News

Report: UCU Southern Regional Council

Our Vice-Chair, Bob Langridge, attended the UCU Southern Regional Council in Winchester on 1 April 2017. Below is his report. 

 

These jolly events take place four times a year when UCU branches in the Region (ours included, to some extent) meet to discuss issues of common interest, collective action and Union governance.

The Spring meeting focuses upon the Annual Congress which is held at the end of May once the first report of the Congress Business Committee has been published. Our motions this year are about (i) excessive pay and remuneration for heads of HE and FE institutions, and (ii) Government withdrawal of bursaries for nurse training

Reports from regional branches included workload planning, possible redundancies at Ruskin College and Southampton Solent University, a merger between Southampton City College and Southampton Solent University,  the possibility of University of Southampton departing from the 2006 Framework Agreement, and UCU uncovering that Portsmouth University has been unlawfully denying associate lecturers rights to holiday pay.

While we should keep an eye on these matters and offer collective support, where redundancies are threatened, the most obvious parallel with our travails at Oxford Brookes is in relation to Workload Planning schemes. While UCU and university management have negotiated and agreed such a scheme at Bournemouth, there were reports that this agreement has not been implemented by management. Meanwhile, Southampton Solent has been discussing an alternative workload planning scheme based on 1560 hours (ours is 1600) and, as a consequence, we will be sharing information on the operation of these schemes across the Region.

 

Meetings and Events Update, 22 March 2017

From now on, we will be sending you regular email keeping you up to date on our local activities. On this website, you will find the details for each item. Please feel free to get in touch with us (ucu.brookes@gmail.com or any one of us) if you have any comments or questions!

 

Alan Reeve (Chair) and Jeff Waistell (Branch Secretary) attended the Workload Planning Review Group held on February 15thThe following issues were discussed:

Tariff for Collaboration Managers

Management noted that the current tariff already offered flexibility so it was agreed to leave the tariff unchanged for the coming year.

Number of direct reports in OBI

A review was taking place which was looking at wider structural issues.  It was planned that this would be discussed with SMT in March.

Review of line management of Technicians

Ben Cooper reported that he and Astrid had met with Helen Packer to discuss the matter.  The Faculty was mindful that there were some activities that needed to be reviewed, such as academics having to spend time ordering equipment, but it was also evident there were still some misunderstandings about some matters.  There was no support for changing the line management structure from the Head of Department.  It was agreed that reporting lines and local operational arrangements were not a matter for the WLP Review Group, and it should be dealt with outside this committee.

Quadruple modules

It was noted that TDE was the only faculty to have such modules and there was already an additional line in the TDE tariffs to address Studio and Design-based teaching where these modules arose.

OBBS 2017 / 2018 WLP tariff

Andrew Halford confirmed that reference to the full range of University WLP tariffs would be made in the OBBS workload plan when published in May.

Marketing work in HSS

Jeff Waistell raised a concern that academics in HSS appeared to be being asked to take on the work of the Marketing Team by being asked to do things such as blogs, social media updates and produce leaflets.  Jeff was advised to raise this with management outside the meeting.

UCU WLP survey update

UCU had made a number of changes to the report of the survey that they had run, including: identifying what questions had been asked; including charts detailing the proportion of respondents; adding the raw data, plus minor linguistic changes.

Management noted that the financial implications of the recommendations were potentially significant and said that they could not support the recommendations for changes to the WLP on the basis of the survey.

RAM

UCU asked about proposed changes to the Resource Allocation Model (RAM). It was noted that a paper from Finance on this had recently been considered by Executive Board.  Management explained that the process was likely to evolve over the next couple of years with income and expenditure being better aligned with activity. Jeff asked if this would mean that the University would increase the number of teaching-only contracts.  Management said Stern’s suggestion to include all research-active staff in the next REF had prompted discussion at some HEIs about making greater use of teaching-only contracts. This was not favoured by Brookes and management would be reflecting this in their response to the REF consultation in March.

