The results from the USS ballot are in

Over 83% of staff voted YES to taking strike action and action short of a strike, which is a sign of the strength of feeling in the branch about this issue. 

However, Queen Mary UCU’s turnout was 46.4%. As you will know, UK anti-trade union law requires above a 50% turnout for strike action to proceed, so at this stage the branch is unable to join any national industrial action campaign. This, however, does not mean the end of our struggle.

Only 33 more votes would be needed to put the branch over 50%, and only 19 fewer staff voted in this ballot than in the equivalent ballot in 2019. This is despite the fact that the balloting period was only 2 weeks long (compared to 8 weeks in 2019), and took place amidst the ongoing disruption of the pandemic. We were very close to getting over the threshold and there is nothing stopping us from reaching those extra 33 people if we reballot. 

37 out of a total of 68 USS branches across the country have reached the required threshold. A further 22 were, like Queen Mary, very close. If these branches reballot, it is likely that a large number will be able to take part in significant strike action. Jo Grady, the General Secretary of UCU, has recommended that reballots are held before the extended strike action is called, so that as many branches could participate in the strike as possible. 

We will discuss these matters in the upcoming branch meeting held on Monday 8th November at 1pm. In the meeting we will decide four things:

  1. If we should reballot at QMUL
  2. What could be done to improve turnout in future
  3. What should happen at a national level while any reballoting takes place. 
  4. Who to send to the Branch Delegates’ Meeting as a representative from QMUCU. The Branch Delegates’ Meeting will happen on the 12th November in the morning before the Higher Education Committee (HEC), which will decide how UCU will proceed with industrial action. Each branch can send one delegate to the USS Pensions dispute and another to the Four Fights dispute meeting. 

The Zoom link to the branch meeting taking place on Monday 8th November at 1pm were was sent to your email today.

In sum, the fight is not over. We can reballot. We can and will win.

Balloting on the USS Pensions and Four Fights disputes has started!

Here are some key dates to remember. We have also updated our Calendar to guide you through the process.

  • Monday 18th October: Balloting starts.
  • Friday 22nd October: if you haven’t received your ballot by Friday, then starting from this day you can request a replacement ballot through an online form.
  • Thursday 28th October (5pm): this will be your last chance to request a replacement ballot via an online form.
  • Tuesday 2nd November: the recommended last day to send in your ballots so that they reach Civica before the ballot closes.
  • Thursday 4th November (12 midday): the ballot closes.

There is also a QMUCU action committee that is meeting every Thursday at 10am on Zoom. This committee consists of active QMUCU members who are helping the Get Out The Vote campaign, preparing communications and media about the disputes to students and staff and are getting Queen Mary strike ready. The Zoom link was sent to your email last Wednesday (13th October) with the title: Get The Vote Out – here’s what you can do.

We need over 50% of QMUCU members to turn in their ballots in order for the vote to be effective. There are lots that you can do to make that happen.

  • Talk to at least 10 colleagues and remind them to vote (and get those 10 colleagues to pledge to do the same)
  • Become a departmental rep or help in some other way to get the vote out across your university. We currently need departmental reps in nearly all Schools, Institutions and Professional Services Departments.
  • Organise a departmental meeting to discuss the upcoming strikes and how to make sure everybody returns their ballots.
  • Make your participation in the dispute(s) visible by changing your profile pictures on social media and using our other campaign resources
  • Talk to non-union colleagues and students about why you are taking action. Employers will do their best to paint you as unreasonable, when they are the ones who are choosing to invest less in their staff and can afford to make an offer that would avoid industrial action.

If you want to save your pension and improve your working conditions at QMUL, the only way forward is to demonstrate our strength as a union and vote YES on both of the ballots.

Letter to Colin Bailey regarding the potential industrial action

The QMUCU Branch Chair has sent Colin Bailey, the Principal of Queen Mary University of London a letter regarding the potential industrial action.


Dear Professor Bailey,

We are writing on behalf of academic and academic-related staff at Queen Mary University of London regarding the possibility of industrial action this academic year.

As you know, UCU has begun the process of balloting its members for strike action and action short of a strike. This is in response to the drastic and unnecessary cuts to staff pensions recently forced through by employers and the connected crises of falling pay, persistent pay inequality, job insecurity, and rising workloads.

