UCU PENSION DISPUTE UPDATE

In March we emailed to thank you for your contributions to the hardship fund of our striking colleagues at The University of Sheffield, who were fighting against the proposed changes to the Universities Superannuation Scheme (USS) pension fund. Our collection at the branch AGM raised £134.57 and £25 in food vouchers, and the Branch Committee passed an emergency motion to send a further £250. These funds were prioritised to striking UCU members at Sheffield undergoing financial hardship during the dispute – primarily lecturers on ‘casual’ contracts and postgraduate students with teaching responsibilities.

In April we received the following message of thanks from the UCU branch president at Sheffield:

On behalf of Sheffield UCU I would like to express our sincere thanks for your donation to the local strike hardship fund.  Your solidarity is much appreciated and we would want to reciprocate should your branch have a future need.

The dispute ended on 13th April with 64% of the affected members voting to accept an offer from Universities UK. The offer promised the convening of a ‘Joint Expert Panel’ to ‘agree key principles to underpin the future joint approach of UUK and UCU to the valuation of the USS fund’ and to explore alternative scheme designs with a view to preserving the Defined Benefit scheme. For now at least, the proposed move to Defined Contribution has been taken off the table.

However many branches – including Sheffield – are deeply unhappy about the offer negotiated by the UCU Higher Education Committee and Leadership.  The failure to secure a ‘no detriment’ clause, the proposed Joint Expert Panel’s lack of transparency, and what some view as the tacit promotion of the UUK offer by UCU leadership led a number of branches to try and unseat the General Secretary at UCU’s national conference this month. This effort resulted in some fraught scenes and ultimately did not succeed, but controversy around the leadership’s perceived failure of its members is unlikely to go away.

Despite these current difficulties, it is important to recognise what our UCU colleagues have achieved. In what was possibly the biggest ever strike in UK Higher Education, UCU members managed to unite lecturers, support staff and students in opposition to the proposals. Public support remained high throughout the dispute, and – remarkably even the Conservative Universities Minister failed to condemn the action when given the chance.

In the longer term the successful action has showcased the financial viability of shared Defined Benefit schemes, and also hopefully warded off any immediate questions around post-92 universities’ participation in TPS and LGPS. A change in the law is required to remove our right to access these schemes, however calls for ‘fairness’ and parity with USS would undoubtedly have been used against us if the strike had failed. The strike also symbolised for many a strong rejection of the continued marketisation of Higher Education.

The branch extends its best wishes and thanks to our UCU colleagues, for their courageous defence of our employment rights.

 

UNISON PSOM Motion- 24 April 2018

The Branch welcomes the decision to delay the PSOM consultation briefings.

The Branch expects that:

● The delay will not lead to any reduction in the time available for consultation

● That the revised timeline will be realistic and achievable

● That the information available to Unions and affected staff for this and all future phases will be accurate and complete

The Branch notes concerns which have been raised by members in some affected areas following the circulation of the Background Information document, in particular:

● That various statements have been made which are felt to be at odds with evidence or feedback submitted, causing concern as to the validity of the proposals.

● The potential negative effect on the student experience in September of the current frontline proposals.

● The apparent lack of involvement of staff at all levels in some areas has led to a lack of confidence that the proposals are fit for purpose.

● That the University is rushing to make radical changes to service provision on an overambitious timescale, putting both student experience and staff at risk without the confidence that these changes will be successful.

The Branch expects that:

● The project team ensures its proposals are evidence-based and clearly explained in the consultation document.

● That staff are given adequate time to read documents in order to be able to respond effectively.

● The consultation is meaningful and genuine and that the response to feedback is comprehensive and reflects openness to changes to the proposals.

● The consultation will involve both affected staff and professional services stakeholders

The Branch is seriously concerned about the likelihood of large numbers of job losses, and reiterates our opposition to compulsory redundancies. We expect the University to work to avoid redundancies, in line with the Change Principles.

Proposed: Dan J Bye

Seconded: Lucinda Wakefield

 

PROFESSIONAL SERVICES REVIEW

We hope that members have been able to sign up for one of the open briefing sessions on the Professional Services Operating Model: https://portal.shu.ac.uk/Pages/AllNews.aspx#237.   If you haven’t please let the Branch know, to help us make the case for more sessions.

UNISON has received formal notification that consultation on proposals for the future shape of professional services is beginning, and so it is crucial that there is full engagement with the open meetings.

At this point UNISON has several concerns.

First of all, although many people have been involved with the PSOM project in various ways, many others have not – and we now need to ensure that everyone has an opportunity and adequate time to participate in the consultation.

Secondly, management have said they are committed to genuine and meaningful consultation. We believe that this means sufficient detail must be available to enable us to understand what is being proposed – not just structures, but also how services will be delivered, and whether there are any proposed changes to terms and conditions, and what they mean.   Without sufficient detail we will not be able to assess whether the principles of the PSOM are being properly applied in the interests of students and the University, or whether cost-cutting has become the primary driver.    It is acknowledged that the PSOM project has still not completed its work, and that consultation will happen in stages, but that adds complexities which need careful planning and clear and transparent communication.

