New: “On the Line”

By Susan Kelly, Goldsmiths, University of London

This is the introduction to the 2018 BA Fine Art show catalogue

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Vote! Pay + Equality Claim (UCU consultative ballot)

(Text of email sent to all Leeds UCU members on 8 June 2018. Reposted with thanks to the Leeds UCU branch)

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You will have had (or should shortly receive) a very important email from UCU entitled “UCU Pay and equality consultation”. (If you have not received it, please click [here] for a replacement). This is a vital UCU internal consultative ballot (the stage before an ‘official’ ballot which, by law, would need to be conducted by post). As ever, we ask all members to vote by the 27 June deadline. Turnout matters and is a way of showing and building strength in itself. We are also asking members to observe the recommendations on which the national negotiators, the Higher Education Committee, and the annual Higher Education Sector Conference last week are united…

Even conservative assessments (including [Michael Otsuka’s]) show declining real-terms pay, and that’s before you factor in casualisation, discrimination, the effect of workload inflation, etc. Therefore:

  • Please vote to REJECT the pay offer in question 1
  • Please vote YES to taking sustained industrial action if that is needed in question 2

The proportion of university expenditure spent on staff has fallen to just 54.7%, while reserves held by institutions have increased by 259% and capital expenditure by 34.9%. It’s about time money was invested in staff – which will also benefit our students.

See the whole post here.

 

Open Letter to UCU National Executive Committee

A copy of the letter and signatures will be delivered to the NEC for its meeting on 22 June

Initiated by Susanne Hakenbeck (Cambridge UCU)

We have been disturbed and disheartened to hear that delegates to the recent UCU Congress 2018 who proposed motions critical of the General Secretary were accused of bullying behaviour. Motion 10 (No confidence in UCU general secretary Sally Hunt) was proposed by delegates of Exeter University and motion 11 (Censure of UCU general secretary) by delegates from King’s College London. Accounts by these delegates and others, both on the day (via Twitter) and in later reflections, have revealed that the delegates who proposed these motions were subjected to intense emotional pressure by the union leadership and staff, in an attempt to persuade them to withdraw the motions even after the Conference Business Committee (CBC) had agreed to include them.

Some of the union leadership and staff, speaking as UNITE members who represent UCU staff, accused the delegates who supported these motions of bullying, saying that their actions could be considered as an attack on elected officials, since this might make them redundant and thus endanger their livelihood and mortgages. The President of UCU suspended the Congress several times, thereby curtailing its democratic process. Events became so heated that some UCU members organised an impromptu demonstration in support of UCU staff outside the main Congress hall, bearing signs saying ‘No to bullying’.

In an email to the membership on 4 June, the General Secretary reported on the events that occurred: ‘By the time Congress had finished some of our staff were in tears at the attacks they had received. Others were deeply upset by online calls for UCU staff to ‘all be sacked’ or disciplined in retaliation by UCU for supporting their own union.’

The emotional pressure put on the delegates from Exeter and KCL to withdraw motions that had been considered legitimate by the CBC can itself be considered bullying, as is the account of the events by the General Secretary.

For anyone who has witnessed this kind of behaviour in a workplace, the signs are clear: the bully turns the table to claim victim status. Any criticism of their actions is harnessed as further evidence that they are the real victims, and attention is shifted away from the original concerns. We have just seen similar behaviour from Janet Beer, Liverpool’s Vice Chancellor, who cast her critics during the pensions dispute as ‘crazies’ coming after her children.

Union case workers often have to deal with cases of workplace bullying. We hope that our union is better than this.

All members have the right the be free from bullying, both congress delegates and UCU staff (whose trade union rights are not being called into question). We express our support for the delegates who brought legitimate motions for democratic consideration. We affirm the importance of accountability, transparency and democratic process in our union.

