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The Open University branch of the University and College Union

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Motions passed at General meetings 2024

Our branch has passed the following motions this year, for previous years, see the motions archive links on the right hand side of this page. 

OU UCU motion passed at the Extraordinary General meeting on 18th June 2024

MOTION - Disabled Students and benefit “reforms”

This meeting notes:

  1. That a significant proportion of Open University students have a disability.
  2. Many of them live with financial hardship.
  3. Some would be adversely affected by changes to Personal Independence Payments (PIP) be-ing consulted on by the UK government.
  4. Increased hardship and being unable to pay for the support they need will make it harder for some of these students to succeed in their studies and increase the likelihood of them drop-ping out.

This meeting believes the government's consultation represents a further attack on disabled people and asks the branch executive committee to actively campaign against this, and to contact OUSA and any staff and/or student groups who may be willing to take part.

Link to Disability Rights UK commentary: PIP Reform Green Paper’s Clear Agenda Is Reducing Financial Support To Disabled People Says Disability Rights UK

Link to Government consultation: Modernising support for independent living: the health and disability green paper   

OU UCU motion passed at the Extraordinary General meeting on 20th May 2024

MOTION 1 - Branch Position on the 4 Year Business Plan, and associated redundancies or workload intensification 

The branch does not usually recommend motions of this length or detail but is seeking to ensure that members are fully briefed on the unusually substantive issue.

This branch notes: 

  • The 4 Year Business Plan (4YBP) Consultation sets out the case for cuts as a response to what it identifies as a significant 'budgetary deficit, due to changes in student numbers com-pounded by the tension between permissible student fees and the effect of inflation wage drift on the unit cost of delivering learning and teaching'. [1]
  •  4YBP identifies a deficit of 'circa £96m in the context of an organisational income and expendi-ture of £535.1m (after adjustment for USS provision) and £561.9m respectively (as at 31 July 2023)' [2]. 
  • The OU plans to cut £56m through unit planning and £40m through the Tuition and Assess-ment reform and institutional measures. 
  • The university forecasts £44.9m in cuts in 24/25 and a further £29.7m in 25/26. [3] 
  • Initially, 35 academic-related workers were put at risk of compulsory redundancy, including Unison and UCU members as part of proposed cuts to Academic Services, Digital Services, and the University Secretary's Office'' That number has been reduced to four by take up of vol-untary redundancies, not by a reduction in the level of cuts. 
  • The OU is also running an Associate Lecturer Voluntary Severance scheme, which aims to reduce the number of AL staff to reduce institutional costs. The university has not ruled out compulsory redundancies in the future  [4] 
  • Last year, the Mutually Agreed Resignation Scheme had approximately 400 staff opting for voluntary severance at a reported recurrent saving of c. £17.2 million. [5] 
  • The OU continues to threaten above 1.3 FTE staff with fire and rehire.  
  • That many units are implementing a hiring freeze, including redundancy or termination for col-leagues on Fixed Term Contracts. 
  • The institutional Risk Register of April 2024 further identifies an urgent and growing risk around student retention and experience, including amongst other factors issues of student mental health. 
  • The university is seeing negative patterns with staff stress and well-being. 30% of sick ab-sences last year were due to depression, stress & mental health related illnesses.
  • Proposed cuts also fall in a context of sector-wide redundancies following decades of market-isation, financial mismanagement, and the devaluing of our work at both institutional and gov-ernment levels.  
  • That the OU is a part of a broader sector-wide workload crisis. 
  • OU UCU is being consulted on a sub-unit-by-sub-unit basis and continues to engage with management in the consultation periods. 

OU UCU believes: 

  • Any reduction in staff numbers must take place by natural turnover or by seeking volunteers who genuinely choose to leave the university's employment. 
  • Any proposed reduction in staff numbers must be preceded by a serious analysis of workload to safeguard remaining staff in affected units/departments from overwork. 
  • The extent of currently proposed cuts to staffing will have a detrimental effect upon colleagues, students and the reputation of the OU as an institution. 
  • Any cuts or restructures that fail to take into account the OU’s unique teaching model and learner profile risk creating a downwards spiral affecting student experience, retention and re-cruitment.  
  • That management can and must balance institutional finances without putting people’s in-comes, working environments, and professional relationships at risk. 

