UNISON AGM 2019

DIARY DATES:

Collegiate Campus AGM

Tuesday 5 March 2019

HC0.32 – 12-1pm AGM Business followed by a Networking Buffet Lunch 1-2pm

 

City Campus AGM

Wednesday 6 March 2019

Owen 1025 12-1pm AGM Business

Owen 1031 1-2pm Networking Buffet Lunch

 

 

UNISON SHU BRANCH ELECTIONS

BECOME A STEWARD

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 skill 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.

I don’t do public speaking……but I do raise issues I am concerned about in team meetings at work.

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.

I don’t do campaigning……but I did support my local library when it was threatened with closure.

I don’t do recruitment……but I do get my neighbours to support the local school

I don’t organise meetings……but I do organise outings and holidays with my friends and family

I don’t do representation……but I did go to the doctors with my partner to make sure they got their views across.

Sound like you? Your colleagues need you!  Shop Steward Nomination Form 2019

List of Constituencies

BRANCH OFFICER ROLES  

Branch Secretary

The Branch Secretary (rule G4.2), is responsible for ensuring the proper completion of the following tasks. It is not expected that, especially in larger branches, the Branch Secretary will personally undertake all these functions but will act as the strategic lead officer and co-ordinator within the branch. The secretary will encourage partnership working within the branch committee and the development of new representatives, will be the manager of branch staff and will manage the delegation of work to other branch officers and branch staff as appropriate, whilst providing support and guidance.

Chairperson

Tasks relating to the office of Branch Chairperson:-

  • to preside at all meetings of the branch and branch committee
  • to agree the agenda for meetings with the secretary
  • to ensure that business is properly conducted
  • to advise the branch officers and branch committee in respect of matters relating to procedure and interpretation of rules
  • to ensure that all functions of the branch are carried outto work closely with the secretary to provide leadership to the branch.

Vice Chair

  • To deputise for the Branch Chair.
  • To carry out functions related to Branch elections as set out in the Branch Rules.

Treasurer

Tasks relating to the office of Branch Treasurer:-

  •  to conduct the branch’s financial business
  • to keep accounts in accordance with the rules
  • to provide reports on the financial position of the branch committee
  • to provide a detailed financial report for the annual branch meeting(s)
  • to advise the branch officers and branch committee in respect of matters relating to financial management and appropriate expenditure
  • to provide an audited annual return of branch income.

Education  Officer

Tasks relating to the post of Branch Education Officer:-

  • To make sure all new stewards and safety representatives receive initial information and guidance about their duties, e.g. stewards handbook, rulebook, service conditions agreements, etc
  • To publicise the range of educational and training opportunities available to members and activists
  • To get untrained stewards, safety representatives and other branch officers onto appropriate training courses
  • To co-ordinate and support the work of learning representatives to encourage branch members and activists to make use of the UNISON courses
  • To maintain contact with the regional education officer/regional learning and organising committee
  • To establish a plan of training for activists and to produce an annual budget to meet its costs
  • To keep records of what training has been undertaken and by whom within the branch
  • To make sure that activists get paid time off for training where appropriate.

Equality Officer

All UNISON representatives should promote equality and challenge discrimination in their union role. Equality Officer, whilst not expected to be an expert on all equality matters, lead and co-ordinate the branch’s equality work.  The Equality Officer is not a representative of self-organised groups but is elected by the members at the Annual General Meeting.  They are however expected to work with representatives of self-organised groups, with equality representatives and all activists.  They support the training and development of other union representatives and monitor progress.  Branch Equality Officer should share good practice where there are multiple workplace representatives within branches.

Branches can elect equality representatives for each of their work groups. The role of the equality rep is to promote equality and challenge discrimination in their local area, keeping the Branch Equality Officer updated on developments.