Staff at Queen Mary have previously voted in record numbers to take strike action over these issues. Our branch is also preparing a significant effort to get the vote out in the forthcoming ballot. However, a decision to take industrial action is never taken lightly. It has the potential to cause serious disruption to the university, including to both staff and students, which we would prefer to avoid.

We are therefore writing to call on you in your role as President and Principal of Queen Mary University of London to use your position of influence to help avoid these strikes. Queen Mary is a major employer in the higher education sector. You could therefore have a significant role in encouraging both UUK and UCEA to adopt a more reasonable position.

UCU’s national representatives stand ready to negotiate at any time over the issues behind these disputes, but so far employers have refused to engage in further talks. You can help avert the disruption of industrial action by calling on your counterparts to change their intransigent approach and meet our negotiators with acceptable proposals.

It is also regrettable that no talks have taken place at a local level between yourself and trade union representatives to discuss these issues. We would like to make it clear that we remain prepared to meet with you at any time for this purpose, and we take this opportunity to extend the offer of a meeting in the coming weeks to discuss these matters and try to find common ground.

Below, we have summarised the key issues for staff at Queen Mary in these disputes and highlighted what you could do to resolve them.

Pensions

The pensions cuts recently voted through by employers would represent the fourth consecutive cut to staff pensions since 2011. Under these proposals, a typical lecturer aged 37 would lose 35% of their guaranteed retirement income. The cuts will also disproportionately impact upon younger members of staff and on women because on average they have higher life expectancies.

These cuts are also unnecessary. They are based on a valuation taken in the middle of the 2020 stock market crash from which the scheme has now more than recovered. The valuation itself is also based on flawed and opaque assumptions which do not stand up to detailed scrutiny. The pension scheme as a whole is in need of serious reform: it is unaccountable to its members and suffers from major governance issues.

The dispute over pensions can easily be resolved if employers (a) agree to accept the detailed counter-proposals put forward by UCU, which would require the same level of employer covenant support as those put forward by UUK; and (b) call for a new, more rigorous valuation to be carried out of the scheme as of 31st March 2021.

Pay, equality, workload, and casualisation

Pay and conditions in UK higher education have been in decline for a number of years, but they have reached crisis point during the pandemic.

Since 2009, the cumulative decline in pay (compared to RPI) is 17.6%, and this has been even higher for our staff in London. In 2020, employers proposed a 0.0% pay “increase”, and this year have only offered 1.5% at a time when inflation is running at 3% and projected to rise.

Gender and race pay gaps continue to characterise the pay structure at UK universities, including at Queen Mary. As you know, the most recent figures indicate that the mean gender pay gap at Queen Mary is 17% (an increase from the previous year) and the mean race pay gap is 19.4% (only a small decrease from the previous year). Part of the answer to this problem has to be pay restraint at the top: by July 2020, the number of staff earning over £100k at Queen Mary had roughly doubled since 2017, and senior management salary costs had increased by 24% to over £2.2 million.

Another of the major causes of pay inequality is casualisation, which is a systemic problem across the sector and at Queen Mary. Women and people of colour work disproportionately in part-time positions at Queen Mary. These roles are often fixed-term, insecure, poorly paid, and with limited prospects of career progression. This job insecurity has a severe impact on their livelihoods, their families, and their mental health. Over the summer of 2020, at the height of the pandemic, many valued colleagues in these positions lost their jobs because the university implemented a recruitment freeze and refused to renew their contracts.

Staff workload is also at unsustainable levels. In an external report commissioned by Queen Mary in 2018, 40% of staff were already reporting in a survey that they were unable to manage their workloads. The problem has increased severely during the pandemic, when the loss of staff and the demands of shifting to online teaching, working at home and on a socially-distanced campus caused workloads to skyrocket. The problem shows signs of worsening still. In 2021, the university exceeded its undergraduate student targets by 21% without anything like a commensurate increase in staff numbers.

The joint unions have laid out detailed proposals to address all these issues, but so far employers have refused to make any improved offer. Thanks to the hard work of staff, Queen Mary is in a strong financial position. In July 2020, the university deposited almost £37 million into its accounts, bringing the total balance to almost £100 million. You can therefore easily afford to meet the costs of protecting pensions and improving pay and conditions for staff.

