Category Archives: NUS

The only honest bank is a food bank….. says the UCU@GCU

Brian Pillans the branch honorary secretary doing the hard work

Branch honorary secretary Brian Pillans doing the hard work

Supporting the GCU students association initiative of setting up a food bank collection, UCU@GCU has donated 50 bags of groceries – over 300 items, to represent 1 item per member at the university. They are also appealing to their members to collect and donate to the food bank which accepts donations in the Students Association.

Although we agree with the assertion made at this weekend’s conference that food banks are not the solution to a deeper seated crisis, we believe that anything that can alleviate the difficult situation that students find themselves in, the better.

The food bank collections will be officially launched in the GCU Students Association building on Monday 2nd March at 11.30am

GCU Trade Unions send congratulations to students for active elections

Trade Unions at GCU today sent greetings to the GCU students who are nearing the end of their elections for their local student association officers, and pledged to continue to work with the new officers in the interests of the staff, students and the wider University.

“We are really pleased to see what appears to be such a vigorous campaign involving the maximum of students – we look forward with interest to the outcome, and to working together in the next period as we have in the past.  Students have benefited from the support of trade unions here, who have consistently argued for better resources to be put at their disposal.

We are also very grateful for the consistent support in our current campaign for fair pay on campus. We are sure that it has been pressure from students throughout the UK, as well as from staff industrial action that has made the employers agree to talk to staff again about pay at a UK level. We hope that students will keep up their support and pressure, so that it will not be necessary for staff to undertake a future marking boycott – which may be the only resort left to us  if the employers do not act responsibly.  We believe by working together, staff and students can ensure that a sensible and quick end to this dispute can be achieved. Thank you again for your support”

Balloons and bacon rolls keep spirits high on GCU picket line

Helium filled balloons supplied by UCU and bacon filled rolls supplied by Unison helped make the joint picket by university unions UCU, EIS, Unison and Unite on 6th February the most successful yet in the series of actions in favour of Fair Pay at Glasgow Caledonian.
In some ways this was the best organised of the actions so far, with posters informing the students of impending action having been put up on previous days, and a specially prepared leaflet featuring an appeal from each union given out to students on the day.

United for Fair Pay

United for Fair Pay

Determined to win our action

Determined to win our action

Union reps indicated more reports of alterations to and cancellations of classes than had happened at previous actions.
Even the worst of the weather stayed off, although spectacularly, mid way through the picket, the wind put an end to the gazebo which had played such a helpful role in the previous disputes!
Pickets were out on all of the main entrances to the university with several delivery vans turning away after reading our leaflet, and many passing cars honking their approval of the action.

Applause for a particularly witty point

Applause for a particularly witty point

At a brief rally at 10.45 chaired by joint Union Convenor and EIS rep Nick McKerrell, Sinead Wylie brought the greetings and support of the Students Association, followed by Unison rep Davena Rankin and UCU rep Douglas Chalmers who spoke on behalf of their unions. Nick McKerrell closed the rally, pointing out that this had been a great example of the type of joint activity that the four unions at Glasgow Caledonian continued to do together very well.
Following the rally, 100 of the helium balloons were released on a count of three to cheering before we dispersed, having shown once again the depth of feeling amongst staff that GCU should pressurise UCEA to come back to the negotiating table.

Sinead from the students association nearly carried away

Sinead from the students association nearly carried away

PS the joint unions have already been offered another 3 gazebos to take the place of the one that lost its battle with the Glasgow weather.

More Tea with your strike? UCU @ GCU calls 2 hour break on Thursday and Tuesday

Tea for two....(hours)

Tea for two….(hours)

Following the failure of the university employers association to offer a decent pay increase, the UCU throughout the UK will be holding a series of 2-hour long strikes – in the shape of an extended coffee/tea break – in the next three weeks.

The dates and times of the strikes will be Thursday 23rd January from 11am – 1pm; Tuesday 28th January 2pm – 4pm and Monday 10th February 9am – 11am

We are inviting all UCU members to enjoy a coffee/tea break at these times in the Student Bistro in the Student Association, where we will have the chance, amongst other things, to chat to local students regarding why we feel there is no option but to continue our action.

There is a Q&A session for all staff regarding the continuing action and its implications on Tuesday 21st January at 12.30 in M142 to which all members are invited.

Remember: Tuesday 21st Jan 12.30 M142 – Q&A on industrial action

Thursday 23rd – Strike coffee/ tea break in Student Association Bistro 11 – 1pm

Academic Unions at GCU call for a re-think on re-sit ‘fines’

Students launch petition calling for re-sit fines to be withdrawn

The GCU branches of the University and College Union (UCU) and the Educational Institute for Scotland (EIS) both called today for the senior management at Glasgow Caledonian University to reconsider their decision to fine students, who need to undertake re-sits of exams or of modules.

