GCU Students support UCU’s industrial action

Students Association logo

The University and College Union at GCU today welcomed the statement of support from GCU students regarding the forthcoming industrial action 25th – 29th November and 2nd – 4th December.

The statement from the GCU Student officers is reproduced here:

GCU employees who are members of the University and Colleges Union (UCU) have voted to go on strike between the 25th and 29th November and the 2nd to 4th December 2019 and take action short of a strike.

UCU members are taking industrial action on pay, gender pay gap, contract casualisation and excessive workloads. Research from the UCU has shown that across the university sector, more than half of academics are employed on precarious contracts, pay has fallen by at least 7% in the last 10 years and there is a 15.9% gender pay gap.

GCU Students’ Association fully supports the reasons behind this industrial action. We will back our GCU colleagues who have been forced to take this difficult decision for strike action for which they do not get paid.

Whilst the GCU campus will remain open throughout, we recognise that the industrial action will have an impact for students, for example it may lead to classes being cancelled, reduced access to learning materials or delays to assessments being marked. We will represent you to minimise any negative repercussions to your assessments and exams. We will be lobbying the University to ensure you are not examined on topics which are not covered due to lectures or seminars being cancelled. Additionally, we will be asking the University to change assessment deadlines set during the period of industrial action, where striking lecturers may be uncontactable.

We will be lobbying the University to raise the concerns of staff to the University & Colleges Employers’ Association (UCEA), who negotiates the national pay increase on behalf of the universities, so that we can avoid this industrial action and disruption to GCU students’ learning.

This may be a challenging few weeks, however, we must stand by our lecturers and all other university staff taking part in the strikes. Their working conditions are our learning conditions.

We will work hard to keep you updated on the industrial action, providing information from both the University and the UCU.

Eilidh Fulton, Student President
Moses Apiliga, Vice President GSBS
Bethany Stevenson, Vice President SHLS
Susan Docherty, Vice President SCEBE

Further Information:

https://www.ucu.org.uk/studentvoice

https://www.ucu.org.uk/he2019

https://ucucaledonian.com

www.nusconnect.org.uk/articles/ucu-and-nus-statement

Why we will be on strike from November 25th

img_5050.jpegAll members of GCU staff who are members of the University and College Union (UCU) will be on strike through the whole of week 10 (Monday 25th – Friday 29th November), and then Monday 2nd December – Wednesday 4th December in Week 11.

This means that we will not be giving lectures, seminars, tutorials or workshops. Neither will we be working in admin and professional services, nor helping with Graduation on Tuesday and Wednesday 26th and 27th November.

We do not take this action lightly – we see our job as helping students gain the maximum from their time at university and achieving their best possible while here.

But we feel we have no option but to ‘withdraw our labour’ due to our treatment by UCEA – the University and College Employers Association.

Every year we negotiate on behalf of our members with UCEA, asking for a wage level which will not cut our living standards, and for progress to close the gender pay gap between women and men in the sector, and work towards eliminating the pay gap which exists for Black and Ethnic Minority staff. We also want action to ensure that our members have proper contracts and are not teaching or giving services to students while on temporary or casualised contracts. The so-called ‘gig economy’ is bad news for everyone involved in it, and we don’t want it to spread further into universities.

Finally we believe the vast majority of staff have excessive workloads – we work well beyond the hours we are contracted to do, and therefore until this is eliminated we are asking for this to be recognised and recompensed.

Instead of offering a wage increase that would keep up with the cost of living (Retail Price Index) and make up some of the losses over the last 5 years, the universities instead imposed a pay settlement (of 1.8%) which means a lowering of our living standards in real terms. Nothing was done on our other requests either.

Following this our union said:

The final offer will mean another year of pay cuts for higher education staff. Pay in the sector has been considerably eroded, while workloads and (capital expenditure) have increased.

The final offer will also mean that the gender pay gap in higher education remains at around 12%, which is far greater than in the wider economy and the rest of the public sector. The offer fails to address the urgent action needed to address the intersectional issues that create the gender and race pay gap.

The final offer does not meaningfully address widespread precarious and casual employment within the sector in the form of any attempt at reaching a UK level agreement.

The final offer does not make a payment for partial compensation for the significant unpaid and unrewarded work undertaken by staff in higher education over recent years.

Here is a short video putting the relevant points from one of our negotiatiors

How you can help.

The GCU students union has put out a very welcome message of support to us.

You can also ask our university management to contact UCEA and ask them to improve the ‘settlement’ they imposed on us.

For details of how to do this go here: https://www.ucu.org.uk/studentvoice

We want to be back at work. We want to continue helping students gain a great education – but we are being pushed too far.

