OU UCU motions passed at the General meeting on 19th October 2023
Motion 1 - Equality, diversity and inclusion (EDI), Dean of EDI
The branch notes with concern that following the move of Marcia Wilson to London Metropolitan to take up a senior role there, the role of Dean of EDI has apparently been allowed to lapse. While we wish to extend our heartfelt congratulations to Prof. Wilson on her new appointment, questions and concerns have been raised by many staff with protected characteristics across the different staff network groups, and also in Senate.
In response the university have said that LJ is still in post and have created a Directorship of EDI in place of the Dean of EDI role - apparently under the University Secretary's Office, rather than reporting directly to the Vice Chancellor's Office as the Dean's role did. The university have said that the Dean of EDI role was always a temporary appointment and that although its full term has not yet been run, a review is going to be undertaken - although no clear timetable for this review has been set out.
This branch wishes to express grave concern about the possible slowdown of work on EDI across the university, which was proceeding at good pace compared to other HE institutions (although there was considerable work needing to be done). There is potential conflict of interest with the work coming under the University Secretary's Office rather than reporting directly to the Vice Chancellor's Office. Creating a Directorship rather than appointing the Deputy Dean of EDI as interim Dean sends a poor message about how much the university prioritises the EDI work.
There has been loss of confidence in the university's commitment to EDI and this branch believes this approach is not the correct one for us at this time. We call on the University to undertake a proper consultation on this issue, and to include this in a clear timetable for the review they are undertaking.
Motion 2: Supporting OU Staff with fees for UK work visas and the UK’s International Health Surcharge
The UK Home Office announced an increase in UK work visa and International Health Surcharge (IHS) fees in July 2023. The change in the International Health Surcharge (IHS) from £624 per year to £1,035 a year – a 66% jump – is expected to come into effect in early 2024. The work visa fee changes were published on 15 September 2023 and will come into effect on 4 October 2023. The changes reflect a 15% increase in cost for most visa applications and a 20% increase in cost for Indefinite Leave to Remain (ILR) applications.
This increase of expenses will be incurred by those current and future OU staff who require a visa or an ILR to work in the UK. This is, and is likely to remain, a small minority of OU staff.
The current OU Relocation Expenses policy states that staff are re-imbursed the cost of the visa application fee at the time of their initial onboarding. This means that new staff have to pay the IHS themselves and current staff must pay both IHS and visa application fees every time their contracts are extended, if they are issued a new contract, or if they apply for an Indefinite Leave to Remain (ILR). For example, this charge would be incurred every time an existing Fixed Term Contract is extended, or a new Fixed Term Contract is issued (as commonly occurs at the end or start of project-based work), even if the employment with the OU is unbroken. The charge would also be incurred if the FTE (Full Time Equivalent) component of a contract is altered, whether fixed term or permanent. While employees who apply for an ILR do not pay IHS, they still must pay the application fee of £2,885.
Whilst the fees component of the visa system would be costly for any worker, the OU’s approach to managing contracts creates significant barriers to employment. Issuing staff with permanent contracts and then using OU-internal workload and financial management to allocate their time and costs, rather than by issuing or extending Fixed Term Contracts or Additional Duties Contracts, would mean many visa charges were not generated. It is the OU’s decision to use contracts to manage workload and finances which prevents individuals requiring a work visa from taking up a range of employment opportunities.
Reimbursements of visa fees are regarded as a taxable benefit unless it is a new employee applying for their visa outside the UK. This means that under HMRC regulations, the payment is subject to tax and National Insurance contributions. Even if the OU covers the full costs of visa fees, contract changes may alter the tax status of an individual, such as moving them into a higher tax bracket.
While the university offers a visa costs loan scheme which does not exceed £5,000, this policy perpetuates a divide between foreigner and non-foreigner workers who have to shoulder these exuberant costs. As an example, consider staff members who are already residing the UK and who would start a new contract on 4 January 2024:
On a 3 year contract a new staff member will incur £3,105 (£1,035*3 years IHS fees) and an existing staff member will incur £3,824 (£719 visa application fee + £1,035*3 years IHS fees),
On a 5 year contract a new staff member will incur £5,175 (£1,035*5 years IHS fees), and an existing staff member will incur £6,598 (£1,423 visa application fee + £1,035*5 years IHS fees).
Note that a staff member who is on a contract which renews yearly will incur £1,754 per year; so, if an existing staff member works for three years, then this cost adds up to £5,262. Other universities already support their staff with their expenses, including Durham University, University of Bath, University of Sussex, University of Exeter, University of Dundee, etc.
To campaign for a change in policy and procedure so that the Open University covers visa fees for current employees and the IHS for new and current employees.
To liaise closely with the OU EDI team and the International Staff Network.
To campaign for increased use of permanent contracts, including reduced use of Fixed Term Contracts and more effective ability to issue contracts with unallocated FTE (e.g., non-module Tuition Related Activity) in the initial contract.
Motion 3 - 1.3 Full-time equivalent (FTE) proposals
This branch notes
The new Associate Lecturer (AL) Contract negotiated in 2018, explicitly recognised the principle of no detriment for all ALs, including those working at over 1.3 FTE. Specifically the 2018 agreement said the following about this situation:
Managing ALs with greater than One FTE of AL work
- In accordance with the “no detriment” principle no ALs will be offered a new contract which has the impact of removing work from them, including those ALs working above 1 FTE.
- At implementation ALs who have work greater than 1 FTE will be issued contracts that fully reflect the work they are doing at offer date.
- After implementation the University will honour the working time directive of 48 hours for staff who do not already exceed it at offer date, and for AL staff recruited after implemen-tation so that no AL is working more than 48/37 = 1.3 FTE equivalent, based on a per-manent contract
- Any AL whose offer FTE exceeds 1.3 will be required to formally opt out of the European worktime directive if they wish to be given a permanent contract for their full FTE above 1.3.
- Any Associate Lecturer working more than 1.3 FTE for the OU on all types of contract will be encouraged to discuss their personal circumstances with their internal and AL line manager.
- For ALs who are employed outside the OU they will have a responsibility to let the OU know the FTE size of their external work.
- From the point of new AL contract implementation onwards ALs who are already working above 1.3 FTE will not normally be allocated any further work which increases their FTE.
- By these means the University will use natural staff turnover to work towards compliance with the European worktime directive without seeking to disadvantage affected ALs or take work away from them.
Despite this, OU management are now proposing to remove all work over 1.3 FTE from all ALs with OU contracts totally more than 1.3 FTE, by use of the fire and rehire tactic last used by P & O to replace their workforce with workers on a lower wage. This clearly breaches the no detriment and natural staff turnover aspects of the 2018 agreement as outlined above. ALs are extremely angry that some of their number are being singled out for treatment that is clearly in breach of the 2018 agreement. ALs are extremely angry that Staff Tutors/Student Experience Managers (STs/SEMs) are being potentially asked to implement this ‘fire/rehire’ policy even though many are clearly unhappy about this and ALs send their full solidarity to STs/SEMs on this issue.
This branch believes:
- An attack on one AL is an attack on us all
- Attacks on one aspect of the 2018 AL contract agreement is an attack on all of it
- If the OU management can get away with breaking an agreement and the use of fire and rehire, for one group of staff, there is nothing to stop them using it against us all.
This branch resolves:
- To open a petition for all OU staff and students to utterly condemn the use of repressive practices such as ‘fire and rehire’.
- To write to the OU management making clear that unless they withdraw their current proposals and reach an agreement with UCU based on the implementation of the 2018 AL New contract agreement, we can have no trust or confidence in them as fair employers
- To extend full support to any AL or ST/SEM affected by the proposed actions of OU management including, if necessary, the use of a ballot for clear strike action unless these proposals are withdrawn in their entirety.
