In solidarity

We are now well into week four of this strange term, within month eight of the plague war. Like you I am feeling the intensity and claustrophobia of the global situation, and like you I feel the relentlessness of the extra workload it is causing. Many members are reporting much heavier workloads often on top of COVID fuelled domestic crises, as well as the multifarious issues surrounding face to face teaching. Your Branch Committee is pursuing your EGM demands, and as previously communicated we have a decision from Professor Andy Collop pending.

I suspect many members are really feeling the pressure right now. And today I met a work friend I’ve not spoken with for months- to find that his step-father had died; the claustrophobia of COVID distance. Perhaps if we all check in on a colleague from work with whom we’ve not spoken to for a while we might end up helping someone. Maybe members might want to consider making this next week a message a colleague week, so we know that we’ve got each other’s back.

“Is all that we see or seem

But a dream within a dream.”

Martin.

A personal message from the Branch Chair.

AGM 2020: Our branch turns a new page – DMUnionise!

Here’s the latest issue of DMUnionise! It’s a pre-AGM special and contains the following articles:

  • AGM 2020: our branch turns a new page
  • New constitution, new committee
  • Organising Committee motion
  • Health and safety update
  • Week 8? Too late!
  • Research debacle
  • Holding out for heroes
  • AEIOU of union organising

We hope you enjoy this edition. See you at AGM!

In solidarity,

Branch Organising Committee

New DMU UCU Women’s Campaign Group Twitter account

We have a new Twitter account for our DMU UCU Women’s Campaign Group!!!

Follow us on Twitter!!!

DMU Men’s Support Network

Dear Members, 

You will have seen the news that the University has sanctioned a Men’s Support Network allegedly “in response to a need that we have recognised for both Staff and Students”. Details are available at: https://demontfortuniversity.sharepoint.com/sites/DMUHome/staff_news/Pages/October2020/New-DMU-Men-Staff-Network.aspx 

The aim given is “to provide a safe space in which men are comfortable in sharing, listening and supporting their fellow male colleagues”, and the Network claims to have a focus upon “anything from mental health, to defining your place in the world.” 

Whilst we very much welcome the institution’s move to address the very real concerns its staff have around their mental health and wellbeing in the current HE environment, we are concerned this Network is poorly conceived, displaying a distinct and worrisome lack of clarity around its aims, objectives, proposed membership and governance. We are alarmed by this development for a number of interconnected reasons. 

Firstly, we have seen the rise of all men groups in relation to men’s rights networks, which themselves have a misogynist history that points back, for instance, to issues like Gamergate and fathers for justice, and that connect to far right agendas emerging from online spaces like QAnon and 4Chan. These histories tend to work to deny material, structural and cultural practices that underpin inequalities. As a result, they work to legitimise such inequalities.

Second, we are concerned that this has emerged at a time when the University is claiming to be making a cultural change, as an acknowledgement of past failings. We have raised with you, in an email of 25 August relating to the treatment of Professor Heather Savigny at the University. We stated at the time that DMU should be at the forefront of tackling sexual harassment and violence. Overt support for this Network simply reinforces how Higher Education works explicitly to deny structural oppression and violence. In part, this is why we are concerned about the idea that this Network is for “like minded” male members of staff, and this demands clarification of the specific positions being reinforced here. Additionally, we are concerned by use of the term “men”, and we question whether only cis-men are welcome to join this Network? 

Third, the announcement mentions that the group has emerged in response to “a need that we have recognised for both staff and students.” We would like to enquire as to what these needs are, and why, if they are gendered (given the institution has not simultaneously established a women’s group) women staff members are denied access to this support.

Fourth, we are aware that work is being undertaken in several schools in support of Athena Swan accreditation. We cannot see how such work can align with overt support for this Network, for which we have seen no recognised need. In fact, the reality is that the institution is having to push equality and diversity, racial equality, decolonising and Athena Swan agendas, precisely because academia is loaded towards the needs of white men. As a result, we are incredulous that the claim is being made that there are no safe spaces for men in the institution. 

Fifth, we find the idea that untrained individuals might be providing mental health support for peers to be highly problematic, and out-of-step with the institution’s own approach to, for instance, work-based stress and the use of occupational health.  

