Category Archives: Management

UCU supports more academic freedom in universities

Staff and students cast their vote for democracy

Staff and students cast their vote for democracy

“Expanding academic freedom in universities is is something that everyone connected to education in Scotland should be in support of” said Douglas Chalmers, local president of UCU at Glasgow Caledonian, following the branch’s submission to the current government consultation on higher education governance. The submission can be downloaded here.

“The experience of the recent referendum makes it even more obvious that the ability of academics to speak out freely cannot be taken for granted, or left to voluntary codes – so we would expect all universities to support this expansion, or explain why they fail to do so.”

“Our submission also calls for the direct election of chairs of Court by students and staff, and for the investigation of the possibility and practicalities of additional elections within universities of senior management from positions of Head of Departments and above.

“We have also repeated our view that there need to be specified places for students and staff on governing bodies and agree with the proposal that there should be positions for nominated representatives of trades unions. Given that trade unions are recognised as the representatives of staff in universities, we do not see the need for additional non-union ‘staff’ members on the governing body.

“We would also be in favour of a majority of Senate members being elected and that efforts should be made to make the Senate more representative of diversity amongst staff. We are in favour of moving towards 50:50 gender balance on the Senate”.

Joint statement agreed between GCU Unions and management on past year’s work and future priorities

The university unions and GCU management have for the first time adopted a joint assessment of the past year’s work. This has been published in the form of a joint chairs’ statement from Douglas Chalmers, current chair of the Joint Consultative Committee, and Jan Hulme, University Secretary. This was adopted after several discussions at the JCC and is one of the outcomes that emerged from the commissioning of an independent report ‘Building better relationships – a way forward for Glasgow Caledonian University and its trade unions’, which was written by Nita Clarke of the IPA in 2014.

One of the suggestions of Clarke’s report, which was cautiously welcomed by both unions and management, was that: ‘The work of the JCC should be positively, proactively and jointly communicated by the unions and GCU to the wider university community‘. Another was that: ‘At the heart of agreed behaviours should be a firm agreement on a no-surprise approach, with both sides committing to mutual discussion in good time and the earliest possible sharing of information‘.

Unions also particularly welcomed the proposal that: ‘Union representation should be considered a mark of status and representatives recognised particularly at departmental level for their contribution to the smoother running of university life.

Within the framework of the new approach suggested by Clarke, there has been an acknowledged improvement in the relationship between unions and management, and the approach to solving issues of difference. This is despite the fact that it was also a time when several periods of industrial action took place.

It is envisaged that the joint statement from the chairs of the JCC will be published simultaneously early in 2015, in Caledonian Connected, on the Staff Portal, and on this blog.

GCU unions out in force on strike day December 3rd

The library, along with other departments and classes were affected

The library, along with other departments and classes were affected

Representatives of Glasgow Caledonian trade unions UCU, Unison, EIS and Unite expressed themselves as extremely heartened by the support they received from staff   on 3rd December following the failure of the UK university managements to seriously negotiate a realistic wages offer with university staff.

Having leafleted GCU students the previous day asking for support for the staff action, which was then translated into a clear drop in student attendance on the 3rd, they also received a message of support from the GCU Students Association, which was backing up a earlier on-line survey of students which had also come out in favour of the planned action. Two of the Student Association officers also attended  the Edinburgh rally held on the day of the strike.

A leaflet was issued the day before the action, asking for student support

A leaflet was issued the day before the action, asking for student support

Representing UCU Scotland at the lunchtime rally in Adelaide’s  in Bath Street,  local GCU president Douglas Chalmers called for the university management side to take their responsibility seriously and help create a properly resourced Higher Education sector where staff were treated in a professional manner, and students could be secure in knowing that they would be receiving a proper, well funded education.

Also speaking at the rally were Nick McKerrall President of EIS (also incidentally from GCU), and Unison Executive representative Davena Rankin – making up a triumvirate from Glasgow Caledonian, amongst the 5 strong speakers, with Gordon Casey from Unite and Ian Trushell bringing support from the Scottish Trades Union Congress.

GCU University unions move towards strike action 3rd December

UCU, Unison and Unite members out in force

UCU, Unison and Unite members out in force

Following the failure of the University and Colleges Employers Association (UCEA) to offer an increased pay offer to university staff, Glasgow Caledonian University unions will be joining their colleagues throughout Scotland and South of the border in a further day’s strike on Tuesday 3rd December.

October 31st saw a tremendous turnout from staff from three of the four university unions, now to be joined by EIS on December 3rd.