- The Branch Executive is asked to organise a wide-ranging campaign on this issue, including but not limited to the above.
- If the University refuses to retract their fire and rehire proposals, then the Branch Executive should arrange the ballot for strike action.
OU UCU motions passed at the General meeting on 20th September 2023
Motion 1 - Initiating a branch ‘Sustainability and Just Transition Working Group’
- The OU has recently updated a number of its sustainability policies, and whilst the commitment to improved aims and practice is to be commended, the UCU branch was not consulted or negotiated with in a formal capacity. The policies cover: ‘Environmental Sustainability’, ‘Net Zero Carbon’, ‘Sustainable Construction’, ‘Biodiversity’, ‘Waste Resource’, ‘Heating and Cooling’, ‘Water’, and ‘Sustainable Food’.
- Nationally, UCU is a pioneering union in the fight for changes to be shared, organised and distributed progressively, for a Just Transition. Practically, in the recent FE England Joint Claim (equivalent to HE’s JNCHES) a Just Transition is integral to the proposals for how to rebuild that sector, shaping the negotiations on improvements in pay, workload, casualisation and equality that will allow the sector to deliver education as a socio-economic enabler and a public benefit.
- Concerning Net Zero, education will be significantly affected both directly and as an enabling sector for others. Analysis by the Committee on Climate Change, the independent advisory body estab-lished to support the UK’s actions towards the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, has argued that the next decade will see the greatest impacts upon employment.
- The branch has existing policy on ‘institutional sustainability’, particularly “Motion 2 - Towards institutional sustainability at the OU”, passed on the Annual General meeting on 7th June 2022 (see below). Which commits to:
- “To produce a branch definition of institutional sustainability – to include reference to the environment, climate change, health and well-being, travel (but not limited to these examples).
- “To encourage OU leadership to publicly and actively share institutional data related to the results and performance of existing sustainability initiatives
- “To use this data and the branch definition to publicly campaign for institutional policies that reflect the full scope institutional sustainability.”
- To establish an OU UCU ‘Sustainability and Just Transition Working Group’, to deliver on AGM 2022 Motion 2, particularly to bring members together to support the negotiation of improvements to the OU’s Sustainability policies.
Motion 3 - late motion
This meeting notes staff reaction to management proposals to reduce FTE for those above 1.3FTE, and that many affected staff had taken on the extra work to help the university out in the past.
This meeting also notes that:
It comes hard on the heels after the uncertainty and disruption at the start of our academic year caused by 100% group sizes.
It also takes place against a backdrop of problems caused by under-resourcing of the Skills Audit and Workload Management System (WMS), key elements in AL contract implementation.
This meeting expresses concern about the priorities of the OU senior leadership and their ability to lead the university.
OU UCU motions passed at the Extraordinary General meeting on 26th July 2023
Motion 1 - Workers Summit model motion
This branch has been inspired by the wave of industrial action that has taken place over the last two years in response to the cost-of-living crisis. We believe that as the strike movement has developed, different questions have arisen within it. We believe there is a desperate need for a more coordinated campaign against the government, with unions striking and marching together. We also believe there is a need to reflect on the “deals” that come our way and discuss ways that bad deals can be roundly rejected. We take heart from the RCN vote to reject the pay deal from government and note the key role of NHS Workers Say No as a key force in that vote.
We believe there are further questions about the best strategy to win, including the question of escalating the strike action and what that escalation should look like. We resolve to support the “Workers Summit” event, currently called by Lambeth and Hackney NEU, NHS Workers Say No and Strike Map, in London on the 23rd September. We commit paying £200 towards the cost of the event and we commit to sending 2 delegates, paying for their transport costs where necessary.
Motion 2 - Tutor groups at least 100% size
This meeting notes with concern the decision by senior management that all tutor groups will be at least 100% size in the coming academic year. This meeting believes this will cause operational difficulties and will be bad for students and staff. This meeting asks the university management to reconsider this decision.
Motion 3 – Amazon workers’ industrial action
This branch notes:
- that Amazon made a profit of over £155m last year and its founder and executive chairman Jeff Bezos is currently the third richest person in the world.
- that workers in Coventry have led the first Amazon strike in the UK following an imposed 50p pay increase last year, and have just renewed their strike mandate for a further 6 months
This branch believes:
- the company has used union-busting tactics from bullying and harassment to calling police on pickets to employing an extra 1,300 people in the warehouse to dilute union density and stop GMB gaining union recognition
- that striking Amazon workers need maximum solidarity from across the labour movement in their fight.
This branch resolves:
- to support and build the mass rally outside the Amazon Coventry warehouse called by the strikers on 5th August 2023, by
- adding our branch as a supporting organisation
- sending a delegation from our branch
- sharing on our email list and social media channels
- working with other local trade union branches, trades councils and organisations to book a coach.
- to make a donation of £50 towards the cost of the rally and the Amazon workers’ strike.
OU UCU motions passed at the Branch meeting on 18th July 2023
Motion 2 - Supporting the Postgraduate Researchers (PGRs) as Staff campaign, opposing use of fixed-term contracts by UCU
OU UCU Branch Notes:
- It is longstanding UCU policy to actively campaign for Postgraduate Researchers (PGRs) to be made into staff positions in the UK Higher Education system
- The resounding successes, benefits and necessity of campaigning on the issue were detailed and approved by overwhelming majorities at the Higher Education Sector Conference (HESC) dated May 28 (resolutions HE23, 24, 25, 37).
- That members interested in learning more about the work done, barriers and opportunities might read the PGRs as Staff report (UCU 2085). Endorsed by HE23, it contains a more detailed analysis of the situation.
- The OU branch of UCU has drawn upon the support of the PGRs as Staff team and would have struggled to organise on the issue without this specialist support.
- Two members of UCU staff were hired on 22-month contracts, in 2021, to work on the campaign. This resulted in UCU staff members being employed on conditions that UCU is itself campaigning against employers using (Motion HE14, 2019 HESC).
- Redundancy notices have been served on two fixed-term members of UCU staff in the ‘PGRs as Staff’ team.
- The Unite branch of UCU, representing UCU’s staff members, has registered a dispute with UCU over the issue. In a consultative ballot, 63% of the branch’s Unite members, on an 84% turnout, indicated that they were ‘prepared to take industrial action’ on the redundancies.
- An open letter by UCU members, arguing against the redundancies in more detail, is circulating and can be found here: view letter.
- To publicly support calls for the “PGRs as Staff” staff contracts to be made permanent at their exist-ing FTE, just as UCU has called for their members’ fixed-term contracts to be made permanent at their existing FTE.
- To send notification of this motion to all National Executive Committee members and the General Secretary, highlighting that, both ethically and tactically, we expect UCU to be a model employer in regard to workload, pay, equality and casualisation.
- To send a notification of our support and solidarity to the Unite UCU branch regarding this dispute.
- To encourage members to sign the “Open Letter against UCU PGRs as Staff co-lead redundancies”, sharing the link: view letter.
- To reinvigorate the branch’s organising on PGRs as Staff, drawing on support from the PGRs as Staff team, and so demonstrating the vital importance of this ongoing support being made available.
OU UCU motions passed at the Branch meeting on 18th July 2023
Amendment to Motion 4 - The 'Campus 2030' Project
In recent communications the VC has indicated that the university will undertake a business case over the next 9-12 months regarding a new central Milton Keynes campus. Originally there were two separate projects: a review of MK sites and exploration of a face-to-face teaching campus, which is something the university has previously rejected. These are now one proposal to sell Walton Hall, move to Central Milton Keynes and build a teaching campus. The OU will hire an external 'Chief Operating Officer' to oversee the development of the business case.
