MENTAL HEALTH IN THE WORKPLACE

24 February, 2 March, 9 March 2020 (Apply by 24 January 2020)

This TUC 3 day course is for UNISON reps who want to develop a better understanding of mental health in general and increase their awareness of how the workplace can affect mental health plus gain some practical skills for dealing with mental health related issues.

Non Residential at East Riding College, Hull

Cost to Branch: £75 per delegate

Not a rep? Why not get involved in your Branch?

UNISON mental health stories

YOUTH CLIMATE STRIKE ACTION 20 09 19

‘This is not a single-generation job. It’s humanity’s job….Let’s all join together, with your neighbours, co-workers, friends, family and go out on to the streets to make your voices heard and make this a turning point in our history’ – Greta Thunberg and 46 youth activists from the International movement.

On 20th September young people across the globe not only continued their monthly strike action (inspired by the environmental activist Greta Thunberg), but called on all workers, trade unionists, community groups  and adults to join them as part of a massive global day of action. Millions of people from Sydney to Manila, Dhaka to London and New York marched for urgent action by world leaders on climate breakdown. This just 3 days before the UN emergency climate summit.

Five thousand joined the students here in Sheffield, with the branch  joining the march through Sheffield along Arundel Gate to the City Hall. There were speakers  from Sheffield Trades Council, Sheffield Climate Alliance, Sheffield Stand Up to racism, but it was the voices of the young and future workers that dominated the rally and inspired many to join them in their stand against the inertia of those in power, demanding a climate emergency an  calling for action to be taken now.

Sheffield Hallam University Branch sent the following message of support to those young people who took to the streets:

“Sheffield Hallam University UNISON Branch sends solidarity to all the young people around the world striking today. Above all else you have shown great strength in creating a wave of urgency and resistance that has shown the way in the struggle against this climate crisis. It is time for all trade unionists, workers and everyone on this planet to join you in calling ‘time out’ to all those in power who continue to ignore you. Together, we can build a better world.”

We will be sending out more information as to future activities from our branch around the climate emergency. If you are interested in getting involved please contact Lucinda Wakefield at l.m.wakefield@shu.ac.uk

 

PENSION NEWS- LGPS

At the beginning of the month a government consultation paper was released with some very worrying implications for Local Government Pension Scheme members. 

The government is proposing that there will no longer be a legal requirement for ‘further education corporations, sixth form college corporations and higher education corporations’ to offer LGPS membership to new non-teaching staff. This has been expected for a while, and sadly has come at the request of universities and colleges themselves. The proposal will no doubt be met with jubilation within many university boardrooms.

To be clear; the paper is proposing that universities will be able to decide whether to offer the scheme to new members of staff and is proposing that current employees’ scheme membership will be protected. The proposals are to be consulted on, and the government will need to pass legislation to make them happen.

Under the proposals, universities can make the decision themselves about whether to continue offering LGPS to new staff members, according to their own needs and ‘business model’. In practice this means that universities may decide to offer the scheme only to staff above a certain grade. Similarly, universities in competitive labour markets (e.g. in London or the South-East) may decide to continue offering the scheme to encourage staff retention.  

Universities that decide to partially or fully pull out of LGPS are likely to offer their new non-teaching staff a cheaper (and far worse) pension scheme, with lower employer contributions.

The rationale behind the changes is that universities are now marketised and are in competition with each other, so are effectively no longer public sector employers. This rings hollow – when it comes to pay restraint and blocking strike action the government are happy to consider us public sector employees, but when it comes to pensions we no longer are.

The paper reassures us that current LGPS members will be protected, but as our colleagues in post-92 universities have found, pension ‘reforms’ are rarely final.  On top of this, blocking new entrants to a pension scheme will damage it in the long-run. For example, in the current Firefighters’ dispute, a drop in contribution income (due to redundancies) is being given as a reason for cutting their pension scheme benefits.

HE and FE staff currently account for around 20% of LGPS members. Withdrawing access to the scheme for new staff in these institutions will be deeply damaging over the long-term, and will affect the benefits of all LGPS members.

Unison will be working locally and nationally to oppose this regressive proposal. We urge all members to respond to the consultation here.