Add your name here.

https://soundcloud.com/user-415921868/episode-1-ucu-congress-what-happened
https://exeterucu.wordpress.com/2018/05/30/exeter-ucu-delegation-response-to-events-at-ucu-congress-30th-may-2018/
https://www.kcl.ac.uk/unions/ucu/KCL-UCU2018Congress-Delegates-statement.pdf

Register your delegates to SHESC – deadline 5pm this Wednesday

Jaya John John (Oxford UCU) has produced a spreadsheet for branches designed to help gauge how quorum is progressing for UCU’s crucial Special Higher Education Sectoral Conference about the USS dispute, 21 June in Manchester. (FOR DETAILS ON HOW YOU FORMALLY REGISTER DELEGATES WITH UCU, PLEASE SEE BELOW).

The quorum for this meeting – from branches in both pre- and post-1992 institutions is 110. We have a lot of work to do to get this many delegates registered by 5pm on Wednesday 13 June for this Special HESC to go ahead.

To help know how many delegates are planning to attend, please complete the form for your branch or committee. If your information changes, you can always fill in the form a second time.

Please fill in the spreadsheet for your branch as soon as possible – it will take just a minute or two. You can then see delegate numbers at https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/1pamvSGA-8fk43PvMca7JIHU95kItlYVWgkn0r_gmgg4/edit?usp=sharing

PLEASE NOTE THAT THIS IS ONLY AN INFORMAL TALLY DEPENDENT ON WHAT MEMBERS INPUT.

THE FORMAL PROCEDURE FOR REGISTRATION OF DELEGATES WITH UCU CAN BE FOUND HERE

Motions need to be submitted here by 5pm Thursday 14 June

Motions for Special Higher Education Sector Conference (21 June 2018)

Please note that motions have to be a maximum of 150 words and also note that if 110 delegates from pre-92 and post-92 institutions do not register by Weds 13 June, the event will not take place. You can register delegates here and submit motions here.


The following motions were passed by Cambridge UCU on 13 June 2018

Motion 1 on transparency and the USS Joint Expert Panel 
Conference notes:
– that satisfactory recommendations from the UCU-UUK Joint Expert Panel (JEP) are crucial to acceptable resolution of the USS dispute;
– that the lack of transparency severely undermined confidence in the 2017 USS valuation process;
– that the current Terms of Reference make both submitted evidence and discussions among the JEP confidential.
Conference resolves:
– That UCU will accept any JEP recommendations as authoritative only if accessible and convincing explanations of the following are provided:
(i) the evidence and reasoning by which any Scheme deficit or surplus is calculated by the JEP, in light of the high level of actual investment returns;
(ii) the evidence and reasoning used by the JEP to estimate of the strength of the employer covenant;
(iii) the evidence and reasoning underlying the JEP’s calculation of the contribution rates needed to fund various levels and types of future defined benefits.
Motion 2 on the Joint Expert Panel 
– Conference notes that the membership has had no role yet in shaping the structure or operation of the Joint Expert Panel.
– Conference believes the JEP is not a negotiation but a fact-finding exercise and is not legitimate in negotiating alternative scheme design options, including Collective Defined Contribution designs.
– Conference believes that the JEP should operate from a presumption of transparency rather than confidentiality.
– Conference notes that the JEP risks taking away from the hands of union members the democratic control over the dispute and risks co-opting our union into employers’ positions.
Hence conference resolves to insist that all materials submitted to or produced by the JEP be made available to members of the USS immediately, and the terms of reference for the JEP is modified accordingly and submitted to the membership of branches in dispute before August for approval.

The following motions were passed unanimously at the AGM of Liverpool UCU on 6 June, 2018 

Motion 2a: Democracy and transparency in ongoing industrial action

Conference notes:

  • the decision by the Higher Education Committee chair not to give representatives a vote on the UUK proposal at the 28 March USS meeting held at Carlow Street exposed our Union’s democratic deficit
  • the subsequent claim made by the general secretary (GS) that the majority of branch representatives wanted an immediate ballot of members

Conference believes:

  • a member-led union requires a democratic and transparent decision making process, both in the USS, and any future disputes

Conference resolves

  • that results of the April 2018 consultative ballot to suspend action be published and broken down branch by branch
  • that the rules around calling notices for branch meetings be suspended during industrial action
  • that all key decisions in representative meetings end with a show of hands vote, the result of which should inform the vote of the Higher Education Committee to provide greater representation of the views of the wider membership

Motion 2b: scrutiny of the Joint Experts Panel

The Branch notes that a clear mechanism of reporting to the membership will strengthen the power of our representatives on the JEP. This Branch demands that the national union establishes a standing meeting of HE delegates to scrutinise the work of the JEP.