The branch notes that:
- The use of 'business case' suggests VCE strongly supports the project before any clear statement of aims has been made or feasibility study undertaken
- The conjoining of these two projects means a MK Central move would carry massive financial and other risks. These would be on a par with establishing a new university.
- The risks involved would be far greater than the unsuccessful Students First Transformation Project which wasted millions of pounds, damaged the university's standing and destroyed trust in the senior leadership team.
- The feasibility study on a campus in Milton Keynes Central must involve existing staff so cannot be done without diverting resources from 'core' activity across the nations and regions.
- The institutional capacity required to plan, establish, and operate a new face-to-face campus and teaching model, distinct from the existing correspondence model (including its own face-to-face elements), is significant. The OU has no corporate experience in being a conventional university, and it is questionable whether it has the change management capacity to create one. Furthermore, developing a parallel business the size of a university for Milton Keynes would imply a financial turnover equal to a significant proportion of the OU’s current turnover. This would represent a fundamental, unresolvable risk to our capability to sustain and focus upon our unique, UK-wide, core activities.
- It is unclear what the ongoing relationship with Milton Keynes Council would be, the costs, benefits and incentives, or why the OU would be able to succeed where Cranfield, the original university partner, has withdrawn.
- Successful partnerships to deliver OU modules through semi-traditional face-to-face teaching exist through Further Education colleges in Scotland, but prior trials of analogous models in England have been tried and found unsuccessful.
- The Walton Hall site was, like the Open University itself, developed using public funds for the benefit of the nation(s)
- The possibilities for repurposing the existing Walton Hall site are in danger of being overlooked, including options to generate income from the current estate.
- There are risks in assuming current levels of remote or homeworking will continue. It is still unclear how to best manage remote working in many traditionally on-campus roles, and whether or which roles are better located on campus. Furthermore, many issues with the Walton Hall and other OU sites stem from inadequate estates and facilities; inappropriate hot desking, inadequate meeting capacity (including online meeting equipment), loss of a ‘campus culture’ or ways of working conducive to sharing expertise and co-working.
- There has been little effort for years to address poor public transport and other barriers to usage of Walton Hall by staff, students and visitors, nor evaluation of the opportunities from the imminent East-West railway links.
- The MK Central business case is likely to cost several million pounds in 2023/24 although the university refuses to fund an inflation-matching pay rise for staff.
This branch resolves to direct the Executive Committee to:
- Create one or more working groups to respond to and monitor this project
- Seek information about resources involved, if necessary, via FOI
- Write to the Vice Chancellor and Chair of Council noting the following:
- The future and resources of the OU must not be placed at risk
- The OU’s academic standards and institutional independence must remain paramount. Any external institutional funding, investment or partnership agreements, whether public or private, must not grant those external bodies the authority to direct the university’s core business and operations.
- The option of retaining, refurbishing and repurposing Walton Hall must be given full and equal consideration
- Sustainability, clearly defined in negotiated policy and evidenced, must be central to any discussions
- There must be effective consultation with staff from the outset, over appropriate timescales, and embedded in the project
- Senior Leaders must not repeat the many mistakes identified in the Critical Review of the Students First Transformation project
- Attention and resources must not be diverted from the OU’s core business, including consequential risks to: agreements with devolved governments, agreements based on being a unique part-time, correspondence HE university sites beyond Milton Keynes, and homeworking staff.
- Any new 'arm' or undertaking that is proposed must avoid outsourcing, must recognise the OU trade unions and must use employment contracts to the same standard as those for current OU staff. This includes being part of the OU for the purposes of processes such as (but not limited to) internal vacancies, pay progression (spine points), redundancy, redeployment, and eligibility for funding from bodies such as UKRI.
Motion 5 – Support for Branches on Strike or Facing Punitive MAB Deductions
This branch notes that a number of our sibling branches are taking action against compulsory redundancies and/or are facing unprecedented threats of pay docking for the marking and assessment boycott.
This branch directs the Executive Committee to send and publicise messages of support and donations to local hardship funds as appropriate.
OU UCU motion passed at the Emergency General meeting on 12th June 2023
This branch notes with dismay that Congress 2023 has been overshadowed by controversy and division over motions relating to the war in Ukraine, which have caused some members to leave the union or to consider doing so.
This branch affirms its commitments to the main principles of Congress Motion 6 with one addition, in point 2. This branch:
- Condemns Russia’s invasion of Ukraine
- Recognises Ukraine’s right to self-determination and self-defence
- Support the courageous work of Russian anti-war activists and journalists despite state op-pression and personal risk
- Condemns all manifestations of imperialism
- Reaffirms UCU’s commitments to international solidarity; protecting human rights, workers’ rights and education for all; defending and promotion rights of all displaced people and all flee-ing conflict.
This branch resolves to:
- Affiliate to the Ukraine Solidarity Campaign (£20 for branch affiliation) and publicise its work
- Donate £100 toward the venue needed for the Campaign’s event on 17 June called ‘Another Ukraine is Possible’: Ukrainian workers' fight for a just reconstruction - a Politics crowdfunding project in London by Ukraine Solidarity Campaign (crowdfunder.co.uk)
- Contribute to the work of UCU’s International Working Group (as outlined in Congress Motion 6) to build awareness and understanding of the situation in Ukraine, and to publicise opportuni-ties for practical solidarity
- Bring the Statement on Ukraine following UCU Congress 2023 (google.com) to the attention of all members.
OU UCU motion passed at the Annual General meeting on 7th June 2023
Model motion on OU’s abuse of Fixed Term Contracts (FTCs) for research-only staff
For research-only staff, the OU’s abuse of Fixed Term Contracts (FTCs) has been revealed by much anecdotal evidence and by its own official figures. Towards improving the OU’s practices, this model motion is meant for all academic units. Staff could circulate this motion to the list-serve of their academic unit. The motion would be more effective if taken up in parallel at many levels (Centres, Schools, Departments and Faculties); smaller units could forward their motion to larger ones.
The UCU branch would like to know about plans for such an agenda item and about any outcomes. Please send info to firstname.lastname@example.org, Subject header ‘Researchers on FTCs’.
MODEL MOTION for academic units - Let’s stop the OU’s abuse of Fixed Term Contracts (FTCs) for research-only staff
The OU UCU branch asks academic units (and sub-units) to discuss and approve this motion.
This meeting asks the branch Executive Committee to support members who raise the issues below within their academic units.
Whereas UK universities have been churning research staff
The term ‘research-only staff’ denotes employment contracts which stipulate only research responsibilities, though such staff may volunteer for other tasks such as teaching. UK research-only staff are predominantly on Fixed Term Contracts (FTCs). The 2002 Fixed Term Work Regulations limit the renewal of a FTC beyond 4 continuous years, after which it should be made open-ended, unless the employer can justify ‘objective reasons’ to the contrary. In many UK universities or in some academic units there, ‘objective reasons’ have featured spurious criteria, such as the source of previous funding.
Moreover, OU management has avoided or pre-empted that procedure by signalling well beforehand that a FTC will not be renewed, thus incentivising the researcher to seek other options and to leave post before the contract ends, often before the research project ends.
When more research staff are needed, new staff are employed on an FTC, thus regularly ‘churning’ them. In many cases research staff could have been retained to carry out ongoing or future work, e.g., generated by research bids.