 

Stop Cuts to South Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Service

The Branch supports the campaign, led by the Fire Brigade’s Union, and supported by Sheffield Trades Union Council, against cuts proposed by South Yorkshire Fire Authority.

The proposals would mean a reduction in the number of firefighters crewing a fire appliance from 5 to 4, and reduce night-time cover in Sheffield to one appliance with a four person crew.

The campaign is demanding that the Authority drop these plans and lobby the Government for proper funding.

What is the issue?

The Fire Service has a deficit of £8.3 million, which is being used as the justification for the current wave of cuts.  £2.4 million of the deficit is attributable to the pensions deficit, itself caused by a drop in contribution income following previous cuts.

The proposals would mean a loss of 84 firefighter’s jobs.  To put this in context, before austerity decimated the service there were 1100 firefighters – there are now 594.

The fifth person on a fire appliance, who would be abolished under the proposals, serves a crucial function in coordinating and monitoring duties to help protect the health and safety of firefighters in a building.

For a domestic incident, nine firefighters are needed, which – with reduced crew levels – would mean three engines rather than two.   Support would be needed from other stations, increasing response times and putting pressure on the Service if there was a serious incident.

What has happened so far?

When the Chief Fire Officer presented his proposals to the South Yorkshire Fire Authority, the Authority voted to “note” the report, which means a delay while the proposals are consulted on.  Consultation ends in August.

The FBU is lobbying members of the authority, and has set up a petition.  If they can get 5000 signatories, this will force a debate in the Council chamber.

The FBU petitioned Parliament in May, held a rally in front of Sheffield Town Hall last week, and is also preparing to submit Freedom of Information requests to obtain more information about how the Fire Service spends its money.

What You Can do

Circulate information about the campaign, the consultation and the petition to your friends and collegues.

Sign the FBU’s petition here: https://www.megaphone.org.uk/petitions/stop-cuts-to-south-yorkshire-fire-and-rescue-service-1

Respond to the public consultation here: https://www.syfire.gov.uk/haveyoursay/

 

For more information on the campaign locally see:https://sheffieldtuc.co.uk/save-our-fire-service-no-job-cuts-no-reduction-in-fire-engine-crews-no-cut-in-night-time-cover-end-austerity-now/

 

UNISON PAY CONSULTATION

You should have received an email from Jon Richards, UNISON’s Head of Education in the last week or so, urging that you use your vote in the ongoing pay consultation.   You may also have received a reminder.

The email includes a link to allow you to vote.  In the past we have conducted these consultative ballots locally, but they are now being run from National HQ.

If you are an eligible member but have lost your voting email or didn’t receive one, you can use this voting link instead (membership number required):

Vote now

Please do use your vote.    You can vote until 1st July.

The pay offer affects you, and your vote helps determine UNISON’s response.   UNISON is urging members to REJECT the offer, and will decide whether to proceed to a full ballot for industrial action based on the results of this consultative ballot.

UNISON’s pay claim, submitted jointly with the other Higher Education unions, was for a rise of inflation (using the RPI measure), plus 3% (or a minimum of  £3,349).     The claim also asked for a £10 an hour minimum rate of pay, for all Universities to become accredited Living Wage employers, a 35 hour working week, action to close gender and ethnicity pay gaps, and action on excessive workloads and stress.

The employers offered a rise of 1.8%, with an offer of between 1.82% and 3.65% for the lowest paid.

Check what it would mean for you here:  final pay offer.

Use UNISON’s pay calculator below to see how much pay you’ve lost over the last ten years:https://www.unison.org.uk/at-work/education-services/about/higher-education/pay-now-higher-education.

UNISON PAY CAMPAIGN 2019

University employers improve offer at latest pay talks.

Unions representing workers across the UK higher education sector met employers for the second round of pay talks, and received an improved offer over that made at the first meeting on 26 March.

UNISON head of education Jon Richards (above) said: “While the employers made an increase to their opening offer, this still falls far short of the fair claim made by unions.

“As negotiations continue, the unions will push for an improved deal at the next meeting later this month.”

In March, the university employers said they had “an initial envelope for discussion of 1.3% across all the elements of the pay claim”

This week, they increased that ‘envelope’ to 1.5% and spoke of a 2.5% pay rise for the lowest paid staff.

 The unions and employers are due to meet again on 7 May.