy, Planning & Insight and College Services (SPICS)
  • Estates and Facilities (Estates & Facilities)
  • Finance & Procurement (Finance)
  • Human Resources & Organisation Development, and Development & Diversity (HR&OD)
  • Governance & Sector Regulation (G&SR)
  • Recruitment, Communications & Marketing (RCM)
  • Transformation (Transformation)
  • Business Engagement, Skills and Employability (BESE)
  • Global Development & Partnerships (Global)
  • Research & Innovation Services (RIS)
  • Student Experience, Teaching and Learning (SELT)
  • Vice Chancellor’s Office. Development and Alumni Relations and Executive Support (VCO)
  • Academic Strategy and Colleges (AS&C)

We look forward to hearing from you.

HE CONFERENCE REPORT

By Ana Yousaf

I attended the Higher Education Service Group Conference as a first time delegate  on Thursday 16th January 2020. This is when all University UNISON branches get together and discuss/agree any motions put forward by either our Service Group Executive Committee or branches such as ours around the UK. This will often decide the campaigns we want the union as a whole in Higher Education to pick up and a strategy around our pay claim within Higher Education, which we can take forward for 2020/21.

I travelled down to Milton Keynes (where the conference was held) with my colleague Lucinda Wakefield on the afternoon before. Having someone to travel down with was really appreciated as we had to catch another train from Birmingham New street to Milton Keynes which was a bit chaotic.  It was good to get down there on time too, as it meant I could ensure I was prepared and had my delegate registration and conference pack.  I also had put a photo onto my credential badge ready to wear at all times in the conference hall.

My experience of the conference was enjoyable and satisfying, especially being with another delegate from the branch who had attended before, so knew what to do and expect.  They were able to show me the ropes and I had company.  On the first evening we met several  delegates from different branches within Higher Education, some of whom were part of the Higher Education Service Group Committee.

We got to the conference hall early to ensure that we had seats in the right area assigned by our region (South Yorkshire).

From the day, one motion fell (this means it was not heard at conference) due to the branch who were due to speak on it not being in attendance. Otherwise all the motions put forward were passed and as a first time delegate I did speak on two of the motions. These were:

  • Motion 5 – ‘Positively Promoting Mental Wellbeing in the Workplace’
  • Motion 11 – ‘ Raising the profile of Black activists in Higher Education’

Speaking at the conference for the first time was quite  daunting as my heart was beating rapidly when I made the move to walk up to the rostrum to speak. However, I did it and on the flipside, it was a satisfying experience for me and made me feel part of the debate – I was proud to represent the branch in this way. I have been enthused  to do more within our branch here at Sheffield Hallam University – especially as I was passionate about the motions I had spoken to and supported.

The morning of the conference was quite slow with very few (if any speakers) from the floor and several motions being passed without debate. I was very proud that as delegates from the branch myself and Lucinda did speak on several of the motions throughout the day and gave our branches perspective throughout.

However, the afternoon came alive when we got to motion 9. – ‘Industrial action ballot tactics for 2020-21 pay campaign and beyond’. There were hardly any seats left on either the ‘for or ‘against’ seated areas as delegates queued up to be part of this lively debate.  The discussion was around if and what we can achieve from going for a disaggregate ballot this year without losing our collective bargaining (a tactic that UCU lecturers union seem to be taking).  When it came to the vote and the show of hands it was too tight to call so the bell was rung for a paper vote. This is when all doors are closed in the hall and each branch has to write their decision (for or against) using the number of members they have in their branch. This is then posted  into a ballot box to be counted whilst the conference then resumes its duties.  The result came back later in the afternoon passing the motion, with 8303 for and just over  6000 against.

We both did also manage to take the opportunity in the breaks and at lunch to do some networking, making new contacts nationwide.  I had lunch with a first time delegate and explained to them how they could speak – which they did in the afternoon session.

I would recommend anyone who attends a UNISON conference for the first time to watch the ‘UNISON new delegates film’ at the link here.

Once the motions and amendments have been finalised we will make them available for members.

UN ANTI-RACISM DAY DEMO

Saturday 21 March 2020

With Trump in the White House, Johnson in Downing Street and the racist and fascist right winning mass support internationally we need to build the resistance. The London, Glasgow and Cardiff demonstrations to mark UN Anti Racism Day are part of a co-ordinated wave of international demonstrations. From Washington to Warsaw we will be marching for a #WorldAgainstRacism 

If you are interested in attending this event please email Lucinda Wakefield at l.m.wakefield@shu.ac.uk 

BULLYING – WHAT IT IS AND WHAT TO DO ABOUT IT

Last year’s staff engagement survey revealed that an alarming number of staff (26%) had experienced or observed bullying or harassment.   While most staff said they knew what support mechanisms existed, a significant minority (23%) did not.

A working group was set up to develop actions in response to this, and we hope to see concrete actions arising from that. But following discussion at Branch Committee, we thought it was useful to provide more information to help members understand and address the problem.

What is bullying?

The University’s “Dignity at Work Policy”, developed in consultation with UNISON and the other recognised unions, can be found here: https://sheffieldhallam.sharepoint.com/sites/3005/polproc/dignity/SitePages/home.aspx.

It contains widely accepted standard definitions of harassment, victimisation and bullying.

“Harassment” is defined as “any form of unwanted conduct [that] occurs with the purpose or effect of violating the dignity of a person and of creating an intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive environment.”

