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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.

14 Days of Strike Action

Seventy-four UK universities (including Heriot-Watt University) are taking part in 14 days of strike action in February and March 2020. The disputes centre on the sustainability of the Universities Superannuation Scheme (USS) and rising costs for members, and on universities’ failure to make significant improvements on pay, equality, casualisation and workloads.

  • Week one – Thursday 20 & Friday 21 February
  • Week two – Monday 24, Tuesday 25 & Wednesday 26 February
  • Week three – Monday 2, Tuesday 3, Wednesday 4 & Thursday 5 March
  • Week four – Monday 9, Tuesday 10, Wednesday 11, Thursday 12 & Friday 13 March

Why are Student Unions supporting us?

Student Unions believe firmly in showing solidarity with other unions which fight to make your education better. UCU also represents a large proportion of student members which includes Postgraduate Research students. It is them who, as future academics, stand to benefit significantly from improved working conditions should UCU be successful in this dispute. Student experience will always be better with satisfied staff who are able to teach and support students to their fullest ability. Currently, precarious conditions and a decline in pay exacerbated by gendered and racialised pay gaps do not allow this to happen. You can watch the short video by NUS and UCU here.

What can you do to help?

Let your lecturers know that you support them – it will mean a lot! Keep an eye out for our planned teach-outs at the Student Union and please join in wherever you can.The more that students show their support, the greater the chance that the strike will be successful in forcing universities back to re-enter negotiations and settle the dispute.

The University has published general information relating to the industrial action which can be accesed through Frequently Asked Questions.

Heriot-Watt UCU Solidarity Hardship fund

We are engaged in industrial action – a.k.a. on strike – over  national legal disputes relating to equality and the gender pay gap (27.7% at HWU), excessive workloads, decreasing pay, casualisation of the work force (short and zero hours contracts) and pensions. The outcome of this dispute will affect, (we hope benefit), all staff at Heriot-Watt University and throughout the HE Sector. Making HE a fairer place to work.We have the support of our students Union in taking strike action. Striking is a last resort when your employer will not listen to staff concerns leaving them with no other option than to withdraw their labour. Striking staff are not paid and many of our members will suffer financial hardship as a result of taking action.

We are asking you to donate to the HWUCU Strike Hardship Fund to help our striking branch members who are most in need.

Any donation – big or small – to support striking workers in struggle is greatly appreciated. For any queries please contact ucu@hw.ac.uk

What will the money be used for?
The Hardship Fund will be used to support striking members of Heriot-Watt UCU who require additional financial support (alongside the national UCU Fighting Fund).  Taking part in industrial action and forgoing pay is difficult for everyone, yet can be particularly financially challenging for those on casualised, precarious and fractional contracts (e.g. part-time, temporary contracts, post-graduate students who do teaching, marking and research).
How can you donate?
i) You can donate through our online fundraiser
ii) You can donate directly to our bank account
The Bank: Unity Trust Bank
Account name: UCU – Heriot-Watt University LA 023 Hardship Fund
Sort Code: 60-83-01
Account No. 20391168
iii) You can donate by cheque to our Branch office
Heriot-Watt UCU office
Heriot-Watt University
EH14 4AS

Thank you for your support!

Heriot-Watt University must call for changes at USS to resolve the pension dispute

We believe that staff working at Heriot-Watt University deserve a fair pension in retirement, paid for at a reasonable cost during their working lives. The current situation with escalating costs of contributions based on disputed valuation technique is harmful to staff, HWU the employer, and to all who value Heriot-Watt University.

Your branch has launched a petition asking the University leadership to publicly call for the resignation of Bill Galvin and Sir David Eastwood.

Full petition can be accessed here

Local Members’ Meeting – December

Local Members’ Meeting on 11th December, 12.15 to 14.15
Mary Burton, G13

We look forward to seeing as many of you as possible at this meeting. Please feel free to bring any colleague who may be interested.

HWUCU Branch Committee

Teach-Out Activities

Just because teaching staff are on strike, doesn’t mean education has to stop!

HW Student Union is opening its doors in solidarity to let us use their facilities. We will be hosting  a series of workshops and presentations on wide range of topics including a special screening of “Who is Europe”.

Students, Support the Strikes!

Having voted overwhelmingly for industrial action, university staff across the UK will go on strike to defend their pay and pensions from Monday 25 November to Wednesday 4 December. Colleagues at HWU will also be on strike during this period. We have issued more information to our students that offers a brief explanation of what these strikes are about, what they mean for students, and what you can do to show your support.

Read more information on our Student flyer.

We are delighted that our Student Parliament has voted to support the Industrial Action, see statement by HWUnion

The National Union of Students supports the strikes, see this joint statement.

USS and HE autumn ballots 2019

Members in branches where UCU has registered a dispute over the Universities Superannuation Scheme (USS) will receive two ballot papers.

  • One for pay inequality, job insecurity, rising workload and pay deflation.
  • One for USS
  • A ballot insert for each dispute.
  • All ballot papers should be returned in the single prepaid envelope provided.

If you have not received your ballot papers, please request a replacement via: https://www.ucu.org.uk/ballotrequest

General Meeting – 28th November

Local Members’ Meeting on 28th November, 12.00 to 14.00
Post Graduate Centre 304

Murdo Matheson, Policy & Communications Officer for UCU Scotland, will speak on Trade Union representation and the new Governance statues.

We look forward to seeing as many of you as possible at this meeting. Please feel free to bring any colleague who may be interested.

HWUCU Branch Committee

Local General Meeting on the Report of the Joint Expert Panel USS

The Branch Committee has arranged a General Meeting to discuss the recently published first report of the Joint Expert Panel (JEP) on USS. The speakers will be:

Dr Catherine Donnelly, FIA – Associate Professor HWU and member of the JEP.

Dr Carlo Morelli – Senior Lecturer Dundee University, member of NEC and UCU rep on the USS JNC.

Date: Thursday 27th September 2018

Venue: Chaplaincy

Time: 10.00-12.00

It would help us immensely with space management if you could signify your intent to attend, please email: G.S.Bruce@hw.ac.uk

We look forward to seeing as many of you as possible at this meeting. Please feel free to bring any colleague who may be affected / interested.

HWUCU Branch Committee