Our third OBU UCU information bulletin, updating members and non-members on our successes in Workload Planning negotiations.
Below are the results of the Elections of Branch Officers for the academic year 2016-2017.
Many thanks to outgoing officers, and to Mikko Kuisma as Returning Officer!
The Chair – Alan Reeve
The Vice-Chair – Bob Langridge
The Branch Secretary – Jeff Waistell
The Treasurer – Stephen Hurt
The Membership Secretary – Chris Hesketh
The Health & Safety Representative – Richard Beresford
The Equality Officer – Sola Adesola
Humanities and Social Sciences (HSS) – Alon Lischinsky
Health and Life Sciences – Stewart Thompson
Positions still open for nominations
The Minutes Secretary (officer)
Faculty representative for Humanities and Social Sciences (2nd position)
Faculty representative for Technology, Design, and Environment
Faculty representative for Business
If you are interested in any of the remaining positions or would like to nominate someone who might be, please get in touch with Jeff Waistell, the Branch Secretary (email@example.com). Any nominations will have to be ratified by the current Branch Officers.
Don’t miss our upcoming Annual General Meeting on Wednesday April 27th from 12 to 1:30, in JHB301.
You should have received a second edition of our newsletter, containing information about the meeting. If not, you can access an electronic copy here.
You should all have received your ballot papers by now. They were sent in an envelope that looks like this:
If you have NOT received a ballot yet, please request a replacement here as soon as possible. In light of the Trade Union Bill, union ballot turnouts are under intense scrutiny and as such, it is extremely important that every single member uses their vote.
Looking for Volunteers
Are you interested in getting more involved with our branch? We are looking for volunteers to act as ‘local contacts’ around Oxford Brookes. Local contacts are NOT expected to take up a formal role in representing members or meeting managers unless they later want to receive training and support to become a full representative of the union. But they can do a lot to raise the union’s profile by, for instance, distributing newsletters, putting up posters, and talking to non-members about the work of the branch.
More info here (factsheet): The_role_of_the_contact
If you are interested in such a role, please contact the Branch administrator. We would be delighted to have you on board!
Here are the latest national updates from Sally Hunt:
Our second OBU UCU information bulletin, advertising the upcoming AGM and ballot on fair pay.
Wednesday 9th March 2016: UCU attended the first Associate Lecturer Review Group
Management have agreed to:
- Collect data on how many ALs undertaking ML duties
- Inform SMT of review
- Explore alternative AL marking/assessment schemes
- Draft survey questions and upload to shared AL google folder
- Contact external facilitator for focus groups
- Write to Deans asking them to identify 3-4 ALs willing to participate in focus group
- Identify substantive academic staff who also have AL contract
- Provide data on ALs and their FTE for next meeting
- Provide list of ALs who meet criteria for moving to fractional contract and ask faculties to verify
This document explains UCU’s position in full: UCU submission to AL review meeting 9.03.2016.
The University WLP review group met again on 8th March.
UCU recommended that the group improve the WLP Framework in line with the two OBU UCU Reports (on members’ concerns and proposals) – and also in line with the Green Paper’s emphasis on the necessary inputs for supporting teaching and research excellence (BIS, 2015). (As previously mentioned, UCU does not endorse the Green Paper and National UCU has submitted a range of concerns about the proposals).
The University WLP Group has recommended:
- To add a new activity for programme development activity. This is a positive step in enabling heads of department to earmark time for new courses and other developments.
- To include explicit provision for hours for recruitment activity.
- To recommend that each Faculty and OBI review the number of staff line managed by Programme Leads with a view to ensuring that it is normally no more than 12. (It was acknowledged that reducing the number of direct reports would take time to work through and that therefore the WLP guidance should be redrafted accordingly).
The report and proposed tariffs will be presented to Executive Board for approval on 11 April. If approved, the WLP database will be updated and rolled out across the University shortly afterwards.
(It was also agreed that the first meeting next academic year should be scheduled for the start of October and that this meeting should be dedicated to exploring the work that has been done around the delineation of administration between academic and support staff).
UCU welcomes any recommendations to improve WLP and will tirelessly campaign for further improvements, to secure the actual hours that are needed for excellent research and teaching.