In some other cases, research-only staff are employed on FTCs beyond 4 years but are denied access to an open-ended contract, even when their skills are relevant to ongoing research work.
For a national overview, see the 2017 UCU report.
By abusing FTCs in all those ways, universities undermine career development, research continuity and prospects to raise external funds.
Whereas the OU has been likewise churning research staff
Such abuse of FTCs has been widespread at the OU. It has approx. 67% of its research staff on FTCs. Although that figure has declined somewhat in recent years, many have left before their contract ended, knowing that it will not be renewed beyond 4 years. Few FTCs have become open-ended contracts. (See February 2023 People Services report). The indicators are consistent with management practices churning research staff.
In some cases, the OU management pressure has been blatant: Before employing a researcher on a research project, a PI was required to sign a prior undertaking not to re-employ the researcher beyond that contract.
A 2019 OU document undertook. to reduce the numbers remaining on FTCs beyond 4 years. This indicator has served as the official ‘success measure’ for implementing the Researcher Development Concordat (RDC), supposedly by improving employment stability. The ‘success measure’ instead has disguised the OU management’s practices getting rid of such researchers before 4 years.
Therefore this academic unit resolves that the OU should:
- Motivate research-only staff to remain in post for the duration of their FTC, especially through opportunities to strengthen their research skills and to bid for funds, which may provide a basis for extending their contracts.
- Never pre-empt or avoid this opportunity, e.g., by requiring PIs not to re-employ a researcher.
- Abide by the spirit of the Fixed Term Work Regulations: After 4 years, use FTCs only where their use is objectively justified (not by spurious criteria). Otherwise move staff to secure contracts.
- Work with UCU to develop robust redeployment and active bridging funds to retain research-only staff in post. The skills audits in place for ALs could similarly be used for research staff.
- Discuss any instances of such obstruction at academic unit meetings, on request of the staff affected.
- Promote the aim of the Researcher Development Concordat (RDC) for employment stability, thus fulfilling the OU’s commitment to the RDC.
- Work with UCU to develop a stable work environment for research-only staff.
Finally, this academic unit asks other units to approve and circulate the model motion.
OU UCU motion passed at the Extraordinary General meeting on 25th May 2023
This branch notes the Court of Appeal has agreed to hear an appeal in the lawsuit brought by Dr Neil Davies and Dr Ewan McGoughey along with c 6,600 USS members against the directors of USS. Case update – Save pensions and the planet (savepensionsandplanet.org).
The original suit covered 4 claims: the charge of mishandling the valuation in March 2020; the equality implications for women, young people and ethnic minorities of changes to benefits and contributions; failure to control management costs; and the failure to divest from fossil fuels.
- If this suit is successful, it would reinforce the reversal of April 2022 cuts to the pension. On average for the period April 2022 and April 2024 this is roughly £8000 per active USS member.
- This appeal requires c £300,000 to guarantee costs are covered on top of the previous guarantee
- Motions were passed by UCU HE Sector Conferences (April 2022 and June 2022) to support this case and contribute to costs. At least 18 other branches have made contributions which alleviates the burden on individual USS/UCU members.
This branch therefore resolves to:
- Donate £5,000 which will be returned to the branch if not needed by the litigants
- Publicise the crowdfunding campaign to members and the OU community.
OU UCU motion passed at the General meeting on 4th May 2023
AL Community and Representation
This meeting notes:
- The unilateral decision by the university to wind up AL Assemby/AL Executive (ALA/ALE) without genuine consultation and without acceptable alternative arrangements for AL representation. The replacement of elected bodies with unelected ones is of particular concern.
- The suggestion that the Associate Lecturer Common Room (ALCR) may be closed. The ALCR reduces the isolation felt by ALs as homeworkers, allows communication with colleagues in other faculties, and is often a source of advice and information for individual staff.
- The timing of (1) and (2) suggest that some senior managers think it would be convenient to deny ALs a voice at a point when there are operational problems with workload allocation and attempts to resolve university financial problems by redefining AL workload norms and the annualised total FTE.
This meeting asks branch officers and reps to be mindful of the connection between (1), (2) and (3) above, and oppose the untimely winding up of ALA/ALE and any attempt to close down the ALCR.
OU UCU motion passed at the General meeting on 23rd March 2023
Proposed merger of WELS and FBL
This branch notes:
That VCE announced a proposed merger of WELS and FBL on March 6th to affected staff. There are three possible outcomes: no action; moving to three faculties with the merger and no changes to STEM or FASS; and the merger with Languages and Applied Linguistics moving to FASS.
This branch believes:
That the proposed merger is not justified for the following reasons:
- the timing is based on the departure of Fary Cachelin, Ian Fribbance and Dev Kodwani from their Executive Dean roles, described as a “natural opportunity” to review the configuration of the fac-ulties, when organisational structures are about the right combination of roles, not individual people
- the rationale involves potential cost-cutting, which is unlikely to be realised
- it is further suggested there could be opportunities to realise research and teaching synergies (e.g., around apprenticeship programmes), which could be just as easily done with the existing faculty configuration
- the merger was not properly consulted on with colleagues in the affected areas before the an-nouncement and the timeline (involving taking findings of the post-announcement consultation to VCE in May and to Senate in June) is too short to allow for meaningful discussion.
- That the merger would create substantial disruption and high levels of anxiety amongst staff during an already unsettled period.
- That this would have negative knock-on effects for our students.
- That the proposal only involves “conversations with key colleagues across faculties and Profession-al Services” as opposed to there being opportunities for all affected to have their voices heard.
- That there is already a very volatile employment relations climate at national level, which any merger will only exacerbate locally.
- That all the available research evidence points to increased centralisation and larger organisational units creating profound inefficiencies, a lack of agility to respond to changing external circumstances and delays in important decision making as well as heightened levels of stress and job dissatisfaction.
This branch resolves:
- To call on VCE to share the results of an evidence-based analysis of the three options in the pro-posal.
- To call on VCE to ensure a comprehensive consultation exercise about the proposals which encom-passes all affected colleagues who wish to contribute and involves the student voice as well.
- To ask VCE to ensure that no decisions are made until this exercise has been completed.
OU UCU motion passed at the General meeting on 8th March 2023
This branch notes:
- The General Secretary - without consultation with members or elected national executive or HEC - ‘paused’ industrial action, calling off strike days from 21st Feb to 2nd March 2023.
This branch believes:
- Recent UCU President Vicky Blake rightly described this decision as being “deeply concerning” [since] “a significant tactical decision has been made without appropriate democratic cover.”
- The UCEA's current offer is fundamentally inadequate, with no real improvement on pay during the worst cost-of-living crisis in decades.
- In January 2020 UCEA offered detailed commitments. In Feb 2023 their offer represents a step backward, containing no detail and few UCEA commitments.
- The prospective abolition of Zero Hours Contracts is vague.
- On gender pay gaps and workload: all HE institutions already claim to be tackling these issues.
- Pausing action allows employers a victory of sorts, as semester 2 teaching may be salvageable, and the pause prevents us continuing action in conjunction with other unions.
- Although the UCU leadership uses militant rhetoric, it seeks to close down disputes at the earliest, thus demobilising the membership, weakening union action, and endangering the current re-ballot.
- The membership must freely, openly and democratically determine the course of industrial action and likewise the acceptability of any settlement.
- The Commission on Effective Industrial Action 2018 report, which was rightly reaffirmed as policy by Congress 2022, makes clear that HEC is the body that should determine whether to pause ac-tion during negotiations.
This branch resolves:
- That UCU should maintain all strike dates already called between 16-22 March.
- That extra strike dates should be called
- That no strike dates should be cancelled (or 'paused') without HEC approval.