1.This meeting should take place in October 2018, at the annual conference in May 2019, and should follow the same bi-annual pattern until the membership (through a consultative ballot) agree that a satisfactory resolution to the dispute has been agreed.

2.Following each HE meeting, a consultative ballot should be held within 2 weeks of the meeting to establish if the membership is satisfied with progress. 3.The wording of the consultative ballot should be agreed by emergency motion at the HESC meeting. 4.Should the consultative ballot indicate that members are not happy with progress, the union will reopen its dispute with UUK.


The following motions were passed by Oxford UCU on 12 June

Handling of employer offers during disputes

Conference notes:

1. Difficulties arising during the USS dispute due to limited time for discussion and consultation.

2. The improvements to our union’s handling of disputes mandated by Congress 2018’s motion 9.

Building on this, conference resolves that:

1. During pensions, pay and other disputes, ballot text will be circulated to branch officers at least 3 working days in advance of the ballot going live.

2. In order to provide flexibility to our national negotiators, this timeframe may exceptionally be reduced to 1 working day, if a majority of our national negotiators so vote.

(90 words)

JEP (Joint Expert Panel): regular reporting and submissions from members

Conference notes the very welcome first statement from Joanne Segars OBE, chair of the Joint Expert Panel, in particular, that the JEP will:

1. provide regular reports about the JEP’s progress and the issues discussed,

2. explain clearly the evidence serving as the basis for recommendations,

3. accept submissions from USS members on all relevant issues.

Conference reaffirms the importance of these undertakings.

Conference also notes motion HE47 carried at HESC 2018 which mandates Superannuation Working Group members to agree regular reporting and feedback mechanisms with UCU appointed members of JEP.

Building on these, Conference mandates the SWG to negotiate that the JEP will report to members following each meeting of the JEP.

(110 words)


The following motion  has been drafted by Marion Hersh with post-92 institutions in mind

USS members in post 92 Universities 
HESC notes that some staff in post-92 universities are members of 
USS. While these staff have not been involved in industrial action inthe USS dispute, UCU needs to find means of informing them regularly of developments in USS pensions issues and, where feasible, involvingthem in the campaign to defend USS pensions. Furthermore UCU 
recognises the need to identify and quantify the extent of USS membership in post 92 universities and TPS membership in pre-92 
universities.

HESC calls upon HEC:  
1. to take active measures to identify USS members in post 92, eg 
through adding pension scheme membership to UCU membership records
2. contact USS members in post-92 institutions about developments in USS pensions
3. give them opportunities to be engaged in campaigning work to 
defend USS pensions,
4. give them a consultative voice in matters related to USS pensions.

The following motions are to be proposed by Glasgow UCU

Call for resignation of USS CEO

Conference deplores the role of the USS Chief Executive Officer in encouraging the undermining of our pensions and provoking the most sustained and disruptive industrial action in Higher Education history, including by:

1. Insisting on an inappropriate valuation approach and recklessly prudent assumptions

2. Moving from the September to November technical provisions,

3. A lack of flexibility in the implementation of  the valuation deadlines and imposition of rule 74.6, thereby undermining the work of the Joiint Expert Panel.

Conference calls for the resignation of the CEO of USS.

Joint Expert Panel

Conference welcomes the setting up of the JEP and the motions of the recent HE Sector Conference about its work.

