The Open University branch of the University and College Union
Pay deductions, OU UCU's hardship fund, and local subscriptions
We expect that by now most deductions from pay for strike action over the pensions dispute will have been made, so the local hardship fund process has now closed. We are not closing the hardship bank account entirely because there is the possibility that further industrial action may be necessary: the pensions disagreement has not yet been resolved, and there is still much uncertainty about job losses and potential involuntary redundancies at the OU.
While we need to manage the branch's funds effectively, the OU branch of UCU is a large one and our account is in a relatively strong position so we have taken the decision not to increase subscriptions to the local branch for the coming year.
Donation to OU Student hardship fund
Following requests from the UCU executive, OU management agreed to donate the salary savings made as a result of our strike action to the OU students' hardship fund. We understand this to amount to £600,000.
East campus event on 19th July
On 19th July we have a drop-in event on East campus, H0-12 meeting room in the Henshaw building, and a table with recruitment leaflets. You can come and meet us, or volunteer to help, and please encourage anyone you know who works on East campus to come and tell us about their issues or just find out more about trade unions. We are hoping UNISON will join us.
Excessive workload pressure
We have established a working group to look at workload issues. While there has always been a tendency for some areas of work to put pressure on staff, we are noticing an increase in this, for example in the reduction of allocated hours for module production or presentation. This can rapidly become a health and safety issue and for some members of staff it can result in extreme stress. We ask for members to come forward with examples of unfair increases in workload. We have asked management to conduct a survey on workload changes before the impact of the current voluntary severance kicks in and we have said that if this does not happen we will conduct our own survey by September so that we can compare workload stress before and after large numbers of staff leave the university.
We will also be re-running our AL workload survey shortly. A few years ago results showed AL staff typically putting in 50% over and above the paid hours of work.
SV1s and SV2s
If you are an AL member and receive an SV2 letter saying you are at risk of losing a module, please feel free to get in touch with us at firstname.lastname@example.org. If you receive an SV2 for more than one module appointment we definitely advise you to get in touch with us as soon as possible. An SV1 letter indicates that student numbers are low, but does not signify that you are more at risk than other ALs.
We have held a series of meetings to get members' views on the curriculum review cuts, based on what has been announced so far. However it is still unclear exactly who will be affected by changes to their work and who is at risk of redundancy. We continue to ask management for detailed information, and we ask members to let us know of any concerns.
UCU HE conference on USS
UCU held an HE sector special conference on 21st June to specifically consider the USS pensions dispute (attended for the branch by Sue Cowgill, Friday Jones, Hilary Partriidge and Caroline Holland). There were 2 1/2 hours to get through 25 motions and in our delegates' view not enough time had been allocated - the meeting ran out of time by motion 16. Of the motions that were passed, many related to the work and remit of the Joint Expert Panel (JEP) established to re-evalute the methodology that claimed the disputed deficit in the pension fund - in particular there were calls for transparency and communication with the membership. The conference also voted in favour of a motion calling for the resignation of the USS CEO on the grounds of undermining our pensions and provoking the dispute.
FutureLearn employment model
We have asked the university to review way facilitators are employed to support OU MOOCS on FurureLearn and to negotiate with us over this, as these staff (often ALs) are employed by the university. UCU wants to improve the casualised model of employment currently in use.
Merit awards 2018
We have updated information from management, which is that merit awards for this year (payable in October 2018) will go ahead, but the decision that VCE members will not receive merit awards this year stands. The scheme will be frozen in 2018-19 pending proposals for a new scheme.