Don’t miss our upcoming Branch meeting on Wednesday March 9th from 12 to 1, in JHB207.
Thank you to everyone who helped facilitate our recruitment week on Feb 22-26. We managed to reach out to a large number of non-members, some of whom are now in the process of joining the union.
We issued a special newsletter for the occasion, which you can access here: Newsletter_Feb2016
We hope to continue expanding our branch over the coming months. If you are a member and you would like to receive some flyers, posters, or informational booklets in your pigeon hole to distribute around your department, please get in touch with our Branch Administrator.
International Women’s Day (March 8)
Check out UCU’s video on the gender pay gap.
Update on your UCU subscriptions
The new Trade Union Bill means you will no longer be able to pay your UCU subscriptions through payroll (also known as check off). If you are still using this method, please transfer from check off to direct debit wherever possible.
As you can see, we now have a more developed website, which we hope will serve as a useful resource for members (and to help attract new members) Feel free to leave comments directly on our pages or get in touch with the Branch Administrator if you have any suggestions for how to further improve this interface.
Upcoming recruitment week: Feb 22-26
February promises to be a busy month for trade unions, with the Trade Union Congress (TUC) launching a week of campaigning to oppose the Trade Union Bill and celebrate the positive impact of unions in workplaces and society. UCU will be playing a full role in supporting this week and will use it as a springboard for activism for national recruitment week 2. We at Oxford Brookes UCU will be joining these efforts and running a local recruitment week on our campuses.
Check your pay!
As part of its national campaign for fair pay within further and higher education, UCU has created an excellent new function on its website called ‘Rate for the Job’. You can use it to:
- Compare your salary to similar staff in your and other universities
- See how the value of your pay has been affected by recent below inflation pay rises
- Check how big the gender pay gap is in your institution
You can help the campaign for fair pay by letting others know you have used ‘Rate for the Job’, either by
using the social media buttons at the bottom of the ‘Rate for the Job’ page or by forwarding the link to colleagues who are not in the union together with the join UCU link https://www.ucu.org.uk/join.
Equality Officer position available on Oxford Brookes UCU Committee
UCU equality reps and officers work within branches to promote equality with the employer and union members. This could include looking at issues such as:
- flexible working
- absence management
- discriminatory practices
- equal pay
- equality impact assessments.
They also ensure that UCU’s national annual meetings, and any other relevant events and opportunities for women, black members, lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) members and disabled members are publicised locally, that members from all groups are encouraged to participate, and that the branch maximises the opportunities for recruitment and organisation amongst all groups.
Equality reps are key in developing and sustaining national and local equality networks.
The Equality Officer position for Oxford Brookes UCU has been open for nominations and remains open for co-option (until the annual nomination process for all posts takes place). Please get in touch with the Branch Administrator if you would like more information.
Next branch meetings:
Our next branch meetings will be on 9 March and 27 April (AGM).
The links below provide access to the regular updates sent to all UCU members by Justine Stephens, UCU’s head of campaigns. For further information on national campaigns, please refer to UCU’s main website: http://www.ucu.org.uk/.
Associate Lecturers at Brookes: The UCU Position
As members will be aware, Oxford Brookes University has employed a large number of staff on Associate Lecturer contracts over many years. In some areas, particularly those where the management have argued with the need for ‘professional’ or practice in-put, the use of ALs to undertake teaching and assessment seems to be the default position when new academic staff are required . The UCU’s national stance is that whilst there is a recognition that a small number of ALs may have a place in universities for genuinely pedagogic reasons, say where there is a need to bring in expertise for one off lectures or workshops, the employer should always seek to employ all academic staff on what are called ‘established’ contracts – ie as ful- time or fractional appointments.
The reasons for this are obvious: ALs posts are insecure, even when they are permanent, there is no guarantee from one year to the next about the number of hours the employer is committing to; ALs are paid less, on the whole, than staff doing similar jobs; and unless an AL transfers to a more established contract, they can only progress one increment up the pay scale (currently equivalent to a Grade 8, where lecturers start a grade above, on 9, and in theory can progress to Senior Lecturer automatically).
