Members of the lecturers’ trade union, the UCU, are taking action to defend the jobs, pay and conditions of employment of academic staff at the University of Brighton, and to protect the quality of education we offer.
This action has become necessary because the management of the University has refused to negotiate with us.
The dispute is about three concrete things:
The Vice Chancellor claims the University doesn't need the agreement of the UCU on these matters. This is not right. Past agreements with the recognised trade unions must be adhered to, and staff pay and conditions must continue to be subject to negotiations.
The quality of the education that students receive is at stake. Students have a right to expect that the staff taking their classes are being paid at least the minimum agreed rate for lecturers. They have the right to be taught by lecturers who are not overworked and who have sufficient time to prepare their classes and assess work.
We are appealing to students and staff who are not in the UCU to support us in our action.
Let’s keep Brighton a place where staff and students are respected, and where the quality of education comes first.
For more background to the dispute, see the Brighton UCU video
Brighton Students’ Union Brighton Students’ Union are greatly concerned for the PhD students in the school of Computing, Engineering and Mathematics and are in full support of UCU’s action to defend our members. In addition to these PhD students receiving a drastic and sudden cut in their pay; 3rd year undergraduate students have been given teaching responsibilities and this raises many questions around the quality of teaching students are receiving. The PhD students these decisions affect feel that they were not consulted on the changes and that by being demoted from lecturers to demonstrators; this is a clear indication of how little value their school have in them. We do not take this decision lightly and understand that strike action comes as a last resort, which demonstrates the anger and desperate nature of the situation faced by staff and students. The Students’ Union recognises strike action as an effective, appropriate, and legitimate method of challenging working conditions or practices that are unfair and fully supports UCU’s right to strike. We believe quality of education is affected when those staff who support us do not receive fair treatment or feel valued. Ultimately, we believe the benefit of staff who are rewarded properly for the fantastic work they do far outweighs two day’s disruption to studies. Our own research shows that students who get the most out of university both in terms of enjoyment and success do so when they are supported by enthusiastic and engaging staff.
The University of Brighton UNISON branch fully supports UCU in taking whatever action it feels is necessary to defend the terms and conditions of its members. What is at stake here is not just the three issues identified – jobs in Arts and Humanities, academic promotions and fundamental changes to contracts, but also the rights of all staff to work at an institution which maintains an effective working relationship between senior managers and the trade unions. Working people do not take strike action lightly, but the overwhelming result of UCU’s ballot for action demonstrates the depth of feeling of UCU members. As many UNISON members are telling us, the current leadership of the University are drifting to a position where confrontation and non-negotiable announcements are the norm rather than the spirit of constructive discussion, which had been the tradition at Brighton for many years. Senior managers will say that this is necessary to deal with the challenges faced by the University as a result of government policies, student numbers and funding changes. We argue that turning this institution into an education factory with more casualisation and fewer employment rights is precisely what students are not in favour of. There is an opportunity to demonstrate that Brighton can be different and can show current and potential students that its workforce is less stressed, properly rewarded and highly motivated. The anti-trade union laws, specifically designed to prevent trade-unionists from effective campaigning to support the rights of their members may have postponed the planned action, but we will do whatever we legally can to support UCU members later in the month. If UNISON members have any questions, any of our officers, stewards and reps will be happy to answer them. As always, we would encourage all members of staff who have not yet joined a union to seriously consider doing so. It is only by sticking together, and organising on a democratic basis that we can make sure that our rights at work are protected. Ivan Bonsell, on behalf of the UNISON Branch Committee
Coventry UCU We are extremely disappointed to hear about the behavior of your management in scrapping Principal Lecturers, demoting HPLs and moving towards recognizing UCU in practice. This is a very worrying development for not just Brighton UCU but the whole of UCU, as if Brighton management get away with this, then we can predict other universities following suit. At Coventry University, management have been engaging in symbolic 'discussions' with our UCU branch while doing what they wish in imposing new job roles and academic policies. Please let us know what we can do to help,
University of Leeds UCU sends full solidarity and support to our colleagues in University of Brighton UCU for their dispute over management breaches of trade union agreements and in defence of their negotiating rights, including the upcoming strikes on 20&21 March. We are deeply concerned to hear of the planned closure of the Hastings campus, and dismayed to learn of the assault by University of Brighton management on the working conditions of academic staff which is accompanied by the refusal to comply with the agreed disputes procedure after Brighton UCU invoked it in a bid to work towards a resolution. For a Vice Chancellor to announce that the University’s position is “that it does not require the agreement of the UCU in respect of these issues” is a flagrant bid to derecognise the UCU, to sideline members, and to impose deleterious conditions upon staff at the University of Brighton. We sincerely hope that the Vice Chancellor and University management reconsider their position swiftly and send full support to all University of Brighton UCU members for their strikes, noting the strength of feeling among them indicated by their very strong ballot result. Vicky Blake (@leedsucu Vice President)