OU UCU motion passed at the General meeting on 8th March 2023
INTERNATIONAL WOMEN’S DAY
On International Women's Day, and with a continuing gender pay gap in the institution, the branch notes with grave concern that some parts of the university are citing financial pressures to propose the suspension of Athena Swan applications and other EDI initiatives. We call upon the Vice Chancellor and the Deputy Vice Chancellor to recommit to the university's ongoing work on Equality, Diversity and Inclusion, and to affirm that they will not treat the institutional financial situation as a means to cut work in support of staff who would thus be doubly disadvantaged.
OU UCU motion passed at the General meeting on 8th March 2023 for UCU Congress 2023
Title: Strengthening Bargaining & Negotiations through collectively developing our decarbonisation campaign
- UCU has pioneered the intensification and mainstreaming of action against the Climate and Ecological Emergency (CEE), in tertiary education and the labour movement.
- Commitments to strengthen sectoral bargaining and pursue a Green New Deal through a national joint claim (Congress 2022, Motion 60) would benefit from greater grassroots knowledge.
- To issue guidance on members collectively influencing Professional Bodies and Learned Societies to revise ethics, events and funding processes.
- To grant the Climate and Ecological Emergency Committee status under Rule 25; to submit Motions and send Delegates to Conferences and Congress.
- To gather information through Branch Delegate Meetings on the content of, and member support for, particular policies, including:
- Requirements for professional development or job retraining
- Restrictions on non-fossil fuel flights, paid time for use of slower low-carbon transport
- Reasonable adjustments appropriate to considerations including (but not limited too) protected characteristics, employment type, or career stage.
OU UCU motion passed at the General meeting on 8th March 2023 for the HE Sector Conference 19 April 2023
Title: Reinforcing organising for improved research staff conditions
- The policies adopted and guidance produced in support of sustainable research careers
- That UCU has had little success in bringing employers to move research staff onto secure contracts, with the numbers on fixed-term contracts remaining relatively static
- That moves by some employers to move staff from FTC to open ended contracts with an identified 'at risk' date does not necessarily improve security of employment
- Staff require paid time to adapt careers to changing conditions, such as the Climate and Ecological Emergency
- We need new ways to pressure employers to meaningfully engage, nationally and locally, on this issue.
Conference resolves to:
- Assess support for research staff at each institution, with a view to ranking employers on levels of support
- identify and share examples of better practice
- update current materials on supporting research staff and develop a Research Staff manifesto that we can use as a campaigning and negotiating tool.
OU UCU motion passed at the General meeting on 17th January 2023
- the refusal to place on the table any pay offer in December despite having set up meetings for this purpose, and
- the publication of an 'agreed' procedural document that the unions had in fact not agreed.
The result has been a delay and a failure to negotiate in good faith to find a resolution to this dispute.
- This branch also notes that the offer made on 11th January will mean a 15% or 16% reduction in pay against RPI over 2 years if inflation does not fall.
This branch further notes that the Open University is a member of UCEA and that members of UCEA determine the mandate and actions of UCEA as their negotiating body. UCEA therefore acts in the name of the Open University and the other sector employers.
This branch calls upon the senior leadership of the Open University to:
- build on our joint achievement in tackling casualisation for Associate Lecturers, and continue to lead on supporting better working conditions and thus better learning conditions in the Higher Education sector
- distance itself from these actions by its negotiators, and
- require UCEA as its representatives to negotiate in good faith with the five sector unions.
OU UCU motions passed at the Extraordinary General meeting on 16th November 2022
Motion 1 - HARDSHIP FUND
This General Meeting agrees to the setting up of a local hardship fund to supplement the national UCU fighting fund during any action over USS pensions or over pay this academic year. The purpose of the fund will be to support branch members who face hardship as a result of pay deductions.
This meeting authorises:
- The transfer of an initial sum of £50,000 from local branch funds into the hardship fund and asks the Branch Committee to set up a process for members to access the fund in accordance with national UCU guidance.
- The Branch Committee to seek to increase the hardship fund further as needed by transferring additional branch funds and asking for donations.
Any money remaining in the hardship fund at the end of the action should be transferred back into our local branch funds, leaving a token amount to keep the account active.
Motion 2 - JOB CUTS AT BIRKBECK
This union notes:
- The announced threat of 140 redundancies at Birkbeck, 84 academic and 55 adminis-trative staff
- That the majority of those academic staff threatened work in Arts and Humanities sub-jects.
- The response of Birkbeck UCU, which includes this statement: “Birkbeck has a proud history of reaching students who otherwise would not enter higher education. Sacking 140 staff, including up to one in four teaching staff, threatens to trash that history. The cuts would severely harm student learning and jeopardise the university's commitment to social mobility and lifelong learning.”
This union believes:
- That all threats of this nature are to be opposed
- That this threat is part of wider assault on Arts and Humanities subjects, and that this weakens Higher Education as a whole
- That staff within an institution whose goals parallel our own deserve our special sup-port
This union resolves:
- To make an immediate £1,000 donation to the campaign to save these jobs
- To maintain close contacts with Birkbeck UCU, and offer ongoing support to their campaign to save jobs and the goals of the institution.
Motion 3 - STRIKE TOGETHER, CAMPAIGN TOGETHER
This union notes:
- The announced UCU strike dates in November coincide with strikes called by CWU.
- That while currently involved in talks, the RMT is also conducting a re-ballot for strike action
- That the RCN has balloted for strike action for the first time in its history
- That the NEU is currently conducting a consultative ballot for national strike action.
This union believes:
- That coordinated and concerted action strengthens our collective claims over pay, pensions and working conditions.
- That after 14 years of austerity and cuts to public services, and the current cost of liv-ing crisis, enough is enough
- That “the longer the picket line, the shorter the action”
This union resolves:
- To urge and encourage our branch members, wherever possible, to attend our own picket lines
- That where this is not possible, to urge and encourage our branch members to visit other UCU picket lines and to send the branch mailbox selfies for a collective display on the branch website
- To to invite representatives of other unions striking or balloting for strike action to visit our picket lines and, wherever possible, to encourage members to reciprocate.
OU UCU motions passed at the General meeting on 21st October 2022
Motion 1 for UCU's Climate and Ecological Emergency Committee: Curriculum and Teaching Careers in the CEE
- That many teaching in Higher and Further Education are concerned about the Climate and Ecological Emergency.
- That many members of UCU seek guidance and support from their union in how to change the curriculum, and teaching careers, so as to better address the Climate and Ecological Emergency. This includes factors other than the employers, such as the UK Professional Standards Framework, AdvanceHE, Learned Societies, and the poli-cy of government(s).
- That potential members of UCU would join the union if it is seen to take proactive, high-profile steps on Climate and Ecological Emergency education.
- That UCU map the relevant stakeholders and factors, then develop a campaign to in-fluence them.
- The incoming Climate and Ecological Emergency Committee should play a central role in developing the campaign.
Motion 2 for UCU's Climate and Ecological Emergency Committee: Building UCU’s organising and bargaining capacity; growing green rep cohorts
- That the strength of a union lies in its grassroots organising, both in branches and na-tionally.
- That UCU action on sustainability and the Climate and Ecological Emergency (CEE) has proven popular amongst members (including new member recruitment), and in making links between other teaching and student unions.
- UCU’s activities are key to highlighting and framing the role of tertiary education and research in addressing the climate emergency and its impacts, by promoting educa-tion and research as a necessary part of movement from unsustainable high-carbon to sustainable green systems.