A poorly planned space has the potential to do much more harm than good, not only alienating women workers at DMU, but also compounding existing inequities amongst male employees. As a result, we believe it is a travesty that this has been officially supported by the University, and we call for its immediate disbanding. The idea that there is a need for a men-only space inside institutions that are dominated by men is repugnant to us. We question how this can lead to the kinds of culture change that the Interim Executive Board have been discussing. We are all in the COVID crisis together, it is only by working together, and not by setting divided voices against one another that we can act together as people, whether men, women and non-binary.

Keep safe,

The UCU Committee.

Dispute Meeting: Update

You will recall that at the branch Extraordinary General Meeting on 24th September our members mandated the branch officers to put 5 demands to management and, if they were not agreed, to explore a formal dispute registering a failure to agree.  We put the demands to management in writing, who responded on 1st October stating that timetabled f2f teaching would continue as planned and that the Person Centred Questionnaire/Rick Assessment (PCQ/RA) process was adequate and an opt out was not necessary.  Management also stated they were unable to halt PTHP redundancies, that RIA 40% reduction had been consulted upon and that the workload model for 20/21 (a COVID-19 specific agreement) has been agreed.  As this did not meet the demands made, the democratic mandate from the motion was to initiate a dispute, which we did.

In line with our recognition agreement, we were invited to a formal meeting to try to resolve the dispute.  That meeting happened this morning and we wish to report proceedings here.  The structure of the meeting was circulated yesterday and as part of the meeting, we presented the items in dispute and our case around them.  We had 40 minutes to do so and we used a number of slides (attached) to state the grounds of our dispute and communicate the concerns of members from the EGM.  We articulated the strength of feeling that was clear from our EGM, that the PCQ/RA process was not being followed consistently and was therefore inadequate, noted than an opt-out process was needed and re-iterated that our members have indicated that teaching should be online by default.

Following that, management had the opportunity to ask questions (15 mins for EB, 15 mins for IVC and COO as chairs of the meeting) followed by 40 minutes to present their case in response.  The management response focused heavily on justifications for face to face teaching, with some 35 minutes of their response being taken on presenting the case that the university has discharged their legal duties and precautions have been taken to make the workplace as safe as possible, that moving to online only would be detrimental to student experience and that moving to online only may jeopardise the University’s financial security as it may lead to increased student complaints or contravening OfS, charity commission or bond requirements. In response to the demand for an opt-out, management described the PCQ/RA process and maintained that this was adequate.  Management spent little time responding to issues on Workload, PTHP redundancies or RIA cuts, however they did acknowledge that the Special COVID 20/21 workload model came out later than originally intended and it is only being implemented now that they would consider a specific issue with PTHP redundancy in one faculty but would not halt the process entirely and that they were willing to review the RIA cut in December.

We had opportunity to ask questions and raised concerns that this response did not address the two fundamental concerns in the motion, firstly that staff are given an opt-out and secondly that online should become the default mode of teaching except where staff locally determine that f2f teaching is necessary in order to meet the learning outcomes of a particular module (instead management focused on a hypothetical online-only scenario), and made the point that module leaders are the best placed to decide what must be delivered face to face and what can be moved online.

Management have made an initial offer to resolve the dispute as follows:

We are willing to offer the following as a means to resolving the dispute and reaching agreement with UCU:

A) A review of workload tariffs when we return to business as usual.

B) A review of the RIA in December 2020.

C) Investing in actively supporting staff development. Staff development will be encouraged particularly around learning and teaching. BAL for example will fund 100 members of staff to obtain the Certified Business and Management Educator (CMBE) Qualification this year. We will also continue to support staff doing masters and doctoral programmes.

D) Further investment in mental health support to staff, particularly to support those suffering anxieties in the context of Covid19.

The purpose of this initial dispute meeting was for the two sides to put their views forward, rather than make decisions. The next stage is for the chair of the meeting (IVC Andy Collop) to consider the arguments he has heard at the meeting and deliver a formal response and arrange a follow up meeting.  Management have stated that this will be scheduled for week commencing 2nd November.  We will report back at the earliest opportunity on outcomes from  that meeting and potential next steps.