London College of Fashion UCU Solidarity greetings sisters and brothers at University of Brighton. Your fight is ours too. Good luck with your strikes - unity is indeed strength! (Dr Tony Sullivan London College of Fashion UCU and UAL Co-ordinating Committee Vice-Chair)
UCU LGBT members standing committee Dear sisters and brothers at Brighton University Branch,
At a meeting of the UCU LGBT members standing committee today, Friday 31 st March 2017, it was agreed, to write to all those taking action at Brighton University to offer you our support and solidarity. As a minority group we understand your struggle and know that it is part of a bigger fight for ALL workers rights, whoever and wherever they are. Therefore please accept our support and know that we shall be watching very closely how this dispute develops, or hopefully disappears! Yours in solidarity and support, Steve Boyce, Of and for the UCU LGBT members standing committee
Chesterfield College UCU branch: On behalf of Chesterfield College UCU branch, I would like to send your members our support and solidarity for your campaign of action, starting this Friday, in your dispute with the university. Allister Mactaggart, Branch Chair, Chesterfield College UCU
Newcastle University UCU: We wish you all the best for your programme of industrial action to defend education at Brighton University. If there is anything we can do to help please do not hesitate to ask. Geoff on behalf of Newcastle University UCU
UCU St Mary's University Twickenham: Solidarity with Brighton UCU in their upcoming two-day strike action to protect union rights, terms and conditions and jobs.
Kingston University UCU Branch: Solidarity with Brighton UCU for their upcoming strike action.
Sue Abbott UCU NEC Chair of Women Members Standing Committee: I wanted to send my support and solidarity to th branch.
Liverpool John Moore's University: Comrades, Just wanted to send you our solidarity and best wishes for the strike action you are taking next week over what appear to be attempts by your management to de-recognise the UCU. The only response to aggressive and bullying management is a collective one, and we congratulate you in deciding to meet them head on. If your management are successful, I have no doubt that others across the sector will be encouraged to do the same. Faced with a fight back they will be discouraged. Please convey to your members that we believe an injury to one is an injury to all and by standing with you shoulder to shoulder (unfortunately given the 250 miles between out workplaces this won't be literal!) we can win. Please let me know if there's anything we can do to support you. In solidarity, Saira Weiner, Branch Secretary LJMU UCU
Keith Simpson UCU City, University of London Vice President: Full support comrades.
Dr Ronald Mendel, University of Northampton UCU Branch Chair On behalf of the UCU Branch here at the University of Northampton I want to express our solidarity with our brothers and sisters at Brighton University in beating back management’s attempts to erode lecturers’ terms and conditions of employment and contravene the union recognition agreement with UCU.
Dave Russell GMB B&H City Council All the best wish I could be there for support unfortunately I am tied up saving jobs or trying to hope we can help in the future solidarity to you all
Jerry Rulf Momentum and Labour membership Secretary Portslade A message of solidarity and support from me, good luck!
Mike Lammiman Vice President UCU University of Hull Best wishes in your action to maintain recognition at the University of Brighton.
Tish Naughton UCU Committee Member Bradford University A message of support from Bradford University, on behalf of UCU branch committee. We too are going through academic and support staff re-structuring which is hugely disruptive and placing jobs at risk. The threat to union recognition is a shocking step for any University to take. Willing you to prevail. If it happens at one University it will embolden other VCs. Please let staff know that other Universities are watching.
Julie Wilkinson MMU UCU Branch Secretary To all in Brighton UCU – comradely greetings from Manchester Metropolitan University UCU – and congratulations on the result of your industrial action ballot, and in getting your management to pause, in your dispute. We heard this welcome news from the General Secretary Sally Hunt herself, as she addressed our lunch-time rally today, Thursday 27th April.
The Financial Health of the University of Brighton a UCU analysis Much concern has been raised by the VC's references to challenging financial situation of the University and how staff costs contributes to this. UCU has done a bit of analysis of the figures which paint a different picture here
LCIG 4th November see here Lecturers Common Interest Group
Also see our November_2015_bulletin.docx
1) Staff Survey;
2.1 37-Hour WEEK;
2.3 Week-end working;
2.4 Additional duties;
2.5 Collective response;
2.6 Automatic e-mail reply.
1. STAFF SURVEY
The UCU and Unison have been approached by the University to collaborate with the Staff Survey as the unions' support is seen to be vital to achieving a successful response rate. Unfortunately, the University did not, on this occasion, consult the unions about the purpose or the content of the survey, and have outsourced the survey process to a private contractor. Though the survey process originated in a suggestion from the unions to the senior management some years ago about discovering the locations and causes of staff stress in the University, the survey is now being used for different ends.
