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EGM round-up June 2021

Pay and the proposed pension cuts were the big issues of the day. An overwhelming majority of members indicated that they would be prepared to take action if an improved pay offer cannot be negotiated, and long-term solution put in place to secure pension benefits.

Four Fights One Voice

While executive pay is rising your pay has fallen by more than 20% in real terms since 2009. Staff are being asked to work hard and longer than ever. Women and black and minority ethnic staff still suffer significant pay discrimination. The use of precarious zero hours casual contracts remain entrenched. Our employers are failing to tackle these issues.

The USS Dispute

Universities UK who represent our employers want to end guaranteed pension benefits. This means that your pension will depend upon how ‘investments’ perform instead of your deferred salary contributions, you will end up paying more for less. A typical member on a lecturer’s salary, aged 37, will suffer a 35% loss to the guaranteed retirement benefits which they will build up over the rest of their career.

Solidarity Fund

A number of branches across the country are currently fighting redundancies. At Liverpool University staff are currently facing 100% pay deductions and being denied their annual leave for taking part in a marking boycott as action short of strike after management announced their intention to sack 47 staff based on some very dubious metrics.

We are raising cash to help support colleagues in other branches via our solidarity fund. For members who would like to give some or all their July-Thank-you-payment of £200 you can donate via PayPal to our solidarity fund at https://www.paypal.com/paypalme/HWUCUWhipRound. If you would still like to donate but PayPal is not an option, please donate to our hardship fund account and then email r.j.hartnett@hw.ac.uk in confidence to let him know your donation is intended for the solidarity fund: Bank: Unity Trust Bank; Account name: UCU – Heriot-Watt University LA 023 Hardship Fund; Sort Code: 60-83-01; Account No. 20391168.

Growing The Powerbase

We are a strong Branch with well-attended AGMs/EGMs and an active membership and Committee but we can always use more help. To find out more about the work of our local HWUCU branch please check out the rest of this website and our Twitter feed at @UCU_HWUBranch.

If you have a few spare moments and you would like to get more involved please get in touch with one of our school or service reps, or the Membership Officer. Contacts can be found at https://heriotwatt.web.ucu.org.uk/branchcommittee/

If you are not already a member here are 5 Reasons to Join UCU. It only takes 10 minutes and subscriptions start from just £2 per month, so why not join today?

EGM to discuss pay and pensions

Members voted to reject last years 0% offer on pay and lack of movement on equalities and workload. This year’s offer is little better. For BME, disabled, part-time and female members of staff, the same pay inequalities persist and are exacerbated.

On pensions, the UUK consultation has just completed and employers have supported cutting our future pension benefits and starting a second rate scheme for lower paid staff, which will undermine the current scheme and set up two tiers of employment. UUK persist in claiming the cut to our pensions will *only* be 12%. This is a misrepresentation, with the indexation cap the reduction is approaching a whopping 25% alongside a real reduction in what employers are paying into our pensions that is the same as a cut in our pay. This is alongside the continued real terms cuts to our pay. Employers propose slashing our benefits and taking none of the pain themselves. USS have signalled they may accept the UUK offer to cut our benefits but probably not as the contribution rate that UUK has proposed. Pay more get less pension at the same time do more work get less pay.

Save the date

Our EGM is on Wednesday June 30th from 01:15-02:15 PM. This is your chance to ask questions and also make your views known about what action UCU should take. Please put it in your calendar.

To join the meeting please use the Zoom link which has been sent to all HWUCU members by email. If you require a reminder, please contact Juergen Munz at Juergen.Munz@hw.ac.uk.

Annual General Meeting 2021

This year’s AGM will be held online by Zoom meeting on Wednesday 26 May 2021 at 12:00. All of our local members should already have received an invite by email. If not, or if you require a reminder, please contact Juergen Munz at Juergen.Munz@hw.ac.uk.

BSL interpreting can be arranged through the on-campus interpreting service. Please contact Marion Fletcher at marion.fletcher@hw.ac.uk, giving as much notice as possible.

Agenda

  1. Welcome
  2. Attendance and apologies
  3. Minutes of AGM 2020
  4. Report from the committee
  5. Treasurer’s report
  6. Appointment of auditor
  7. Local rule change
  8. Election of Officers and Representatives of the Committee
  9. USS dispute – update
  10. Pay dispute – update and branch position
  11. AOB

Join the UCU today, at https://www.ucu.org.uk/join

Solidarity whip round for EIS Fela

At a recent Branch meeting we voted to set up a solidarity fund to allow branch members to donate to central fund that will then make donations to other UCU branches and our sister unions when they are in dispute.

This is now active so if you can please consider donating to help support striking workers at https://www.paypal.com/paypalme/HWUCUWhipRound . All donations most welcome, however big or small, but please do not feel under any obligation if now is not a good time.

Funds collected up to £200 will be donated to EIS Fela, in the name of Heriot-Watt UCU, with any left over being rolled over to the next cause that comes up- there is no shortage just now as many UCU are, have recently been, or will soon be in dispute including Goldsmiths, Liverpool, Roehampton and many others.

About the EIS Fela dispute

The first fund to which we would like to donate to is EIS Fela. Our comrades in EIS Fela have been in a protracted dispute with their employers over plans to change from hiring lecturers / calling staff who lecture lecturers and changing to staff who do not get allocated time for preparation and marking.

Our near neighbours at EIS Fela Forth Valley College, from where we receive students into year 3 of some of our engineering programmes via Associate Student Scheme, have been in dispute since 20 November 2020.