In the meantime (and very importantly), management did state in the meeting that HR’s door is open to the union if there are cases where people feel that the PCQ/RA process has deemed them suitable to carry out f2f teaching, but they disagree with the application/decision of that process.   If this applies to you, please do get in touch with us as a matter of urgency and we will take your case to the appropriate managers and HR.  We have already done this on behalf of a number of members and where necessary changes have been made.

Best Regards,

Branch Negotiating Committee.

New rates for PHTPs

This message is particularly pertinent for part-time hourly paid colleagues. Over the Summer, the union negotiated a rate to be paid to part-time hourly paid lecturers for hours undertaken to prepare for online teaching. As with all PTHP rates, this was based on a multiple of a standard hourly rate.  For context, the normal face-to-face rate is calculated at 2.5 times hourly base rate to account for prep and marking, meeting rate is at 1.25 to account for time spent plus preparation. We negotiated that the online preparation rate should be 1.5 times the base rate to account for the skilled preparation required.

Thus, you should be able to claim for preparation hours at the negotiated rate. To make for easy comparison, this should work out at 60% of the full contact teaching rate, or 1.2 times the meeting rate that you would normally get.

If you have any problems claiming this rate for hours you have been required to do to prepare for online teaching, please do contact your Faculty HR Partner.

Keep safe,

UCU committee.

Formal notice of AGM and call for nominations

FORMAL NOTICE OF AGM

The UCU AGM this year will be held online on Wednesday 18 November at 13.00. This is an opportunity for members to hear reports from and put questions to your Branch Officers. The AGM will also receive the results of elections for branch officers. A Teams invite was sent to all members by Branch Chair (Martin Morgan-Taylor) on 11 October.

CALL FOR NOMINATIONS

As the Returning Officer appointed by the Branch Committee, I am writing to you to ask for nominations for the branch officer positions and for 2 Congress delegates. Officer posts are as follows:

Chair

Vice-Chair

Treasurer

Secretary

Assistant Secretary

Membership and Organising Secretary

Pensions Officer

Environment Representative

Equality Strand Representatives-

-Women

-BAME

-LGBTQ+

-Disabled

Anti-casualisation Officer

Workload Officer

Migrant Staff Representative

Research Staff Representative

Academic Related Staff Representative

Professorial Staff Representative

Health & Safety Co-ordinator

Casework Co-ordinator

Campaign Co-ordinator

DSU liaison

TUC liaison

Communication and Social Media Officer

The branch also needs to elect 2 Congress delegates

As is the case at each AGM all current officers will be standing down so all positions should be considered vacant. People currently holding the positions are welcome to stand for them again if nominated. All roles can be, but do not have to be, occupied by more than one person. The branch rules state: “If more than one candidate stands for the same office and all agree to job share then all candidates will be declared elected”. To enable discussions to take place about potential job shares, it would be very helpful if nominations could be submitted well before the Final Deadline of noon Friday 30 October. If a ballot is necessary, this will take place between 2 and 17 November.

To make a nomination, please email the Returning Officer giving details of:

The name of the person being nominated

The position for which they are being nominated

The name of the person making the nomination

The name of the person who will second the nomination.

Please copy all 3 members (nominee, nominator, seconder) into the email. The Returning Officer will check that all 3 consent to the nomination.

The Final Deadline for nominations is noon on Friday 30 October.

Neil Williamson (Returning Officer)

DMU UCU Women’s Campaign Group Welcome Meeting – Wednesday 21 October at 12.30

Open to all DMU UCU members, this one-hour online meeting is the first gathering of the DMU UCU Women’s Campaign Group (WCG), a recently created group intended to provide a space for socialising, educating, campaigning on issues that affect DMU UCU women in particular and generally making all of our working lives at DMU that little bit better.

At this group we will be discussing potential roles that members may be interested in taking up, the calendar of meetings/activities for the coming year and establishing which working groups and campaigns we would like to run over the coming year. 

All UCU members (women and allies) are welcome, a safe, friendly space for all. 

If you have any queries or concerns please feel free to get in touch with me.