In these circumstances, the UCU could not recommend participation in the survey to members even if there were no 'work-to-contract' in operation. It is not clear for what purpose the survey will be used on this occasion, it is not clear how responses to the questions will be interpreted or combined together to produce the survey results, and it is not clear what ramifications the conclusions, however reached, will have on our work, or on the University's presentation of itself both to us as employees and to the outside world.
The recommendation to members is thus to exercise due caution when considering whether to complete the survey, and the Coordinating Committee recommends that, in the circumstances, you do not complete it.
In any event, the Survey is an additional responsibility that was not discussed and agreed at your SDR meeting, is not a contractual obligation in any event (i.e. it is not part of your job), and is unlikely to be a task that you can complete in the middle of term without breaching your contractual 37 hours.
2.1 YOUR 37-HOUR WEEK
1. Work out, before the commencement of each week, how long your duties will take in that week:
• face-to-face, scheduled teaching (lectures, seminars, tutorials, laboratory practicals, studio criticisms, etc.), and add 1.5 hours for each 1 hour of student contact (which covers all preparation and marking associated with the teaching);
• all meetings, plus any requisite preparation time for reading all of the associated papers;
• all administrative duties (i.e. ALL other duties), including reference writing, liaising with colleagues over students or courses or library (or other) provision, report writing, admissions processes, student progression, etc., etc.
2. If the total exceeds 37 hours, and there is no clear possibility that this will be balanced by a 'light' week in the near future, approach your local union representative, and, with the rep, approach your Head of School to inquire which duties, that were agreed for this year in your last SDR meeting, should be prioritised. If you have not had a formal SDR meeting, then custom and practice holds (i.e. your duties are what you have standardly done for the past years).
3. If there is no agreement between you and the Head on such relief, your UCU rep will ask the Head to identify which of the week's duties you should prioritise so that those that would take you over 37 hours will have to be postponed (advise the Head that you would prefer to prioritise teaching and marking and preparation).
You will NOT be refusing to do the duties that would take you over the 37 hours but they could not be done in that week, unless future relief is identified and agreed. In any event (i.e. even with agreement) you should never exceed the 48-hour in any single week that is stipulated as a maximum by the EU Working Time Directive.
Note that you are under no obligation to do overtime, and should not accept overtime payment for the extra work.
2.3 WEEK-END WORKING
Remember that you are under no obligation to do week-end working, and should not do so, particularly as the University is now applying a punitive stoppage of 1/260th (instead of 1/365th) of annual salary for each strike day, underscoring thereby that it does not pay you to work more than 5 days per working week.
Doubtless, colleagues in some areas will be threatened, having the insecurity of their courses brandished at them, but this is simply an attempt to break the action. We should not be intimidated. There is no reason why Open Days could not be organised in the working week, and participation in them treated like any other duty (see 2 and 3 above). If we allow ourselves to be deterred from taking this action then our salaries WILL CONTINUE to decline. In those circumstances, we are, in effect, being blackmailed.
2.4 ADDITIONAL DUTIES
There are always additional demands being made on academic staff (from social meetings with students, additional training, unexpected meetings, and even surveys (see the current Staff Survey (advice above)).Colleagues are urged always to deprioritise these in favour of the teaching and research processes. It would be surprising if the University, in these circumstances, received a comparable response rate in itsStaff Survey to its previous return.
2.5 'WORK-TO-CONTRACT' AS A COLLECTIVE RESPONSE
Always seek to involve your union representative in any discussion with management about this action.
For information on Work-to-Contract from the UCU Central Office, go to: http://www.ucu.org.uk/6804
2.6 AUTOMATIC E-MAIL RESPONSE
Because you are working to contract, you may not be able to respond swiftly to e-mails from students (if you accept student e-mails) or from other colleagues in the University or elsewhere. The Coordinating Committee recommends, therefore, that you add a standard response message to your e-mail in explanation. A possible text for such a response is provided below - please amend as appropriate, or just use this one. You can insert the message using Outlook, for example, by selecting 'Options', on the top right of the screen, and then selecting 'Set Automatic Replies', and then copying the message into the TWO boxes provided.
APOLOGIES IF THERE IS A DELAY IN MY REPLY TO YOUR MESSAGE
I am currently 'working to contract' as part of the UCU industrial action for fair pay in Higher Education. As part of that action, I will be working up to my maximum contracted hours, and prioritising in them my teaching, preparation and marking commitments. I will respond to your message as soon as possible within those constraints.