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.

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.

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/