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UCU Edinburgh represents academic and academic-related staff at the University of Edinburgh.  UoE grades 6-10 and postgraduates are eligible to join UCU Edinburgh.  We work with other unions on campus as part of the Joint Unions Liaison Committee

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Trans and Non-Binary Equality at the University of Edinburgh

ucuequalitybannerAt the branch AGM on 20 June 2019, the following motion was passed, building on UCU policy on trans inclusion at Scotland and UK level and committing the branch to specific practical actions.

UCU Edinburgh notes:

  • Discriminatory comments and behaviour against trans people are rife in the UK due to misconceptions around gender identity and the impact of improved trans rights.
  • According to Stonewall Scotland, 1 in 8 trans employees have been physically attacked at work, and 51 percent of trans people have hidden their identity at work for fear of discrimination; and according to Trans.edu, 86 percent of trans students and staff in Scottish HE face barriers including discrimination, harassment and violence (see e.g. www.stonewall.org.uk/sites/default/files/trans_stats.pdf and www.trans.ac.uk).
  • UCU Congress 2018 motion 31 committed UCU to support trans rights and trans equality in the workplace and oppose any moves to delay or abandon the consultation over changes to the GRA.
  • UCU Edinburgh motion passed at Scotland Congress 2019 stated: ‘It is the right of all workers, no matter their gender identity, to be safe and respected at work’.
  • Based on national (UK) estimates, there will be between 155 and 362 staff at the University of Edinburgh who are transgender.
  • UCU unequivocally supports academic freedom of speech, and we have fought for the rights of our members who are targeted by their employer or the government for their research or trade union activities.
  • UCU’s existing policy and commitment to academic freedom (https://www.ucu.org.uk/academicfreedom).

UCU Edinburgh believes:

  • All of our members have the right to exist and be recognised as the gender they themselves identify as.
  • All our members have the right to hold personal opinions.
  • Our members do not have a right to be free from criticism for these opinions, nor to be guaranteed a platform by the union to express them.
  • We should not support members in weaponising their speech to question the existence of trans and non-binary colleagues.

UCU Edinburgh resolves to:

  • Work with the student union LGBT+ liberation officers and the Staff Pride Network on creating a trans inclusive university.
  • Create a LGBT+ sub-committee within the branch.
  • Employ good practice, such as that created by STUC and UCU, to provide guidance for members on gender identity and trans inclusion in the workplace.
  • Host a workshop on gender identity and trans rights (e.g. by Scottish Trans Alliance or Trans.Edu) for interested UCU members, to counteract lack of information around trans and non-binary equality.
  • Call on the University of Edinburgh (UoE) to ensure that all events held in the name of UoE and on UoE premises are in line with the Dignity and Respect Policy and that the UoE neither host nor facilitate meetings which contain content which is transphobic, biphobic, homophobic or otherwise detrimental to the safety and wellbeing of LGBT+ staff.

 

Anti-Casualisation: A Step Forward but More to Do

Employment of Guaranteed Hours Teaching Staff and Fixed-Term Academic Staff: Statement on Agreement reached with University management

UCU members will recall that the branch submitted a claim in to the new Principal on tackling casualisation at the University of Edinburgh.

The claim was submitted in February 2018. Since then, UCU negotiators have been in talks with senior university management with regular updates on progress and obstacles encountered reported to the branch. Crucially, the UCU postgraduate and postdoctoral / anti-casualisation network have been at the centre of the decision-making process.

Campaign activities were also key in raising the profile of the appalling plight faced by many of the casualised staff, with a particularly well-attended lobby of the University Court. The student union provided moral and physical support.

A collective agreement has now been reached. This was approved by the postgraduate and postdoctoral / anti-casualisation network and formally agreed by the branch committee.

The agreement includes positive statements/progress on:

  • Guaranteed Hours staff exception rather than norm;
  • Written notification of hours in advance of starting work (expectation);
  • An agreement that Colleges and Schools should ensure that casualised staff are paid for all work they are required to do, including when such work relates to induction, required training and agreed professional development;
  • Fractional contract if someone is employed on more than an 0.2 Full Time Equivalent (FTE) basis over 2 years;
  • The right to incremental pay progression;
  • Annual reviews – including an agreed number of hours for professional development;
  • The employer and UCU agree the need to develop clear guidance regarding the management of staff on fixed-term contracts and will commit to doing so by January 2020.

There are also some areas contained in our claim where we were unable to win an immediate improvement (yet). The key areas are:

  1. Although we have a principled agreement that casualised staff should be paid for all the work they do, we were unable to get the university management to agree minimum tariffs and pay rates for various tasks. We did manage to agree new enhanced guidance to schools and agreed review (in schools).
  1. The management were unwilling to agree the end of 9/10 month contracts immediately, saying that it would take until 2020/21 to phase them out. We have continued to press this point. Members both in Edinburgh and beyond will have noted the recent public outcry over these exploitative contracts, but despite this outcry and despite the positive steps by universities such as Durham in moving all such staff to mininum 12 month contracts (with 12 months’ pay), University of Edinburgh refuses to budge on this point.