- That some areas of Climate and Ecological Emergency organising have encountered barriers. For example, many branches do not have an Environmental or Green repre-sentative, whilst the groundswell of support for these issues has rarely been translated into branch or national negotiating machinery and claims.
- That the incoming CEE committee investigate the strengths and barriers of UCU’s cur-rent CEE work in motivating members and potential members.
- That the committee gather evidence and make recommendations, at or before the next annual meeting, on how to practically develop UCU’s organising and bargaining power on CEE issues.
- That the committee practically support efforts to grow the cohort of UCU Green Rep-resentatives.
Motion 3 for UCU's Climate and Ecological Emergency Committee: Developing UCU’s demands to employers; feeding into the national claims
- A primary role of trade unions is to effect change through industrial negotiations and bargaining with employers and their representative organisations, such as UUK.
- UCU has committed to developing national joint claims in HE and FE, see Congress 2022 motion 60. These national claims are made every year, specifying the demands from unions that are made to all employers at a nationwide scale (rather than just at local branches).
- Any national claims developed will have to support previously agreed policy on envi-ronmental issues, but also on policy, strategy and campaigns such as the Four Fights, Respect FE and UCU Rising. See https://www.ucu.org.uk/motions
- The processes for developing and agreeing the national claims, including with other unions in joint negotiating committees, are (perpetually) ongoing.
- The 2022-23 claim is currently under development, so CEE considerations or contri-butions from the CEEC need to be incorporated from the outset.
- That the CEE committee should proactively make links with the FE and HE national negotiators, supporting them to develop and negotiate CEE elements of the national claims to be put to the 2023 Congress.
OU UCU motions passed at the General meeting on 21st September 2022
This Branch utterly condemns the heavy-handed and unacceptable policing of respectable republican protests surrounding the recent monarchical events.
The use of state repression to punish dissenting views is totally unacceptable and a threat to pluralist democracy in the UK
OU UCU motions passed at the General meeting on 21st July 2022
This branch believes:
That good communications are essential in supporting any strategy to bring in new activist members.
In order to support the work of the newly formed Communications Group, we should trial the role of Communications Lead on the Executive Committee. In this period, their role would be to work with the Comms Group and to support other Exec Committee officers, particularly the President and Honorary Secretary, and the Branch Administrator, in issuing timely internal and external communication to members, and managing the production of appropriate newsletters to staff groups, and social media for the branch. This role will be reviewed after a year.
Motion 2 - Stress, Workload, and Wellbeing at the OU
This branch notes the recent results of the Staff Barometer Survey, the impact of stress on all staff categories, and the fact that excessive workload and associated problems have not improved since this branch’s Workload Survey in 2018.
We call upon the Open University to:
- Reinstate the joint union/management Workload Working Group which the university stopped in 2019. This group must be supported to work in conjunction with H&S, People Services, unit budget holders and others to investigate and address excessive workloads and stress
- Conduct an immediate university-wide H&S stress risk assessment covering all staff cate-gories and PGR students no later than September 2022
- Working with the unions, develop a remedial action plan with measurable objectives for any areas of concern from this risk assessment across all staff categories and PGRs no later than the end of 2022
- Immediately convene negotiations with UCU on homeworking and hybrid working, includ-ing but not limited to equipment, allowances, residency, and site use
- Undertake a detailed review of the Staff Tutor/SEM workload and tasks (as requested by UCU repeatedly since 2018 and within the recommendations of the trade union H&S in-spection of December 2020), and urgently implement remedial action to alleviate stress and workload in this role in the short- medium- and long-term
- Agree and run a joint project with UCU to investigate excessive workload and stress for academic-related staff and barriers to career development and promotion, with a commit-ment to implementing the recommendations
- Agree and run a joint project with UCU on reviewing a) Associate Lecturer workload norms and b) other academic workload norms as used in the Academic Workload Man-agement system (AWM) with a view to establishing a realistic, consistent and fair ap-proach for all faculty staff
- Provide parity of annual leave entitlement across the university and in particular equality between Associate Lecturers and other academic staff
- Agree to explore the possibility of a 35-hour working week in line with the national pay claim, and also to explore the findings from national and international pilots of the 4-day work week.
Motion 3 - Staff Retention and the Cost-of-Living Crisis
This branch notes that the employers’ organisation UCEA and the OU have refused to make a pay offer in line with inflation, after real-terms pay losses since 2009. At present the pay offer stands at 3% for 2022-2023 while inflation is 9.1% CPI at June 2022 as prices continue to rise. This branch notes that the VC highlights fairness and staff wellbeing as key university values. We note further that other universities have agreed to make one-off payments in 2021/22 to help staff with the rise in energy and living costs.
We call upon the university to:
- Provide a £2,000 payment to all staff to ease the cost of living (NB This should include stipended PGR students in line with UCU’s policy that PGR students should be treated as employees)
- Explore with the unions the possibility of raising the grade boundaries in the Pay and Grading Framework, to the potential benefit of all staff categories
- Re-establish the Fixed Term Contracts working group (stopped by the university in 2020) with a remit to prevent redundancies across all staff categories and to reduce casualisation, including renewed institutional commitment to converting fixed term roles to permanency
- Commit to working with UCU on a minimum fixed-term contract duration of 2 years as standard
- Immediate publication of a detailed breakdown of the ethnicity/race pay gap by staff category and commitment to annual publication of the disability pay gap data
- Joint working with UCU to develop action plans with measurable and timely objectives for reducing to zero within 4 years the gender, ethnicity/race and disability pay gaps
- Commit to replacement of the GEM and Special Awards (given inequitable outcomes by staff category, part-time status and many other characteristics for years) by a fairer reward approach covering all staff categories.
OU UCU motions passed at the Annual General meeting on 7th June 2022
Motion 1 - Creating and maintaining a branch for everybody and which is representative of the OU population
This meeting believes:
- Academic-related, Associate Lecturer and Academic staff are all eligible and valued members of the Open University branch of UCU (OUBUCU)
- All eligible staff should be equally supported by OUBUCAll eligible staff categories should have equal opportunities to influence OUBUCU strategy and policy
- A diverse OUBUCU is a stronger branch.
This meeting resolves:
- OUBUCU should campaign publicly on local Open University and national UCU issues which resonate with all eligible staff categories and share details of successes, which would demonstrate the inclusiveness of UCU and its value to all members and poten-tial members.
- All eligible staff should be provided with mechanisms to engage with OUBUCU fairly and equally
- OUBUCU should proactively seek to widen and diversify its membership across all eligible OU staff categories.
Motion 2 - Towards institutional sustainability at the OU
This meeting believes
- Sustainability has a wider meaning than its environmental connotations
- It is incumbent upon us all to incorporate sustainability practices into our lives, at work and at home.
- Sustainability should be enacted through institutional policies and initiatives.
This meeting resolves:
- To produce a branch definition of institutional sustainability – to include reference to the environment, climate change, health and well-being, travel (but not limited to these examples).
- To encourage OU leadership to publicly and actively share institutional data related to the results and performance of existing sustainability initiatives
- To use this data and the branch definition to publicly campaign for institutional policies that reflect the full scope institutional sustainability.
OU UCU motion passed at the General meeting on 4th May 2022
Donations and solidarity for UCU branches taking action
This branch notes that a number of HE and FE branches will be taking action in the coming months and authorises the Branch Committee to make appropriate donations to local hardship funds.
This branch also notes that some HE branches will soon be taking action over the Four Fights and (depending on HESC decisions) over USS. These branches will be taking action over national disputes on behalf of branches which cannot take action this time as a result of anti-trade union legislation.