Why we are in dispute

Universities are central to a modern forward looking society, but increasingly staff working within them are seeing their living standards being cut, at a time when universities have adequate reserves to pay decent salaries, and when principals are continuing to accept massive salary increases.

Comparative figures between 2009 and 2012 show that in this period, the median pay for full time and casualised staff working as Higher Education teaching professionals has decreased by 2.27 percent in absolute terms to a median wage of £39,414. Over the same period, inflation has increased the cost of living by a cumulative 15.5 percent.

Higher education teaching professionals are still paid significantly below comparably skilled professionals, including legal professional workers, marketing and sales directors, train and tram drivers, human resource managers and directors, IT specialist managers, health professionals, and police officers (sergeant and below).

For a professional service to our students and to our communities, university employers need to ensure their staff are paid a professional salary.

That’s why we will be on strike on December 3rd.

Comparative Scottish Salaries for Univerisity Principals

Comparative Scottish Salaries for Univerisity Principals

UCU Unison Unite pre-strike rally Wednesday M201

UCU Unison Unite

Supported by GCU Combined Union Committee.

United for Education – Fair Pay Now

Pre-Strike Rally

Wednesday October 30th 12 noon M201 (Old Library)

Speakers tbc

The pay claim is affordable

The money is there – universities have more than £1 BILLION in reserves

Higher education staff are worth it!

Why you should strike for fair pay:

pay rates have fallen by 13% in real terms


zero hours contracts

job security


a Living Wage

funding surpluses

Union backed candidates successful in Court election

Ballot paper

The success of Douglas Chalmers in a contested election, and Davena Rankin elected unopposed in the recent ballots for staff governors to the GCU court, is a sign that staff are backing the reforms in university Governance promoted by both candidates, according to Dr Nick McKerrell, chair of the Combined Union Committee at GCU.

Interviewed by the Caledonianunion blog after being informed of his success – with a resounding 67 percent backing from those who had cast their votes, Dr Douglas Chalmers, President of the local UCU branch said:

Marking papers

Douglas Chalmers – looking for democracy in the way the university is governed

“I am proud to have been elected by my academic colleagues, on a clear platform of support for the recent Von Prondzynski proposals of reforming HE Governance. I think there is a clear understanding in the sector that the status quo is frankly not working, and indeed the tinkering with the status quo, which is currently being suggested by the chairs of Court does not answer the need for substantial change.
I will be consulting widely within the university community regarding governance at GCU before my first Court meeting, and would encourage any member of academic staff – whether in a trade union or not – to get in touch if they have a point of view they would like to put to me on this.
I think the fact that over two thirds of those voting – in a four person contest – voted for change is heartening – although the turnout of 14 percent shows the mountain that still needs climbed to convince staff that the court structure is a relevant part of governance at GCU. I hope to help do this over my term as governor”.
Said Dr McKerrell “ Ironically, Douglas is now the only member of Court to have been elected in an open and contested ballot. Given that his platform was based on the CUC’s view of the need for change – something, of course, also backed by Davena – this surely gives weight to the democratic mandate for seeking this change. The next three years will be critical to ensure that senior management in Scottish Higher Education are subject to democratic governance. Douglas and Davena will ensure this happens

GCU Green league success – Trade Union welcomes invite to be involved

People and planet logo2

The latest roll call of environmental achievement from the People and Planet Green League shows another impressive leap for our university – which the hard work of our staff should take credit for.

Glasgow Caledonian has increased its position in this table from 59th to 46th – following on from a previous increase the year before. Latest figures show us having achieved 41 points out of 70 on a wide ranging set of issues from our approach to fair trade, to whether we have a carbon management plan.

Unlike the NSS plans which are methodologically unsound and essentially a ‘lose-lose’ approach, the People and Planet league is robustly constructed and something we should strive to do well in.

Crucially one of the key indicators for the People and Planet is staff involvement, specifically Trade Union consultation on environmental plans. We wrongly reported on June 13th that the University had not invited information from the Trade Unions regarding this. In fact for the first time we had been contacted, but due to a mix-up (on our side) the meeting did not take place.  So we apologise for the original mis-reporting.

We’re pleased to say that we have now again been invited to talk about the University’s environmental approach and plans – something we welcome, and look forward to reporting on the discussions here positively.

We have long argued that full involvement of  Trade Unions in all aspects of university life is the best way of guaranteeing ‘buy-in’ and of constructing an approach fully reflective of the full university community.

Withholding pay – GCU Management steps back from the brink – but needs to go further

Unions at GCU welcomed the ‘clarification’ statement released by HR following our protestation at the proposal to withhold wages from staff involved in action short of a strike.

