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The Open University branch of the University and College Union

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Motions passed at General meetings

OU UCU motions passed at an Extraordinary General meeting on 14th October 2019

This branch is alarmed and dismayed that Professor Jane Hutton, a UCU-appointed Director of USS who blew the whistle to the Pension Regulator, was first suspended and then dismissed from her Director's post.

We believe that Professor Hutton, in bringing to light alleged failings in the governance and management of USS, the largest private pension fund in the UK, has acted in the public interest.

As a result of this and many other issues that have come to light in recent months, this branch has no confidence in the current governance and management of USS.

We call upon the Open University, as one of the largest universities within the USS scheme, to distance itself from this decision to dismiss Jane Hutton - and from any UUK support for this decision - and to demand an immediate overhaul of USS governance and management in order to restore the trust and confidence of scheme members and stakeholders.

The branch notes with incredulity that the two other UCU nominated Directors supported the decision to sack Jane Hutton and calls on the HEC to dismiss from office these two Directors as quickly as possible.

Proposed by Lesley Kane
Seconded by Rowan Thomas

OU UCU motions passed at the General meeting on 25th June 2019

Motion 1
This General Meeting agrees to the setting up of a local hardship fund to supplement the national UCU hardship fund during any industrial action over USS pensions or over pay this year. The purpose of the fund will be to support branch members who face hardship, as a result of lost pay during the industrial action.
This meeting authorises:

  1. The transfer of an initial sum of £25,000 from local branch funds into the hardship fund and asks the branch executive to set up a process for members to access the fund in accordance with national UCU guidance.
  2. The branch executive committee to agree to transfer a further sum of money of up to £30,000 in addition to the initial £25,000, if this is considered necessary by the branch executive.
  3. The branch committee to seek to increase the hardship fund further by asking for donations, to the extent that this is practically possible.

Any money remaining in the hardship fund at the end of the action should be transferred back into our local branch funds.
Proposed by Lesley Kane
Seconded by Caitlin Adams

Motion 2

This meeting authorises the branch Treasurer and the branch Executive committee to use branch finds for reasonable expenses incurred during any industrial action over pay or USS pensions this year, including travel expenses for members who take part in our picket lines, and the hiring of rooms to hold meetings on strike days.
Proposed by Lesley Kane
Seconded by Caitlin Adams

OU UCU motions for UCU Congress, passed at the General meeting on 25th April 2019

This branch notes:

  1. the climate change emergency sweeping the planet
  2. the recent school student strikes against climate change
  3. the variety of actions staged by Extinction Rebellion in recent weeks, and the plans for a week of action at the end of April
  4. the various local authorities that have already declared a climate emergency
  5. the OU’s historic mission to transform lives.

This branch resolves to:

  1. declare a climate emergency
  2. urge all other HE and FE branches, and the union nationally to do similar
  3. urge, in the strongest possible terms, the OU to declare a climate emergency
  4. explore with the OU management ways of making this a meaningful statement and the steps necessary to make the OU a carbon-negative/free/neutral institution
  5. invite all members of the OU community to make suggestions to make this happen
  6. publicise as widely as possible the previous 5 resolutions.

Under item 4, for example,

  • ensuring that all teaching venues are easily accessible by public transport
  • moving all OU vehicles to electric or PHEV
  • installing PV panels on all OU buildings
  • devising an expenses claim system whereby staff are discouraged from using private vehicles but not financially penalised by such a system
  • ensuring that module materials are sent to students in environmentally friendly packaging and are printed on recycled paper
  • removing plastic packaging from OU merchandise.

Proposed by: Paul-Francois Tremlett
Seconded by: Richard Bradbury

This general meeting agrees to change “15” to “13” in rule 13.2 below. This meeting also agrees that the change is not substantial nor involves matters of principle, so does not require a ballot of branch members.
13.2 Other General Meetings
The honorary secretary will take all reasonable steps to ensure that notice of other general meetings is received by members not later than the day that is 21 days before the day on which the meeting is to be held. The calling notice will invite members to submit motions for discussion at the general meeting. Motions must be received by the honorary secretary no later than the day that is 15 days before the day of the general meeting. The honorary secretary will take all reasonable steps to ensure that the agenda for the meeting is received by members not later than the day that is 10 days before the day on which the meeting is to be held.