WLP framework for 2017/2018

 It was noted that a number of significant changes had been made in recent years.  It had been agreed that a working group would review the role profiles for Programme Leads, Subject Coordinators, PLSEs and Research Leads. A project to replace the workload planning data base was in prospect and this would provide better data on which to base decision.

Management stated that no changes to the WLP framework would be recommended for 2017-18 but that the UCU survey report would be attached to the report to Executive Board.

*

Maïa Pal, one of our HSS Faculty Reps, attended a meeting on Feb 22nd with the Faculty Exec. This was a useful meeting, mostly to discuss the move to Harcourt, but also the move of the Business School to Headington. Discussions concerning the WLP were left for the WLP faculty meeting which took place Monday 27 February. Maïa was unfortunately not invited in time for that meeting, and it was scheduled during some of her teaching hours, but she hopes to get more information about those discussions to you once the minutes emerge.

We need to know more from HSS members regarding what your top one or two priority issues would be if you had to choose (research time, nursery, student/staff ratio, transport, offices, etc.). Please send your requests directly to Maïa (mpal@brookes.ac.uk).  

*

Sola Adesola, our Equality Officer, attended various meetings and events in order to raise awareness of equality and give greater visibility to UCU’s work on this front.

She attended the UCU Equality Reps Conference in London on Feb 17th and went through a two-day UCU Equality Officers Training on March 8th-9th in Birmingham.

Here at Brookes, she represented UCU at the LGBT History Month Showcase, speaking about UCU’s work around gender identity. She will also speak at the Department of Business & Management Staff Away Day on March 29th, where she will have 10 minutes to raise awareness of equality issues and of her role as Equality Officer.

Finally, Sola will take advantage of the next UCU Exec Meeting and AGM, both on May 10th, to brief the Exec and our Branch members on the progress we’ve made so far and on the way forward.

*

Jeff Waistell our Branch Secretary, Bob Langridge (Vice-Chair) and Linet Arthur (JSC rep) attended the Joint Staff Consultative Committee (JSC) on March 8th, where the unions collectively raise issues of concern with senior management. The JSC meets several times each year.

The management side placed on the agenda issues of student recruitment and university finance, and the estates investment plan. The union side raised issues of policy (the university’s approach to and provision of mediation, and anonymised responses to leavers’ questionnaires over the last 12 months) and contractual issues (recent salary overpayments, the length of time taken to provide staff with contracts, and incremental progression for staff changing roles within Brookes). We also queried terms and conditions (the effectiveness of the redeployment process) and issues affecting academic workload (the increasing management requirements to provide slides in advance of lectures; extent of academics’ marketing roles and responsibilities; and the proportion of university spending on faculty academics).

We will update you further, with more details, once the JSC minutes are published.

 

 

 

Meetings and Consultations Update, 12 October 2016

This report provides an update on local meetings and consultations pertaining to the new Associate Lecturer policy, issues of car parking, workload planning, and the academic framework.

 

New Associate Lecturer Policy

After a considerable amount of hard work on the part of branch officers, numerous meetings with the management and interventions by the Regional Official, the new AL policy has gone to Executive Board for approval.

The new policy, as members will be aware, means that a significant number of staff who have been on AL contracts for at least two years will be invited to take up fractional or even FT posts. Many of these will put them on a higher salary (point 9 on the pay scale or above), as lecturers or senior lecturers which should mean both greater job security, and job progression through increments and from the Lecturer to Senior Lecturer grades.

The new policy represents a significant move at Brookes away from casualization, and the ad hoc use of academic staff on contracts which were both uncertain and poorly regulated. The policy should ensure that those who move across to fractional appointments will be no worse off than they were, and with the move up to the lecturer grade should be better off over time. We are aware, of course, that in some areas some staff will be worse off – largely as a consequence of irregular pay practices in the past in some parts of the institution where additional pay was given for marking and other activities.

Hopefully the new policy will also see an end to ALs being used as module leaders – which is a role specifically limited to SL and above.

Due in large part to the arguments made by the local branch officers involved in the consultation, we have also secured the same rights to transfer from AL to fractional appointments for staff in Oxford Brookes International (OBI) – who the management originally wished to exclude from the policy.