Following our protests and communication with HR, all staff have now had the university’s new position outlined as follows:

“Dear Colleagues

EIS has now clarified the nature of the proposed action short of a strike – information we didn’t have when I wrote to colleagues earlier this week. The University doesn’t consider that any of the action advocated by EIS in its most recent communication to the University would cause the University to invoke its policy of withholding pay for partial performance.  I hope this clarifies the position but do please contact your HR BP if you have any queries”.

All very welcome, and well as it goes perhaps, but reference to the university’s ‘policy of withholding pay for partial performance’ sounds to the impartial reader like an implicit threat held in reserve.  Our staff don’t ‘partially perform’ – they over perform, in increasingly difficult circumstances. The staff survey showed just how committed our staff are to the future of the university – and, indeed also indicated where it was felt that partial performance was really being carried out – confidence in the performance of Senior Management (even amongst Senior Management) was very low.

Our management need to look at how to better invest in the staff who are keeping this university going – and keeping it up in the esteem it is held in, in Scotland. We need a positive approach from our management in support of staff aspirations on wages and pensions.

Dr Nick McKerrell, Convenor of the EIS/ULA at GCU, said “EIS members welcome the clarification of management’s position at GCU.  It is a shame that they rushed in using bullying language rather than waiting to see what our industrial action consisted of.  However members have to be vigilant in their campaign for fair pay for all in Higher Education to make sure that GCU will not resurrect these threats as the industrial action continues”

Unions condemn return to heavy handed tactics by management at Glasgow Caledonian University

Glasgow Caledonian University unions today condemned the re-appearance of heavy handed tactics by management which threaten to return labour relations to rock bottom once more at the university.

Following the one day strike by EIS members on 23rd October, staff were shocked to receive the following e-mail –  sent to all staff – from the head of HR:

“Dear Colleagues

Further to the communication last week regarding the EIS strike action of the 23rd, we have also received notification that EIS intends to take industrial action short of a strike from 24 October 2012.  Action short of a strike will be interpreted as partial performance under the terms of an employee’s contract. The University does not accept partial performance and will deduct 100% of a person’s pay for each working day that staff participate in partial performance of duties. The withholding of pay is without prejudice to any right or remedy of the University, including any claim for damages for breach of contract.

You should note that, if an employee chooses to continue to perform some of their duties, this does not mean that the University has accepted partial performance – this partial performance is voluntary and will not be paid for”.

It’s the view of the combined unions that this language and approach is more reminiscent of workhouse labour relations, than the modern, forward looking university that the staff at Glasgow Caledonian wish it to be. Quite frankly we are also astonished that in the wake of the dissatisfaction expressed in last year’s staff survey this heavy handed approach is again being adopted in the month before the next Pulse survey is launched, and also when the university is quite rightly receiving media accolades following the appointment of our new Chancellor.

The unions are considering their response to this unwelcome development which sends out all the wrong signals to hard working staff whose living standards have declined over the last five years. We do not believe that it represents an acceptable ‘peoples’ strategy’. We would like this dictat withdrawn.

Glasgow Caledonian Unions welcome management change of heart over student resit ‘fines’

The announcement today that GCU management have withdrawn plans to ‘fine’ students for resits and retaking modules was today welcomed by GCU unions. Speaking on behalf of the University and College Union, branch president Douglas Chalmers said: “We welcome this step back by management on the issue. This really would have hit hard those who already find it hard to finance a university career – exactly the students who the university has a proud record of aiming to help.”

Earlier this month a joint statement of support had gone to the Students Association from both the UCU and EIS, pledging support for the students’ campaign in this area, and Douglas had addressed the Student Parliament to add the support of the combined unions at GCU.

We believe the original proposals were ill conceived” said Douglas, “it appeared that there had been no equality impact assessment done, and in this case, no real consideration given as to how the university carries out its remit to ‘improve the Common Weal’ – something the unions have always supported. In this light, we also welcome the pledge made to the Student Association president from the university secretary Jan Hulme today, that  ‘support available to students who face hardship in the course of their study could usefully be more clearly flagged, and [that]the Student Funding Team will be tasked with looking at that’.

We also welcome the pledge from Ms Hulme that the signposting of provision for students who need additional learning support will similarly be reviewed so that students undertaking resits or retaking modules are reminded of the range of support they can call upon”

In a message to the University Unions, Student Association President Matte Andrews said: “On behalf of the Students’ Association and the student population, I would like to extend a massive thank you for all your support over the last month and I hope that this is the beginning of a pro-active relationship with the Students’ Association campaigning alongside the Unions“.