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UCU Scotland Congress 2021

Resolutions of the 15th UCU Scotland Congress, 26 March 2021

1. Workload and strategic planning

Congress notes that the UCU workload campaign highlights workload as a key concern, and uses annual survey results to expose the links between stress and workload, and encourages local negotiation with employers.

Congress notes that UCU Scotland has resolved to present a report on excessive workloads to the Scottish government prior to the Scottish elections.

Congress also notes that following the loss of numerous posts at Queen Margaret University, Heriot Watt University, and others, workload has become worse.

Congress mandates UCU Scotland to support the QMU branch's claim, and to support on a national level, calling for:

  • workload which ensures that academic and academic-related staff can achieve work demands within their contracted hours
  • strategic and operational planning, budget development and, workforce planning to be integrated to ensure that staffing resources reflect the university's priorities and budget.

2.Covid and health & safety

UCU Scotland notes and commends the work undertaken by the Branch Health and Safety Reps and UCUS full time officials during the pandemic to make Scotland's campuses safer when they re-opened and to try to combat excessive workloads the changes in provision brought.

UCUS notes the excessive loads that members face as they juggle home-working, home schooling and home life and the impact this has had on mental health.

UCUS notes the work done by branches to support members in these struggles.

UCUS understands the mental health impact that will (and has been) occur in the next year(s) as we start to come out of this crisis.

UCUS resolves to call on the Scottish government to provide a planned and funded mental health strategy that gets to the root of all education workers and students mental well-being needs.

3. School/nursery closures in Scotland and equalities during Covid-19

UCU Scotland notes that:

  1. schools and nurseries have been closed as part of lockdown measures, putting significant strain on working parents/carers
  2. it is impossible to care or home-school full-time while you are simultaneously working from home
  3. these closures also affect colleagues without caring responsibilities, who may take on increased workloads to cover duties and responsibilities of parents/carers
  4. many universities response to this 'care crisis' - asking staff to 'undertake best endeavours' - is inadequate
  5. the Covid-19 crisis and lockdowns have negatively affected equalities, and this needs to be directly addressed by universities.

UCU Scotland calls for:

  1. (fully) paid special leave to be guaranteed for parents/carers (including hourly-paid staff), and implemented on a flexible/part-time basis where requested
  2. clear and consistent university policies for accommodating caring responsibilities in workload models, and opportunities for career advancement, with attention to intersectional impacts on marginalized and under-represented groups.

4. Performance management and review

Congress notes that:

  • motions on performance management and related issues have regularly been passed at congress (eg. 2020: 3; 2018: 12; 2017: 16, 17, 18; 2016: 3, 5, 6). However, abuses of management power continue at Scottish institutions, and continue to be resisted by UCU branches
  • academic development is best supported collegially, rather than managerially
  • academic, academic-related, technical and professional support staff are professionals who are best placed to identify their own objectives and needs for professional development, and are entitled to support from their employers in delivering on these.

Congress therefore mandates UCU Scotland to:

  • call for the cancellation of all compulsory annual reviews and compulsory performance management that contain elements of performance appraisal for 2021 due to the disruption caused by Coronavirus
  • gather information about these practices across institutions in Scotland and efforts of UCU branches to challenge them
  • campaign to replace performance management/reviews with entitlement to professional development in Scottish universities.

5. Limiting work-related short-haul air travel

Congress notes that:

  • COP26 will take place is Glasgow in November 2021
  • in a time of climate crisis, there is little justification for taking short haul flights for work-related activities to UK/European destinations that can be reached within 8 hours using alternative modes of transport
  • there may be limited travel options and geographical challenges for those living/working in Scotland
  • one outcome of the Covid-19 crisis is greater familiarity with digital solutions to meeting and conferencing.

Congress calls on UCU Scotland to:

  • campaign to minimise and discourage the use of short haul flights for any work-related trip that can be made by alternative modes of transport except for disabled staff or in circumstances where alternative transport is impractical
  • lobby employers to incentivise alternative methods using technology and modes of transport and to allow appropriate, work-loaded time for employees to make work-related trips using alternative modes of transport.

6. Decolonising the curriculum

Congress notes:

  1. continued institutional racism in universities and throughout society
  2. the vital role of education in changing attitudes and contributing to real change.

Congress recognises the need to decolonialise the curriculum and considers that Black Live Matter and measures taken by Glasgow University in recognition of the history of the slave trade make this timely.

Congress calls on UCU Scotland executive to

  1. produce branch and member resources on decolonising the curriculum
  2. encourage branches to negotiate curriculum decolonisation policies, procedures and implementation with management
  3. organise a discussion meeting
  4. pressure universities to ringfence funding for interdisciplinary and innovative reparation projects in collaboration with peoples and communities whose lands, cultures, and bodies are still subject to racialised, neo-colonial extraction and appropriation
  5. pressure universities to actively defund and redirect investments away from institutions, businesses and estates still sustained and resourced by extractive colonial practices e.g. arms trade.