Catholic Chaplain not to return to GCU

UCU@GCU welcomes the post from university management this afternoon, that ‘following due consultation’, Father Mark Morris, erstwhile Catholic Chaplain at GCU, will not be returning to his chaplaincy role at GCU:

The university statement is below:

Yesterday the Universityexpressed “extreme disappointment” on learning our Catholic chaplain Father Mark Morris had held a service at his parish church to atone for the “gross offence” of Pride Glasgow. Today UniversityPrincipal, Prof Pamela Gillies CBE FRSE, said

“Following due consultation, Father Mark Morris will not return to his chaplaincy role at the Universityin September. The Universitywill work with the Archdiocese of Glasgowto ensure the continued provision of chaplaincy support for students and staff at our Faith and Belief Centre when the new term starts.

The Universityis strongly inclusive and committed to supporting equality and diversity on campus.”

No place for bigotry at GCU says UCU

 

 

 

 

Following the news today that the GCU Catholic chaplain held a mass ‘for the gross offence to God which is Pride Glasgow’ (link to evening times article: http://www.eveningtimes.co.uk/news/16359297.glasgow-caledonian-university-chaplain-holds-mass-for-gross-offence-of-pride/ )  the GCU branch of UCU calls for clear and decisive action from the University.

The actions of the chaplain amount to homophobic hate speech and undermines the equality and diversity that we as a university should strive for. Universities should be safe spaces for people regardless of their gender, race, or sexual orientation. We cannot be complicit in silence when 14% of LGBT young people say they have experienced bullying at university, of whom 94% report this affected their mental health and 64% their educational attainment (LGBT Youth Scotland, 2017).

We are pleased with the positive support given to Pride by our university, and its staff and students,  and are aware that university management have expressed profound dismay at how the positivity of the university’s involvement in Pride could be undermined for staff and students by the actions of the chaplain.

Our branch believes that the actions of the chaplain are in total contradiction to the dignity at work and study policy of Glasgow Caledonian University that apply to all students, staff, governors, contractors and visitors, and which establish a commitment which states:

A positive working and learning environment which supports dignity at work and study is vital to the success of the University. Therefore, we will take a Zero Tolerance approach to any form of unlawful discrimination, including harassment, victimisation, racism, sexism, homophobia, and any other unacceptable behaviour. Dignity and respect should underpin our day to day behaviours, and everyone has rights and responsibilities under this Policy.

In the light of the above the GCU branch of UCU expects this ZeroTolerance approach to be enforced and thus calls for the dismissal of the chaplain with immediate effect. No one who engages in or endorses hate speech can possibly reflect the values for the Common Good that our university seeks to promote. It is therefore crucial that the leadership of our university takes necessary action in order to uphold the reputation of Glasgow Caledonian University as an inclusive environment that celebrates the equality and diversity that Pride Glasgow represents.

UCU members now working to contract throughout UK

Work to contract_lunchFollowing up from our last two blog posts reporting on local action including the excellent Glasgow media coverage, the UCU has a page reporting all the activity https://www.ucu.org.uk/UCU-HE-strike-live

And now we move to action short of a strike by working to contracthttps://www.ucu.org.uk/heactionfaqs sets this out as:

  • performing no additional voluntary duties, such as out of hours cover, covering for colleagues (unless such cover is contractually required), or attending open days etc.
  • setting and marking no work beyond that work which you are contractually obliged to set and/or mark or which you are competent to do
  • attend no meetings where such attendance is voluntary on your part
  • undertake no duties that breach statutory guidance, health and safety policies or other significant employer’s policies.

Hours of Work
UCU has told GCU management that we have called ‘action short of a strike’ in the form of ‘not working in excess of the maximum number of hours stipulated in the affected employees’ contract of employment, or, where no maximum number of hours is stipulated, 37 hours per week (or such lesser number of hours as the case may be).’

What this means is that you should work no more than the maximum number of hours stipulated in your contract, or, where the contract is silent on the maximum number of hours, 37 hours in any normal working week. In a shorter working week, eg, a week in which there is a bank holiday, or you are on strike or lawfully at work for less than a week (eg, you are on holiday or you work a fraction of a full time post) the union asks that you work the appropriate fraction of the normal working week. Read more at https://www.ucu.org.uk/heactionfaqs

External Examining
UCU is appealing to members to resign positions as External Examiners – there is a collective letter in the Guardian that members might wish to read:
http://www.theguardian.com/education/2016/may/26/why-we-are-resigning-as-external-examiners, again the FAQ has more details. https://www.ucu.org.uk/heaction_externalexaminers

As ever, UCU@GCU will be encouraging members to take lunch breaks, leave on time and reclaim the weekend. It’s a bank holiday weekend coming up and the forecast is for sun, so perhaps you can make a start on the weeding or simply pot up some basil seeds for your windowsill. There’s plenty of outdoor activities going on around the Glasgow area as well as theatre, exhibitions and events, including the Southside Fringe Festival.  You can start planning your weekends from here: http://www.whatsonglasgow.co.uk/  Use the #fairpayinhe twitter hashtag to keep us up to date with what you’re doing instead of working all those extra hours you always do.