Further information about the dispute can be found at https://www.eis.org.uk/FELA-News/FVCDispute

USS explained and why you cannot ignore your pension

The University and College Union (UCU) has exclusive employee representation rights for all members of the Universities Superannuation Scheme (USS).

We would like to invite all of the USS members at Heriot-Watt University to an open online meeting about the future of the scheme.

Q. Why should I attend when I have already heard from Heriot-Watt University and can find information on the USS website?

A. Our USS pensions could be subject to substantial reductions in benefits. We believe that we cannot make an informed decision about the future of the USS pension scheme without hearing from the third key formal stakeholder in our pension scheme. You, the members.

The meeting will be held on Wednesday 12 May at 3pm via Zoom. An email with the link to the meeting has been sent to all HWU staff in the UK. Please check your inbox for an email from the HWU All-staff mailing list at 10.05 on 06/05/2021, with subject line: [All-staff] USS explained – why you can’t ignore your pension. If you have not received this you can contact Juergen.Munz@hw.ac.uk at the local branch office for login details.

At the meeting we will be hearing from the following speakers:

  • Vicky Blake, UCU President
  • Christine Haswell, UCU National Pensions Official
  • Sarah Joss, HWUCU Vice President (acting)
  • Kenneth Weir, HWUCU Pensions Officer (acting)

If you require BSL interpreting, please contact Marion Fletcher at the on-campus BSL interpreting service. Marion can be contacted at marion.fletcher@hw.ac.uk. Please give as much notice as possible.

You can ask questions on the day or if you wish to ask questions in advance and/or anonymously please forward them to Joss at s.joss@hw.ac.uk before the meeting.

We very much look forward to seeing as many of our Heriot-Watt staff and USS members at the meeting as possible.

To find out more about the work of our local HWUCU branch please check out the rest of this website and our Twitter feed at @UCU_HWUBranch.

Further Information

Branch Members’ Meeting about the USS Pension Scheme

The next HWUCU Branch Members’ Meeting will be about the USS Pension Scheme and the current valuation. The meeting will be held online via Zoom on Wednesday 31 March from 12:00 to 13:00hrs and there will be a talk by Sam Marsh (UCU Pensions Negotiator).

We hope to see as many of you as possible. If you have not already received instructions on how to attend please contact the local branch office at ucu@hw.ac.uk.

If you are not already a member here are 5 Reasons to Join UCU. It only takes 10 minutes and subscriptions start from just £2 per month, so why not join today?

Have you voted yet? Watch this short video if you need more info on why you need to cast your vote asap.

Rally to defend jobs at Heriot-Watt

Please click  below to view the rally we held on Wednesday 7th October to defend jobs at Heriot-Watt

It features a really great line up of people who want to show solidarity with staff at Heriot-Watt, including Joanna Cherry, Iain Gray, Neil Findlay, Gary Clark of the CWU, UCUScot President Carlo Morelli, UCU President Vicky Blake, Roz Foyer of the STUC and of course our own James Richards.

School Meetings/Branch Surgeries

Over the next few weeks we are hoping to have a series of brief meetings with members in each of the Schools/Professional Services to explore any concerns and issues. Meeting is open to all members who work in individual schools/services and also any staff members who may be interested in joining the union.

  • How is the ‘Best endeavours’ message being enacted on the ground in your school/professional service
  • Portfolio modernisation and protecting jobs within your school
  • Members concerns, including returning to work, finances, H&S etc.
  • Introducing Branch Surgeries (with James Igoe our casework officer)

 

Date Time School/Service
1st July 2020 12:30 – 13:00 EPS
1st July 2020 13:15 – 13:45 SoTD
7th July 2020 12:30 – 13:00 MACS
7th July 2020 13:15 – 13:45 SoSS
8th July 2020 12:30 – 13:00 EGIS
8th July 2020 13:15 – 13:45 Professional Services
14th July 2020 12:30 – 13:00 Casualised Members

 

Branch surgeries will also be held later in the month, for which members will be able to make appointments by emailing James Igoe.

Date Time Branch Surgeries
20th July 2020 12:30 – 13:00 Surgery 1
20th July 2020 13:15 – 13:45 Surgery 2
21st July 2020 12:30 – 13:00 Surgery 3
21st July 2020 13:15 – 13:45 Surgery 4

All members will shortly receive an invite to the their school/service meeting. If you are a non-member and interested in joining the meeting, please contact your school rep for an invitation link.

HWUCU report on working under lockdown and employee-driven responses to such practices

HWUCU recently commissioned a short survey to capture experiences of working under lockdown (e.g. working hours, working conditions, workload, communications, well-being, voice, collegiality and equality) and employee views of how the University and HWUCU should respond to reflect employee interests at such a difficult and unprecedented times.

The report suggests about two-thirds of employees are on the whole satisfied with their early experiences of working under lockdown.

Collegiality is rated the highest by staff and communications from the University ranks the least.

However, approximately one-third of experiences are at least unsatisfactory, but when broken down further it is apparent how there is greater unsatisfactory experiences for women, disabled and casualised staff.

A wide-range of strategies for both the University and HWUCU are considered.

  • Key recommendations for University practice include more meaningful acknowledgement and steps taken to address staff concerns related to pressures to work as before lockdown, remote working and work-life balance.
  • Key recommendations for UCU, aside from working with the University on such matters, is to improve and be more inclusive with communications with members and adopting in such communications a broader acknowledgement of the problems currently faced by members.

The findings and recommendations are likely to be of value for other UK universities/UCU branches and some value for organisations who currently have large numbers of highly skilled employees working from home at short notice.

The full report can be accessed here.