“Victimisation” is “where a person or group receives less favourable treatment than others because they have referred to or asserted their rights under anti-discriminatory legislation and/or university policies.”

And bullying is “persistent, unwelcome, offensive and intimidating behaviour or misuse of power, which makes the recipient feel upset, threatened, humiliated or vulnerable and undermines their self-confidence.”

The focus of this article is bullying.

Bullying does not have to be physical, it could take the form of spoken or written conduct, or non-verbal behaviours.   It could include ‘jokes’ or practical jokes, being shouted at, ridiculed, demeaned, undermined, or subjected to sarcasm or derogatory or inappropriate remarks. Threatening behaviour can be bullying whether physical or psychological, as can overbearing or intimidatory management or supervisory behaviours.  However, it is also possible for a manager to be bullied by someone they manage.  Bullying can also take the form of systematically withholding information, excluding people from meetings or communications without good reason, the “silent treatment”, or abuse of power.

If the bullying is related to a protected characteristic such as gender reassignment, disability, age, sex, sexual orientation, pregnancy or maternity status, marriage or civil partnership status, race, religion or belief it may be covered by the provisions of the Equality Act, which provides specific protections against harassment.

Of course, some behaviours may be unacceptable without constituting bullying. The Dignity at Work policy includes further examples.

We often speak to members who feel unsure whether the behaviours they have experienced are “OK” or not, and it can be reassuring and empowering to know that what has been happening is bullying and that it is definitely not “OK”.   Speak to a Union representative if you have any concerns or want advice about your situation or are unsure what to do.

Bullying is unacceptable

It is important to be clear that all employees have the right to work in a safe environment, and the University is responsible for (and the Policy makes it clear that they are formally committed to this) creating a workplace that is free of harassment, victimisation, discrimination and bullying, and where everyone is treated with dignity and respect.

The Dignity at Work policy states that “The University has a zero tolerance approach across all protected characteristics as outlined above to Bullying, harassment and victimisation which are all disciplinary offences and will be dealt with under the University’s disciplinary policy. Bullying  and  Harassment can constitute gross misconduct and can lead to dismissal without  notice.”

The Policy states that allegations of bullying will be investigated.

What can I do about bullying?

There are several steps that any individual who believes they are being bullied should take.

  • Document what is happening. Keep a written or electronic record or diary of the behaviour whenever it happens, whether it’s a big issue or an apparently minor one. Make a note of past incidents too.
  • If you feel able to, speak (or write) to the person you believe is bullying you, explain why you think their behaviour is unacceptable and make it clear you would like it to stop.   Givce specific examples and explain how they make you feel. Sometimes this is all it takes for the behaviour to stop. Speak to a Union rep for advice on how to do this.
  • If challenging the behaviour has not stopped it, or you do not feel able to speak to the person yourself, raise the matter with your line manager (or your line manager’s line manager, if appropriate).   Speak to a Union rep for advice if you’re not sure how to do this. We can raise the issue on your behalf, with your permission, or attend meetings with you.
  • You can also raise the issue by contacting HR.
  • Make use of the employee assistance programme: https://sheffieldhallam.sharepoint.com/sites/3005/polproc/eap/SitePages/Home.aspx?web=1
  • If the issue has not been resolved informally, or by management intervention, or if the behaviour is serious enough to warrant immediate formal action, then the University’s grievance procedure can be used.   Get advice from a Union rep on how to write and submit a grievance – we can also support and accompany you through the process.

The University’s policy is that bullying allegations are taken seriously and will be investigated.   If the investigation upholds the complaint, then disciplinary action can be taken.

It is recognised that it is not easy to raise complaints about bullying, so do seek support from UNISON.

Can I complain anonymously?

Yes. The University will investigate anonymous complaints as thoroughly as possible given the information available. The accused person would be informed that a complaint has been received and given an opportunity to respond.   However, be aware that it may not be possible to investigate an anonymous complaint.

Isn’t it just one person’s word against another?  

Not at all.

The purpose of an investigation is to come to a conclusion on the balance of probabilities rather than trying to find indisputable proof, which of course may not exist.   Notes taken at the time an incident occurred are important evidence, as is evidence that you have discussed the matter with HR, a line manager, or a Union representative or colleague.  Emails, text messages and social media posts may exist, as may meeting notes (or the lack of them).  There may have been witnesses to some of the behaviour complained of, if not all of it   And a person accused of bullying will not necessarily point-blank deny the behaviour, but may seek to justify or explain it away.

If an investigation is unable to uphold a grievance, due to contradictory or lack of evidence, action to deal with conflict between individuals may still be appropriate.

Bullying is unacceptable, but the staff survey suggests it is common but under-reported.  UNISON representatives are keen to support members in fighting bullying wherever it occurs and whoever is doing it.   Please get in touch if this is happening to you.

For more information see: https://www.unison.org.uk/get-help/knowledge/discrimination/bullying-and-harassment/

 

UNISON INTERNATIONAL: GAMBIA BIJILO PROJECT

Yorkshire and Humberside Region have been supporting a project in Gambia for several years and have received donations from a number of Branches.

This year their new goal is to raise £20,000 to build more classrooms for the Bijilo School.

Region is appealing to Branches to help support the project which our Branch will discuss at the February Branch Committee meeting.