Tag Archives: Scotland’s Future

Co-hosting a divisive speech by the Prime Minister – a misreading of our role in society say GCU Unions

Glasgow Caledonian, not Glasgow Cameronian University

Glasgow Caledonian, not Glasgow Cameronian University

Campus trade unions expressed their extreme concern today at the University’s decision to co-host an event  in the London Velodrome together with the British government, where David Cameron used his office as Prime minister to set out his case against independence. Widely trailed on the BBC and other broadcasters the day before as a major intervention by the Prime Minister into the independence debate, Court members were only informed the night before the event,  that the speech – promoted as a ‘business development’ opportunity – would even take place.

Following public criticism of the university’s action by social media commentators Derek Bateman and from pro independence website NewsnetScotland, the GCU student VP Education and the Daily Record, the university subsequently issued a statement explaining its actions, including its inability to give notice due to ‘an embargo imposed by the Prime Minister’s office in the light of security issues’

According to the Campus Unions who issued the attached statement today, they had been ‘inundated with messages of disbelief’ from members of staff’ about the decision to co-host the event. Amongst the points made by the joint unions were: ‘This was not an academic seminar on the benefits held on the University Campus. This was not a debate on the upcoming referendum. This was David Cameron MP setting out his case against independence using his office as Prime Minister – the speech was published by the Cabinet Office’. 

The statement goes on to say: ‘Independence is a contentious issue in Scotland. Amongst the unions and workers at Glasgow Caledonian University there are mixed views on how people should vote in September. One of our unions, the UCU actually organised a debate amongst their members on the referendum this week.’

The campus unions have put a number of questions to university management regarding the decision to co-host this event, and the prominent use of the university image. They have also sought more information on the ‘Global Leadership Seminars’ and their future, and also on the associated costs of the Velodrome event.

In a communication to the joint unions, the university’s head of communications Charles McGhee has re-iterated that ‘The University has publicly stated that it will continue to maintain a neutral stance on the referendum and other political issues. However, GCU encourages open and robust debate on a wide range of issues and sees it as part of its role to help facilitate such discussions’.

The combined unions and the staff they represent will be watching this space closely to see exactly how such discussion facilitation will proceed in the immediate future in order to regain the perception that Glasgow Caledonian does take a neutral stance – something which would not be the public view at the moment.

Student ‘Teach-Out’ on independence a success at GCU

The debate on the independence referendum was a good natured success

The debate on the independence referendum was a good natured success

Part of the UCU’s latest 2 hour strike on February 10th saw a ‘teach-out’ hosted in the students association building of GCU where the staff and students present listened to opposing cases for a ‘Yes’ vote and a ‘No’ vote in the referendum.

Ably chaired by Steward Davidson from Social Sciences, both speakers claimed they had won, though unlike in September to come, no vote was taken.

Feb10Gate activity

As at previous events, a good turnout of pickets in the morning

Earlier some active picket line activity at the gate had seen the distribution of a special leaflet explaining our action and inviting students to come along to the discussion later that morning.

Those at the debate suggested that this had been a valuable addition to the activity of the branch and suggested that similar activity might be carried out in future.

Balloons at the ready before the picket

Balloons at the ready before the picket

Strike time ‘teach-out’ for students (and staff) at GCU during industrial action

Using strike time positively to help student understanding of contemporary issues

Using strike time positively to help student understanding of contemporary issues

Monday 10th February’s 2 hour strike will be used imaginatively by UCU members to host a debate on the issues raised by the forthcoming referendum.  Although the UCU’s position is neutral on the outcome of the referendum, save for values and policies they demand are upheld whatever the outcome – as seen in their manifesto, it was suggested that it could be useful to explore the various options.

Meanwhile staff were extremely surprised to see the GCU logo being used to publicise a speech against independence made by David Cameron. This identification of the university  with one side or other of the debate has been commented on by several people including ex BBC news anchor Derek Bateman, the pro-independence website Newsnetscotland, and also by the GCU Student VP Education in his blog.

It is expected that the GCU trade unions will discuss the implications of this for the reputation and standing of the university with management in the coming days.

Meanwhile please attend our ‘Teach-out’ in the Students Association building, and also – if you are a student, the GCU Students Association referendum-themed panel discussion focusing on education and youth employment on Thursday 20th February (more info and sign up here)

Please support the UCU strike 9 – 11 am Monday 10th November, and attend the ‘Teach-out’ in the Students association building from 10am till 11am.

Universities can afford to pay up say GCU unions

Photo for blog Dec 2013On 28 October, the Scottish Government announced that it was allocating £1.061 billion to Scottish Universities, a rise of £19 million from the planned budget for 2013/14.2

The latest available analysis by EIS showed that by 2011-12, Scottish universities had accumulated an operating surplus of almost £85 million between them, up from £15 million in 2008-9.3 The Scottish Funding Council also notes that this figure takes into account exceptional costs related to restructure and that the underlying surplus is £91.4 million, compared with a sector forecast of £70 million. They also held reserves of £2,497,677,000.4

A spokesperson for the combined unions at GCU said:  ‘What we are asking for is a modest and affordable pay rise to reward those who are the backbone of our current education system and who have made universities like Glasgow Caledonian the success story they are today.’