Regards,
Dr. James Eastwood

QMUCU Branch Chair
on behalf of QMUCU Branch Committee.

FAQs about the upcoming ballots over taking industrial action

What is UCU demanding from employers on the USS pensions dispute?

UCU has made two key demands from employers in order to resolve the dispute, as detailed in the dispute letter sent to the Principal:

1. An agreement to revoke UUK’s proposed cuts to the Defined Benefit pension that were approved by JNC [Joint Negotiating Committee] resolution on the 31 August 2021, and not to replace them with any alternative set of changes to benefits and/or increases in member contributions, unless this replacement has the agreement of UCU. 

2. A public call on USS to issue an evidence-based, moderately prudent valuation of the financial health of the scheme as at 31 March 2021.

What alternative proposals would UCU accept? What does a win look like?

UCU put forward a set of counter-proposals in advance of the JNC meeting on 31st August 2021, which were intended as a short-term solution to the situation so that a new, more rigorous valuation of the pension scheme can be conducted. These would have required the same level of employer support as those put forward by UUK, but they were rejected. You can see an outline of the counter-proposals and how they compare with the UUK proposals here. You can also read about the key principles behind UCU’s negotiating position here

In brief, the principles are:

  • a good pension for members with a high level of security and an end to the cuts that have taken place at every valuation since 2011;
  • a mechanism that allows for lower paid staff to pay lower contributions, but keep the same level of security for their retirement benefits as everyone else;
  • an explicit commitment from employers to stay in the scheme for the long term and push for governance reforms that build trust in the way the scheme is run;
  • a solution that allows the scheme to invest in return-seeking, ethical investments;
  • we are willing to explore an approach known as ‘conditional benefits’, but only on terms acceptable to members.

What is UCU demanding in relation to pay, equality, casualisation, and workload?

Alongside other university unions, UCU has laid out a series of detailed proposals to improve pay and conditions in the sector. The key proposals include:

  • A pay uplift of £2,500 on all pay points;
  • A maximum sector wide pay ratio of 10:1;
  • Additional uplift at the lower end of the pay spine to address pay compression;
  • For the standard weekly full-time contract of employment to be 35 hours per week at all higher education institutions;
  • Ending pay injustice – meaningful, agreed action to tackle the ethnic, gender and disability pay gap;
  • Agreeing a framework to eliminate precarious employment practises and casualised contracts, including zero hours contracts, from higher education;
  • Meaningful, agreed action to address excessive workloads and unpaid work;
  • Workload models and planning which take into account COVID pandemic related changes in working practices.

How can this dispute be different from the outcomes of previous strikes?

Industrial action is the only proven method for defending pensions, pay, and conditions in the higher education sector. In the absence of this pressure, employers have shown time and again that they will continue to degrade our working conditions. 

Without the strikes of 2017-2018, there would be no defined benefits pensions left to defend today and the black box of the flawed USS valuation process would remain unchallenged. And while the dispute of 2019-2020 seemed to end without a decisive outcome, this was in large part due to the arrival of the Covid crisis. And those strikes were not without achievements either. They put pressure on employers to challenge the pensions valuation methodology, which they did publicly earlier this year. This has left employers in a weaker position to defend pension cuts. The strikes also forced the employers to enter national discussions for the first time on workload, casualisation, and pay equality – areas which they have previously refused to discuss at a national level. While the offers in these areas were insufficient, this provides a basis to build on in this dispute.

Of course, this time the campaign will need to achieve more. But the only way in which this dispute can be different is if participation is larger and stronger than before. A high ballot turnout can send a very strong signal to employers and force them to come back to the table. 

Is there an alternative to achieving these goals which doesn’t involve industrial action?

No. The employers are currently refusing to negotiate on any of the issues under dispute. And if the employers go unchallenged, the situation will only get worse. Your pension will be cut significantly and future reform will be harder to achieve. Meanwhile, on pay, employers are already consulting on abolishing national pay bargaining altogether, which could open the door to further deterioration.

What about the possibility of legal action to resolve the pensions dispute?