This meeting asks the branch executive committee to consider making donations up to a total amount similar to that we would expect to spend if the OU UCU branch were taking action.
This meeting also asks the executive committee to organise support for branches taking action by publicising and supporting their rallies and other events, fund raising, and other practical support.
OU UCU motions passed at the General meeting on 4th March 2022
Higher Education Careers Services: informing students and supporting the low carbon economy - for the HE Sector Conference
HE conference notes:
- Impartial advice and guidance offered by HE careers services is valuable for students and wider society.
- Careers services promoting roles in oil, gas and mining industries is likely contributing to the global climate crisis, and leading students into careers which will decline as we decarbonise our economies.
- Congress 2017 passed a motion resolving to “work with members affected by a move to a low carbon economy, other trade unions, and environmentalists” to campaign for a Just Transition.
HE conference resolves:
- To work actively with People & Planet to publicly support the student-led Fossil Free Careers campaign, calling on HE careers services to align their operations with sustainability considerations, particularly by declining to promote oil, gas and mining companies.
- To produce a website statement about this motion and UCU support for this campaign and amplify the calls to action of it.
Strengthening organising by constructing radical national claims; climate emergency anti-casualisation - for UCU Congress
- National Joint Claims’ power to secure improvements beyond pay uplifts, and so to recruit and organise members, is under-recognised.
- Climate emergency anti-casualisation is an area of potential transformation
- That precarious employment is often carbon intensive, featuring significant commuting and home moves.
- That decarbonisation will negatively affect some jobs.
Congress resolves that UCU:
- Exemplify collective bargaining by developing and submitting a Green New Deal national claim to FE and HE negotiating forums, including:
- A Just Transition Commission in HE and FE, including transition planning and job (role) frameworks
- Sustainable, just work providing stability for employers and employees to adapt, and a roadmap out of precarity
- Skills transition; paid time for sustainability CPD, including on casualised and outsourced contracts
- Trade Union environment representatives’ facility time
- Use Trades Union Congress structures to promote multi-union campaigning for a Just Transition.
Strengthening UCU's work amongst research-only employees - for HE Sector Conference
- Precarity disrupts members on research- only contracts from being more active and experienced members, compounded by moving employer or locality.
- That casualisation on research- only contracts is high, with 67% being fixed-term contracts, whilst many ‘open-ended contracts’ are ‘subject-to-funding’.
Conference resolves that UCU produce:
- a strategy for influencing research funders (including government) to focus on building employers and structures that create permanency
- guidance on how members in Learned Societies might influence them to oppose casualisation
- a pilot initiative for UCU to support members’ seeking to integrate solidarity economy activities into research work, such as linking to UCU-aligned organisations requiring research, or Community Wealth Building as impact.
- bitesize political education, covering UCU activities, structures and ‘everyday’ actions
- branch guidance on securing paid time (‘facility time’) for all contract types, or as additional pay for members who cannot receive paid time off.
OU UCU motion passed at the General meeting on 17th January 2022
Proposed motion for submission to the Annual Meeting of Members on Casualised Contracts, 26 February 2022 - Strengthening organising by constructing radical national claims; climate emergency anti-casualisation
This Meeting believes:
- National Joint Claims’ power to secure improvements beyond pay uplifts, and so to recruit and organise members, is under-recognised
- Climate emergency anti-casualisation is an area of potential transformation#
- That precarious tertiary education employment is often carbon intensive, featuring significant long-distance commuting and frequent home moves.
This Meeting resolves that UCU:
Exemplify how collective bargaining can address the climate emergency, and through anti-casualisation
Negotiate for climate justice and a Just Transition in the National Joint Claim by the Joint Negotiating Committee for Higher Education Staff (JNCHES), including:
- Strategic national agreement on transition planning and job (role) frameworks, preventing stranded employment or dead-end career pathways
- Anti-casualisation, providing long term stability for employers and employees to adapt
- Reduced precarity, including employer support and paid time for retraining
Decide if such agreement is best achieved by a joint JNCHES working groups, a time limited commission, or other means.
Develop analogous measures in FE.
Use Trades Union Congress structures to organise multi-union campaigning for a Just Transition, including educational components.
OU UCU motions passed at the General meeting on 20th October 2021
This General Meeting agrees to the setting up of a local hardship fund to supplement the national UCU fighting fund during any industrial action over USS pensions or over pay this academic 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:
The transfer of an initial sum of £50,000 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.
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, leaving a token amount to keep the account active.
This meeting notes:
That like the OU, Goldsmiths has in the past prided itself on a commitment to lifelong learning and to broaden access to higher education.
The ongoing threat of redundancies amongst academic and professional services staff at Goldsmiths.
That this is one of several ongoing attacks on arts and humanities funding by British universities.
That by denying the Goldsmiths UCU branch (GUCU) officers proper payment for facility time, Goldsmiths management are undermining the legally-recognised collective consultation process.
That GUCU has just secured an overwhelming mandate for industrial action in an informal ballot.
That other institutions, notably Chester and Liverpool, have fought off schemes for compulsory redundancies via the threat of industrial action.
To declare publicly our solidarity with our comrades at Goldsmiths.
To ask our members to support GUCU’s online #NoJobCuts campaign and
to approve the donation of £500 from OUBUCU branch funds to support their campaigning.
OU UCU motion passed at the General meeting on 23rd September 2021
Motion on ALCCP briefing
This meeting notes the proposed misuse of AL Academic Currency time, and low overall pay for new ALs starting this October and considers these to be unacceptable.
Proposed amendment to the motion
This meeting notes the proposed misuse of AL Academic Currency and Professional Development time, and low overall pay for new ALs starting this October and considers these to be unacceptable.
Overwriting the self-directed part of AL Academic Currency time with other work is equivalent to the cancellation of study leave for academic staff. Overwriting the agreed Professional Development and Academic Currency time is equivalent to asking ALs not to read course materials that they are about to teach. Crucially, overwriting either the AL-led Academic Currency time or the Agreed Professional Development and Academic Currency time with Mandatory training is contrary to the purpose of the former two and directly contrary to the negotiated policy on 'AL Professional Development and Academic Currency' which states that neither the 6 days pro-rata for AL-led AC time nor the 1 + 5 days pro rata for Agreed PD and AC time are to be used for Mandatory training (e.g., IT training, Prevent, etc.)
The OU made a commitment that no AL would be financially worse off due to the delay in implementing the new AL contract. This is breached by overwriting Professional Development and Academic Currency time with other work. This especially applies to new ALs in 21J since three half days' induction are for IT training which they should be paid for since they are unlikely to have any spare FTE.
When it comes to module briefings, if these are taken to be included in the 1+ 5 days of Agreed PD and AC time, it would entail that the majority of ALs have no time left for the rest of the year to engage in further professional development. If anything further is needed (attending SD days, getting up to speed on a new module, etc.), this would need to be paid for over and above their FTE unless they have other unused FTE. As things stand, there is no indicated intention to cover this with additional payments.
This branch supports the negotiators in pursuing this matter through negotiation, arbitration, or by lodging a dispute if necessary.
View the ALCCP briefing.
View the agreed policy balloted on in 2019.
This policy is cited in Section 19 of the new AL Terms and Conditions, and the current AL Terms and Conditions also have caveats on the use of staff development time in Section 9c.
OU UCU motion passed at the General meeting on 17th August 2021
This branch notes the ongoing dispute over the USS valuation, plans developed by UUK for unjustified and substantial cuts to pension benefits, and the refusal of USS to divest from fossil fuels.
Kings College London UCU and other branches are fundraising to explore legal action against the USS Trustees on several potential grounds (see: Save university pensions, and save the planet (crowdjustice.com). This initiative has support from UCU negotiators and is intended to complement any action undertaken by national UCU.