Conference agrees that UCU contract with the JEP should follow the agreed processes and that these should be publicised to members

Conference instructs HEC to

1.  Publicise any refusal, delays or conditionality by USS upon releasing information to JEP.

2.  Encourage members to make submissions to JEP.

3.  Arrange for a dedicated area of UCU website to be set up for JEP information and reports.

Conference instructs the negotiators to Investigate the use of any surplus to improve pensions for members on casualised contracts, at the start of their careers and in equality strands.  One approach would be a reduction in contributions while maintaining benefits.


The following motions were passed by Sussex’s AGM on 4 June, 2018 (motions 2 and 3 submitted to SHESC; extracts from motions 1 and 4 to be submitted as possible amendments to other motions)

 

  1. Conference believes that it is essential to the credibility of the JEP that the evidence on which it bases its conclusions should be available to all so that others can check its conclusions.

Conference therefore calls on the UCU-nominated members of the JEP to abstain from all discussions which are based on any data from USS, or on oral or written submission from third parties, which is not simultaneously made public, except in circumstances where they agree, on explicitly stated grounds, that the requirements of confidentiality override those of transparency. We call on the SWG to request the same abstention of the UCU-nominated members of the JEP.


  1. Conference notes that between January 1997 and October 2009, while employees’ USS contributions remained at 6.35% of salaries, the employer contribution was reduced from 18.55 to 14%. In 1999, USS actuarial estimates indicated this decrease in employer contributions would result in a shortfall of £561m that would be made up from the USS fund’s surplus. In October 2009 contributions were raised back to 16% and in April 2016 to 18%. It has been calculated that the total savings to employers, relative to what they would have paid if they had continued to contribute in proportion to employees, amounts to some £7bn.

    Conference calls on UCU members of the USS JNC to demand that in the event of further requirement for increased contributions needed to eliminate any USS deficit, said contributions should be met entirely from employers, up to the total amount of savings mentioned above, plus accrued interest.


  1. Conference notes that the UUK offer of 23 March of a JEP, which UCU members voted to accept, stated that the remit of the JEP was to agree principles to underpin the valuation of the USS fund. It proposed that UUK and UCU would continue discussion on ‘alternative scheme design options’ but that this would happen ‘alongside the work of the panel’.

In line with this stated remit, conference calls on the UCU-nominated members of the JEP to limit themselves to discussions on the methodology of the valuation of the USS fund, and to abstain from all discussions of alternative scheme design options, including Collective Defined Contribution designs. We call on the SWG to request the same abstention of the UCU-nominated members of the JEP.


  1. Conference notes that the offer sent for ballot to UCU members on 4 April was not the product of a UUK-UCU negotiating committee. It notes that the General Secretary sent a total of four message to all members strongly recommending that members vote ‘yes’ to the offer, including at least one that was sent only to members who had not yet voted. Of these only the last included a copied and pasted argument for voting ‘no’. Conference considers this procedure multiply flawed.

Conference therefore requests that in case of a future ballot regarding the USS pension dispute: (1) members are only asked to vote on a proposal produced by a properly constituted UUK-UCU negotiating committee, (2) in case HEC unanimously supports one response to the ballot the General Secretary is asked to convey that recommendation in a message accompanying the ballot, (3) in case HEC is divided then the Chair of HEC asks those taking opposite views to nominate one member of HEC each to put their case to the membership in a short statement, and these statements are sent to members in a message accompanying the ballot, with a short introduction by the General Secretary summarising HEC voting figures, (4) in any case UCU HQ does not send any further recommendations to members until the ballot has closed.


The following motions were tabled at Newcastle’s AGM  on 6 June 2018

JEP and transparency

Conference notes that the membership has had no role yet in shaping its structure or operation of the Joint Expert Panel.

Conference believes the JEP is not a negotiation but a fact-finding exercise and should operate from a presumption of transparency rather than confidentiality.

Conference resolves to insist that

  • all materials submitted to or produced by the JEP be put into the public domain immediately
  • any such material deemed to require confidentiality shall be put into the public domain in redacted form with an explanation for the redaction
  • revised terms of reference for the JEP incorporating these changes be submitted to the membership of branches in dispute for approval before August for approval, and if that approval be not granted that industrial action be announced for the beginning of the 2018-2019 academic year.