Importantly, the agreement notes that the staff covered (many of whom are early-career staff) may feel vulnerable raising issues about the amount of work they are being expected to do within their schools and that union representatives can raise these matters for individuals and that ‘collectively agreed grievance procedures may be invoked’.

Finally, it is clear that the approach taken by the branch – involving the relevant members in the content of a collective claim then submitting it formally to the university management for bi-lateral negotiations – helped bring focus to the collective bargaining process. We were clear on where we were making progress, where we were not, and by university standards made progress in a relatively speedy fashion. Implementation of the agreement will be jointly monitored by the UCU and the university management.

However, the negotiators and branch committee are clear that this is a step forward but that we feel the operation of the agreement over the next year will show that there is a still a need to address some fundamental issues with the amount of time casualised staff are paid for. One recent example of exploitation of precariously employed staff was the decision last year to move away from the school workload model for precariously employed staff in Moray House, without consulting the union, which meant a real terms pay cut for hourly paid staff in the school. UCU has raised this consistently with the employer, and our new collective agreement commits to consultation on workload models across the University.

The work of this past year is just one part of our longstanding campaign to defend members’ job security and working conditions. We have ideas for taking the campaign forward and will be discussing these with the postgraduate and postdoctoral / anti-casualisation network.

Get involved!

UCUE Statement on Respectful Dialogue and Trans Rights

A university is and must be a place where difficult and sometimes uncomfortable topics are discussed.  It is also a place where robust opposition to such events can and must be allowed to be aired.

The event, “Women’s Sex-Based Rights: what does (and should) the future hold?”, which is being hosted by the University’s Institute for Education, Teaching and Leadership is such an event which has both support and has caused concern amongst staff and students.

UCU locally, at Scotland and at UK level fully supports Transgender Rights.  Locally we have also passed a motion calling for ‘respectful dialogue on sex and gender’ .

We would like to remind everyone that the University also has a Dignity and Respect policy and a trans equality policy which UCU supports and ask that everyone treats each other with appropriate levels of dignity and respect.

General Secretary Hustings (video)

21 May 2019, with Jo McNeill and Jo Grady (Matt Waddup was unavailable to to family commitments). With apologies for sound and video quality – this had to be recorded via a laptop webcam after the technology in the room failed.

(Please note that this is temporarily hosted on a personal YouTube account so we could make it available quickly.  We’ll move it when time allows.)

NOMINATIONS NOW OPEN! UCUE COMMITTEE 19/20

Nominations are now open for UCU Edinburgh committee roles and ordinary membership. We encourage colleagues to put themselves forward for the following roles: President, Vice President, Secretary, Secretary, Treasurer, Communications, Equality and Diversity, Anti-Casualisation, Health and Safety, Casework Coordinator, Membership, Green rep, and International staff rep. The term of office is one year. Training and support for the various roles will be provided, and facility time – buy-out time or extra paid time for part-time staff – is available in varying degrees for some of the roles
(contact ucu@ed.ac.uk for specific info).
We also invite nominations for ordinary membership in the committee. The local committee can have up to twenty-four ordinary members. If you have any questions about ordinary committee membership, feel free to contact any committee member to discuss this in confidence and with no obligation, or get in touch with ucu@ed.ac.uk.
There are many sections of the University which are not represented in committee at the moment. So we particularly encourage members from the College of Medicine and Veterinary Medicine, and the College of Science of Engineering to get involved.

Completed nomination forms must be either delivered to the UCU office, 12 Buccleuch Street, or scanned and sent electronically to ucu@ed.ac.uk by 5 PM on Wednesday, May 22, 2019. You can download nomination forms by clicking on this link.

Addressing Workload At The University of Edinburgh

What are WAMs and why do they matter?

When members are asked what the branch should prioritise, workload is always one of the top responses. This year, a lot of UCUE effort has been focused on addressing the workload allocation models (WAMs) used in many parts of the University to calculate academic staff workload through attaching tariffs, expressed in hours/fractions of hours, to key activities. These tariffs can vary substantially between schools and subject areas, and in some places they’re not used at all. WAM tariffs that substantially underestimate the amount of time it takes to undertake key (usually teaching-related) tasks mean that members are allocated work that looks reasonable on paper but in reality means working far beyond contractual hours – in effect they institutionalise members being require to carry out significant amounts of unpaid work for the University.

 

How has UCUE taken this up with the University?

WAMs were a sticking point in the anti-casualisation negotiations. We pressed as hard as we could for University-wide minimum tariffs but University management insisted that this would not be possible as it would unreasonably restrict Schools’ autonomy. Instead, they agreed to update the University-wide Principles and Operational Guidance for WAMs to strengthen requirements for Schools to consult staff included in the WAM.