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

The Higher Education sector is no place for profit seekers says UCU

UCU today cautiously welcomed news in the budget that the government has decided against allowing for-profit providers of higher education VAT exemption.

UCU led the campaign against the move and wrote to the minister for universities and science, David Willetts, asking him to block any moves to grant for-profit providers of education exemption from VAT.

The union argued that VAT exemption should not be granted to companies whose primary mission is to reward shareholders, rather than the provision of education. The union’s concerns were shared by the business, innovation and skills committee, who repeatedly questioned ministers on how a VAT cut for for-profit companies would affect the health of the sector.

Under current rules, universities and colleges are exempt from paying VAT on education services they provide because of their not-for-profit status. Today’s budget suggests that privilege will not be extended to for-profit education providers.

UCU general secretary, Sally Hunt, said: ‘The government must not allow companies seeking to make profit out of higher education access to a VAT break and we are pleased today’s budget appears to back our call.

‘We don’t doubt people looking to make a quick buck out of our higher education system will continue to circle the sector, but giving them tax breaks does not create a level-playing field as some have argued. Any tax breaks, on top of their ability to raise capital from the markets, could lead to established universities being undercut by for-profits delivering only courses likely to make them money.’

Dr Douglas Chalmers, Vice President elect of UCU Scotland also welcomed this move saying: “Our view is that there is too much marketisation of Higher Education already and for-profit providers will only exacerbate the situation further, by seeking to pick off lucrative areas within Higher Education and leaving the public sector to pick up the pieces. Our view is – Higher Education is not Business as Usual – it’s different and needs to stay different. It gives all the more reason that the knowledge economy campaign ought to be supported “

UCU Updates

UCU calls for a YES vote

UCU Pay Update – Industrial Action Ballot

Following the consultative on-line survey of members, and with the employers unwilling to negotiate on a joint union pay claim it has been decided that UCU will ballot members nationally on possible industrial action over pay. The employers offer remains 1% which does nothing to address current cost of living rises or the real terms pay cuts brought about by 4 years of below inflation rises. Other campus unions, such as EIS and UNISON, are also balloting members on action over pay.
You should be receiving your ballot paper over the next few days. Please use your vote and make sure that your view is heard. For background figures on the dispute see here For a leaflet explaining our position in 5 easy points – see here

Survey on Performance Management in HE – let them know what you think of PDAR

Members are encouraged to participate in the Cranfield University survey, which forms part of a research project on workforce management. The study is anonymous and takes about 15 minutes to complete.

You can find it here

The STUC is calling for all union support

A Future That Works, March and Rally, Saturday 20 October 2012, Glasgow – Stewarding Arrangements

The STUC is currently considering stewarding arrangements for the march and rally on the 20 October. Glasgow City Council’s protocol for parades and processions stated that there should be 1 steward for every 10 participants in the march. In order to meet the demand STUC is asking that affiliates provide a number of stewards dependent on the size of their membership and UCU at GCU has been asked to provide help.
If you are willing to be a UCU steward for this event, please email Eleanor McGowan emcgowan@ucu.org.uk with your name and contact details.

Education Minister pledges to work in partnership with UCU

Mike Russell, Education Minister, addressed UCU Congress on a range of issues and answered questions on various topics including GCU London

The UCU Scottish Congress took place in Edinburgh on March 23rd with full involvement of representatives from GCU and with a keynote address given by Education Minister Mike Russell.

In contrast to last year’s Congress when GCU members spoke, but did not present motions, almost one third of the motions at Congress this year were from the GCU branch with all GCU motions passed unanimously after a vigorous debate. These were on University Governance, GCU London, INTO, and on the implications of the GCU Staff survey.

Branch reps also took full part in the debates on Scotland’s Constitutional Future, and also on an emergency motion on the next steps in the fight to save all our pensions. John Biggam, branch Health and Safety rep, also introduced and led a session on Health and Safety at work.
The branch mounted an exhibition showing the posters, leaflets, and other materials produced over the past year, and also had a iPhoto slideshow of the years activity.

Opening Congress, a keynote speech was given by Mike Russell, the Education Minister, who announced he was keen on strong partnership working with the UCU and others. Amongst the points that Mike Russell put to congress, was the government’s belief that the existing four year degree was not a weakness, but a strength, and had to remain the cornerstone of what the Government offered.

He also addressed Congress on a range of issues, and answered questions on various topics including GCU London.
On Governance, the minister announced broad support for the two recent reviews which he wanted to take forward, so that Governance was ‘Fit for purpose, accountable, and where Governors fulfilled their roles. When questioned on conditions at ‘satellite’ institutions linked to Scottish based universities, he declared that he would expect Scottish universities to be ‘a beacon of equality and good treatment, in terms of conditions at these institutions’.

A copy of the Glasgow Caledonian UCU bulletin about the congress can be downloaded here.