UCU asks all staff to contact MSPs about casualisation in post -16 education sector – please help

The UCU and all other campus unions have been campaigning on this for years

Ask your MSP to sign

Katy Clark MSP has submitted a motion on casualisation in higher education and FE in the Scottish Parliament.  The motion, which references the current UCU disputes and strike action, has been signed by Labour, SNP and Green MSPs and will now be considered for debate in the Parliament.  The more MSPs that sign the motion the more likely it is to be debated and the more attention we can draw to the use of precarious contracts in universities.  The local UCU brach is asking all staff – in a union or not – to contact MSPs covering their area and ask them to sign the petition. 

Here’s some draft text you possibly might like to amend and use: 

Dear ___________

Aș a ______________ (describe your role at GCU), like others, I am very concerned with casualisation of the workforce which is undermining the security of our staff, giving a second class service to our students, and threatens to downgrade the quality of Scotland Higher Education and FE. I’d be very grateful if you could sign the motion on Casualisation in Higher Education and FE, which has been lodged by Katy Clarke MSP (Motion ref. S6M-03099).

As a MSP for Glasgow I’m sure you will  want to ensure the highest quality Higher and Further Education is provided by the post-16 sector in the city. Helping to eliminated casualisation is one way to do that.

Please add your support to this motion, and help get it debated.

Yours sincerely,

You can find out who your MSPs are here if you are outwith Glasgow

Contact MSPs in Glasgow

The Glasgow MSPs who it might be very relevant to contact are the following (click on the links to bring up your e-mail programme):

Kaukab Stewart (SNP) MSP for Glasgow Kelvin (GCU is in Glasgow Kelvin constituency). She has already signed the motion so you might want to commend her on this
Kaukab can also be found on twitter at: @kaukabstewart and facebook at: Kaukab’s facebook

Pam Duncan Glancey (Labour) She has already signed the motion so you might want to commend her on this
Pam can also be found on twitter at: @GlasgowPam and on facebook at: Pam’s facebook

Dr Sandesh Gulhane (Tory). Sandash can be found on twitter at: @sandeshgulhane

Patrick Harvie (Green). Patrick can also be found on Twitter at: @patrickharvie and on facebook at: Patrick’s facebook

Anas Sarwar (Labour) Anas can also be found on twitter at:@AnasSarwar and on facebook at: Anas’s facebook

Paul Sweeney (Labour) He has already signed the motion so you might want to commend him on this

Pauline McNeil (Labour) 

Annie Wells (Tory) Annie can also be found on twitter at: @anniewellsmsp and on facebook at: Annie’s facebook. She can also be contacted via her website: anniewells.org.uk/contact

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UCU@GCU to be reballoted about possible strike action and ASOS in favour of better wages and conditions

A meeting of the UCU Higher Education Committee has decided that all branches of UCU are to be reballoted for future possible industrial action around their wages and conditions campaign. This would allow the renewal of a mandate for strike action and action short of a strike once their original mandate ends on May 3rd.

Colleagues will know that under the anti-Trade Union legislation instigated by previous governments, in order for a union branch vote to count, over 50 percent of all members must vote by post. On both recent occasions the UCU local branch although it registered over 40 percent voting, did not hit the 50 percent mark.

The new ballot will open on March 16th and close on April 8th, and the UCU will be holding a special on-line meeting on Wednesday 16th at 11 am to consider our campaign to break over the 50 percent imposition this time.

All UCU members should look out for an invite to the meeting from Lyle Gray UCU branch secretary.

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Re-imagining a university….

Imagine…… a real University for the Common Good

University in Rainbow
A real rainbow reflects the talent of our staff

Have you ever imagined……. what would happen if GCU could be re-made, and re-imagined, run and resourced in a manner that was based on the vision, outlook and understanding of its staff and students?

What would the university look like in 2030 – how would our vision of the university differ from that of GCU’s official 2030 strategy?

In short how would a university such as ours – the University for the Common Good – operate in a post-pandemic world?

Last year, the UCU in Scotland published their vision of what we believe should be the future for Higher Education in Scotland. You can download it below. The UCU want to look at what this means for us in GCU.

Future_of_Scottish_HE_(Feb_21) – Download

Already we have seen a massive shift in the way that many staff – mostly academic – have had to work, on-line and from home. Our professional and support staff have also been affected by pandemic working in a different and often more difficult manner.

The effect of Brexit has brought about the end of Erasmus student exchanges, and is transforming the student base that we have operated with for many years. 

During the pandemic, the experience of our existing students has been turned upside down in many ways, and the whole sector is facing uncertainty – with rising inflation now looming, and the Scottish government – although much friendlier to the sector than the UK government – are looking at re-organising the college and university sector over the next few years.

In terms of the pandemic, the campus unions have worked closely with GCU management to bring about a new way of working on Health and Safety for the university community which has allowed us to avoid many of the potential disasters that have been experienced on other campuses in the UK through their mismanagement of the crisis. But underlying issues such as workloads remain.