From the coming semester, students re-sitting exams will now have to pay £40, and the increased cost of re-sitting a module will rocket ten-fold, from £30 to £300.

Said Douglas Chalmers UCU president at Glasgow Caledonian:
“The unions at Glasgow Caledonian are extremely proud of the university’s  wider access approach which leads to many more students being able to access HE education than would have been the case previously. We fear this new approach however, will set this mission back, and will hit students from disadvantaged families – making it yet another problem for them to overcome. We also have grave concerns how this may impact on students with disabilities or illnesses during term time. We are therefore fully in support of the campaign by the local students union against what they call the ‘re-sit rip-off’ and will be raising our views with senior management in order to seek a more appropriate approach to dealing with students’ academic difficulties”.

The unions also announced they had sent an appropriate message (see here) to the local students forum pledging their support for their campaign, and urge full support for their campaign – highlighted on their website here.

Scottish Parliament hears the case for reform of University Governance

A packed committee room heard reports of university governance 'not fit for purpose'

A packed Committee Room 1 of the Scottish Parliament heard calls for bringing democracy to the present system of University Governance – widely seen as ‘not fit for purpose’, in the view of university staff from the majority of Scotland’s universities. MSPs from the governing SNP, and from Labour and the Greens were clearly disturbed by the reports given to them about lack of serious governance by respective university courts from staff across the sector, following the lobby, organised by the UCU and EIS on 25th May.

The anger amongst those who are beginning to find out about how governance is exercised was shown in the intervention in the discussion by Nationalist MSP Bill Kidd who had visited GCU and spoken to staff several times over the past year. Stating his opinion that  “I don’t think these people are fit to be in charge of the University”, he went on to call for  “a complete overhaul of the governance of universities and colleges.”  Clare Baker, Labour’s shadow spokeswoman on Education stated to the meeting  “You have made a very strong case for the need to look at governance and we will support moves towards this”. This was echoed by Green Party leader Patrick Harvie who added “Management need to act as leaders of a community, not as CEOs of a business”

Brian Pillans from Caledonian UCU updates MSPs, flanked on his left by Clare Baker, Labour Education Spokesperson

Representing the unions at GCU, Brian Pillans updated those present on the victory achieved by the unions at GCU. This had shown what was possible, and he thanked parties of all colours for their support and their  pressure on management. This support had also come from the students, the media and the wider community, without whose support the victory would not have been won.  This victory had been at great and needless cost to staff however, due to the totally unnecessary actions of senior management who had followed a flawed strategy from the beginning, rather than working with the unions.

On the question of future changes to governance, Brian suggested that those who argued for universities to be run as a business could not ignore the accountability which was was now built into private sector governance following necessary reforms. Some serious work needed carried out on practical mechanisms which would continue to guarantee academic independence of the sector, but also ensure that the use of public money was always transparent and those using it were accountable to the wider community.

Cupcakes, illustrated Principals' salaries (excluding pensions and other benefits!), including our own Principal's at £182,000

During the meeting MSPs were clearly surprised at the level of salaries being paid to senior management and to university principals, details of which are downloadable here.

Eyebrows were also raised at the number of senior staff at GCU earning more than the First Minister of Scotland, and indeed, more than the Prime Minister David Cameron.

Outside in the lobby, the media had been interested in the cupcakes representing the salaries of University principals. These included the salary of our own at £182,000, not including pensions and other benefits.

Strathclyde University Students whose course is threatened by cuts

As well as the cupcakes providing sustenance, Liam Burns, outgoing NUS president offered support and students from the threatened music course at Strathclyde University entertained the crowd (as did a mysterious ‘fat-cat’ who members may also recall seeing at similar events at GCU).

Further photos can be found on Caledonian Union’s flickr site here

A university fat cat with a crisis of conscience?

“Every page of the document shows that this exercise is clearly cost driven”…… Unions first response to GCU management’s ‘restructuring’ proposals

Firstly the Trade Union acknowledges we were given sight of this document (Cluster Proposals ) 48 hours before it was issued to all staff. However it is very difficult to understand the proposed changes without seeing the current structures, and the University’s failure to provide all the appropriate information may render the consultation less than meaningful.

Indeed without this information there is an undermining of trade union representation as these figures will mean a lot to staff who could lose their posts, but for full time officials and local union reps who have agreed to confidentiality and thus cannot consult with affected members we have in a sense one hand tied behind our back. Continue reading