Category Archives: UCU


A message from Douglas Chalmers, President UCU@GCU:

Picket 2You will have seen the message from Sally Hunt with the HE ballot result and the confirmed dates for strike action 25th and 26th May. This will be followed by members working to contract with effect from 25/05/2016. Full guidance will be issued this week on what you should and should not do.

  • No UCU member takes action lightly but since 2009, the cumulative loss to our pay (compared to rises in RPI) is 14.5%.
  • Despite it being 50 years since the Equal Pay Act, the continuing gender pay gap in UK higher education is shameful – the total gender pay gap currently stands at a staggering £528 million. Even at GCU, which is not the worst offender, the recent analysis of basic pay was able to show the overall pay gap favouring males was the following in each category: Campus services 24.7%, Academic 8.2%, Professional and Admin support 6.0%, Technical 5.0%, Senior managers (academic) 10.6%. 
    Only in the Senior Managers (Executive) and Senior Managers (Professional Support) was the gender gap in favour of females
  • The latest reported figures from HESA showed that the sector has over £1 billion in operating surpluses.
  • Widespread casualisation in the sector impacts on all staff terms and conditions and the rate of pay – according to HESA , there are 75,000 staff on highly casualised ‘atypical’ academic contracts.

We are asking for  a fair rate for the job – that job that has seen increased workload, more management targets and divisive performance management schemes. It is staff that deliver the excellent research and teaching and we are worth investing in. You can read more about the HE2016 action here:

UCU will be picketing across campus on both strike days  – look out for more information on how you can join in. Don’t forget to follow us on twitter @GCU_UCU

Prevent Prevent campaign continues

Dissent Prevent v1a

The UCU have continued to campaign against the UK government’s ill thought out and divisive ‘Prevent’ strategy which seeks to turn academic and support staff into snoopers who monitor students for signs of ‘extremism.’

Having been a part of the English educational scene for several years, the Home Office decided last year that it should also be applied to Scotland, including Scotland’s universities. They instructed the Scottish government to apply a version of their UK policy north of the border, and the result is a set of guidelines, which quite frankly neither the Scottish government nor it seems, the Scottish universities are happy with, but which have been applied to higher education in Scotland, and in even stricter form to further education in Scotland

Douglas Chalmers. UCU Scotland president represented the union at the Islamophobia 2015 conference in Edinburgh

Douglas Chalmers. UCU Scotland president represented the union at the Islamophobia 2015 conference

The ‘Prevent’ guidance which has been issued to all universities and colleges (and which can be downloaded here), raises the expectation that university staff will now be expected to monitor students for signs of ‘extremism’ one part of which is that they do not display support for a very loosely defined set of ‘British values.’

This has already led to the ridiculous situation in some English universities, of muslim students being questioned on their views because they have been seen reading (set) textbooks on global terrorism and security – despite this being the postgraduate course they are studying.

The UCU has supported the "Students not Suspects' tour when it visited Scotland

The UCU has supported the “Students not Suspects’ tour when it visited Scotland

The UCU has drawn up a set of guidelines for staff which can be downloaded here. NUS has also produced some useful guidance here.  The branch at GCU have produced our own broadsheet on the issue.  We will also continue to support the ‘students not suspects’ initiatives, and campaign to get the prevent measures scrapped.

Postgraduate network launched

Postgrad imageA union network for postgraduates at Glasgow Caledonian has been launched, with an inaugural meeting on campus on Thursday 28th May.

Organised by Ewan Kerr, UCU postgrad rep, the meeting discussed the general situation of postgrads in the different Schools of the university and the issues the union needed to take up on their behalf. Amongst the topics discussed were teaching expectations, (lack of) adequate teacher training, pay rates, and communication within the grad school.

Douglas Chalmers, local branch president, Lena Wanggren UCU postgrad organiser from Edinburgh university, and Catriona Mowat, local VP, and organiser of the recently launched GCU women’s Facebook page for the branch also took part in the discussion.

A facegroup page for UCU postgrads has just been launched which members are encouraged to join – search out GCU UCU Postgrad Community on FB.

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

UCU@GCU help students to ‘bite the ballot’

graphic 3National Voter Registration Day, 5th of February saw posters  put up in 100 classrooms and lecture halls at GCU giving advice to students on how to safeguard their right to vote.

In a joint campaign run between UCU and the National Union of Students, 1000 students at GCU were also given a specially printed leaflet letting them know how to check  whether they were on the updated electoral register, following changes imposed by the UK government which had led to 1 million UK citizens being removed.

“Many issues are going to be decided at the next election which will have a crucial effect on students at GCU”, said Douglas Chalmers, local branch president. “International students are already hit badly by the restrictive policies of the border agency and there are many other issues still decided in Westminster that impact on young people here. The following election at Holyrood, will of course have immediate impact on education policy so it’s important that young people are not disenfranchised by measures to restrict those who can vote. The unions at GCU will work with the Students Association and the wider ‘Bite the Ballot’ campaign to ensure that this message gets through to as many people as possible”.

