UCU Women’s Conference Report from Tracey Howton

UCU Women’s Conference Report

I was nominated by the branch to attend the UCU National Women Member’s Conference on 9th November.  It was the first time I have attended a national UCU event and first time at our national headquarters.

There were about 70 women there and the theme of the conference was ‘Getting our activism together’.

For me the most interesting part of the day was the two keynote speakers: Cath  Elliot, Guardian columnist and Unison member who spoke about how, for her, trade unionism was inextricably linked to feminism; and then Clara Osagiede from the RMT, who talked about how she is organising cleaning staff on London Underground, despite being told by most officials of her union that they were impossible to organise.

We passed motions calling on UCU to do more to both recruit and support women members and provide activists with better materials for recruitment and more information particularly about how the cuts in education are effecting women in particular.

Unfortunately I didn’t get elected to the Standing Committee, although I hope you may support me in standing again next year. 

I’d like to thank the branch for enabling me to attend an enjoyable and informative day.  It was a great opportunity to meet fellow UCU members and a timely reminder that women’s equality still has some way to go, even in the trade union movement.

 

Advertisements

Presentation to the Corporation, Nov 2012

Chair, Governors, thank you for this opportunity to present UCU’s case.

We have been in negotiation with the college since Sept 2011 and by engaging in this negotiation UCU members have demonstrated their willingness to listen to the college and consider the case presented by the college. 

UCU believes that these negotiations have resulted in progress and believe that further progress can be achieved.

College case

The case put forward by the college has consisted of:

 a contract fit for the purpose of delivering a changing curriculum and meeting the challenge of the economic climate we are in.

The UCU negotiators believe that the case for a new contract has not been proven.

Curriculum

The college has not presented UCU with what this new curriculum would look like or what the new methodology/ form of delivery will consist of.

Staff have always responded to the changing world and market demand. Recently over the move from Leeds Met to Teeside University and the rewriting of the of the degrees that has entailed.

Another example being the Whistling Woods International film project mention in the last Corporation minutes.

UCU does not believe that a significant change to contract is required in order for staff to be responsive to changes, many staff eagerly embrace development in their area and changes in technology that often accompany those developments.

Redundancies

We have been told that the college wished to break out of the cycle of redundancies we have been through in the last few years. Unfortunately we have received no reassurances that this cycle will be halted and that college staff will not find themselves facing further redundancies.

In addition, the proposed new contract actually has redundancies built in to it. So the original proposition of increasing the Scheduled Student Contact time to 880 represents a loss of staff of 1 in 9.

A move to 850 or 820 would equally incorporate a proportional reduction in staff required.

Therefore UCU members are being asked to sign up to a contract that potentially and actually threatens their job security.

Financial reasons

We have been told that the college needs a new contract because we are in difficult financial times.

Again this has not been proven.

The college presented a financial model based on an average lecturer salary cost of 50K and a 50% contribution to the college. UCU disputes these figures; UCU does not believe that an average salary cost is 50K or that only 50% is contributed from class income. Many factors contribute to the college’s income and to base the college financial argument on only the cost a lecturer and income from classes is misleading.

In addition the result of this model claimed that the college is therefore in deficit to the tune of £2.2 million.

UCU members cannot understand how we are funding a new build at a rate of 4% while at the same time telling UCU negotiators we are making a loss. And we have been reassured just today at the JCC that the college is able to service this mortgage of 1.4 million on interest alone so again our members are not convinced of the economic argument.

Additionally the best offer in terms of a financial incentive made by the college thus far has been to offer 0.75 %. UCU has asked for details of the rise in productivity a new contract would deliver but no details have been forth coming. UCU cannot believe that the increase in productivity the college is expecting is equivalent to 0.75% financially.

Efficiency

We have been told the college needs a new contract to increase efficiency. Again UCU believes this has not been proven.

The existing contract allows for 874 contact hours with students. This is contact that lecturing staff do. These hours include individual personal and pastoral guidance which is contact that has to be done to ensure success rates, retention and student satisfaction.

Unfortunately, presently the college only recognises SSC of 777 on its systems, but this is not the true figure. Lectures regularly far surpass this figure through good will.

Good will UCU believes the college risks squandering.

UCU has been willing throughout these negotiations to talk to the college about flexibility and how the existing contract can be made to work in the interests of the college, staff and students.

Unfortunately this offer has not been taken up.

Excessive Weekly hours

UCU is also concerned that we can agree arrangements so that lecturers have manageable workloads throughout the year and do not find themselves with excessive workloads at certain times.

 UCU believes

A move to a new contract with a worsening in terms and conditions will have a serious detrimental effect on the well being of lecturing staff. A report presented to the last Health and Safety Committee, Nov2012, shows an increase in sickness absence for the first time since 2003, 17% of the days lost due to Mental Health – stress. UCU believes that this figure will increase if the college peruses a new contract.

A worsening of conditions will result in an increase in staff turnover and an increase in the difficult of recruiting quality staff. Bradford College will move from one of the best colleges to a much less attractive place to work.

An increase in sickness levels will result in a decline in the service and an impact upon the studetn experience and sucess.

OFSTED

The proposed changes to the contract will result in a decline in Ofsted grades. There is clear evidence, gathered by UCU, that higher contact hours correlate to lower grades.

Examples:

Nelson and Colne college 810 grade 1

Blackburn 828 grade 1

Bolton 840 grade 2

Hopwood Hall 850 grade 3 (the Principals previous college)

To sum up

 I wish to explain where the membership are.

We have had 3 of the largest meetings of members over this last year. At each meeting members have reiterated their commitment to defend their existing contract.  Therefore I hope the corporation understands that any move to extend contact hours or worsen our conditions of service is very hard for members to accept.  The difference between 777 and 828 is an enormous ask, added to by the new build and proposed changes to the observation policy. At the same time members have been willing to engage with the college to find a way forward.

UCU does not believe convincing arguments have been presented by the college.

UCU does believe that the proposals for a new contract would result in a loss of good will, an increase in sickness, specially stress related illness, a decline in pastoral care and a corresponding decline in student satisfaction and a fall in Ofsted grades.

We do believe that we have made good progress, we do believe it is worth continuing this process.

We wish for these negotiations to continue and that we believe that a mutually acceptable conclusion can be achieved.