OU UCU Branch resolves:

  1. To resist attempts to implement redundancies and job losses.  
  2. To call on management to: 
  • reject the use of fire and rehire, or any collective or individual imposition of new terms and conditions. 
  • take compulsory redundancies off the table. 
  • open their books to the Branch. 
  • meaningfully consult on alternative options to job losses (including the abandonment of costly restructuring plans and Campus 2030) 
  • Share an effective staffing plan.

OU UCU Branch also resolves: 

  1. To enter into dispute, consider options and, if necessary, ballot members on industrial action if the OU push ahead with compulsory redundancies or fail to offer meaningful advance on the above demands.
  2. To call on members to participate in a workload review and to resist institutional changes that contribute to workload intensification.

References:

  1. Four Year Business Plan, Consultation Principles and Practice, Statement from the Open University (OU) to the OU branch of the University and College Union (UCU) and Unison.
  2. Financial Statements for the year ended 31 July 2023 
  3. Financial Forecast Briefing
  4. ALVS scheme slide 4 
  5. Consultation Principles and Practice

OU UCU motions passed at the General meeting on 30th April 2024

MOTION 1 OU'S COMPLICIT INVESTMENTS WARRANT DIVESTMENT

This branch believes:

  1. That available information indicates that OU investments include several companies complicit in Israel’s occupation of Palestine and current onslaught on Gaza.

  2. That these investments are incompatible with the OU’s mission or with the OU’s Re-sponsible Investment Framework

  3. That the decision to divest from fossil fuel companies sets an important precedent for an ethical investment framework that should be extended to divestment from arms companies and companies colluding with the Israeli regime, which have some over-laps.

  4. That the University has other activities that warrant investigation for links with arms companies and companies colluding with the Israeli regime, for example the platform-ing of arms companies at careers fairs. 

This branch demands that:

  1. The OU should provide transparency through full records of its current investments complicit with the arms trade and Israel.

  2. The OU should abandon or avoid all investments complicit with the arms trade and arms industry.

  3. The OU should abandon or avoid all investments complicit with Israel.

  4. The OU should remove arms companies (such as BAE Systems) from its careers re-cruitment events.

  5. The OU should report back on its measures to carry out those actions.

This branch resolves that:

  1. The branch officers shall communicate those demands to the OU administration and request a response.

  2. The UCU branch Working Group shall establish a campaign to press those demands on the OU administration.

HE SECTOR CONFERENCE MOTION AMENDMENT 1

HE29 Political outreach/lobbying by UCU branches, University of Exeter

The amendment adds the last 2 bullet points shown in bold text.

Conference notes:

  1. Since 2010, direct government support for HE has declined dramatically
  2. Since 2016, tuition fees have remained fixed
  3. In 2016, central gov abolished the university student cap.

Conference believes that:

  • Changes to legislation and administrative policy are essential to resolving the sector’s manufactured funding crisis.
  • This union cannot trust employers associations to ardently and straightforwardly advocate on behalf of workers.
  • Political outreach is not a replacement for industrial action, but a complement to it.

Conference resolves to:

  1. Instructs regional to work with branches and other unions in the sector to lobby our local MPs and candidates
  2. For demarketizing the HE sector
  3. restoring fiscal fairness in HE funding disbursement
  4. Reassert our opposition to student fees
  5. Campaign for a sustainable funding model in which education is free at the point of delivery.

HE SECTOR CONFERENCE MOTION AMENDMENT 2 

HE22 HE-sector redundancies support and campaign, Higher education committee 
 
HE22 - Add at the end: "Recognises that we may have to take industrial action while work on (i) to (vi) above is still a work in progress." (Amendment shown in bold text)
 
HESC notes: 
  1. Mass redundancies in HE, and members’ extraordinary efforts to resist them. 
  2. That probable declines in 2024–25 student applications, and uneven student distribution, are ongoing concerns.  
  3. The success of the Organising and Bargaining Information System (OBIS) project in FE campaigns.  