8Rule change: UCU Scotland officer elections

In current rule 3.5 add the word 'and/' so it reads:

3.5 All members of UCU Scotland who are members of a local association or central group in the higher education sector of UCU are eligible to stand for election as President and/or Honorary Secretary, subject to the national rules of UCU.

Delete current rule 3.6 and replace with the following text:

3.6 Members may be concurrently nominated for more than one vacancy for officers and executive committee member. Nomination to each vacancy will require a separate nomination to be submitted in accordance with UCU and UCU Scotland rules, including those set out at Schedule A.

Ballots for elections to offices that are to be taken up on the same date will be counted in the following order:

  1. president
  2. honorary secretary
  3. vice president
  4. honorary treasurer
  5. equality officer
  6. ordinary member of the executive committee.

After a candidate is successfully elected, votes for that candidate will be disregarded in subsequent elections.

Schedule A, paragraph 2, delete final sentence: "A member may not be nominated to stand for election as both President and Honorary Secretary of UCU Scotland during the same nomination period"

9. Regular member meetings

UCU Scotland Congress notes the value of interaction between members to find out what is happening in other branches and learn from it, support effective campaigning and defend branches in dispute. This is particularly important under Covid where isolation is an even greater risk than normal and

UCU Scotland Congress agrees to organise regular member meetings to take place every two months. They should currently be held online using zoom. When face to face meetings become possible they should include both face-to-face and zoom involvement to maximise participation.

10. Facilitating more online reps 1 training

UCU Scotland Congress: 

Notes: 

  1. the requirement for members to have completed UCU reps 1 prior to being a union rep 
  2. a severe shortage of caseworkers in union branches to represent members in grievances, especially during the Covid crisis 
  3. a bottleneck in the number of members completing training in order to become union reps due to a lack of adequate provision of reps 1 training. 

Believes: 

  1. facilitating adequate access to Reps 1 training will enable branches to recruit more reps and caseworkers 
  2. any financial losses incurred in the organising of a course for a small number of members is offset by the benefit to branches from having qualified caseworkers. 

Resolves to: 

  1. organise digital reps 1 training every two months. 
  2. remove any requirement for minimum enrolment before a course is run. 

12. Climate Change and COP 26

Congress notes

  1. the need for very urgent action on climate change
  2. proposed deadlines for moving to zero carbon are welcome, but insufficient e.g. Scottish government deadline of 2045.

Congress believes that it is essential that really strong agreements are made at COP 26 and that there is sufficient follow-up to ensure they are met.

Congress agrees to

  1. encourage branches to work with students to organise teach-outs at the time of COP 26
  2. encourage branches to put pressure on institutions to do serious work on managing their emissions, including have carbon zero targets and a programme of activities to meet them.
  3. UCU Scotland executive to participate in the COP 26 working groups and encourage members do so.
  4. encourage members to include climate justice and sustainability in their teaching practice, branches to negotiate policies to support this and executive to produce resources to support this.

13. Lobby to re-join Erasmus

Congress notes:

  • on 24 December 2020, the UK government decided to withdraw from the European Erasmus scheme, without a mandate
  • the Erasmus scheme was one of the biggest successes of internationalisation, changing lives, enriching research and connecting HE institutions
  • the 'Turing Scheme' which the UK government intends to launch as a replacement:
    • will be only for outgoing mobility
    • is not for EU students to come to UK universities
    • does not include faculty (teaching) mobility
    • is not fit for purpose
  • and commends the work done to date by UCU Scotland with the Scottish government on re-joining the Erasmus scheme
  • the Scottish government is actively exploring options to keep Scotland in the Erasmus scheme.

Congress calls on UCU Scotland to continue to lobby the Scottish government to join the Erasmus scheme on its own and offer whatever support is necessary to achieve this end.

14Justice for Mohammed Mahumud Hassan

UCU Scotland Congress notes with extreme concern that a young Black Somali man Mohammed Mahumud Hassan died on January 9th, 2021, shortly after being released from Cardiff Bay police station. Family members reported seeing 'lots of wounds on his body and lots of bruises' after his release from custody.

UCU Scotland Congress notes the culture of impunity around deaths in police custody in Britain with no convictions for police officers involved in the over 1,500 deaths in custody since 1969. This is directly related to broader racist cultures of policing.

UCU Scotland Congress resolves that UCU Scotland should be involved in campaigns to ensure there is Justice for Mohammed Mahumud Hassan and his family and the broader diverse community in South Cardiff. Further, that UCU Scotland should make a donation to a fund that has been set up to help Mahamud's family with legal costs.

15. Holocaust Memorial Day and UN Anti-racism Day 

UCU Scotland notes: 

  1. the growing influence of the alt-right, neo-Nazis and white supremacist groups in the USA as witnessed by the storming of the White House on 6 January 2021
  2. the successful development of anti-racist movements including Black Lives Matter and Stand Up to Racism's work with the STUC, TUC around the UN International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (this year 20 March). 

