In Solidarity with Colleagues at the University of Leicester

The UCU Branch Committee at De Montfort University condemns all staffing cuts in the HE sector, and extends its particular solidarity to our colleagues at the University of Leicester, in the wake of a management announcement that redundancies are to be made.


We would like to express our solidarity with all those at Leicester who are threatened by this short-sighted measure. We note in addition that the leadership of UK HEIs should prepare for recovery post-pandemic, by investing in front-line teaching and research. Weakening our institutions by reducing capacity and investment is exactly the wrong course of action.


We call upon senior management across the sector to resist the temptation to degrade universities, a tendency which has emerged at the very moment when public opinion has celebrated the value of independent expertise.

Students, staff and the academic reputation of UK institutions must be defended against all those who treat Higher Education as just another business that can be judged by the matrix of profit and loss.

UCU Branch Committee.

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DMU Men’s Network Update

Last week we posted an open letter in response to a proposed Men’s Network (DMU Men). After a meeting  with management to discuss this initiative and the contents of our open letter, we wish to clarify the following  points.

  1. Though the proposed Men’s Network was posted on DMU web pages and had a DMU email address, the executive team or senior management within DMU was not aware and did not sanction, or approve the formation of this group. We have been informed that the first the senior management team knew about this initiative was when DMU UCU emailed them with our concerns.
  2. DMU have informed us that they support our position regarding  the formation of a men’s only network and agree that its currently has no place for one in the organisation.
  3. One of the aims of DMU Men was to provide mental health support. Management agreed that this is best met by the use of occupational health and the employee assistance programme.
  4. In light of the above and our objections we have been assured that this initiative will not be going ahead and reference to this group will be removed from the DMU web pages.

Further to our open letter we have received messages supporting our position but also questioning our motives in not supporting a men’s health initiative, or consider a gendered approach to mental health support. To be clear or position in regards to the formation of a men’s only group has not shifted, and our points in the letter around the problematic and offensive nature of a men’s only forum remain, but for the benefit of members who have raised concerns we would like to add the following points.

  1. Mental health is not a gendered issue, the same level of support should be offered regardless of gender identification. Though we are not opposed to health issues that are specific to men, there is no place in the organisation for a men’s only network to explore mental health issues. 
  2. We maintain that in regards to the HE sector and wider society, men remain in a privileged position, and the formation of a men’s group risks amplifying that privilege to the detriment of others. The formation of a men’s group does little to create equality because of structural privilege. In the same way, we will not support a white group because we have a BAME group, or a straight group because we have an LGBGTQ+ group?
  3. Mental health is a trade union issue when considering the occupational causes that compound mental health in the workplace such as redundancy, casual contracts, workload, bullying racism and nepotism. UCU will continue to fight to address these factors on a local and national level. 
  4. UCU represent members in the workplace. Although the employer has a legal responsibility under the health and safety at work act, to keep employees safe, and make reasonable workplace adjustments to health needs to allow staff to their jobs, we will continue to press for therapeutic interventions by trained and regulated persons.  
  5. We maintain that mental health issues in the workplace should be supported by management referral to an occupational health specialist, and serious mental health issues should be managed by appropriately qualified mental health professionals.  Though the university has a school of health and life sciences and mental health practitioners are employed as academic staff, the university would not offer liability protection to allow these practitioners to apply therapeutic interventions in the workplace or under the terms of their contractual obligations as academic staff. 

We recognise that these are difficult and stressful times, and that the pressures of daily life in the context of a pandemic may compound mental health issues. If you are experiencing work related stress we would advise that the employee assistance progamme (https://www.dmu.ac.uk/coronavirus/health-wellbeing/mental-wellbeing.aspx) is available to offer support. Outside of the workplace staff need to seek advice on mental health issues from a health professionals and their GP.

NB UCU members also have access to education support: https://www.ucu.org.uk/2189

In solidarity

We must move online now!

Dear members

Following the government announcement on the new national lockdown and DMU’s reaction to the announcement as outlined in Andy Collop’s email on Tuesday, we have reiterated our concerns to management at yesterday’s Health and Safety meeting.

We focused in particular on this point of the government guidance: “Universities and adult education settings should consider moving to increased levels of online learning where possible” (https://www.gov.uk/guidance/new-national-restrictions-from-5-november?priority-taxon=774cee22-d896-44c1-a611-e3109cce8eae#education-school-college-and-university). Management claim to have considered this point, but decided that no further action was needed.

As there has been no attempt to increase levels of online learning and as we are aware that a large number of f2f events could be delivered online, our view is that government guidelines have not been followed at this time. We pointed out that management’s decision is very disappointing, putting staff, students and the wider community at risk, and undermining the local and national effort to drive down the rate of infection. The least the university should do, given the significant rise in cases and the national lockdown, is to put people first and follow the government advice to move to increased levels of online learning wherever possible.

Given that, for programmes where in-person sessions are not essential for students to qualify, our in-person classes have been offered alongside an online alternative this term, not least (and quite rightly) to ensure that our many self-isolating students can attend. On all such programmes, in-person provision must now stop, in line with this guidance. Failure to do so quickly will mean encouraging students to breach the guidance (since they should all now be using the available online option).

In addition, we noted that:

  *   Staff over 60 should be exempted from f2f teaching with immediate effect. A review of the risk assessment for each staff over 60 is a lengthy and unnecessary process. We have formally requested that staff over 60 are exempted from teaching F2F and that they should not be asked to travel to work if this involves having to use public transport to travel to work.

