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New union FAQs

The following are some of the questions commonly asked by members about the new union before its creation. This page has been retained for reference, but please note it has not been updated since 1 June 2006.


How much are subscriptions in the new union, and from when will they run?

The subscription year will run from 1 September. UCU subs will be based on five salary bands (£4,999 and below; £5,000-£9,999; £10,000-£19,999; £20,000-£39,999; £40,000 and over). The system will be phased in over three years. All existing members will be mailed for earnings data, and also email addresses to ensure that UCU has effective communications.

Student members and post grads planning a career in FHE will be entitled to a year’s free membership in the first instance.

Members who paid a one-off fee for membership or associateship of NATFHE will become members of UCU and no further sub will be required.

Subscriptions for new members are detailed on the join page. Subscriptions from 1 September for members joining before May 2006 will be advised shortly.

Will I continue to have decisions about my sector made by members from my sector?

Yes, decisions about higher education policy, pay and conditions will be taken by the higher education committee (HEC), and about further education policy, and and conditions by the further education committee (FEC).

Will my professional interests still be served?

UCU’s joint general secretaries have committed to increasing the work done around professional autonomy, workload and academic freedom as a top priority in the new union. With more resources, we should be able to focus more on this.

Will the new union be more political?

The new union will be in a better position to lobby politicians on the issues that matter to you, but will remain un-affiliated to any political party or group, and the new union will continue that tradition of being independent of party politics.

Will the new union have a political fund?

Yes. The new union will not be affiliated to any political party but, as AUT and NATFHE previously had, UCU will have a political fund to finance various campaigning activities. One per cent of each sub will go into this fund. The current legal arrangements continue to apply whereby members in England, Wales and Scotland may opt out and members in N Ireland have to opt in. The new union will also have a fighting fund similar to NATFHE’s previous sustentation fund.

Will the new union mean more bureaucracy?

No. Both unions are committed to reducing duplication as a result of the merger. Resources will be focused on improving services and representation, not on creating extra layers of bureaucracy.

Will my branch or local association still be the same?

Where there were previously both NATFHE and AUT branches (as in many post-92 institutions) these will be encouraged to come together. Elsewhere, branches and local association will remain largely unchanged and will still be able to levy an additional local rate to offer extra services. Special arrangements to combine or aggregate small branches solely for purposes of electing delegates to Congress will be made during the transitional period. Information on this will be circulated in due course.

How will members in post-92 institutions be affected?

Members in post-92 institutions will benefit from the coming together of the two unions to form a stronger local membership. Post-92 staff across the new union will have guaranteed seats on executive and the ability to meet separately.

Will AUT members who didn’t have a LA in their institution become members of the former NATFHE branch?

Yes, and full guidance on this will be circulated in due course.

How will the elections to the new union’s executive work?

They are necessarily complex, to cover the greater range of interests than that represented in either of the existing unions. There will be a combination of nationally-elected seats, geographically-elected seats and equalities seats. Advice on the voting system will be prepared by the transitional arrangements committee to ensure that the system is as easily understood as possible.

Will HE issues remain important and will they be distinct?

Yes. HE policy will continue to be made by members in the sector, and while there is a lot of collaborative work to be done around cross sector issues, it is recognised that both HE and FE members need distinct and specialist services.

Will the interests of members in post-1992 higher education institutions be ‘swamped’ by those of the new union’s members in the old universities?

Specific protections for the ‘post-1992’ members are included in the new union's rules and standing orders. But in any case, this should not be a problem – no single group forms a majority in the new union, and the new union's members comprise a number of identifiable groups including teaching, research and academic related staff – as well as members in the post-1992 institutions who will have common interests with their colleagues coming into the new union.

What about further education members? Won’t they just be a minority in the new union?

Further education and adult education members will continue to run their affairs through their own structures just as they previously did within NATFHE. FE members will comprise 40% of the new union. The continuance of a sectoralised structure into the new union will be a major source of strength and flexibility, while all members will benefit from the strength and authority of a larger union speaking for the whole of the post-school sector. On an increasing range of issues – funding, access, student support and the status of post–school teachers, FE and HE need to be able to speak authoritatively with one voice. UCU will have an even more powerful voice for lobbying and campaigning on all issues. FE will benefit from this as much as HE – especially as the links between FE and HE institutions and courses develop.

Will the equality structures carry forward a strong commitment to the equality agenda?

If anything, the new union has stronger equality structures than either of its predecessors. There is every reason to believe that it will be a strong advocate of equality, taking on the immense range of equality issues throughout further and higher education.

Will academic-related staff maintain their influence in the union?

Yes, academic-related staff in higher education will have guaranteed representation on the executive committee and will continue to have an annual meeting which will feed policy into the higher education committee.

Will the new union still take the issues of fixed-term and hourly-paid staff seriously?

Yes. As with academic-related staff, the new union will have guaranteed representation for fixed-term or hourly-paid staff and an annual meeting. Job security is a high priority for both unions and will continue to be so in the new organisation.

What will happen about AUT Scotland?

Members in Scotland will have their current level of representation protected through maintaining reserved seats on the national executive. AUT(S) will become UCU Scotland and will continue in the same form with similar levels of autonomy.

I currently have joint membership with another union. Will this still be possible under the new union?

Both unions currently have a number of reciprocal agreements with other trade unions and professional bodies. Any such arrangements will be carried through into the new union should members vote in favour of merger.

What will happen about MRC members?

Representation of MRC members and their concerns will be carried through into the new union. The standing orders stipulate that among other 'special employment interest groups' the annual specialist national meeting of MRC and its committee will be established within the new union.

I’m retired. Where will I fit in?

Retired members will retain their current rights within the new union. Retired members will become members of a UCU central group. Central groups will have the right to send delegates to the national congress of the new union and will be able to decide how best to facilitate networking of their members. Retired members will be able to remain in their former workplace branch if they wish. Sub structures and membership costs will be reviewed at a later stage, however the intention of both unions is to continue with existing costs (or lack thereof) of membership.

Who will be general secretary of the new union?

For the first year of the new union the existing incumbents will remain in post, managing the union’s day to day business jointly. Elections will then be held for the post of general secretary of the new union to take up office by 1 June 2007.

What are the implications for the members of the Universities Superannuation Scheme? Does merging the unions not make it more likely that a merger of pension funds will in future be mooted?

There is no suggestion within any of the proposals to merge the two main pension schemes (USS and TPS) for staff in the HE sector. All UCU members currently in these schemes will remain in them as a function of their contract of employment. The trustees of both funds have a duty to ensure that no action they take could do anything to undermine the funds as such, the new union will continue to deal with pensions in a similar way.

My subscriptions was recognised by HM Revenue and Customs as being a legitimate expense. Will this arrangement remain?

Both AUT and NATFHE had the same arrangements with regard to the Inland Revenue.We are obviously now seeking similar arrangements.


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