Look forward to seeing you 

Ellen Wright 

(Senior Lecturer in Film Studies, she/her)

Formal failure to agree

Dear Members,



Further to our email on Tuesday, informing you that the requirements laid out in the motions passed at the EGM had been communicated to Management for action, I regret to inform you that Management’s reply has not yielded on any core issues, for example they maintain a need for F2F teaching.


Consequently this branch gave Management a formal failure to agree notice this afternoon, which contained a request for the urgent assistance of ACAS in resolving this dispute.

Until these matters are resolved, UCU formally requests that the government direction to work from home where possible is maintained i.e. teaching through remote/online provision in all circumstances except where practically impossible (e.g. laboratory /practical teaching).



As ever we will keep you posted as to developments.



Yours,



Martin, on behalf of the DMU UCU Branch Committee.

Follow-up to EGM motions: our demands!

Following the motions passed at our EGM, the following letter has been sent to senior staff. Please be assured that your branch takes the current seriousness of the risk to staff and student lives very seriously. Never before in peace time have we faced such a threat, indeed we are in uncharted waters. Despite the efforts of our Estates colleagues who have worked long and hard to make the campus safe, safety issues remain.

May I also recognise you all for your continuing dedication to duty; the blood, sweat and tears that you have invested not just over the summer, but continue to invest in giving our students a first class experience. And so we ask for a move to on-line delivery only as a last resort. Your branch committee respects your professionalism and commitment to duty, and we will protect your wellbeing as you have mandated us to. The broader challenges of the virus have not been easy for many, but we are all in this pandemic together. Rest assured you are not alone, your branch committee will do all it can to protect you.

Yours,

Martin Morgan-Taylor

Branch Chair, DMU UCU.

and health

Dear Senior Staff,

I am writing to you on behalf of the DMU UCU Branch Committee. On Thursday 24 September 2020, DMU UCU held an Extraordinary General Meeting to discuss rapidly escalating member fears and concerns about the return to on-campus face-to-face working during the Coronavirus pandemic. With a record attendance that shows how these issues are widely and strongly felt by all our members, an almost unanimous consensus has directed the DMU UCU Committee to act with urgency to safeguard the lives and wellbeing of our staff, students and communities.

We therefore call on the DMU Executive Board to immediately:

-Make the default mode for teaching online-only for the duration of the COVID crisis. 

-Implement an individual opt-out procedure for face-to-face teaching during the COVID crisis for all staff. All employees must be able to opt out of face-to-face on campus activities based on their own assessment of their safety and capacity, without detriment.

-Also, we believe that recent decisions from the DMU Executive Board will further aggravate the effects of the COVID crisis and the wellbeing of staff. We therefore call on the DMU Executive Board to immediately:

Stop all redundancies of Part Time Hourly Paid colleagues;

Protect research time, funding and support;

Develop a new feasible and sustainable workload model.

Our membership also directed the DMU UCU committee to investigate and, if necessary, to instigate, a local dispute with the employer. We hope the Executive Board will act swiftly in the interests of the safety and wellbeing of all employees and our wider university community, and preclude the need for escalation, but it is important the Executive Board is made aware of the strength of feeling on these issues.

Nationally, we are at alert level 4 and have been informed by the Prime Minister that we can expect national measures well into 2021. The pandemic has not ended, and it is rapidly getting worse. We are scared for ourselves, for our students, families, and communities – both in the immediate future and as more comes to light about the crippling health implications of ‘long COVID’.

We note that we are still waiting for DMU’s Executive Board to give us a detailed account of the University response to the first outbreak in Vijay Patel Building. This is a matter of high concern as it raises issues on whether there is a robust and efficient plan to face future outbreaks. We have seen what is happening at other universities all over the country so we urge DMU’s Executive Board to consider the above as a matter of urgency.


We ask the Executive Board to implement the prioritisation of the health, safety and wellbeing of all staff and students that they repeatedly claim to be at the centre of their decision-making. It became clear that the members voicing their concerns at our EGM increasingly doubt the veracity of these claims.

We request a response as a matter of urgency, no later than three working days.

Yours,

Martin Morgan-Taylor,

Branch Chair, DMU UCU,

For and on behalf of the Branch Committee.