HESC believes: 

  • Campaigns against redundancies will be most effective when informed by research, and when branches collaborate to share experiences and tactics. 
Resolves to establish an anti-redundancy campaign that: 
  1. Investigates HEI finances, relevant corporate interests, and equalities data of those targeted for redundancy, with findings included in OBIS. 
  2. Updates redundancy guidance for branches. 
  3. Schedules time for knowledge-sharing in branch officer meetings.  
  4. Offers legal support to affected branches, and shares information about evidencing legal claims with members. 
  5. Seeks test cases of, for example, trade union victimisation, and supports such cases at em-ployment tribunals. 
  6. Explore a hardship fund for those taking strike action and/or affected by job losses resulting from redundancies. 

Recognises that we may have to take industrial action while work on (1) to (6) above is still a work in progress.

MOTION 2 - Solidarity with Goldsmiths UCU

This branch notes that:

  1. Goldsmiths UCU (GUCU) is in dispute with the Senior Management Team (SMT) at Goldsmiths, University of London over 130 FTE planned redundancies as part of SMT’s Transformation Programme aimed at reducing staff costs to meet an unwarranted savings target of £20 million.
  2. The Transformation Programme signals a serious threat to 11 out of 19 departments at Goldsmiths and an existential threat to the University more broadly.
  3. The proposed restructuring that accompanies these redundancies will undermine the autonomy of departments (soon to be only ‘subject’ areas), lecturers and researchers, increasingly centralising power over budgets, decision-making, academic portfolios and procedures with SMT.
  4. The previous Recovery Programme restructure at Goldsmiths has left a lasting detrimental effect on the functioning of the university, such that basic services for staff and students are dysfunctional and workloads have reached a record high.
  5. SMT has spent an undisclosed sum on four different consultant firms - Price Waterhouse Coopers, SUMS, Curiositas and Six Ravens Consulting - and untold costs on employment lawyers and HR change managers related to the restructuring.
  6. SMT has employed union-busting tactics in the past and is currently delaying payment to key GUCU branch officials for carrying out trade union activities.
  7. GUCU members remain determined to fight for decent working conditions for all staff at Goldsmiths.

This branch believes that: 

  1. SMT has secured sufficient savings of £10.1 million through redundancy mitigation measures that have included a Voluntary Severance Scheme, vacancy savings and cuts to research budgets. 
  2. SMT has cash reserves that amply cover the current shortfall and mean that no justification exists for the scale and speed of these cuts. 
  3. SMT has refused to explore alternatives to cuts based on a complete lack of interest in what Goldsmiths has to offer. 
  4. SMT has tried to compensate for their own inability to manage the college with the repeated use of expensive consultants and managers. 
  5. A vision for growth is urgently needed as is a prioritisation of our marketing and re-cruitment strategies.
  6. The planned cuts at Goldsmiths follow a pattern of financialisation increasingly seen across UK Higher Education Institutions, whereby financial pressures from banking partners are used to justify restructures that prioritise the cutting of frontline staff while increasing managerial costs.
  7. The planned cuts at Goldsmiths are an attack on the Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences across the sector, undergirded by a Tory Government agenda.
  8. The battle against redundancies and restructuring of Goldsmiths make GUCU’s dispute one of national significance.

This branch resolves to:

  1. Issue a public statement of solidarity with GUCU’s dispute.
  2. Make a contribution of £500 to GUCU’s strike fund.
  3. Invite a GUCU striker to a branch meeting.
  4. Write to Frances Corner (Warden) at f.corner@gold.ac.uk and wardensof-fice@gold.ac.uk and Dinah Caine (Chair of Council) at d.caine@gold.ac.uk expressing opposition to the redundancies and restructuring. 
  5. Actively support and publicise GUCU’s dispute, industrial action and campaign events through social media, trade union contacts and beyond.

OU UCU motions passed at the General meeting on 27th March 2024

Rule Change Motion to align with previous practice on accepting late motions 

Add the following text at the end of rule 13.2: "Late motions may be accepted at the discretion of the chair. A late motion should be urgent and timely in the sense it could not reasonably have met the normal deadline (13 days before the meeting) and needs to be considered before the next general meeting."