Health and Safety Officer

Tasks relating to the post of Health and Safety Officer:-

  • to increase the awareness of members, health and safety representatives and branch officers of health and safety issues
  • to organise the information held by the branch on health and safety
  • to co-ordinate the activity of health and safety representatives and to organise regular meetings of health and safety representatives to exchange information and consider priorities
  • to be closely involved in all negotiations with the employer on matters related to health and safety
  • to advise the branch committee on health and safety issues arising in the branch and to recommend policies and priorities
  • to act as a link between the health and safety representatives and other branch representatives to ensure that health and safety issues are treated as an integral part of the work of the branch

Communications Officer

Tasks relating to the post of Branch Communications Officer:-

  • to explain UNISON’s policies and to provide the information members need to play an active role in their union
  • to assist with efforts to recruit new members
  • to help support UNISON’s national and regional campaigns
  • to help create a positive image for the branch among members, potential members and the public
  • to produce news-sheets or bulletins for distribution to branch members
  • to lead on the development of electronic communication with members – email, web, etc
  • to ensure branch communications are in the accessible formats members need – audit for any particular requirements such as large print/Braille etc
  • to ensure that nationally and regionally produced publicity and campaign materials are distributed, as appropriate, to stewards and onward to members and non-members
  • to monitor local media for stories which affect the branch and take appropriate action

To help ensure that the branch makes effective contact with the media whenever necessary by:

  • creating and maintaining lists of media and contacts
  • writing press releases
  • ensuring that appropriate individuals within the branch are available for comments, interviews etc
  • writing ‘letters to the editor’.

Membership Officer

Tasks relating to the post of Membership Officer:-

  • to map the branch’s membership in order to identify membership density and steward coverage
  • to monitor the branch’s recruitment, and also leavers rate
  • to work with the branch committee to develop and implement its organisation and development plan
  • to make recommendations to the branch committee on recruitment activities, targets, resources, budgets, etc.

International Officer

Tasks relating to the post of International Officer:-

  • to co-ordinate the branch’s work on international relations
  • to ensure that branch members are informed of national policy on international matters
  • to receive and distribute relevant information
  • to encourage members to be aware of the importance of international solidarity issues within the context of the overall work by the union
  • to liaise where appropriate with regional international structures and to ensure that the views of the branch on international activities are reported appropriately
  • to liaise with other branch officers concerning publicity and education on international issues
  • to liaise with the solidarity organisations and campaigns that UNISON is affiliated to
  • to encourage members of the branch to take action and participate in international solidarity activities organised nationally or regionally
  • to ensure that information on branch activity is shared at regional and national level
  • to seek to develop an international perspective among members, stewards and branch officers.

Young Members’ Officer

The role of the Branch Young Members’ Officer is ideal for someone who is interested in becoming more active in the union. The post may be a stepping stone to becoming a steward or taking on wider roles.

Branch Young Members’ Officer must be under 27 years of age for the whole of their term of office and be nominated by young members.

Labour Link Officer

The Labour Link Officer is elected and accountable to the Labour Link section within the branch and must be an individual member of the Labour Party – this is because the post holder should work to take UNISON policy forward in the party, often being a delegate to the general committee of the party and encouraging joint work and campaigning with the local constituency Labour Party (CLP).

The branch UNISON Labour Link Officer is the key contact point for information about regional and national UNISON Labour Link matters and is responsible for co-ordinating our activities in the branch. They also represent the interests of Labour Link levy payers on the UNISON branch committee. The Labour Link Officer must be nominated by members paying into the Affiliated Political Fund.

The Labour Link officer will receive support, training and advice on their role and responsibilities from their regional political officer.

Welfare Officer

Tasks relating to the post of Branch Welfare Officer:-

  • to ensure that branch officers, stewards and workplace representatives, and also employers, have regular up-to-date information about UNISON “There For You” and its range of services
  • to ensure that members seeking welfare assistance receive a prompt, supportive and effective response
  • to liaise and co-ordinate with regional and national levels to ensure that UNISON support is provided effectively
  • to undertake training and seek advice from UNISON “There For You” where necessary
  • to develop and implement local activity
  • to develop links with local charities and sources of support such as Citizen’s Advice Bureau and women’s refuges.