UCU Scotland resolves: 

  1. to continue to hold members meetings commemorating Holocaust Memorial Day and support anti-racist campaigns co-ordinating UN Anti-racism Day. 

16. Rejecting the IHRA definition

Congress notes with concern the pressure on English universities from the UK Secretary of State for Education to adopt the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance definition of antisemitism (IHRA);

IHRA:

  • has been widely discredited by experts
  • does nothing to tackle antisemitism
  • has been deployed primarily to undermine the successful campaign of boycott, divestment and sanctions against Israel for its breach of international law in treatment of the Palestinians

Whilst there is no requirement on Scottish universities to adopt IHRA, there may be pressure to do so.

Whilst the Scottish government has adopted IHRA, it has made clear that public bodies are entitled to make their own decisions including adoption of BDS

UCU has already rejected a forerunner of IHRA.

UCUS Congress:

  • rejects IHRA as a definition of antisemitism
  • Is committed to challenging antisemitism
  • commits to oppose IHRA in HE and wherever it is being advocated.

17. People's recovery and People Before Profit

UCU Scotland Congress notes the Scottish and UK campaigns against continued austerity in the People's Recovery and People Before Profit respectively. UCU Scotland Congress agrees to support and publicise these campaigns.

18. Defend USS

Congress condemns 

  1. USS's rule 76.1 report giving likely member contributions of 13.6-18.6% 
  2. UUK proposals to slash benefits and for a lower value scheme for casualised and lower paid members. 

Congress notes that trust legislation in Scotland differs from England and applies to USS members in Scotland. 

Congress believes that we need to defend USS or we will lose it. 

Congress asks UCU Scotland executive to 

  1. organise regular member meetings on USS including SWG and NDC speakers to prepare members for industrial and other action to defend USS. 
  2. obtain legal advice on bringing a case against USS, its trustees/directors or the pension regulator in Scotland 
  3. initiate legal action if the advice is positive. 

19. Defend David Miller, defend academic freedom 

UCU Scotland congress:

Condemns the attack on Professor David Miller by Zionist lobby groups and the call for his dismissal from Bristol University following his address to the online conference held by the Labour Campaign for Free Speech on 13 February;

Calls on Bristol University to defend Professor Miller, his academic freedom and right to free speech; 

Mandates UCU officers, in liaison with the Bristol UCU branch and UK officers, to write to the vice chancellor of Bristol University expressing our outrage at the treatment of Professor Miller and the inadequate response so far in his defence; 

Agrees to promote campaign material to members to encourage support for David Miller. 

20. Prevent the deportation of Dr Dianne Pennington, Strathclyde UCU member

Congress notes:

  • that Dr Dianne Pennington has worked and lived within Scotland for over six years
  • that she was unable to submit the necessary paperwork to secure her VISA due to longstanding health issues, before submitting them one day late
  • the draconian and heavy handed approach adopted by the UK government, with Dianne now facing deportation
  • that this step is one of many which has created, reinforces and reflects a hostile environment against foreign nationals
  • the power of the Home Office to exercise clemency, leniency and discretion in this instance.

Congress resolves:

  • to unequivocally support Dr Dianne Pennington
  • to condemn the ongoing hostility shown by the UK government towards foreign nationals
  • to call on members to advocate and campaign for a satisfactory conclusion to this situation
  • to call on the University of Strathclyde to do everything in their power to support Dr Pennington.

Motions remitted to the Executive Committee

7. UCU Scotland rule changes

The aim of these two rule changes is to expand the UCU Scotland officers' group to include the three nationally elected UCU Scotland executive members and to designate one of those nationally elected seats as reserved for a black member (under the UCU use of the term to mean politically identifying with all people facing racial discrimination).

Change to rule 4.1 and 5.2iii (based upon the 2007 version) to state that the three ordinary members elected by the members of UCU Scotland identified in rule 5.2iii shall be considered to be officers in rule 4.1 

Add new rule under 5.2iii to state that one of the ordinary members elected by the members of UCU Scotland shall be reserved for a member who identifies as Black. 

11. Support for providing NationBuilder platform to branches

UCU Scotland congress:

Notes that:

  1. large branches require robust platforms for managing communications
  2. subscriptions for such platforms add additional costs to running a branch
  3. these platforms, as well as branches' use of them, need to be compliant with data protection legislation
  4. other trade unions use NationBuilder as their platform for organisation and communication

Believes that:

  1. providing a centralised platform for branches will facilitate branch organising, remove the need for third-party services, and greatly reduce costs to branches
  2. centralised provision of this infrastructure by a trained member of UCU staff will allow for alignment with data protection regulation
  3. the costs of enterprise-level subscription to NationBuilder and in training staff to administer it will be worth the investment in order to facilitate union organising

Mandates UCU Scotland executive to:

  1. call on UCU UK to purchase enterprise-level subscription to NationBuilder, or other such appropriate platform, for use by all branches.
Last updated: 13 May 2021