Whilst we have not achieved all our objectives – not least automatic transfer of ALs to established contracts – we feel that the university is moving in the right direction in terms of the treatment of this very vulnerable group of workers.

Branch officers will continue to be involved in the monitoring of the policy to ensure that it is applied fairly and that the unacceptably high use of Associates which characterised some parts of the university, does not return.

Finally, although the adopted policy has the general support of the local officers, it has yet to be ratified by UCU nationally, and the Regional Official is in correspondence with the university on issues that the Ratification Panel have concerns about.

We will provide an update in due course on how many staff have directly benefited or in due course will benefit from this, but at the moment it looks like considerably more than a handful.

 

Car Parking

At the last meeting of the Travel to Work Group, the management reported that there have been some challenges with the arrangements they thought they had agreed with the contractor who have been commissioned to put these in place – in terms of the systems, the hardware and the management of the car parking. The management indicated that they felt the contractors had been less than straight with them on what they could actually provide, and as a consequence delays have arisen in the implementation of the new arrangements. Both campus unions represent on the committee stressed the need for staff to be fully informed about the progress on this issue which will have a potentially detrimental effect on their working conditions – not least staff who will be moving from Wheatley to Gypsy Lane where parking provision is far less ‘generous’.

Apparently On Stream will carry an update on progress on changes to the management of and charging for parking. We have asked the university to at least tell staff when the new charging regime will be taking effect so that they can prepare for this as appropriate.

 

Workload Planning

The WLP Working Group met briefly in Week 2, but the meeting had to be abandoned due to the fact that several key members of it were at another important university meeting.  However, UCU members on the group are very aware of the myriad concerns of academic colleagues with both the WLP tariffs and the implementation of WLP across the university, and will continue to pursue these concerns with vigour. In particular, we are pressing management on the assessment allowances, module leadership and administration allowances, and the increasing burden of work required outside of the classroom on the quality of our core work – which is teaching and research.  Aside from the issues of stress and the impact of WLP on work life balance, we are, of course, making the obvious (to us) arguments about the link between WLP and the quality of the student experience as reflected in the NSS.

We will provide a further update when the group actually does meet in early November.

 

Academic Framework

Local UCU officers have been sent a draft statement of the broad policy changes proposed by management with respect to the ‘academic framework’, and there will be a meeting in week 3 to talk through these. In essence, the university is proposing to rationalise the number of modules offered – particularly in the first year of undergraduate programmes; to move end of semester 1 exams to the beginning of semester 2, and to shorten the Christmas break by a week. In addition, there may be only one point in the year when formal exam committees meet to sign off marks – at least this is our reading of the proposal.

UCUs concerns here are the implications for the possible elimination of some modules;   the impact of moving exams and assessment to the start of semester two – i.e. the potential overlap of assessment and teaching; and  the sense or non-sense of having only one sign off point for modules in a year.

The Academic Framework policy will also need to be aligned with the PUTS initiative (i.e. changes to the academic timetable with respects to teaching slots which in turn is aligned to concerns about ‘inefficient’ use of university teaching space). Whilst UCU branch officers were consulted earlier in the year on PUTS, the outcomes of any scenario modelling to see if any of this is feasible (i.e. testing how a new timetable would look, factoring in such variables as the caring responsibilities of staff, adequate provision of support services – somewhere to get a bite to eat –etc ; the need to avoid split shifts, and so on and so forth) have not yet been shared with us. But we will endeavour to keep you up to date.

Meet Your New Oxford Brookes UCU Team for 2016/2017!

Welcome back! We now have a full team for 2016/2017, including some new, exciting faces.