There are two different legal challenges currently proceeding against USS. One is being organised by UCU, on the basis of a legal opinion received as a result of the 2017-2018 dispute. The other is a more recent grassroots action organised by UCU members across the country. This recently raised over £50,000 to support its action. You can read more here. However, legal action takes time to take its course and is most effective in combination with a range of other tactics, including industrial action, lobbying, and public campaigning. In the meantime, employers are forcing through cuts to your pension now which will take effect imminently, before the outcome of any court case is known. The priority has to be to take these off the table to make room for a wider challenge to how the pension scheme is run, including through legal action.

Shouldn’t we be striking over health and safety instead?

The timing and demands of industrial action campaigns are not always a matter of our choosing. In this case, the disputes have been triggered by a serious and imminent attack on your pensions and the crisis of pay and conditions brought to light by Covid. In response to these urgent attacks, UCU members at Queen Mary voted in a meeting to pursue industrial action over these claims, and so did a national conference of representatives from branches across the country. But these disputes don’t rule out further campaigning over health and safety. Your representatives continue to push hard on these issues through public campaigning and through university committees. Moreover, a strong showing in the disputes over pensions, pay and conditions will provide an important opportunity to show management that they can’t ignore the voices of their staff. 

How will we win the support of students?

Queen Mary students have previously shown strong support and solidarity to staff on strike. The issues raised by the disputes are important to them too: staff working conditions are student learning conditions. Students want to study in a university which is more equal, where staff are better paid, and where teachers and support staff have more manageable workloads. Even during the pandemic, students have shown strong support for local disputes, such as during the campaign against redundancies at Liverpool University. There is always more that can be done to help win over students, but experience shows that this is possible.

If a strike is called will there be a strike fund and how will it be administered?

  • If a strike is called there will be national and local strike funds. 
  • As with previous industrial action, funds will be awarded to those on lowest paid and most precarious contracts as a matter of priority. 
  • The branch can also set up a way for those least financially impacted to donate to the local strike fund. 
  • Decisions about local fund-raising and fund-allocation to be made collectively with all branch members.    

Further information

UCU has prepared a FAQ document for the USS dispute.

Pensions jargon buster by Leeds UCU – the ABC of USS.

Relevant analysis and articles on USS Briefs.

Migrant workers and taking industrial action: https://www.ucu.org.uk/heaction-migrantworkers

Branch meeting happening tomorrow to discuss the upcoming UCU ballots

In the next few weeks UCU will be balloting for industrial action over pensions and the Four Fights (pay, casualisation, equality, and workload). This is in response to the employers’ recent decision to impose unnecessary and swingeing cuts to your pension and the rampant decline in your working conditions.

You are invited to a branch meeting at 1pm on Wednesday 29th September to discuss how to win this dispute. The Zoom link was sent to all members’ emails on Tuesday.

Ballot Details

The ballot will run from 18th October until 4th November. In order to win, a vote in favour of strike action on a turnout of over 50% of members at Queen Mary is needed. It is critical to organise an effective Get The Vote Out effort to secure the highest possible turnout. At the meeting, your representatives will provide an update on the state of the dispute, but most of the time will be devoted to discussing and planning how you can help to win the ballot.

Strike to Win
Winning ballots and disputes during the pandemic is achievable. This year, the University of Liverpool secured an overwhelming vote in favour of strike action on a 60% turnout. This has already forced their employer to reduce the number of proposed redundancies from 47 to 2, and the action is ongoing. Many students came out in support of staff. Elsewhere, the University of Chester secured an 80% turnout and forced their employers to back down completely.


5 Things You Can Do Now

Before the meeting next week, there are already things you can do to help win.

1. UPDATE Your Contact Information with UCU

When the ballot for industrial action opens, you will need to receive and return your vote by post. To make sure your ballot paper reaches the right place, visit My UCU online to check your details. You should also make sure that UCU has up to date information on where you work. If you don’t have a My UCU account you can easily create one here.

2. MODEL The Effect Of The Pension Cuts On Your Retirement and Share The Tool. 

UCU has created a modeller to show what the effects of the pension cuts would be on your retirement income. It will give you and your colleagues a clear picture of how much is on the line in this dispute. A typical member of the USS scheme on a £42k lecturer’s salary, aged 37, will suffer a 35% loss to the guaranteed retirement benefits which they will build up over the rest of their career.