Graphic 4 poster

UCU Scotland Presidential candidate outlines his views

A continued campaign of innovative activity on a whole range of issues affecting academic and academic related staff in Scotland’s universities is the way forward for the University and College Union,  according to presidential hopeful Douglas Chalmers.  Having served as Scottish Vice President, for the last 2 years, Douglas is hoping to be elected in the current ballot which is open until February 27th.

A believer that trade unions are the natural community for all staff at university, Douglas believes that the UCU should be a core defender of the wages and conditions of staff – but also much more than that. In his view it is action on a whole range of questions that affect the life of staff that makes the best case for people to join. He points to the local branch’s work on International Womens’ Day, support for equality and diversity, student support, health and wellbeing, democracy in the university sector, as well as action on pensions and wages as being the reason that GCU continues to enjoy one of the greatest rates of growth amongst branches in Scotland.

GCU branch member Catriona Miller put some questions to Douglas about his candidacy and regarding some of the main issues facing the union and Scottish education. This can be found below.

Douglas’s election statement can be found here

A previous interview about Douglas’s views on building the union as a community, on working with other unions, on re-imagining universities, and on pensions, governance and working with the Scottish government is found below.

Carlo Morelli of Dundee University is also contesting the position of President of  UCU Scotland

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”.

GCU Staff commemorate Holocaust memorial day 2015

Anti Holocaust day
Under the slogan ‘Keep the Memory Alive’ Glasgow Caledonian University’s branch of the UCU distributed materials on the Holocaust on 27th January – the day that marks the 70th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz by Soviet troops.

Working with members of the Gathering the Voices organisation which is in partnership with GCU, and funded by the Heritage lottery fund and others, a video was shown at the stall outlining the voices and stories of survivors and students and staff were directed to their website.

As well as survivor’s stories from the Holocaust or ‘Shoah’ details of other genocides in Bosnia, Cambodia, Darfur, and Rwanda were distributed containing testimonials of UCU members directly affected by all of those horrific events. Details of the Armenian genocide was given by a UCU member whose parents had been directly involved.

A UCU video featuring General Secretary Sally Hunt, and UCU members who survived the holocaust was also shown, and copies of the union’s anti fascist news distributed.

The branch activity was also publicised on the university’s main website here

Glasgow Caledonian Staff and students show support for democratic change

What's not to like about more democracy?

What’s not to like about more democracy?

Postcards supporting democratic change were being signed at the rate of more than one a minute, during a brief lunchtime pop up stall run by the UCU at Glasgow Caledonian University.

Almost 70 pledges of support for change – and in favour of taking current Scottish government proposals for change even further – were signed by staff of all grades, from catering staff right up to management.

The Scottish government has asked for views on reforming governance to be sent to themselves by January 30th, and the unions at Glasgow Caledonian will be submitting a response, arguing for the full implementation of the Von Prondzynski reforms promised some time ago.

UCU local president Douglas Chalmers (who is the academic staff governor on GCU Court) said: “What’s not to like about more democracy? Universities should be embracing this change, not trying to minimise it. It’s not ‘change for change sake’ but is a well thought out set of proposals which will maximise academic freedom, and allow the tapping in to the energies and talents of university staff – and indeed students – rather than falling into the dangers of a business model of Higher Education. I commend those supporting, and involved in today’s action, which I’m sure is representative of wider staff and student feeling. All the unions in Glasgow Caledonian are in favour of this change”. 

Further photos of the event which was popular and very good natured can be found on the caledonianunion flickr feed here.

Education Minister wants our views on running GCU

Angela Constance Cabinet Secretary for Education

Angela Constance Cabinet Secretary for Education

Angela Constance, the Cabinet Secretary for Education in the Scottish Government is interested in your views on how GCU, and other universities are governed.

All university campus unions are in favour of democratising higher education governance and will be making sure their members’ voices are heard in this debate.

We want open elections for chairs of governing bodies, transparency over principals’ pay, a new agreed definition of academic freedom and for governing bodies to be more representative.

In an article in the Herald on 15th January, Mary Senior, UCU Scotland’s official referred to the consultation and forthcoming bill as: ‘a once in a generation opportunity to sort out transparency in Scotland’s universities’

On Monday 26th between 12 and 2pm, the UCU@GCU will be holding a stall in the Hamish Wood foyer allowing staff and students to sign postcards to support change in this sector.

If you are a UCU member there is also a downloadable A3 Poster  and A5 Postcard you can use to express your support for the campaign.

Meanwhile the UCU have launched a petition asking their members to record their support for change. You can sign it here.

UCU has also uploaded all the necessary information to contribute individually to the consultation here.

Don’t miss this chance – please make sure your voice is heard.

As well as individual union activity, the GCU Combined Union Committee will be considering a joint submission to both our own Court (before it puts in the university’s ‘corporate’ view), and to the Scottish government. If you have any points on this, please contact either your individual union or Nick McKerral, chair of the CUC.