UCU Congress: 1-3 June 2016 (Report)

UCU Congress: 1-3 June 2016

Report by Bob Langridge, Oxford Brookes UCU Vice Chair  

A UCU Congress is not for the faint-hearted – three days of motions, references back and points of order. However, I survived it and here are the salient points.

The Budget

This is a not very exciting item but one of crucial importance to the solvency of the Union.  The draft budget was constructed on the assumption of a potential fall in membership and the continuation of the search for efficiency savings. It did, however, propose an increase in subscription rates of 1.5%.The budget can be found at    http://ucu.org.uk/ucu714budget16-17.pdf     It was agreed by Congress.

The HE Pay Campaign

Once again, the employers have offered only a one per cent pay increase on all academic grades. As you know, there was a ballot for industrial action and the vote in favour was:-

Strike Action 65.4% –  Action Short of a Strike 77.3% –  Turnout 35.5%

In terms of action short of a strike, the Higher Education Committee havs recommended working to contract. This includes:-

  • Ensuring that normal scheduled teaching responsibilities do not exceed 18 hours in any week or a total of 550 hours in any teaching year.
  • Not to work more than a normal working week
  • Clarification of hours of work
  • Take full holiday entitlement
  • Ensure the taking of agreed time off for research and scholarly activity.

The recommendation of taking a day of action in August was rejected (67 For – 108 Against) but the proposed setting, marking and assessment boycott for the Autumn was agreed,

The strength of our challenge to the employers’ pay offer is dependent on the degree of support we show to industrial action. The employers will only listen to us if we see solidarity across our ranks.

Adoption of Model Local Rules                                    

The NEC of UCU had proposed rule changes back in January 2014. The subsequent Congress in the summer of 2014 withdrew these local rules’ proposal and made it clear that Congress, and not the NEC, should determine changes to the local rules. The NEC came back to Congress in 2015 with a new set of local rules but these were remitted by Congress. Consequently, the NEC recommended to Congress 2016, the original 2006 model rules (with the exception that branches now have a choice in electing officers either by  a show of hands at the AGM or by secret ballot) which Congress accepted.  A further complication is that, although the NEC wished to see compliance by all branches in adopting local rules in accordance with the draft model  rules, the 2015 Congress rejected this. There is a lot more ‘background’ to all this but I would recommend this Branch at least to set the local rules in accordance with the model rules and lodge these with the national Union.

Working Conditions

The Union is not just about pay and there were a range of motions to do with the weakening of national terms and conditions, grade drift and performance management, the use of compulsory lecture capture, staff stress and university governance. One of the issues that gave considerable concern was that of increasing use casualisation of the academic workforce.

Conclusion

Finally, I would like to thanks the branch for sending me as its delegate to the 2016 Congress. Although it can be quite tiring, I enjoyed the experience and found other delegates encountering nursing similar problems to those found ‘back at the ranch’.  If members have any questions about Congress, please get back to me. Alternatively, the Congress paper will be lodged in the UCU office for inspection by members.

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