Proposed by: Lesley Kane
Seconded by: Caroline Holland

This branch notes that outsourced workers at the Central University of London have been campaigning since September 2017 to end outsourcing and be made direct employees of the university.

This branch further notes that outsourced workers, the majority of whom are migrant workers and/or BAME, suffer from far worse terms and conditions than the majority white British colleagues that are directly employed by the university.

This branch further notes that the University of London has gone back on its initial commitment to end outsourcing, with cleaners and catering staff being told that an in-house option will be presented alongside other commercial bids when the contracts are up for tender in 2020 and 2021.

This branch further notes that the university has ignored all calls by the workers to go into substantive negotiations with them and the union that represents the vast majority of the outsourced workers, the Independent Workers Union of Great Britain.

This branch resolves to ask members not to organise or attend events at the University of London central administration (including Senate House, Stewart House, the Warburg, the Institute of Historical Research, the Institute of Advanced Legal Studies and Student Central) until the outsourced workers' demands are met and they are brought inhouse, and to inform members of the reasons for this.

Proposed by: Richard Bradbury
Seconded by: Gerry Stroud

OU UCU motions for UCU Congress, passed at the General meeting on 5th March 2019

Motion 1 Schoolchildren’s Strike and Education for Green Jobs
Congress expresses solidarity with the schoolchildren’s climate change strike and asks NEC to organise support from UCU for such action in future.

Congress welcomes Jeremy Corbyn’s commitment to create 400,000 green jobs to tackle climate change. This provides opportunities to implement a Just Transition agenda through the Greener Jobs Alliance (GJA).   

Future generations, both in jobs concerned with climate change and the wider workforce, need awareness of environmental issues and of producing in a carbon-neutral manner.  The post-16 education sector can contribute research, education and training to provide the knowledge basis for tackling climate change.

UCU will work with a Labour Government and environmental groups to develop research, courses and qualifications to support expansion of green jobs. These should replace high-carbon industries in a socially equitable way, so that solutions are not at the expense of the world’s most disadvantaged groups and peoples.

Proposed by Lesley Kane and Richard Bradbury
Seconded by Alison Penn

Motion 2 Governance Crisis in HE

Conference notes that 2018 and 2019 have seen several Vice-Chancellors and other senior figures in English universities resign under a cloud.

Conference believes these cases testify to the failure of a model of governance and of HE finance in which universities are run as businesses.

While each case has been different, common features have been a history of bullying and unacceptable pay differentials, and all have caused damage to their institutions and to Higher Education. Warnings by staff and unions that something was going seriously wrong have been ignored too often.

Conference asks HEC and its appropriate sub-committees to develop proposals for early warning systems as well as pressing for reform of HE governance and finance.

Conference also notes that the law may have been broken in some cases, and that the resignation of one or two senior figures should not prevent prosecution of those responsible.

Proposed by Lesley Kane
Seconded by Kit Power

Motion 3 REF2021 and redundancy

Conference notes that the UK HE funding bodies have bowed to pressure to allow universities to submit the work of former staff who have been made redundant in the REF2021.

If this decision is not reversed Conference asks the HEC to use Freedom of Information requests or other suitable means to find out which institutions do so, and to name and shame offending institutions.

Proposed by Lesley Kane
Seconded by Bruce Heil

OU UCU motions passed at the General meeting on 17th January 2019

The OU Branch of UCU calls upon the Vice Chancellor to take a pro-European stance to defend the OU against the threats of Brexit. Brexit would mean the opposite of a university that is open to people, places, methods and ideas. It will harm our ability to attract and retain international staff, damage our research, and restrict our ability to undertake first-rate academic work.

Therefore, this meeting agrees to support the OU Staff open letter to support a People’s Vote. This open letter gives us the opportunity to show our support and solidarity for our colleagues, as well as addressing the wider concerns that Brexit has for the HE sector.

Proposed: Matthew Hinton
Seconded: Kit Power

See: https://docs.google.com/forms/d/e/1FAIpQLScerQgzqlSrG1TS5aCIUktNgPzSHRa9g6MqdQosQpAItC4t_Q/viewform

OU UCU motions passed at the AGM on 15th November 2018

Motion 1
This Branch notes that the high fee regime in England has proved a serious restriction on the ability of unemployed and working people to take up part time higher education. As a result the mission of the OU to bring higher education to disadvantaged communities is being undermined.

