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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Climate Emergency Response

UCU Edinburgh members have wholeheartedly endorsed the following five points in relation to the climate emergency:

1.      We recognise that there is no longer any reasonable doubt that human driven climate change presents an unprecedented threat to all life on Earth and that this deserves to be treated as an emergency. This recognition represents an imperative for us all to consider what an appropriate response might be at all levels of global, national and local community and society.

2.      We warmly welcome the University’s and the Principal’s acceptance of this Climate Emergency. In a recent statement, prior to Sarah Smith’s message to Heads of College, Schools and Professional Services, he said “[a]s a global University, we are deeply concerned by the climate emergency and want to make a significant, sustainable and socially responsible impact”.  We wholeheartedly share this concern and wish to join the Principal and work creatively with him in developing the necessary responses to meet this emergency.

3.      We agree with the Principal that we can do this “by making sustainable choices and, through research and teaching, encouraging others to do likewise.” We also agree that research and teaching, while extremely valuable ways of promoting long term change, are not enough on their own, and it is incumbent on democratic organisations, including trade unions, to throw support behind popular demonstrations for political change.

4.      We further recognise that Edinburgh University (and Scottish Universities more generally) are uniquely placed to draw on our new National Performance Framework to create the futures we desire and aspire to; futures that are informed by the values statement that lies at the heart of the National Performance Framework and that seeks to deliver on the national outcome which challenges the Scottish people to “value, enjoy, protect and enhance our environment”.

5.      We have been called upon to support and show solidarity with the “Global Climate Strike” on the 20th of September. UCU has been campaigning for a 30-minute work stoppage to support this.

We encourage our members, where necessary, to discuss with managers how to arrange their duties in a way that allows them to take part in this action and to engage in demonstrations. We are delighted that, following Sarah Smith’s message, it has been now confirmed that the University fully supports the 30-minutes work stoppages and encourages staff to use this time productively in order to inform themselves about the climate crisis, as well as share their ideas about how to address it.


In line with these, we have asked the Principal for two things, one in relation to Friday September 20, the other for the longer term:


1.      We feel that, in order for staff and students to be able to fully take advantage of the opportunities to access crucial information and contribute with new ideas on 20 September, the University should suspend attendance monitoring of students and ensure no assignments are due that day. We therefore urged the Principal to consider this and to encourage the wider University Community to mark this day in a manner consistent with the declaration of an emergency.

2.      Moving forwards, we believe that a clear strategy (and lead from the Principal) is needed that ensures that all members of the University community can both access and afford the necessary environmentally sustainable choices, regardless of the economic and time pressures they may be subject to. Such a strategy will make it clear how we as a community are going to respond to the climate emergency and deliver on our commitments.

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 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.