The UCU@GCU wants to outline our vision of what our university for the common good should look like, post pandemic. They want to examine current strategies, drawing on the expertise of their members who are all good at what they do, but believe the university could be so much better. 

They want to take the best of our university’s practice and make it better. Where they think the practice is bad or just wrong, they want to put forward an alternative vision.

The UCU is trying to bring together a working group who can help construct this vision, and discuss it with the other unions, and with our colleagues at other universities. They want to dialogue with management over that vision, and also put it into the public domain.  

If you’re a UCU member and interested in finding out more about how you can be part of this, or have definitely decided you might want to contribute, get in touch with the UCU please – and they’ll try to bring those interested together to take these ideas forward.

To do that just drop off an e-mail to any of the UCU branch officers – President: Catriona Mowat – Catriona.mowat@gcu.ac.uk; Vice President Douglas Chalmers – d.chalmers@gcu.ac.uk; Secretary Lyle Gray: l.s.gray@gcu.ac.uk  and they’ll get back in touch.

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Workload a key issue at GCU says UCU

The recent AGM of the UCU discussed its work in the coming year, as the university moves to more on-campus delivery.

Towering above the other issues was the need for university action on workload. Despite amazing efforts by all staff throughout the pandemic to keep the university going workload pressure is still far too high. Court figures the last time this was discussed revealed that GCU had the second highest student staff ratio in all of the Scottish post-92 universities. This is not for anyone’s ‘common good’ – neither the staff, the students, or indeed the university.

The university ‘new blood’ campaign to bring on more staff has had an impact in some areas, but there are still too many bottlenecks where staff are going off unwell due to the stress of their workload.

The latest UCU poster, showing their resolutions for 2022

And we still do not have a functioning Work Allocation Model. 

The UCU believe it is a priority for university management to take the issue of work allocation seriously. They believe they need to sit down now and come up with an agreed system.

Meanwhile they are calling an on-line meeting for their members particularly interested in this issue, and will be working with other campus unions to explore future options regarding this, perhaps also involving the lodging of a local claim on workload.

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Well, that’s the second week of this phase of industrial action over!

One of the strongest pickets yet saw a colourful and noisy celebration of our demands in front of the main gate today.

We also got tremendous support from passing cars, lorries, Fire Engines, and even a police car, thanks to the work of  Suzanne and Alice

Passing motorists weren’t happy with lack of equal pay and non permanent contracts

Meanwhile the student solidarity network was also out leafleting, and ensuring students knew their staff were supported, with posters inside the main buildings.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Meanwhile, down at GCU London our colleagues weren’t idle either

GCU London

We’re back out next week, on Monday – Thursday, with plans under construction for different gate side speakers, and some alternative ‘Teach Outs” for students on Wednesday if all goes well.

 

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Spirits high on day three of our Industrial Action

The local Public Service Union PCS were a welcome addition to today’s picket line with Lindsay Morgan and Magnus Hughson bringing along their local banner.

And from early on we also had the welcome support from the newly formed Student support network who distributed the excellent GCU students support the strikers leaflet.

The facts of the strike remain unchanged – UCEA, the University and College Employers Association have refused to shift on their below RPI inflation salary offer of 1.8 Percent, and no real shift towards eliminating casualised work, zero hours, or ending the gender pay gap.

Here are some of the key priorities our negotiators have set out and which employers still refuse to incorporate into their offer to us: 

  • on pay, our negotiators have indicated that they are open to an offer that falls between the employer offer of 1.8% and our original demand of 3% plus RPI (5.2% as of December).
  • all institutional action plans on job security, equality and workload should be implemented by working groups with clear deadlines
  • all action plans should be implemented in collaboration with recognised trade unions
  • all action plans should be publicly available
  • unions should be given more detailed, reliable information on equality, workload and job security than employers currently provide via the Higher Education Statistics Agency (HESA) and other outlets.

Alongside these there are extra targets on workload and job security in particular which our employers still refuse to meet.

On workload:

  • workload models need to be realistic, accurate, comprehensive reflections of the hours which staff actually work
  • staff should not be assigned more work than their annual workload quota permits
  • institutions should provide campus unions with data on staff reporting to occupational health for workload-related reasons.

On job security: 

  • employers should commit to abolish zero-hours contracts. Most employers do not use them and other countries (e.g. Ireland) have effectively banned them
  • procedures for converting fixed-term staff to open-ended employment should be faster than the statutory minimum of 4 years
  • there should be clearer and firmer criteria for conversion of hourly paid staff to fractional contracts.

Employers could resolve this dispute now and it would cost them hardly anything. In fact, many of the things we are asking for could save them money over time. It is a tragedy for the sector that they are permitting the largest strike in its history to continue. The blame lies solely with them – do not let anyone tell you otherwise.