Committee

Chair – Alan Reeve
http://planning.brookes.ac.uk/staff/alanreeve.html

Vice-Chair – Bob Langridge
http://planning.brookes.ac.uk/staff/boblangridge.html

Branch Secretary – Jeff Waistell
http://business.brookes.ac.uk/about/staff/profile.asp?id=p0038786

Treasurer – Stephen Hurt
http://www.social-sciences.brookes.ac.uk/people/Academic/prof.asp?ID=222

Membership Secretary – Chris Hesketh
http://www.social-sciences.brookes.ac.uk/people/Academic/prof.asp?ID=827

Equality Officer – Sola Adesola
http://business.brookes.ac.uk/about/staff/profile.asp?id=p0074417

Minutes Secretary – Stewart Thompson

http://bms.brookes.ac.uk/staff/stewart_thompson

Health & Safety Representative – John Lobreglio

http://www.english-languages.brookes.ac.uk/people/Academic/prof.asp?ID=569

Faculty Representatives

Humanities and Social Sciences (1) – Juliet Henderson

https://www.brookes.ac.uk/international/english-and-pathway-courses/meet-the-academic-staff/juliet-henderson/

Humanities and Social Sciences (2) – Alon Lischinsky

http://history.brookes.ac.uk/Research/Communication-Media-and-Culture/prof.asp?ID=796

Humanities and Social Sciences (3) – Maia Pal

http://www.social-sciences.brookes.ac.uk/people/Academic/prof.asp?ID=901

Health and Life Sciences – Stewart Thompson

http://bms.brookes.ac.uk/staff/stewart_thompson

Business (1) – Graham Diggle

http://business.brookes.ac.uk/about/staff/profile.asp?id=p0070483

Business (2) – Christopher Harlow

charlow@brookes.ac.uk

Technology, Design, and Environment (1) – Alan Reeve

http://planning.brookes.ac.uk/staff/alanreeve.html

Technology, Design, and Environment (2) – Bob Langridge

http://planning.brookes.ac.uk/staff/boblangridge.html

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.

The Strike at Oxford Brookes, Part 2: Picketing

Oxford Brookes UCU members began the two-day strike with a strong picket in front of JHB, as well as two further pickets at Wheatley and Harcourt. We were once again required to remain off university premises by university management (and reminded of this by security officers), but we nonetheless managed to speak to a number of staff and students, who – while often uninformed, particularly in the case of students – were overwhelmingly supportive of the strike. We will be picketing tomorrow as well, so do join us on the picket line!

picket

Picket line at Headington.

Wheatley_picket

Some members on the picket line at Wheatley.

The Strike at Oxford Brookes, Part 1: Informing Students Despite a Ban on Our Stall

Oxford Brookes UCU has been supporting the national strike and organizing within the university, despite the latter purposefully making our lives difficult. Indeed, following the announcement of the strike, university management barred us from holding any stalls in the Forum, including a purely informational stall during National Recruitment Week. Below is a copy of their email:

***

Thank you for your earlier request in which you asked to host a stall in the Forum on the 18th May for purposes of awareness and recruitment.

Oxford Brookes University has a strong tradition of encouraging and supporting staff and student membership in a broad range of organisations and we are proud of how the John Henry Brookes Forum has become a locus for positive staff and student engagement.

However, bearing in mind that UCU has announced a programme of industrial action, starting with a two-day strike on May 25th and 26th which may directly impact on student progression, we feel that accommodating your request would be inappropriate and would send the wrong message to our students at this time.

At a future point, when the current dispute has been resolved, and the threat of industrial action has been withdrawn, we would be happy to discuss your request.

Yours

Brendan

Karen Bampton

PA to Brendan Casey
Registrar & Chief Operating Officer
&

PA to Paul Large
Director of Infrastructure Investment

Senior Management Team
Oxford Brookes University

***

We responded by distributing informational flyers outside the university. Our flyers were targeted at students, who have only heard about the industrial action through Oxford Brookes’ management team and have therefore received precious little information about what is actually at stake in the dispute. Our flyer outlines not only the reasons behind the national strike but also the particularly egregious situation at Brookes in terms of fair pay and casualisation. E-copy of the flyer below, feel free to print, circulate soft copies, or request hard copies from the Branch administrator.

UCU_Flyer-about-the-strike -1UCU_Flyer-about-the-strike-p2