30 June 2015

Report from HEC on 26 June 2015

1. HEC received a report on a consultative e-ballot that the union had carried out over a two-week period. A 53.5% majority of members voted to REJECT the offer of 1%, on a 32% turnout and a marginally greater majority of 55.7% voted for action short of a strike (ASOS). The vote for strike action was slightly short of a majority (47% in favour). The original report proposed that the low turnout and narrow majority meant that it was too risky, particularly in the light of the proposed tory anti-union laws, for the union to launch a pay ballot.

UCU Left representatives carried the argument that it was necessary to follow through on the vote to reject the offer, and to campaign for higher pay this year. On the one hand the Tories and the employers are not strong, with the People’s Assembly and TUC calling protests against them; the employers have taken advantate of tuition fees and lower pay; and inflation is likely to rise. The 2% increase last year has been whittled down by inflation. We have kept up, but not caught up.

On the other hand, it is necessary to build the pay campaign. There was no pay campaign last year, and after the USS debacle, members quite reasonably ask whether the union is serious in fighting over pay. The narrowness of the vote to reject may be a reflection of several pressures, but it is worth noting that it took place shortly after the Tory success in thegeneral election, and the short ballot period during exam-marking meant that most branches were unable to meet to advise members.

After a lengthy debate the HEC agreed to

  • Invoke the New JNCHES dispute resolution procedure (i.e. declare a dispute);
  • Call four regional meetings of branch reps in September-early October to consult branches, and campaign over pay in the meantime;
  • Report the result of this consultation to the next HEC on October 9th, which would then consider calling industrial action.

 

Motion L1 at the Higher Education Sector Conference in Glasgow called on the union to campaign over pay, HEC speakers to visit branch meetings arguing for a rejection, etc. Activists need to convince their colleagues that we must fight collectively over pay. Memberswill have a range of questions and concerns which we need to engage with. We can get a high turnout and a solid vote for action. We can fight over pay and win. This will have the further benefits of strengthening UCU to fight and win in other areas, such as the defence of jobs, and strengthen the position of low paid workers in other sectors in their fight for decent pay. It is also likely to have benefits in terms of increased recruitment.

2. Dominique Lauterberg and Dave Anderson were elected as vice chairs. The negotiators elected by HE Sector Conference were Ron Mendel, Renee Prendergast, Julia Charlton andLiz Lawrence. The other members of the HE negotiating team are the chair and vice chairs of HEC.

3. Only about 4000 members responded to the USS consultation. This low response rate isunsurprising, as members are demoralised by the industrial action being called off before anything could be achieved. A lot of work will be required to motivate members to participatein the campaign challenging the valuation methodology. It is unlikely that the direct contribution element to the scheme will be introduced on 1 April 2016, as the administration for dealing with it will not be ready. However, the final salary scheme will be closed and salary increases introduced on 1 April. There will be a briefing meeting for pension officers and other branch representatives, probably on 25 September. The post of USS director has been readvertised, despite there being four candidates.

4. There have been successful ballots in a number of disputes. The threat of compulsory redundancies was withdrawn at Surrey after a successful ballot and at Dundee after industrial action. Where we campaign effectively we frequently win. Sometimes this requires industrial action, but sometimes a ballot is sufficient and sometimes other tactics work e..g throwing out TeachHigher at Warwick. 5. A paper on the priorities for the coming year was approved with the addition of action points on university democracy, the public university and academic related and professional staff. The five main objectives are (i) Collective bargaining on pay equality and pensions; (ii)anti-causualisation; (iii) collective bargaining in tertiary education ; (iv) workloads, work-life balance; (v) quality and professionalism e.g. prevent and student voice. The same objectives will be proposed to FEC next week.

5. The formation of a stand-alone branch at Sheffield Internation College/Kaplan, where a recognition agreement was recently won, was approved. A strategy for organisation at private providers is being investigated.

6. Pay gap monitoring for Black members is being carried out. It was suggested that job losses for Black members should also be considered, as well as the specific pay gap for Black women.

7. As a result of tthe last industrial action two working groups with the employers were set up: on casualisation and hourly paid; and the gender pay gap. The previous meeting of HEChad agreed that the papers produced by these groups would only be agreed if they met various conditions, including reflecting UCU policy on casualisation, pay assimilation and zero hours and including detailed recommendations for reducing the gender pay gap. After discussion it was agreed that the papers met the conditions sufficiently to be approved. The difficulties of working with the employers, as well as the importance of finally getting the employers to talk about casualisation were noted. Many of them do not have data on the number of staff on casualised contracts they employ and the HE Statistics Agency does not report their numbers The casualisation paper will be circulated with existing UCU guidance on zero hours contracts and the assimilation of hourly paid staff. The gender pay gap paper has some recommendations and the rather limited case studies produced may be useful if local, but not national negotations.

8. Guidance on teaching focused contracts was agreed subject to some amendments. This is a considerably revised and improved version of a document presented to the previous HEC meeting and then circulated to branches and regions/devolved nations. This is becoming an urgent issue. Part time members of staff and staff on ‘atypical’ contracts are particularly likely to be on teaching only contracts. Important issues relate to parity of esteemand equal progression and promotion structures based on nationally agreed role profiles or locally agreed variants and the need to build in time for scholarly activities. Statute protection should be extended to staff on teaching only contracts and mechanisms set up to allow movement from teaching only to teaching and research contracts.

9. A document on negotiating for fair pay and opposing performance related pay was agreed. It includes a very comprehensive research paper reviewing the research and a strong statement that it almost certainly will not improve performance. UCU has always had policy opposing performance related pay. Important issues relate to equality, transparency of pay structures, the importance of maintaining collective bargaining, the likelihood of pressures to inflate student grades and the like reduction in academic freedom.

10. Two motions from members were passed:

a. Opposing cuts to Open Studies (Lifelong learning and access) at the University of Glasgow and the removal of its teaching grant.

b. Opposing tory attacks on social work and social work education, including proposals to imprison social workers

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