 

The College of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences (CAHSS)

CAHSS has been a flashpoint for WAM tariffs. An article in The Student last week explored the relationship between unrealistic WAM tariffs and the exploitation of guaranteed hours (GH) tutors. In CAHSS, tariffs for some tasks are widely (though not universally) used across Schools, and some of these are extremely problematic, especially those associated with marking. It may also be worth noting here that morale as measured in the Staff Experience Survey would seem to be lower in CAHSS than elsewhere, with satisfaction rates relating to most of the questions below other parts of the University. Regarding workload, only 43% of staff respondents in CAHSS agreed that “I am able to strike the right balance between by work and home life”: that’s 13 percentage points below the University-wide result (this figure includes professional services staff in the College who are not affected by academic WAMs). Whilst the survey did not ask specifically about WAM tariffs, there does seem to be a problem with workload across CAHSS which we can’t address with management when the tariffs appear to show that workloads are reasonable.

 

Wasn’t there a branch motion on CAHSS WAM tariffs last year?

Last June, prompted by CAHSS management imposing the CAHSS WAM on Moray House, UCUE passed a motion asking the Head of CAHSS to “set in train a full and open consultation on WAM content and tariffs, led by and involving academic staff on grades 6-10 on a variety of types of contract, and with UCU involvement”. Should the Head of College refuse to do this, UCUE resolved to “work with students, UCU Scotland and the press to develop a high-profile campaign about the effects of flawed workload modelling for students and staff”. The Head of College agreed that Moray House, the School that had prompted the motion, could delay implementing the CAHSS WAM tariffs while a consultation was carried out. The Head of Moray House subsequently set up a working group to lead the School consultation: the working group was open to anyone who wanted to join, and included staff on different types of contract and a UCUE representative. The working group ran drop-in sessions followed by a well-publicised survey that was completed by 146 academic colleagues (around 73% of academic staff in the School). The findings of the working group, and recommendations for WAM tariffs were reported to College Staffing Committee in January. That’s precisely the sort of consultation we want to see.

 

However, CAHSS College Staffing Committee didn’t accept the recommendations of the consultation, insisting that School management carry out further work without UCUE involvement. New tariffs have subsequently been set for Moray House that in many places are lower than those recommended by the consultation. The biggest discrepancy is in marking allocations. For instance, 89% of respondents said that an allocation of 0.75 hours for marking assignments of up to 4,500 words was a ‘significant underestimate and 7% said they thought it was a ‘slight underestimate’, leaving just 4% who considered it about right. Yet this tariff is going to be imposed for GH colleagues. Marking for core staff will be calculated using a per-student-per-course formula as recommended in the consultation, but with a figure that is considerably lower than that recommended by the working group. Consultation, then, seems empty when such overwhelming findings can be overridden with no apparent rationale.

 

Elsewhere in CAHSS we continue to be told by management that consultation is happening, and that information is fed by Heads of School into discussions at College Staffing Committee. This is a far cry from the “full and open consultation process” described in our motion. Meanwhile our members give us a rather different picture. In one subject area meetings have been held to discuss WAM tariffs but no minutes appear to be available. In another subject area there has been a written consultation with everyone invited to contribute, but staff were told that marking tariffs could not be discussed because they were “decided at College level”. In most subject areas members tell us they are unaware of any consultations.

 

So where are we now, and what happens next?

We believe that where WAMs are used, members want full, transparent and open consultation on the tariffs. We think that consultation findings should be implemented: we don’t think our members are lying when they say it’s impossible to mark 4,500-word assignments in three quarters of an hour, or that it takes more than an hour to prepare a seminar. And we think that University management acted in good faith when they agreed to strengthen the requirement for Schools to consult meaningfully on WAM content and tariffs, but CAHSS management’s view of “consultation” and ours seem to be very different.

 

CAHSS management have offered to meet with us again. But it’s not clear that we’ve moved at all from the position last June. Full and open consultation has only happened in one School in the College, and some of its most overwhelming results have been disregarded. No consultation, in our understanding of the word, has happened elsewhere in the College as far as we’re aware – but please do tell us if you know different. We’ll take up their offer to meet and we’ll do so in good faith, but given the lack of progress nearly a year on from our motion, it’s hard to see how we’ll avoid the necessity to take the kinds of action we resolved on last June.

Transgender Day of Visibility

Transgender Day of Visibility Event
Wednesday 3 April 2019, 4-5.30pm
Hugh Robson Building – H.R.B Lecture Theatre

Organised by Edinburgh University Staff Pride Network, University and College Union Edinburgh (UCU Edinburgh), and Edinburgh University Students Association (EUSA)

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This event will celebrate the lives of trans members of staff and students at the University of Edinburgh and beyond, sharing everyday experiences and stories. It will also share research from Trans.Edu (www.trans.ac.uk), a Strathclyde University project on the experiences of trans members of staff and students in Scottish higher education. Everyone is welcome!

Speakers:
Mridul Wadhwa, feminist and trans rights campaigner
Vic Valentine, Scottish Trans Alliance
Elliot Byrom, Edinburgh University student; EUSA
Kerry Rush, Edinburgh University student; Positive Change Arts Projects
Gina Roberts, Edinburgh University Staff Pride Network

Chair: Lena Wånggren, UCU Edinburgh

Please note: Transphobic language, gestures, or violence will not be tolerated at the event, and anyone deemed (by the chair or by speakers) to break this policy will be asked to leave the event.