 

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UCU still strong on day seven

The last three days since our previous post have been full of activity. With appearances of MSPs and MPs from Labour and SNP, our General Secretary Jo Grady, marches with Strathclyde UCU and finally our noisy presence at the fantastic rally at the Donald Dewar statue we’ve hardly had a minute.

Our days have started not so much by re-inventing the wheel – rather by re-inventing the gazebo:

And that’s before our members from the Engineering department arrived….

Last week we had a welcome appearance from Labour MSP James Foley who pledged support for our campaign

James Foley, Labour MSP offered support on Thursday

Yesterday Alison Thewliss SNP MP came along to the picket line and then rally to show support. Other MPs at the rally included Glasgow North Labour MP Paul Sweeney.

Alison Thewliss SNP MP spent some time on the Picket line with us

Jo Grady spoke to us before attending the rally

We also saw a welcome appearance to support us of Janet Farrar the Acting Chair of the UCU Further Education Committee – up from Manchester where she teaches Trade Union studies.

Janet brought solidarity from FE sector

Another very welcome appearance was Kenny Munro, doing Unite’s supply run, following EIS, Unison and the students last week

A picket army might not march on its stomach but food certainly helps especially in freezing weather.

The rally was terrific as some of the pictures show with Douglas Chalmers making sure GCU got a prominent mention. More reports soon

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And it’s goodnight from them….

Once again thanks to the Communications Workers Union, no mail delivered. Today this was joined by a helpful driver from Initial services….

Unfortunate to note however  that the suppliers for Baxter Storey the caterers were somewhat less sympathetic. That’s a shame – if they’re serious about being part of the university community they need to be aware of what’s important

However, nevertheless spirits were high again at a busy picket line

while more students took stickers and leaflets, and were interested when we reminded them that we’d ‘donated’ our Christmas wages that will be deducted, to their hardship funds.

Here’s a flavor of the last couple of days, provided by our own Catriona Mowat….

UCU@GCU Strikes Back! from Nina Mowat on Vimeo.

Also some useful discussions on the picket lines today with management, asking them to pressurise UCEA to come back to talks with us, and also with Court members on some of the realities.  Still waiting on our Chancellor to come back to us however. Sweet dreams are made of this….

Finally – a shout out today to our comrades in CWU who are appealing tomorrow in the High Court against the outrageous injunction under Tory anti-trade union laws, which are preventing them taking the industrial action their members voted for. We hope all readers of the blog will tweet their messages of support: https://twitter.com/cwunews/status/1199768735441211392?s=12

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Second day of action, and still going strong

A new slogan replaced the GCU Common Weal sign this morning – signalling our views to new graduates

Whistles, pooches and leaflets and stickers for graduates plus an alternative University Mission statement all made their appearance on today’s picket line.

Pooches against the pay gap – consistent supporters

GCU London students joined our staff in solidarity at the London Campus

Together with some great solidarity photos from our GCU students at GCU London and some twitter activity towards Annie Lennox our Chancellor, pickets were again in good spirits – being also joined towards lunchtime at a short solidarity shout-up by Mary Senior, UCU Scotland Official, and speakers from our sister unions at GCU. EIS provided the hot rolls, and again the Student Association officers came up trumps with coffee and tea.

But firstly with Graduation taking place, some students had expressed worries on how our actions might impact them. However, as they had heard from the UCU at their Students Voice meeting, this action wasn’t targeted at them, but rather at the University Employers’ Association UCEA.

The UCU had produced a special leaflet congratulating students on their graduation, and also printed some posters showing how pleased we were with their achievements. Some students and their friends and families also wore solidarity stickers to the graduation, as a measure of support.

Materials were distributed and postered supporting our students

Annie Lennox’s songs had featured strongly in our solidarity music playlist, and we added to that by texting our Chancellor to inform her of what was happening. We’ll let you know of any response!

A tweet to our Chancellor on what’s happening at GCU

And again – the CWU came up trumps in solidarity – thanks comrades!

The Postie again refuses to cross a picket line

 

 

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GCU students discuss strike action with UCU

A packed meeting of GCU Student Voice discussed the impact of the current strike action on the evening of the first day with Douglas Chalmers, VP of the UCU locally and President of the UCU at UK level.

Douglas outlined the four components of the current dispute and stressed that students were not the target of this dispute – which was with the University Employer’s Association UCEA.

He talked particularly of the need to get permanent contracts for university staff, with sensible workloads, and the need to end the Gender and BAME staff pay gap.

In the discussion which dealt with some of the undoubted tricky outcomes of the dispute for students, Douglas thanked the students for their support and stressed that with a sensible approach from UCEA it would be possible to bring this action to an end quickly.

He urged students to press our university to call for UCEA to sit down for meaningful talks.

The student magazine Edit, had earlier published an on line interview with Douglas found here

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