Officer Nomination Form 2019

2018 elected post holders were:

Branch Secretary                                                                           Dan J. Bye

Vice-Chair                                                                                       Ian Chesters

Treasurer                                                                                        Tracey Holland

 International Officer                                                                      Lucinda Wakefield

 Health & Safety Officer                                                                 William Tierney

 Communications Officer                                                              Katie Drajling

 Welfare Officer                                                                              Tongriang Lohor

 

 

 

URGENTLY REQUIRED: BRANCH TREASURER

Tracey Holland, who has been our Branch Treasurer for several years, will be stepping down at the AGM in March.  We will miss her.

The Branch urgently needs a member to succeed Tracey as Treasurer.

Experience is not necessary – training is provided, and there is support from UNISON HQ.    The Treasurer liaises closely with Joanne Ward, our Branch Administrator, who looks after our finances on a day-to-day basis and has a great deal of knowledge and experience.

The Treasurer would be able to take time off work for training, and there is agreed time to carry out Treasurer duties and attend Branch meetings, but the workload is not heavy.

The main responsibilities of Branch Treasurer are ensuring that accounts are produced, budgets prepared, and financial reports provided to Branch committees and the annual general meeting.   But much of this is automated.  We use electronic banking and our accounts are managed electronically, which means everything is straightforward and reporting is easy.  An outside company manages the payroll tasks associated with employing our Administrator.

Nor does the Treasurer need to get involved in individual casework or negotiations – although a Treasurer who was interested in doing so would be able to.

This is a great opportunity for a member who would like to become involved in the Branch.

If you are interested and would like to know more, please contact Dan Bye or Tracey Holland.

Candidates for Treasurer will then be elected by the AGM in March, so if you are interested you will need to complete and submit the officer nomination form by noon on 12th February.

http://unisonshu.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2019/01/Officer-Nomination-Form.doc

SHEFFIELD TELEGRAPH: SUPPORT STAFF JOBS TO GO AT SHU

Article published in Sheffield Telegraph

The Sheffield Telegraph recently published an article about the number of support staff leaving the University following the implementation of the Professional Service Operating Model for Student and Academic Services.  As a major employer in the city, the loss of so many jobs at SHU is clearly significant.

The article prominently carried a quote on the situation from Branch Secretary Dan Bye, referring to the overwhelming support for UNISON’s motion of no-confidence in the implementation process, a motion we believe has been vindicated by events since the new year.

 

 

 

 

Be a workplace contact!

While the Branch encourages members to become active in the Branch as stewards (alternatively known as workplace representatives) and officers, representing members and helping to run the Union (and there are vacancies!), that’s not the only way to get involved.    

 From time to time we publicise free training events and conferences that members can attend, but there are also UNISON self-organised groups in which women, black members, disabled members, lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender members, young members and retired members can get involved (see: https://www.unison.org.uk/about/our-organisation/structure/member-groups/).

 But UNISON also has a role for “workplace contacts”.  

 Workplace contacts can play an important role in helping members organise, by being the eyes and ears of the Branch in a particular team or area, helping communicate the Branch’s messages and sharing information with their colleagues and other members, promoting the Union and supporting and encouraging people who want to join UNISON.  Where members need representation or advice, a workplace contact can refer them to the best source of help.   Unlike officers and stewards, workplace contacts are not elected.

 It’s a good way of getting to know UNISON (and the University) a bit better, and could be a starting point for someone thinking of getting more involved with the Union.    Either way, being a workplace contact could be a great learning opportunity.

 If you are interested in becoming a workplace contact, please let the Branch Secretary, Dan Bye, know.  Alternatively, speak to your local steward or another officer.

Student Loans: are you paying back the right amount?

Members who are paying back a student loan should check that the correct amounts are being deducted.  

 There is no indication that this is a widespread or systematic problem, but the possibility of error exists and could have significant financial consequences.   We have had some examples over the last year of members who have became aware that they were overpaying on their student loan, and so we thought it was useful to raise awareness of the issue.

 Refunds can be made where mistakes are made, but note that issues need raising with the Student Loan Company.   The University payroll team is instructed by HMRC (who get their information from SLC) of any changes to student loan repayment plans, and are not otherwise able to make any changes.