Member feedback to JEP

Conference notes that the membership has had no role yet in shaping the structure or operation of the Joint Expert Panel.

Conference believes u that the JEP must have a formal mechanism to accept feedback on its operations as it is working.

Conference resolves

  • that UCU members be provided immediately with a mechanism for submitting their views on the work of the JEP and the objects of the JEP’s discussion
  • that the JEP formally acknowledge receipt of, discuss, and formally respond to all such submissions in a timely manner
  • that revised terms of reference for the JEP incorporating these changes be submitted to the membership of branches in dispute for approval before August for approval, and if that approval be not granted that industrial action be announced for the beginning of the 2018-2019 academic year.

The following draft motions have been prepared by Carlo Morelli and Marion Hersh (both UCU USS negotiators).

Call for resignation of USS CEO (94 words)

Conference deplores the role of the USS Chief Executive Officer in encouraging the undermining of our pensions and provoking the most sustained and disruptive industrial action in Higher Education history, including by:

  1. Insisting on an inappropriate valuation approach and recklessly prudent assumptions
  2. Moving from the September to November technical provisions,
  3. A lack of flexibility in the implementation of the valuation deadlines and imposition of rule 74.6, thereby undermining the work of the Joiint Expert Panel.

Conference calls for the resignation of the CEO of USS.

Joint Expert Panel (128 words)

Conference welcomes the setting up of the JEP and the motions of the recent HE Sector Conference about its work.

Conference agrees that UCU contact with the JEP and its chair should involve all the elected lay negotiators and not just the General Secretary.

Conference instructs the negotiators to

  1. Investigate the use of any surplus to improve pensions for members on casualised contracts, at the start of their careers and in equality strands. One approach would be a reduction in contributions while maintaining benefits.
  2. Publicise any refusal, delays or conditionality by USS upon releasing information to JEP.
  3. Encourage members to make submissions to JEP.
  4. Arrange for a dedicated area of UCU website to be set up for JEP information and reports.

USS Trustee and Investment Committee Renumeration(144 words)

Conference notes:

  1. that the USS JNC under rule 71 is responsible for the renumeration, fees and expenses of the Trustee Board, the Advisory Committee, the Investment Committee, and the JNC Chair.
  2. In 2016 and 2017 substantial rises of23% were passed for the Trustee Board and the Investment Committee.
  3. Such increases agreed by UCU elected USS negotiators were not reported to or authorised by HEC.

Conference believes USS is a private organisation established and funded by publicly funded bodies and should therefore ensure it works for the public good.

Conference resolves to mandate the UCU negotiators to:

  1. Put pressure on USS to agree that all USS director and other fees are publicly available
  2. Obtain the sanction of HEC before agreeing increases in fees or expenses for JNC chair or members of the Trustee Board, Advisory Committee or Investment Committee.

Casualised Staff pensions (93 words)

Conference notes casualised staff:

  1. are often barred from the right to join USS by their employer.
  2. Have poor pension prospects

Conference resolves:

  1. To demand in our pay campaigns in favour of equal access to pensions for casualised staff.
  2. To ensure all grades of academic related, teaching and research staff have access to the USS pension scheme.
  3. To put a rule change through the JNC to ensure that casusalised staff retain existing pension rights during periods of a break in service without needing to make contributions.

The following motion was passed at an EGM of Goldsmiths UCU on Tuesday 12 June.

Dispute Committee terms of reference (150 words)

This Special HESC notes the passing of HE13 on 31 May 2018 that resolved to establish a national USS dispute committee (USSDC) composed of HESC delegates from USS branches in order to empower members in strategic discussions.

HESC believes that membership of the USS dispute committee should be based upon the membership criteria used for the recent Industrial Action Commission (but for USS institutions) and reflect the diversity of perspectives taken by branches in relation to employer offers in the dispute thus far.