3. TALK To Your Colleagues, Especially Those Who Are Not Union Members

The threat of industrial action is more effective the more people who are union members and willing to vote to strike. People are often most willing to listen to people they already know and trust, and a conversation with a valued colleague can sometimes go a long way. If every member each speaks to five different people, you can quickly reach every member of staff. Joining UCU is quick and easy, and is free for post-graduate researchers who teach. 

4. SIGN-UP As A Departmental Rep or Contact To Get Out The Vote  

When it comes to getting out the vote, local organisation is key. It’s so important to have members who are willing to act as a local point of contact during a ballot. They can help check who has voted, organise meetings and conversations with colleagues in their area, and help update records and membership lists to monitor turnout. If you think you can help, you can sign up by emailing the Branch Chair at james.eastwood@qmul.ac.uk.

5. DONATE To The UCU Fighting Fund and The Grassroots Legal Action Crowdfunder

For members on higher incomes or who may be on leave this year, donating is a great way to support your colleagues who are taking action. UCU operates a Fighting Fund which will be used to support members on low incomes during any industrial action. There is also a grassroots legal campaign to hold the pension scheme to account for their mismanagement. They have already raised £50,000 and will be using it to pursue rapid legal action. You can donate to their crowdfunder here.

10 Questions for Colin Bailey on Covid-19 and the return to campus

As the new term approaches, many staff have expressed concerns about campus safety and Covid-19. Some colleagues are worried about the safety of teaching spaces. Others in professional services are worried about an unnecessary return to minimum hours on campus. 

It is not always easy to raise these questions in staff meetings or with your line manager. That is why this week your representatives wrote an open letter to the Principal, Colin Bailey, with 10 key questions about campus safety and Covid-19. These questions are based directly on the concerns which you have raised in surveys, emails to reps, and branch meetings. The letter discusses face masks, ventilation, vaccinations, testing, the right of staff to refuse to enter an unsafe workplace, and contingency planning. You can read the text of the letter below. When the Principal sends a response, you will be sent a copy of his reply as soon as possible. 


Dear Professor Bailey,

As staff and students prepare for the beginning of a new academic year, we are writing to you for information and assurances regarding the safety of campus in relation to Covid-19.

Although the vaccination programme has significantly reduced the health risks posed by the pandemic, it has far from eliminated them. The Delta variant is more infectious and severe; case numbers remain high; hospitalisations are increasing; and vaccination uptake among young people, though rising, remains comparatively low. A significant number of people remain vulnerable to Covid because they cannot receive the vaccine or because they have underlying health conditions which may make it less effective. Moreover, the health and social effects of the pandemic continue to be distributed unequally by ethnicity, gender, age, class, and disability.

While many staff want to return to in-person activities, many also have questions and anxieties about how safe this will be and what arrangements will be in place to ensure this. We previously wrote to you in July with the findings of a survey we conducted of staff opinion which reflected many of these concerns. Additional questions have since arisen in response to the changing nature of the pandemic and plans for the new academic year. You can take a significant step towards reassuring staff by addressing the questions below:

  1. Will the university mandate the wearing of face masks in all shared indoor spaces, including teaching spaces?
    Wearing a face mask is one of the most basic and widely understood controls which can be implemented to control the spread of coronavirus. We now know that the virus is mostly transmitted by airborne means and that face masks have been shown to mitigate against these risks. In our survey, staff overwhelmingly said they supported a face mask mandate.
  2. Will the university increase the minimum ventilation rate for rooms in the institutional risk assessment?
    In the most recent update of the institutional risk assessment, the university removed the target to maintain ventilation rates of 10 l/s/p. We understand that rates of as low as 5 l/s/p are now being deemed acceptable across campus. SAGE and CIBSE have recommended that minimum rates should be 10 l/s/p.
  3.  Will the university share information on the recorded ventilation rates of rooms on campus?
    We understand that the university has carried out monitoring of ventilation rates in all rooms across campus. While this has resulted in generic assurances about ventilation rates, it is also important to provide room-by-room information so that staff can access this information and can take appropriate steps to protect themselves and others. On a recent visit to campus the HSE recommended the introduction of a traffic light system to share this information with staff. At the very least, up to date and comprehensive data on recorded ventilation rates in all rooms should be provided to trade union health and safety representatives. In connection with this, we would remind you of your obligations under the Safety Representatives and Safety Committees Regulations 1977.
  4. Will the university place CO2 monitors in rooms to allow staff to check that good ventilation is being achieved?
    CO2 monitors are an effective and relatively inexpensive tool for assessing ventilation. Staff can easily interpret the results and use the readings to inform their actions in improving ventilation in a given space (such as opening windows or adjusting occupancy). CO2 monitors are already being used widely in schools for this purpose.
  5. Will the university provide HEPA filters to improve air quality in rooms with ventilation rates consistently below 10 l/s/p?
    It is sometimes not possible to maintain a good ventilation rate using natural or existing mechanical ventilation. Portable HEPA filters can filter out virus-bearing particles from the air and thereby reduce the likelihood of transmission. There will be an expense associated with installing these devices, but the university has already proven it has the capacity to rapidly install mixed-mode education hardware in classrooms.
  6. Will the university implement a vaccine mandate for students?
    Vaccination remains the most powerful tool we have to deal with the pandemic, but most students were among the last age group to be offered the vaccine. Uptake remains comparatively low among younger people, and especially low in London where a large number of our students live. A majority of staff in our survey supported vaccination mandates for university students. Many major universities in the US have also successfully introduced vaccine mandates.
  7. Will the university implement a testing mandate for students on their return to campus?
    There is now a well-developed testing infrastructure in the UK, with self-testing kits widely available. Just as with many large entertainment and sporting venues and international travel, it is eminently feasible to require that students submit negative test results before returning to campus accommodation or the teaching term.
  1. Will you confirm that no staff member will suffer detriment if they do not wish to return to campus if they do not believe it is safe?
    While there is a willingness among many staff to return to campus, especially if adequate precautions are being taken, there are also some who – often due to health conditions or family circumstances, or because they are not in a student-facing role – still do not wish to do so. A forced return to campus for these staff would be very bad for morale, and would put line managers in a very difficult position. It also has the potential to amount to discrimination where the staff concerned have protected characteristics. There is a risk this could generate grievances and even employment tribunal cases. We would also remind you that, per section 44 of the Employment Rights Act 1996, workers have “the right not to be subjected to any detriment by any act, or any deliberate failure to act, by his or her employer done on the ground that […] in circumstances of danger which the worker reasonably believed to be serious and imminent and which he or she could not reasonably have been expected to avert, he or she left (or proposed to leave) or (while the danger persisted) refused to return to his or her place of work or any dangerous part of his or her place of work.”
  2. What contingency plans are in place in the event that large numbers of staff or students need to self-isolate?
    While we sincerely hope this will not come to pass, it remains possible that there could be outbreaks among our staff and student body. By law, these individuals would still need to self-isolate. If the number becomes significant, this could have a serious impact on our ability to deliver face-to-face teaching.
  3. What contingency plans are in place in the event that social distancing is reintroduced?
    In recent communications to staff you have indicated that if the pandemic worsens over the autumn and winter, it may be necessary to reintroduce social distancing. This would have a massive impact on our ability to deliver face-to-face teaching as currently timetabled and would involve immense disruption. It would also generate a significant additional workload for academic and professional services staff.

We look forward to receiving your responses to the above questions. Given the widespread interest and concern in these matters, we have circulated this letter to our members and will be sharing your response with them.

Regards,
James Eastwood
QMUCU Branch Chair, on behalf of QMUCU branch committee

Branch meeting on USS pension dispute – Wednesday 8th September 12pm

There will be a branch meeting on Wednesday at 12pm to discuss the latest developments in the USS pension scheme. The discussion will give you the opportunity to help decide the direction of the campaign to defend your pension.

Last week employers forced through savage cuts to members’ retirement income. The employers did so without even considering UCU’s alternative proposals. During the Joint Negotiation meeting, the employers refused to accept a small increase in their own contributions, while also refusing to provide the same level of employer ‘covenant support’ for UCU’s alternative proposals as they were willing to provide for their own. You can find out what the impact will be on your retirement income using this modelling tool. UCU reports that the new changes mean a typical member of the USS scheme on a £42k lecturer’s salary, aged 37, will suffer a 35% loss to the guaranteed retirement benefits. There will also be an opportunity for you to ask questions about these developments at the branch meeting on Wednesday.