At this point we are not yet reassured that the necessary information will be published, but we are working to ensure that it is.

Linked to this is the point that the timescales that are planned are ambitiously fast. But a large and complex group of staff and services need to be handled with care if serious mistakes are to be avoided. It cannot be done at breakneck pace.

Thirdly, management have denied that there are any arbitrary targets for job losses, but we do know that it is envisaged that professional services will be “smaller” – this has been stated in public and in writing (for example, in Richard Calvert’s recent message).   In any case there are agreed commitments to avoid compulsory redundancies, and UNISON will want to ensure that we stick to them – but this also means making sure that staff are prepared and supported, and that the sequencing of any changes does not shut anyone out.

Finally, I envisage that we will need to hold some open meetings for members to discuss the PSOM consultation, among other activities.   We will keep you informed as things develop, and will also be working alongside our colleagues in other unions.  And please, ensure that your local steward or the Branch is made aware of any issues in your area – and talk to your colleagues about the importance of joining a strong union.

Many thanks,

Dan

Dan J Bye

UNISON Branch Secretary

Stand as a branch officer

 

Are you looking for a challenge?

Why not stand for one of the following officer roles?

Communication Officer – Creating a positive image for the branch

Membership Officer – Develop recruitment and organising members

Welfare Officer – Making sure members seeking welfare assistance receive a prompt, supportive and effective response

Young Members Officer – Make sure young peoples’ voices are heard

Education Co-Ordinator – Training courses and education programmes for members, stewards, health and safety reps and branch officers

Equality Co-Ordinator  – Stand up for equality.  Equality is at the heart of the union

Contact Dan Bye, Branch Secretary  if you would like to know more.

 

Forthcoming UNISON events and meetings

If you are interested in attending any of the following events, click the event for further details.

UNISON National Deaf (BSL) Members network meeting, 27 June, UNISON Centre

UNISON National Disabled LGBT Members network meeting, 27 June, UNISON Centre

UNISON National Disabled Black Members network meeting, 28 June 2018, UNISON Centre

UNISON National Disabled Women Members network meeting, 28 June, UNISON Centre

National UNISON transgender & non-binary members meeting, 19 July, UNISON Centre

National UNISON bisexual members meeting, 19 July, UNISON Centre

UNISON National Disabled LGBT Members network meeting, 8 August,  UNISON Centre

UNISON National Deaf (BSL) Members network meeting, 8 August, UNISON Centre

UNISON National Disabled Women Members network meeting, 9 August, UNISON Centre

UNISON National Disabled Black Members network meeting, 9 August, UNISON Centre 

UNISON National Disabled LGBT members meeting, 13 September 2018, UNISON Centre

National UNISON Black LGBT members meeting, 14 September, UNISON Centre

UNISON AGM 2018

Our AGMs need to be quorate and to achieve this we need you.

Come and hear what the branch has been doing over the last year and where we are going in the future.

This is an opportunity to have your voice heard – and enjoy a free lunch! The meeting can be taken as work time so there’s no need to use up your flexi (lunch is in your own time).

Book your ticket > agm2018  for one of the following events.

BECOME A STEWARD – WHY YOU SHOULD, AND WHY YOU CAN DO IT!

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.

“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.

  1. I don’t do public speaking…

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

  1. 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.

  1. I don’t do campaigning…

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

  1. I don’t do recruitment…

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

  1. I don’t organise meetings…

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

  1. 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!

Apply to be a UNISON steward today

To find out more or express an interest in becoming a steward, contact Dan Bye on d.j.bye@shu.ac.uk

Here are the areas we currently have vacancies at Sheffield Hallam.

Arts, Computing, Engineering and Sciences

Development & Society

Health & Wellbeing

Sheffield Business School

Registry Services

Facilities

Finance, Planning & Human Resources and Organisational Development

Library and Student Support Services

Digital Technical Services

Director of Education and Employer Partnerships

Learning Enhancement and Academic Development

Student  Engagement Evaluation and Research

Admissions & UK Recruitment

Communications & Development

Marketing

Secretariat and Governance Services

Global Engagement Directorate

Research & Innovation Office

Students’ Union

MENTAL HEALTH AWARENESS WORKSHOP – 17 OCTOBER IN LEEDS

This course is a one day session delivered by an Open University lecturer and is open to UNISON members and activists.

Objectives for the day

  • Understand the main mental health problems that people face
  • Gain an insight into the experience of having mental distress
  • Explore some strategies for promoting good mental health
  • Be able to take a revised awareness to the workplace

What the day covers

  • Mental health issues
  • Perception of mental health
  • Experiencing mental health problems
  • Types of mental health problems (including anxiety, depression, suicide and self harm, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, personality disorders, eating disorders)
  • Legal considerations
  • What can individuals do
  • Medication and treatment
  • Useful organisations and signposting

If you’re interested in attending, please email t.shearer@unison.co.uk