  *   DMU updates on the number of Covid cases show a drop in infections. This is highly improbable from a statistical perspective. A hypothesis could be that students might not be reporting the results of their tests to DMU. This casts doubts on the capacity of the university to monitor the level of infections on campus.

* The rate of infection in Leicester was more than 2 times higher than the average infection rate in England (i.e 368 cases per 100,000 people, compared to the England average rate of156 cases per 100,000 people).

Given the above, we reiterate once again our long standing demand: move it all online now.

DMU UCU committee

November DMU UCU Women’s Campaign Group Social session with guest speakers

This month’s DMU UCU Women’s Campaign Group (WCG) is a social session and will include:

  • A brief CFP from Marion Krauthaker on behalf of the Interdisciplinary Gender and Sexuality Research Cluster for their “Gender and Sexuality in the Neoliberal University: Interdisciplinary Approaches” conference May 27-28th 2021
  • A presentation by Jo Richardson, Yasmin Ali and Nicky Hudson on the DMU working group DMU Women and their work around endometriosis and the menopause.
  • Suggestions taken for upcoming WCG social sessions and the agenda for the December, minuted meeting.

All UCU members welcome. Meeting will last 1 hour.

Ellen Wright – WCG interim chair

Issues with payment for Part Time Hourly Paid Lecturers

For the past weeks, we have received several emails from PTHPL colleagues who have struggled to claim their hours and receive their salary on time. We have raised this with management in several occasions, but the problem seems to be still ongoing for some.

This is unacceptable. Unfortunately, this has happened also in previous years: we accept there might be technical issues, but the fact we’re still in this situation means those haven’t been addressed adequately. And this is even more unacceptable as it affects our most vulnerable colleagues in such difficult times.

If you have experienced issues with payment, please get in touch. We want to have a clear overview of cases in order to take formal action against the employer on this.

This is one more reason to stamp out casualisation from DMU and from Higher Education in general.

proposed changes to local NHS hospital and maternity services

Dear all,

Save Our NHS Leicestershire, to which our branch is affiliated,  is hosting two online public meetings to discuss the future of hospital services in Leicester, Leicestershire and Rutland, currently the subject of a formal public consultation called Building better Hospitals for the Future.

The proposals involve, amongst other things, the consolidation of services on the sites of the Royal Infirmary and Glenfield Hospital, some new build and refurbishment, the closure of St Mary’s Birth Centre in Melton Mowbray and the closure of the Leicester General Hospital as an acute hospital and the sale of the majority of the site.  Save Our NHS Leicestershire has a number of concerns about the proposals.

To attend the meetings, you will need to have downloaded the online video conferencing application Zoom (https://zoom.us/download). You will be emailed access details for the meetings once you have registered for one (or both) of the following dates:

Monday November 9, at 7pm. Register here: https://eventbrite.co.uk/e/more-covid-waves-are-coming-why-is-leicester-general-hospital-being-closed-tickets-125718386077

Saturday November 21, at 2pm. Register here: https://eventbrite.co.uk/e/more-covid-waves-are-coming-why-is-leicester-general-hospital-being-closed-tickets-126406307669

Formal public consultation on these plans began on September 28 and will last until December 21, 2020.

To read more about the plans, follow the link to the Save Our NHS Leicestershire website here: http://saveournhsleicestershire.org/2020/10/14/the-future-of-your-hospital-services-is-about-to-radically-change-heres-how/

October DMU UCU Women’s Campaign Group Meeting Minutes

Thanks to all who attended the DMU UCU Women’s Campaign Group (WCG) welcome meeting on Wednesday 21st of October. I took some skeletal minutes which you can view here .

If you are interested in taking a particular role in the WCG (including chair), have any skills you want to offer or have any further suggestions for working groups or social activities (suitable for MS Teams) please do email me. I’d like to run a number of social sessions where we learn or do something, that educates, empowers, uplifts or relaxes us, so please, be creative with your suggestions – you’ll all have a number of wonderful skills to offer, based in your field, or your ‘real’ life, I am sure. I am also open to inviting guest speakers, though we do not have a budget to pay.

Our next WCG meeting will be a social rather than a minuted meeting and will be a short getting to know you for all attendees, followed by us being joined by Jo Richardson, Yasmin Ali and Nicky Hudson who will be talking about their superb research into and DMU initiative on menopause and women’s reproductive health and the DMU Women project (See their vision statement below).This promises to be a fascinating talk with an opportunity for Q&A. If you are interested in participating in our ‘Health and Wellbeing’ Working Group over the coming year, this will certainly be for you. The meeting will take place at 11am on Friday 20th of November. I will send an MS Teams invite out nearer the time. With the permission of the speakers, I will record the talk segment of our social for those who are interested but committed elsewhere.

For those of you who are interested in joining the proposed Academic Coercion, Sexual Harassment, Bullying of Female Employees working group, you may be interested in the free online talk on ‘Staff-Student Sexual harassment in UK Higher Education’ by Dr Anna Bull of the 1752 Group/University of Portsmouth on Wednesday November 11th at 4pm, hosted by the Centre for Interdisciplinary Gender studies at Leeds. You can book here:

Solidarity

Ellen Wright

Interim DMU UCU Women’s Campaign Group Chair

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!!!