Add the following text at the end of rule 13.1: "Late motions may be accepted at the discretion of the chair. A late motion should be urgent and timely in the sense it could not reasonably have met the normal deadline (20 days before the meeting) and needs to be considered before the next general meeting."

 

OU UCU motions passed at the Extraodinary General meeting on 5th March 2024

MOTION FOR HE CONFERENCE: Defend pro-Palestinian Voices, Academic Freedom and Trade Union Organising
 
Conference notes:
  • After two years of punitive responses to industrial action, on 20 February 2024 Queen Mary University of London’s management ordered security to break into QMUCU’s office to remove posters expressing solidarity with Palestine.
Conference believes:
  • QMUL’s actions intensify a widespread sectoral attack on pro-Palestinian voices, academic freedom and trade union organising.
  • Academics should heed Birzeit University’s call to ‘take concrete action to stop the geno-cidal war on the Palestinian people and to end Israeli settler colonialism’, view website.
Conference resolves to:
  • Expand our resources and support for members who maintain ‘critical distance from state-sponsored propaganda, and to hold the perpetrators of genocide and those complicit with them accountable’ (Birzeit Open Letter)
  • Coordinate with UCU branches and other trade unions to resist the increasing restrictions placed on trade union organising and academic freedom by successive governments.

OU UCU motions passed at the General meeting on 29th February 2024

Local motion

The Industrial Action taken over the past two years has led to the restoration of the USS pension terms, leading to improved financial position for scheme members potentially totalling multiple thousands of pounds. Whilst the full UCU demands on pay were not met, a pay rise was won and implemented earlier in the annual cycle than is usual.

The Extraordinary General meeting on 16th November 2022 resolved to set 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 is to support branch members who face hardship as a result of pay deductions.

It authorised: 

  1. “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. 
  2. The Branch Committee to seek to increase the hardship fund further as needed by transferring additional branch funds and asking for donations.”

The Hardship Fund has distributed the £50,000 and has a number of further claims to assess.  The branch finances as a whole are secure, and the proposed resolution can be made without difficulty.

The branch resolves: 

  1. To allocate an additional £25,000 to the hardship fund.
  2. 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 1 for: UCU Higher education conference, Student Fees and impact on participation in HE
Conference notes:

  • The continuing negative impact of tuition fees on participation in Higher Education by students from poorer backgrounds.
  • Part-time mature student numbers have been dramatically affected.
  • UUK's 2022 call to increase home undergraduate tuition fees to £12,000 or more.
  • The Conservative Government's changes to student loan conditions to compel students to repay RPI-based loans for 40 years.
  • UCU policy opposes tuition fees or graduate tax as a tax on learning.
  • A general election is imminent. 

Conference believes:

  • A Labour Government will be under pressure to increase home undergraduate tuition fees

Conference resolves:

  • To build a public campaign in the run-up to a General Election to publicise and popularise UCU's priorities for a sustainable alternative funding for Higher Education, paid for via progressive taxation.
  • To emphasise Higher Education's value as a public good for an educated population, the right to education throughout life and benefits to individuals and society.

Motion 2 for: UCU Higher education conference, Defend pro-Palestinian Voices, Academic Freedom and Trade Union Organising

Conference notes:

  • After two years of punitive responses to industrial action, on 20 February 2024 Queen Mary University of London’s management ordered security to break into QMUCU’s office to remove posters expressing solidarity with Palestine.

Conference believes:

Conference resolves to:

  • Expand our resources and support for members who maintain ‘critical distance from state-sponsored propaganda, and to hold the perpetrators of genocide and those complicit with them accountable’ (Birzeit Open Letter);
  • Coordinate with UCU branches and other trade unions to resist the increasing re-strictions placed on trade union organising and academic freedom by successive governments

Motion for: UCU Congress: Resisting anti-union legislation (minimum service levels)

Congress notes:

  •  the passing of the “Strikes (Minimum Service Levels)” Act 2023 and the publication of the first regulations.
  •  UCU’s policy of opposition to this law.
  •   the resolution of the TUC Special Congress on 9 December, which included a commitment that unions will “refuse to instruct members to cross picket lines”.
  • ASLEF’s success in forcing LNER to withdraw the threat to issue work-notices by calling additional strike days.