Members may find this page useful as a clear statement of the issues in our current dispute https://www.ucu.org.uk/fair-deal-for-HE

Thanks again for the support for your union, your colleagues and the future of HE

Second day of successful industrial action

Staff believe in the common good - but this means their concerns need taken seriously

UCU members  believe in the common good – but this means staff concerns need taken seriously

Starting with Dolly Parton’s ‘Nine to Five’ – surely a workload issue – and finishing rather ironically with Sinatra’s ‘New York, New York,’ our spotify playlist (entitled IndustrialAction2016) provided a very suitable backdrop to the varied discussions we held on the picket line on day 2 of our current industrial action. Focussing today on casualised contracts, our helium balloons targeted zero hours and again got an appreciative response from passing cars.

Zero second version

Pickets as they began to arrive were welcomed with ‘No to Zero’ demands

Despite it being the second consecutive day of action, the picket was again well attended and by 9 a.m. covered both main gates.

Early buildup2

Our postgrad members were very active again from early morning.

Postgradcrop

Again our postgrads were clear on the need to end casualised contracts

One of the discussions on the picket line was of course whether or not the current offer made by UCEA was reasonable. An ‘unscientific’ snap poll was held on union members’ views. They preferred not to vocalise their opinions, but your intrepid reporter was held in no doubt……

IMG_6992

Asked what they thought of the 1.1% ‘offer’ their unvoiced opinions weren’t hard to discern..

We were pleased to welcome Natalie as a new member of UCU. A PhD student at GCU, she baulked at the idea of crossing a picket line, so solved the problem by joining on the spot – then staying to support us.

Welcome Natalie - one of several to join during the industrial action

Welcome to Natalie – one of several to join during the industrial action

As editions of the Glasgow Herald, and then the Evening Times hit the picket line we were also glad to see that our VP Catriona Mowat, had made the front page of the Herald, and our President Douglas Chalmers (talking as President of UCU Scotland), had also featured prominently in the Evening Times.

Catriona 3

Fantastic Front page coverage for our VP UCU@GCU

And in the Evening Times:

Douglas in Evening Times

Douglas has pledged to get a union t-shirt in future in an effort to move from page 5 to page 1 in the printed press.

At the end of the picket, a spokesperson from the branch committee thanked all those attending, and reminded everyone that the UCU would be issuing guidelines to members about their ‘working to contract’ position, which was now operative from the 25th May.

Thanks for your support on strike day 1!

Tent1Local UCU president Douglas Chalmers writes:

Although there was no doubt about the serious issues at stake, there was a carnival atmosphere on the picket line at GCU today, with inflatable balloons representing the gender pay gap, cupcakes, music, plus our usual gazebo, and of course, our incredibly talented members.

Cupcakes comparison (larger ones for males, smaller for females - like our salaries)

Cupcakes comparison (larger ones for males, smaller for females – like our salaries)

In what was acknowledged as the best turn out in recent disputes, all the gates were covered, including incoming vehicles whose drivers were spoken to.

Making the point on the gender pay gap

Making the point on the gender pay gap

We got tremendous support from other unions, including speakers at our gate side rally, and also support from the officers of the Students Association.

Reps of the GCU Students Association joined our picket line and spoke at our gate-side rally

Reps of the GCU Students Association joined our picket line and spoke at our gate-side rally

Members of the UCU Postgrad community were also out arguing for the end of casualised contracts.

A growing number of postgrads have joined UCU recently at GCU

A growing number of postgrads have joined UCU recently at GCU

A member of the GCU security team was sent down to speak to us following a ‘phone call from the Britannia Building’ informing us that  “if we didn’t turn the music down ‘the polis would be called.”

Fortunately better sense prevailed and no polis appeared, (but with  that the chance for a brilliant photo-shoot also disappeared).

More welcome on the picket line however, was one of the chefs from the kitchen delivering hot rolls commissioned and paid for by Unison@GCU.

The hot rolls arrived courtesy of Unison

The hot rolls arrived courtesy of Unison@GCU

The picnic atmosphere continued

The picnic atmosphere continued

Passing cars signalled their support and were acknowledged by our picketers

Car supporters were always acknowledged

Car supporters were always acknowledged

and following the end of activities at noon, there was a sizeable contingent from GCU UCU who joined staff from Glasgow university, Strathclyde, College of Art, and UWS. Speakers at the rally were myself for UCU Scotland, Helen Martin from the STUC, Rob Henthorne from NUS Scotland, Anna Ritchie-Allan from Close the Gap. Messages of support were also sent from Unite, EIS and others.

A well attended rally at Adelaides discussed the issues

A well attended rally at Adelaides discussed the issues

A new generation of pickets has been born…..

Scooter picket was a prominent supporter

Scooter picket was a prominent supporter

Adelaide’s was packed…

Adelaide needed more chairs added

We needed more chairs at Adelaide

Carnival3

The weather kept up

The sun even came out for us

The sun even came out for us – and scooters

And it was a great atmosphere all round.

GatesIn the next couple of days, a fuller photo record will be put up on our Flickr site