HESC further believes that any proposed ballot text on a future employer offer concerning USS has to be approved by the dispute committee before it is put to members.

HESC mandates the HEC when it meets on 29 June 2018 to agree a provisional timetable of meetings commensurate with the meetings of the JEP and communicate this with the election procedure to USSDC branches within 14 days.

Third day of Congress: Who does UCU belong to?

by Tassia Kobylinska and Marian Carty, Goldsmiths UCU delegates

Who does the union belong to? The answer to that came loud and clear today: the union belongs to its members. The union is ours! #OurUcu

Congress fell apart for good today when the Unite branch representing UCU staff members walked out and refused to hear members’ motions for the fourth time. In shutting down Motions 10 and 11, the ones that are critical of the General Secretary, and demanding they be withdrawn over and over, UCU leaders have also shut down democracy – the undoubted theme of this conference.  Despite earlier passing an emergency motion presented by 18 branch delegates (L8 here) which declared that “Congress believes a) all elected officers of UCU can be subjected to criticism by members in relation to their representation of members b) this disruption undermines UCU democratic structures and c) we cannot allow motions voicing dissent with GS not be debated”, the top table did the exact opposite and shut down Congress.

Here is a summary of the events leading up to Congress dissolving. It ends with a call to action from members to reclaim the union from a leadership which has completely cut itself adrift to the point of calling a trade dispute against its own members.

Three emergency motions were tabled before returning to where Congress left off on day one:

  • L8 (here) as mentioned above, on the right of members to hold elected officers to account, was carried.
  • L9 (here) on the make up of the Democracy Commission to review our democratic structures, was carried
  • L10 (here with last sentence removed referencing London as venue and to take place within one month) to recall Congress to deal with all outstanding business left unheard due to repeated disruption, was carried.

We then tuned to the controversial Motions 10 and 11. The Chair of Congress, Joanna de Groot spoke to the joint statement (following the Unite/NEC JNC emergency meeting which took place on Thursday, one day after the walkout and trade dispute declared on day 1). She asked that members reconsider their decision and withdraw Motions 10 and 11. Alan Barker, Chair of the Congress Business Committee (CBC) then stood to make a point of order to note that this was the fourth time we were pressing to hear motions 10 and 11 (stormy applause from the floor!).

A call for clarification on the rules relating to complaints procedures was answered with reference to Rule 13 (here) that states members can complain about another member breaking a rule but not the General Secretary as she is is not a member. Another rule, 35.1 (here) states that branches can complain about the conduct of the General Secretary and effectively demand her removal.  Who hears the complaint? The President Joanna De Groot. Is there an appeal process? No. The President’s decision is final.

There were then two calls to Sally Hunt to speak to Congress on whether she supported the principle of hearing these motions.  But she chose to remain silent and the Chair supported her decision, stating it would create more complications.

Members then voted on the proposal put by the JNC statement (here) to reconsider its decision not to withdraw Motions 10 and 11. This was voted down and Motion 10 was ordered to be heard at which point panel and Unite members walked out and Congress was suspended,

90 minutes later (30 minute suspension; 1 hour lunch) a statement was released that UCU staff members were refusing to return and that Congress therefore could not continue.

At this point members decided to challenge those decisions and to continue Congress by appointing our own chair (Nita Sanghera, the incoming Vice President) and our own tellers. However, it became clear very quickly that as Unite members would not switch on the mics, it would be too difficult to carry on. Instead, it was agreed that we should write a statement and return to our branches ASAP so that we can discuss, debate and decide how we can transform our union into the democratic, member-led union it should be, with the right to hold our leaders to account, and get on with the work of campaigning to defend our jobs, pay and pensions.

Statement

Dem8wHAX0AIZXIT.jpg-large.jpegA union movement has been born! @OurUCU  #OurUCU

London Region UCU has called a special meeting to discuss next steps: 2-5pm on Saturday 9 June, venue TBC.

Meanwhile, we are on our way home.