We have colleagues at Brookes who have been on AL contracts for many, many years, with little prospect of any improvement in their terms and conditions, except when a case has been made – usually with the support of the union – for transfer to a better contract. ALs tell us that they remain on such contracts because they are often scared that if they make a fuss they will lose what hourly paid work they have.
Historically, a culture of casualization seems to have developed in some parts of Brookes, where management have felt it acceptable to employ large numbers of ALs . They have argued that this is to accommodate uncertainties in terms of student recruitment. We do not believe, except in very exceptional circumstances, this holds much water, particularly given the number of examples we have come across of staff who have had essentially the same number of hours, teaching the same modules, with the same size classes over a number of years.
In addition, we are also aware that in the past ALs have sometimes been required to act as Module Leaders, and undertake other duties which would normally (and should only, according to the relevant role profiles) be undertaken by staff paid several grades higher than Grade 8.
Whether through lack of oversight on the part of the management, or too great a delegation of employment responsibility to middle managers charged with balancing the books, but with inadequate training or guidance in agreed HR policies, a culture seems to have developed at Brookes where many ALs have been used to undertake work that they should have been doing on established contracts.
Moreover, there has been a significant lack of transparency or clarity in terms of rates of pay for AL work , and a number of ‘Informal practices ‘ seem to have developed in some parts of the university where some ALs have been paid extra for duties they should not have been doing, or paid at no agreed rate for additional marking etc.
This situation is clearly intolerable, and in line with the National position to persuade employers to end casualization in the academic workforce, UCU locally have been working with the management to develop a policy which will begin to see the end of such practices here.
The AL policy
(The policy can be viewed by following this link: http://www.brookes.ac.uk/services/hr/handbook/short_term_temp_contracts/associate-lecturer-policy.html)
UCU officers – including the Regional Official – have been involved in discussions with the management over the introduction of a new AL policy to attempt to regularise this irregular situation – specifically in terms of reducing the use of ALs as a whole, transferring existing ALs to established contracts, and introducing greater certainty and transparency in the hourly rate.
These discussions began eighteen months ago, and a draft policy was developed and put to the Executive Board, who approved this, and which has been implemented by the management from the beginning of this academic year. There will be a series of further meetings as part of an ongoing review process. It should be stressed that the union has not ratified this policy, and will not seek ratification of it until a number of outstanding issues are resolved.
Throughout our discussions with the management we have been at pains to express our support for the initiative, particularly given that we hope it represents a genuine desire to end casualization and to ensure that staff are stated equitably, and given the best terms and conditions possible for the work they do.
However, the key issues we see as standing in the way of ratification are the following:
- The requirement for all current ALs to wait a further 18 months before they are considered for transfer to an established contract. Our position is that in the case of those ALs who have been employed for a number of years on an excessive number of AL hours (for the sake of argument, 200+), they should immediately be given the opportunity for transfer to an appropriate grade and an appropriate fractionality.
- We have been made aware at Branch meetings and outside of these, of a number of members whose pay has been significantly cut as a consequence of the new policy – presumably as a result of certain parts of the university negotiating or offering ad hoc payments for specific duties not clearly specified under the previous policy regime. As a union whilst we do not support the use of ‘Informal practices’, there seems to be a legacy of something like this that needs to be sensibly dealt with.
- There are a number of ‘get out’ clause in the policy which risk meaning that the default position in some subject areas, may mean that the management will continue to employ ALs more extensively than is in the spirit of the agreement.
- There remains a question mark over the possible exclusion of one set of employees – those in Oxford Brookes International – from the policy altogether (again based on the argument that because student numbers are unpredictable, there is a need to retain the flexibility that AL contracts provide).
- There appear to be inconsistencies between hourly allowances for assessment between what is given to ALs (ie they are lower) than to other academic staff – that is, the tariffs for this activity are in practice very different.
We are due to meet with the management early in February to go over these issues, and will keep members informed of progress. In the meantime, any AL who feels that they should be on a different contract and at a higher grade, should contact one of the Branch Officers via the Branch Administrator, for advice.
For a PDF version of the document, please click here: Associate Lecturers at Brookes_The UCU Position.
Our first OBU UCU information bulletin, on our campaign for an improved workload planning framework (WLP).