The Branch agrees to approach OUSA and other anti-fee bodies for a joint campaign against the fee regime for part time students.

Proposed by: Bruce Heil
Seconded by: Hilary Partridge

Motion 2
The OU Branch of UCU calls upon the OU to protest publicly against the Immigration policy and checks being imposed by the current Home office.  This complex web of policies and documentation is a major obstacle to HE’s access to international debate and research.  HE is not an appropriate mechanism for effectively delivering the immigration checks, according to their own stated aims.  These policies are designed to make employers and institutions complicit in the Conservative government’s ‘hostile environment’ for migrants.  The ‘right to work’ processes being implemented by the OU’s HR Department function as control and surveillance mechanisms on staff.  The Conservative government’s hostile environment threatens to criminalise migrants and refugees and the academics and institutions that host them.

Proposed by: John James
Seconded by: Paula James

OU UCU motions passed at the General meeting on 31st October 2018

Motion 2
This conference notes:

  1. the obstacles posed by the 50% threshold, which the OU and some other branches missed by a very narrow margin in the recent HE pay ballot.
  2. the attempt by some employers to interfere with the democratic process
  3. that other unions are also seriously affected

This conference asks our national officials:

  1. to intensify political campaigning against the 50% threshold, preferably with other unions.
  2. to obtain legal advice as to the prospects of success for such a legal challenge citing potential breach of human rights

Proposed by: Lesley Kane

Motion 3
Conference notes:
That many branches missed by a very narrow margin the 50% threshold required under current TU legislation to enable legal industrial action.
The average percentage of Yes votes across HE institutions are:

  • 66.7% members voted for strike action
  • 78.96% of members voted for ASOS

Conference calls on the HEC to reflect on the pay ballot outcome and specifically to consider the:

  1. timing of ballot opening and preparing members in advance
  2. coordination between national and local activity
  3. reasons why some branches achieved much higher participation than others.

Conference asks the HEC to consider re-balloting all branches where there is a realistic chance of getting a 50% turnout.
Conference calls on the national UCU to consider a legal challenge to this undemocratic legislation, preferably in conjunction with the TUC and other interested trades unions.
Conference resolves:

  • To continue to campaign vigorously on workload, casualization and gender pay gap issues – these have the full support of our members.

Proposed by John James

OU UCU motions passed at the General meeting on 17th September 2018

Motion 1: Solidarity with TGI Friday strikers

This committee wishes to express solidarity with, and best wishes for, the TGI staff striking over unfair wages and tip distribution. We fully support these trade unionists in their struggle for fairer pay conditions.
Proposed by Kit Power
Seconded by Caroline Holland

Motion 2: Deportation of family members

This committee wishes to record its shock and dismay at the news that a member of the OU community is having to fight a deportation order for her daughters. We support her fight to keep her daughters in the UK, and ask the branch executive committee and the university to actively pursue ways we can offer additional support.
Proposed by Kit Power

Motion 3: Jim Newall

This branch notes that:

  • on 12 June 2018, the University of Salford dismissed Jim Newell as professor of politics after 27 years’ service on grounds of an alleged failure to achieve a series of targets, set by the University unilaterally, and applied retroactively in that they were introduced only sometime after his promotion;
  • a fundamental principle of the rule of law is that a person cannot be found guilty by applying laws introduced only after the event.

This branch believes that the targets Jim Newell is alleged to have failed to meet reflect a business model of the university which is incompatible with academic freedom because it removes the security of employment academics must have in order to be able to engage in criticism and enquiry without fear or favour.

This branch further notes that Jim Newell’s situation confirms a more widespread trend that is damaging to the health and well-being of University staff throughout the UK. The branch therefore demands that the University of Salford reinstate Jim Newell with immediate effect. 
This branch also calls upon members to sign the petition (www.change.org/p/prof-helen-marshall-reinstate-jim-newell-to-his-job-as-professor-of-politics-at-the-university-of-salford) demanding that he be reinstated.
Proposed by Hilary Partridge
Seconded by Caitlin Adams