The branch calls upon the Executive Committee to publicise this fundraising effort to members and to make an initial contribution of £500 to this fund.
OU UCU motion passed at the General meeting on 22nd July 2021
This meeting notes:
- The pandemic and lockdowns have focused attention on homeworking, and on associated costs and benefits
- UCU has developed new policy on homeworking during the past year
- The OU Homeworking Policy and associated guidance was never negotiated with UCU
- The OU Homeworking Policy and guidance focus on cost savings to the employee that result from homeworking rather than the savings made by the employer on building maintenance, heating and lighting etc, and devolve the cost of health and safety equipment on homeworkers.
This meeting asks the UCU branch executive to open discussions and negotiations with management on the OU homeworking policy and guidance.
OU UCU motion passed at the Annual General meeting on 3rd June 2021
This meeting notes:
- the ongoing threat of redundancies amongst academic, academic-related and professional services staff at the University of Leicester (for 26 of these staff notices of redundancy were issued on the 11th May),
- the enormous stress and anxiety caused not only amongst ‘affected’ colleagues but also those deemed to be ‘unaffected’,
- the contradictory way in which the senior management team have managed the process
- the evidence that, in the School of Business in particular, management’s strategy is best explained by union busting rather than anything else (Hawkins and Routledge, 2021).
- to endorse formally UCU’s greylisting of Leicester, announced on the 4th May,
- to declare publicly our solidarity with comrades there and
- to approve the donation of £1000 from branch funds to support their industrial action.
Hawkins, S. and Routledge, J. ‘What were they thinking? A statistical analysis of the arguments surrounding the ULSB controversy’, view online.
OU UCU motion passed at the Extraordinary General meeting on 27th April 2021
Motion - Staff Tutor's/Student Experience Manager's Claim
This meeting endorses the claim for Staff Tutors and Student Experience Managers in the appendix to the EGM agenda, and asks our Executive committee and ST/SEM negotiators to negotiate with the university on the basis of this claim, and to do what is necessary to pursue it.
OU UCU motions passed at the Extraordinary General meeting on 31st March 2021
Motion 1 - Proceed with claim
The meeting endorses the attached claim for mitigation and compensation for Associate Lecturers following the decision by VCE to delay implementation of the new AL contract.
This meeting authorises the OU UCU negotiators and executive committee to negotiate with management on the basis of this claim, to make any necessary additions, and to enter a dispute with the university in the event of failure to agree, and if necessary to take the initial steps required to organise legal industrial action.
This meeting also authorises the OU UCU executive committee and ST/SEM negotiators to draft a claim on behalf of staff tutors, addressing workload and related stress, and the need for proper systems and support, and to take any necessary measures to pursue it.
This meeting authorises the executive committee to use up to £20,000 of OU branch funds in support of the claims referred to in this motion.
Motion 2 - Support for AL Members in Case of Strike Action
This meeting notes there is massive support for the ongoing decasualisation process among all categories of OU staff. OUBUCU members in all roles are dismayed at the news that the timetable towards the new contract is being abandoned, with often severe financial consequences to individuals. Members wish to demonstrate practical solidarity with those who are forced to threaten industrial action in response. An injury to one is an injury to all.
This meeting asks the Branch Committee to establish an active appeal for the Hardship Fund, in order to make it clear to AL members that they will receive financial support to compensate for hardship resulting from any industrial action, should this be necessary in support of the new contract and the 'no detriment' principle.
This appeal will be aimed at non-AL members in the branch and could involve pledges to the branch Hardship Fund that will be activated only should industrial action prove necessary over this issue.
Motion 3 - Vote of No Confidence in the University Secretary
This meeting notes that the University Secretary of the Open University, as chair of the AL Contract Delivery Board, on Monday 21 March 2021 announced a delay to the implementation of the AL Contract after more than two years of work. As context this meeting notes:
- Failure to implement the new contract means the loss of job security and thousands of pounds for over 4000 associate lecturers, many of whom took significant financial deci-sions on the basis of commitments from the university
- A key reason given was that systems were not in place for delivery, which constitutes a comprehensive institutional failure for which the Delivery Board and Vice Chancellor’s Executive are responsible
- There was no contingency planning in place for stopping the contract implementation (the legality of which decision is still in question)
- There was no notification to the union in advance of this decision so no negotiation with the union took place
- Because the proposed mitigation efforts (dated Wednesday 24 March 2021) were not discussed with the union, they do not adequately address job security or financial loss - for instance owing to the omission of Tuition Related Activities which make up the FTE of hundreds of ALs
- In communicating this decision there was no consideration of the duty of care to staff, whether those directly affected or those attempting to handle the practical and emotional fallout of this decision.
Given these failures this meeting states that it has no confidence in the University Secretary. There must be a formal review of VCE actions and decision-making that have led to this situation.
OU UCU motion passed at the General meeting on 16th March 2021 for UCU Congress
Annual Meeting and Committee on Environmental Issues
- The UCU Climate & Sustainability Conference held in March 2021.
- That the meeting positively supported the self-education and organising of activists.
- That creating stable structures for holding similar recurring meetings, and to represent and organise members on this employment interest, would be valuable to UCU and the NEC.
- That UCU holds an Annual Meeting on Environmental Issues each year, to advise the NEC under Rule 25.1 or by other constitutional means.
- That standing orders be drawn up to organise formally the Annual Meeting, including allowing branches to send motions and a report to be made available to the NEC.
- The meeting should keep a timetable similar to other such Annual Meetings.
- Recognising the organising benefits of creating a stable advisory body for members to coalesce around within UCU, to address this sector-wide interest by establishing a standing advisory committee.
OU UCU motion passed at the General meeting on 24th February 2021
Motion 2: Understanding Casualisation by Learning Technology
- The rapid growth of learning technology in tertiary education as described in The Automatic University: review of datafication and automation in Higher Education', a report by UCU Scot-land.
- The rise of non-education jobs in the gig economy based upon casualised, highly surveilled employment relationships often mediated by an app.
- The incursion of international learning technology organisations into UK universities bringing exploitative employment models from Big Tech
- Increased use of teaching and learning based on pre-recorded or pre-written materials, rather than interactive activity.
Meeting requests that UCU commission research into learning technology and 'tech platforms' to investigate:
- Key threats of increased casualisation
- Surveillance elements as they affect employees’ autonomy and wellbeing
- Successful steps taken by trade unions experienced in performing rights (eg BECTU/Prospect and the NUJ) to defend members' rights
- Recommendations from the findings for fighting casualisation and deterioration of working conditions arising from new learning technology.
OU UCU motion passed at the General meeting on 24th February 2021
Motion 1: Sustainability is a Casualisation Issue
- Climate change, biodiversity-loss and un-sustainable development are a serious and growing threat to human wellbeing.
- The present political situation means that the costs and losses of mitigation or adaptation tend to disproportionately to fall on the less powerful, more marginalised members of society. Within tertiary education, this includes workers on casualised contracts.
- Casualised members support UCU taking action on point 1.
- Action on point 1 must be part of, rather than in tension with, supporting casualised members.
- UCU should campaign for a ‘Green Recovery’ from Covid-19 that prioritises measures which reduce casualisation.
- Guidance to branches on sustainability should incorporate anti-casualisation, including that:
- Measures supporting ‘sustainable behaviour’ are made accessible to casualised employees.
- Employers must reduce institutions’ environmental impacts and absorb any associated costs, rather than transfer or outsource their impacts or costs to employees, particularly casualised employees.