Online members meeting – Tuesday 30th June 1pm-2pm

Branch meetings Campaigns Coronavirus Health and Safety

UoB UNISON will be holding an online members meeting this coming Tuesday at 1pm via Zoom. You should have had the invite to the meeting by email and or text. If you are a member and haven’t had it please contact us on unisonbham@contacts.bham.ac.uk and we’ll send it through to you. 

The meeting will discuss the following:

  • Voluntary leavers scheme and the future of the University 
  • Health and safety
  • Black lives matter movement and the union’s response

As part of the first item the committee would like to put forward the below motion for debate at the meeting.

We welcome questions, comments and amendments to the motion. If you would like to submit an amendment to the motion please do so before 12:30pm on Tuesday. We will ask for comments and questions on amendments first before deciding together in the meeting whether to accept them.

Draft motion on the future of education at UoB (subject to amendment and approval at the meeting)

Background

While all organisations are having to adapt to radically different circumstances at the moment, including the need to respond to rapidly changing government guidance and to take drastic action to keep everyone safe, this branch is growing increasingly concerned about aspects of the University’s response to the Covid-19 crisis. 

The University has stated in negotiations that they are responding to a very uncertain financial environment. Despite this, the University’s reserves and the delaying of capital expenditure do put it in a particularly strong position in sectoral terms to respond to the crisis. According to the University’s current projections they still expect to make a surplus this financial year. 

In addition, the branch notes that the financial situation is not so grave as to necessitate a broader use of the furlough scheme for permanent staff (despite this being encouraged and supported by the trade unions). Equally there has been no need to review or temporarily address the increasingly high level of senior staff pay at the institution. In all of this it is vital that we remember that education is a public good, that Universities are charities and as such it’s vital that they maintain services, staff numbers and working conditions in order to fulfill their vital national role. 

With all of this in mind, this branch feels that the current recruitment freeze, dismissals of fixed term contract and casual staff and reductions in numbers of permanent staff through the voluntary leavers scheme (VLS) are premature and run the risk of damaging the quality and resilience of the teaching, research and support services at the University. 

While the branch will fully support and advise any member who wishes to access the VLS, any broad reduction of staff numbers at the University will lead to higher workload and stress for those staff that remain, as well as a reduction in the quality of services. 

Campaign aims

Given all of the above, this branch feels the following are essential campaigning aims for UNISON both locally and nationally in coming weeks and months, and (should the projections hold out) are particularly reasonable locally at the University of Birmingham given its healthy financial situation:

  1. No reductions in staff – Universities should be maintaining staff levels to ensure they are able to deliver high quality teaching, research and support services when the wider economy will need them most. We should not rush to respond to a single difficult year by losing large numbers of talented and experienced workers (and early indications are that student numbers may be healthier than first feared). This should include pushing for an end to the recruitment freeze and the non-renewal of fixed-term contracts. The voluntary leavers scheme should not be used to reduce staff numbers or to drive wholescale changes without proper consultation.
  2. No pay cuts or cuts to terms and conditions – Higher education staff have increasingly been doing more for less in recent years – if we want to retain and properly motivate the highly experienced and knowledgeable staff that work in HE, cutting their pay, holiday or sick pay is likely to be highly counterproductive! We also reiterate our demand for the University to finally live up to its reputation and to accredit as a living wage employer. 
  3. Meaningful consultation with staff and students about the future of Universities, including mandatory representation on governing bodies for all groups. 
  4. Pressure on employers to agree that a new funding model for HE is desperately required, including a government bailout in the short term and the ending of fees more broadly – Universities such as the University of Birmingham should be calling openly for government assistance for the sector, and in particular for assistance for those Universities that may make staff redundant in the near future without a better financial settlement.
  5. Better jobs for HE, including an end to outsourcing and casualisation on our campuses. The teaching delivered at our Universities along with the services that support it should be provided by staff employed on permanent, substantive contracts, as this has repeatedly been shown to deliver better services and experiences for students. The Edgbaston Park Hotel should not become a model for services across the University – instead these staff should be brought back in house on proper contracts. 

Actions

To achieve these aims, this branch resolves to:

  • Support and co-sponsor solidarity rallies for any UNISON University branch facing compulsory redundancies as part of the crisis
  • Promote and encourage all members to engage with UNISON’s HE campaign Don’t Fail Our Future, including urging members to write to their MP to ask them to raise the grave situation affecting Universities
  • Support other grassroots initiatives involving UNISON HE activists such as the HE Covid Activists campaign and petition
  • Seek media coverage and political support in pursuing the above demands at the University of Birmingham locally
  • Explore all other options for achieving the above campaign aims, and in particular looking to collaborate jointly with other campus trade unions in any action

 

 

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