The branch meeting is held ahead of the UCU Special Higher Education Sector Conference, which will discuss key strategic decisions regarding the upcoming strike action. Motions will be presented to discuss the timing of industrial action, the nature of the balloting process, and whether to link the action to the ongoing campaign over the four fights (pay, casualisation, equality, and workload). You can see a list of the detailed motions here.

As Queen Mary branch will be sending delegates to this conference to vote on these motions, the discussion on Wednesday will be used to help your delegates decide how to vote. This is your opportunity to have your say on how to defend your pension.

The meeting will be held on Zoom. You can join the meeting through the link sent to your email on Friday.

Our next Annual General Meeting will be on 8th June at 3.30pm on Zoom

Every year during our Annual General Meeting, QMUCU members come together to elect the new Branch Committee. While you can run for any position, there are several roles in the Committee which are vacant. The Covid-19 pandemic has accelerated many of the existing crises the higher education sector has been experiencing over the past years. Now more than ever, we need a strong committee filled with motivated members.

When you join the Branch Committee you will be able to access UCU training to learn about being a rep. The Branch Committee is given facilities time from the university for certain activities, which is shared by the all of the committee members. Our Branch Committee consists of many different roles. These roles do not have to be filled by one person – they can also be shared. Most of your work on the committee will be decided by yourself. There are only a few things which everyone is expected to do, such as participating in the weekly branch committee meetings and completing the UCU Rep 1 training. While some activities are covered by facilities time – such as participating in meetings with the Senior Executive Team, completing UCU training, and doing casework – being a rep is mostly a voluntary position. This means you will not be expected to do more than you are able or have time to do. The Committee members also understand that everybody’s availability may fluctuate during the year (for example if you are a casualised staff member or a PGR). If that is your situation you are still very much welcome and encouraged to stand.

Nominations are welcome from all members, experience notwithstanding, and members who identify as Black, Asian, Minority Ethnic or Global Majority are particularly encouraged to stand for positions. If you are interested to become a rep, email Chris Hurley (c.hurley@qmul.ac.uk), the branch administrator, or ucu-coordinator@qmul.ac.uk. You can also simply attend the AGM and raise your hand to nominate yourself.

The following rep positions are currently either vacant or can be shared and are open to further nominations. The role descriptions indicate what kind of tasks you might be involved with when taking up the role.

Health and Safety

  • Investigating hazards to the health, safety and wellbeing of staff
  • Representing staff in meetings and communications with management regarding health and safety matters
  • Requesting and receiving information about health and safety issues and incidents
  • Attending meetings of local safety committee and the Health and Safety Advisory Group
  • Reading and commenting on risk assessments, new health and safety policies and procedures
  • Attending relevant training in health and safety.
  • Paid time off as necessary for carrying out the above roles (this is calculated outside the regular committee facilities time)

Membership and Recruitment

  • Maintaining updated lists of membership across different departments and areas of the University
  • Updating the local QMUCU email lists
  • Exploring membership density across the University
  • Coordinating recruitment strategies and plans
  • Working with the departmental rep network to identify local issues

Pensions

  • Offer a local point of contact for any pensions concerns members have
  • Engage with local and national negotiation and consultation processes
  • Organise forums that explain any changes made to the USS Pension Scheme

Equalities

  • Promote equality with the employer by looking at issues around flexible working, absence management, discriminatory practices, equal pay, equality impact assessments

Anti-Casualisation

  • Represent staff on non-permanent and casual contracts
  • Campaigning for university wide changes to reduce Queen Mary’s reliance on casual contracts

BAPoC

  • Represent members who identify as Black, Asian or People of Colour
  • Liaise with the Anti-Racism Working Group to develop any university wide or QMUCU anti-racism policies
  • Organise anti-racism workshops or training for QM staff and students

Migrant

  • Represent members who hold a migrant status
  • Assist migrant members with any immigration issues that might arise in the workplace

Postgraduate

  • Represent members who are postgraduate students

Student Liaison

  • Liaise with QM students, student groups and the Student Union maintain communication and shared understandings on joint issues