General Meeting Wednesday 1pm
There will be a General Meeting on Zoom at 1pm on Wednesday 11 May, using the usual link, to discuss progress and industrial action in the local and national disputes.
If you don't have the General Meeting link yet, email Francis to request it.
If you aren't able to make it to the General Meeting, you can discuss the issues on Slack, or contact your departmental rep or any committee member with your thoughts. If you aren't yet on Slack, email Sean to request access.
Further updates on all these topics will be provided by your negotiators and delegates at the General Meeting.
Your branch strategy
At the last General Meeting you voted for a negotiation strategy consisting of the following:
- To provide the employer with the resolutions from this motion and to emphasise to the employer the importance of urgent progress in these local negotiations and in their contribution to the national disputes.
- That the branch committee should regularly update members with the progress of negotiations and call further general meetings as required for discussion, and should call for negotiations to be as open and public as practical.
- To present any offer made by the employer for a member vote on acceptance, with the aim that an accepted offer would then bring an end to industrial action at Durham under the current mandate, and a rejected offer would lead to it continuing. (Due to the nature of a marking boycott, industrial action could not be suspended during the vote.)
- To instruct our branch delegates to national UCU meetings to request structuring of the national disputes in a way which supports this approach.
Negotiation meetings took place last week and more are scheduled for this week. Your negotiators have made clear to the employer that there is still time to avert highly disruptive industrial action at Durham - provided that they can quickly produce a meaningful offer.
The aim of the negotiations will be to obtain an offer which:
Progresses the national disputes, both USS and Four Fights, through public statements of principle.
Demonstrates the employer's long-term commitment to improving staff pay and conditions by implementing the demands in our local Four Fights claim, with the aim of locally mitigating as much of the poor national offer as possible.
You are strongly encouraged, if there are particular parts of our local claim or initial response to the employer's consideration that you consider important, to let your negotiators know, either through discussion on Slack or through your departmental rep. In recent meetings your negotiators emphasised:
Pay - either a one-off payment of £2500 or an increase in the spine point for every staff member at Durham.
Casualisation - facilities time for a casualised rep, proactively enforcing the existing guidance across all departments, an end to the use of 23 month contracts and the extension by one month to staff on those contracts. We raised the issue of the extension of short-term contracts using internal funds where roles are externally funded but do not run to 12 months.
Workload - on the employer side there is a commitment to engagement on this. We underlined the toxic pressure across many departments.
Equalities - workloading of EDI network chair roles, promotions for PSS staff and a review of job families, recognition of the need to restore an in-role promotions process for staff in PSS.
If and when an offer is received, it will be discussed and reviewed at a General Meeting, and if considered worthwhile at General Meeting then put to a membership vote on acceptance.
Last Monday members of committee met with representatives of other branches with a mandate at a meeting organised by Sheffield UCU to discuss opportunities for coordination and optimal scheduling of action.
Following this discussion, and taking into account the votes at previous General Meetings, we advised national that we would prefer our ten days of strike action to be held in reserve for later in the dispute.
Your branch representatives will also be attending a "branch briefing" on Tuesday with other branches and the national executive, and will try to put forward your views on industrial tactics, and the need for maximum local flexibility in these. The national Higher Education Committee will then meet on Thursday to include this feedback in its consideration of the decisions of the Higher Education Sector Conferences.
Beginning the marking boycott
As you have seen in national emails, Action Short of a Strike, including a marking boycott, will commence on Monday 23rd May. While this timing does not allow maximum disruption to be caused, it is still likely to be sufficient, especially given that Durham's marks processing procedures have no leeway even in a normal year.
General Meeting will discuss how to make most effective use of this marking boycott, in conjunction with other forms of Action Short of a Strike, to cause maximum possible disruption to university processes. It will also discuss how staff who are unable to participate directly in a marking boycott through timing or role are able to support their participating colleagues.
While of course we hope that the negotiations will reach a point where the employer is able to present an acceptable offer before we begin industrial action, we must prepare to carry it out if they do not. Following discussions at General Meeting there will also be an organising meeting for departmental reps and other interested members to plan it in more detail.
Queen Mary UCU needs support
Queen Mary are facing an employer taking an extremely punitive approach to ASOS with 100% deductions for almost all forms of action, and the branch is currently taking ten days of local strike action to be followed by a marking boycott. This is separate to the national disputes which they are also participating in. Other employers will be watching the results as a "test case" for imposing similar deductions in future.
If you are able to, donations to their local strike fund will help them maintain their industrial action and show them that the rest of the sector is with them in this crucial action.