Congress believes:

  •  to meaningfully enact the TUC Special Congress resolution, unions must refuse to “take reasonable steps” to ensure members comply with work notices, and strike in defiance of potential injunctions
  •  the labour movement must step up campaigning not only against the most recent law, but for the repeal of all anti-union and anti-strike laws.

 Congress instructs:

  • The NEC to coordinate with other unions to brief members about the new law and TUC/union policies opposing the law, and to discuss organising defiance.
      

OU UCU motions passed at the General meeting on 25th January 2024

Motion 1 on agreed donations 

This branch notes that motions passed by the branch in November and December 2023 called for donations to the below listed organisations but did not specify the amounts to be donated. This branch requests that these donations be made at the following amounts as swiftly as practicable:

  • Medical Aid for Palestinians - £2000 (now paid) 
  • Standing Together (‘a grassroots movement mobilizing Jewish and Palestinian citizens of Israel in pursuit of peace, equality, and social and climate justice’) - £500 (not yet paid)
  • Twinning associations between UK and Palestinian cities (Dundee/Nablus (now paid), Hounslow/Ramallah, Oxford/Ramallah (now paid), Glasgow/Bethlehem) - £250 each

Motion 2 - Campaign for a richer tuition model

In recent years there have been significant changes to tuition practices in the OU.  This year has seen the end of most face-to-face tuition.  In the past the university had a well-deserved reputation for pedagogical innovation in distance learning that derived from a robust research base and formed the basis of the tuition model known as Supported Open Learning.  

Changes in practice, such as the group tuition model and the shift to online by default seem to have been driven by financial and administrative imperatives without rigorous links to evidence, research or outcomes for students.

We are asking for the OU UCU branch to lead a campaign for a new and richer tuition model that includes students and non-members.

In the first instance, we’re asking the branch for:

  • Agreement with the main aim of the campaign – to ensure that the OU adopts a new tuition model driven by the experience of staff and students and thoroughly based in peda-gogical research, academic conventions and practice from within and outside the university.
  • Leadership of this campaign.  Initially, developing initial publicity and reach-out for an open meeting (e.g., asking OUSA if they would send an email to publicise an open meeting), and to host an open meeting.  
  • Following an open meeting, we’d like the branch to lead a working group that would develop the campaign.
  • A date on which an open meeting can be held, depending on branch capacity.

Emergency Motion 3 – OU Branch UCU solidarity with UCU members facing redundancy or made redundant 

This branch notes:

The chilling effect of UK HE senior management teams threatening and/or carrying out redundancies across the sector (including at Brighton, Roehampton, Aberdeen, QUB, Sheffield Hallam, and Oxford Brookes). 

  • That redundancies are not merely financially motivated, but also can be ideologically motivated.
  • That many UCU members have been made redundant, targeted for redundancy, or subject to grievance procedures as a result of taking a stand against staff cuts.
  • That some UCU activists and organisers appear to have been deliberately targeted for redundancy as a result of their trade union activity.
  • That the laudable and ongoing efforts of UCU members to resist redundancies across the sector include the forthcoming employment tribunal of ‘David Harvie, Geoff Lightfoot and Simon Lilley vs University of Leicester’ regarding claims of unfair dismissal in 2021 – part of a wider programme of mass redundancies that saw many other Leicester UCU activists and organisers dismissed.

This branch resolves to:

  1. Support members involved in resisting redundancy schemes whenever possible, including through the observation of grey listing, boycotts, etc. 
  2. Demonstrate solidarity with those members who have been made redundant, are targeted for redundancy, or who appear to be victimised for trade union activity by sharing social media posts that highlight their experiences, send messages of solidarity when employ-ment tribunals are approaching, and share judgments when they occur. 
  3. Publicly extend solidarity to UCU members whose cases against the University of Leicester have been, or are about to be, heard in court. 
  4. Review relevant OU policies, such as those pertaining to academic freedom and trade un-ion membership and activity, that could become ideologically significant should the OU consider redundancies as part of any cost-cutting exercise.