 First of all, check that you are liable to make repayments. There are tens of thousands of people who are known to have started repaying too early. Liability only starts in the April after you graduate or leave higher education. And you don’t need to repay unless your earnings have reached the necessary threshold in any tax year.   The current threshold for those who started University during or after 2012 (England/Wales) is £25,000.  It’s different in Scotland and Northern Ireland.   

 Secondly, check that repayments have been stopped or started as appropriate if your earnings dropped below the threshold in a month – although the earnings threshold is for a tax year, the calculation will be on a monthly basis.

 Thirdly, check that you are not still paying despite having paid off your loan.   Again, tens of thousands of people have ended up overpaying because of the way in which HMRC annually report earnings to the Student Loans Company – eventually this should be detected and notified to the affected individual, but let them know if you spot it yourself.

 Finally, check that you are paying according the correct repayment plan.  Plan 1 is for those who took out their loan before 1 September 2012.  Plan 2 is for those who took out their loan on or after that date.   Repayment rates are calculated differently for each plan, which is why it matters.

 If you want more information or need to check any details, see the Student Loans Company website:  http://www.studentloanrepayment.co.uk

 If you have overpaid and want to be refunded, call the Student Loan Company on 0300 100 0611.  You might need personal data such as national insurance number, payroll number and PAYE reference.

 Example of newspaper coverage of student loan overpayment, https://www.telegraph.co.uk/money/student-money/hmrc-blames-student-loans-company-mass-overpayments/

Dan J Bye

 

Voluntary Living Wage – a qualified welcome


The National Minimum Wage became law in 1998, taking effect the following year.  It introduced different minimum hourly rates according to age bands. In 2015, George Osborne announced that for over-25s, the minimum wage would be renamed the National Living Wage and increased significantly.  This was primarily a way of outflanking the Labour Party, which had proposed a lower rise in the minimum wage.   The change was introduced from 2016.

 Confusingly, a voluntary “living wage” has been in existence since 2011, arising from campaigning going back to the early 2000s.   The Living Wage Foundation sets the level of the voluntary – or as we prefer to call it, Real Living Wage based on the cost of living.  The aim is to provide a worker with the minimum pay rate required to provide their family with the essentials of life, which the statutory so-called National Living Wage does not do.    Employers signing up to the Voluntary Living Wage undertake to maintain the pay of their lowest paid staff at the independently set level, and are recognised for doing so.

 Here at Sheffield Hallam, UNISON first raised the Real Living Wage issue back in 2012.  We therefore welcomed the University’s decision to pay the Voluntary Living Wage to our lowest paid colleagues from August.  

 This takes the form of a Voluntary Living Wage Supplement, paid to staff on Grade 2 (we do not use Grade 1 here) and the first spinal point of Grade 3 whose hourly rate would otherwise fall below that rate.  There are over 100 people impacted by this move.

 The Voluntary Living Wage was adjusted to £9 per hour in November, and affected staff should see that reflected in their pay packets soon.  

 Our welcome for this move is a qualified one, however, because the University has decided not to become an accredited Voluntary Living Wage employer.  Also, the method chosen to pay the Real Living Wage – a supplement on top of basic pay – flattens out the pay levels for staff on Grade 2.  Nor does the supplement apply to contract staff and casual staff who are not counted as employees, although it does apply to placement students and apprentices.

 Nevertheless, the move is a genuinely progressive move that benefits a large number of workers, and we hope that it will be maintained in the years to come.

Pensions news

 

Colleagues will be aware of the strike action taken earlier in the year by UCU (the academics’ trade union), in defence of the USS pension scheme.  More information about that can be found here: https://www.ucu.org.uk/strikeforuss.   The USS scheme is mainly found among pre-1992 Universities, where professional services staff may also be scheme members.  Here at SHU, most professional services staff will be in the Local Government Pension Scheme (LGPS), and the vast majority of teaching staff will be in the Teachers Pension Scheme (TPS).

The TPS is not just a higher education scheme, it is the default scheme for teachers in state-funded schools as well as many FE colleges.    And unlike the LGPS, which is a “funded scheme” (this means that employer and employee make contributions to a fund which is then invested), the TPS is an “unfunded” scheme paid out of general taxation.

In October, the Treasury published information about the actuarial valuation of the scheme and announced that employer contributions would rise from 16.48% to over 23% – about a 40% increase in costs.   Employee contributions are linked to pay rates, but the average employee contribution is 9.6%.

Apparently schools will receive some help with these additional costs, at least (but only) for the first year.   But there is no such help for Universities, leaving higher education employers facing an unexpected and unwelcome and very significant hike in staff costs.

USS Members in Pre-92 Universities

Meanwhile USS members have now been told that their scheme is in a better position than previously thought. The ‘Joint Expert Panel’ convened earlier this year at the end of the dispute found shortcomings in the 2017 valuation that led to the aborted attempt to move to Defined Contribution. This was exactly as many UCU activists suspected all along, and they have been thoroughly vindicated in their decision to strike. Following the re-valuation, universities have now indicated their support for accepting ‘greater risk’ within the scheme (i.e. valuation rules less likely to favour their agenda), and employer contributions will only have to rise by a small amount to safeguard members’ benefits.

So we are now in the exact opposite position as we found ourselves in at the beginning of the year, where USS members were preparing to walk out, and looking longingly at their pre-1992 academic colleagues’ “safe” pensions.

Meanwhile, attacks on the pensions of professional services staff are becoming more common across the sector.

LGPS and University Pension Schemes

At Southampton University a proposal to close the final-salary PASNAS scheme and replace it with a defined contribution scheme was withdrawn as a result of collective action, meaning that existing scheme members retained final-salary benefits, but the scheme was closed to new members.

At the University of Manchester, a consultation on the future of the University of Manchester Superannuation Scheme (UMSS) was launched over the summer, on the back of an actuarial valuation which said the scheme was in deficit to the tune of  £207m. About 4000 support staff are members of the defined benefit scheme, which currently has a final salary section and a career average revalued earnings (CARE) section.   The proposed changes would close the scheme to new starters, who would join a new defined contribution scheme instead, and move existing scheme members from a final salary scheme (which would close) to an inferior career average scheme (which would replace the existing CARE section).  In a consultative ballot, 89% of UNISON members who voted indicated support for industrial action in opposition to the changes.

The Ongoing Dispute at Staffordshire University

Finally, in May this year Staffordshire University management informed the local UNISON branch of their intention to transfer their administrative staff (grades 1-6) from the Local Government Pension Scheme to an inferior private scheme.  To achieve this goal they took the step of transferring administrative staff out of direct employment and into a Wholly Owned Subsidiary (Staffordshire University Services Limited).

One month of consultation was given to staff to voice their views on the proposed changes. The branch were informed of the proposals very shortly before the consultation began. Following the close of the consultation period the changes went ahead as planned.

These changes will leave many low-paid staff in ‘pension poverty’, and disproportionately affect low-paid female workers. It has been calculated that some staff may lose up to £10,000 per year in their retirement.

Staffordshire University UNISON branch comments that: “This is a targeted and unfair attack on the future of the lowest paid members of staff leading to uncertain retirement, a retirement the workers have planned and paid for.”

In response our colleagues at Staffordshire have taken 5 days of staggered industrial action between August and October. So far, Staffordshire University management have refused to return to talks. More industrial action is planned.

We will be raising a motion in support of our colleagues at Staffordshire at our next Branch Committee, which includes a proposal to make a donation to their hardship fund. This will go towards supporting low-paid members in the next round of action.

We also strongly encourage members to contribute to the hardship fund. The Staffordshire Branch’s bank details are given below:

Bank Name: Unity Bank

Sort Code: 608301

Account Number: 20024820

 

Article by Rich Nind & Dan Bye

 

UNISON Welfare Charity – There For You

‘There for You’ is a UNISON welfare charity that can assist members with :

  • Financial Assistance
  • Debt Advice
  • Wellbeing Breaks
  • Support and Information

If you or your dependents are experiencing financial and/or emotional difficulties the charity can provide confidential advice and support.

If you would like more information, please use the link below:
https://www.unison.org.uk/get-help/services-support/there-for-you/