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The Friday email: 16 February 2024

16 February 2024

UCU elections 2024

The last safe date for posting your ballot paper is approaching, so please use your vote if you have not already. These elections are for the positions of general secretary, vice-president, trustee, and national executive committee (NEC) members and it is important that members use their vote. The deadline for requesting a replacement ballot is Thursday 22 February. You will need your UCU membership number.

Pay, conditions, and bargaining in England FE

UCU's further education committee (FEC) met on Friday 2 February 2024 and made several important decisions about this year's national pay campaign and claim in England further education colleges.

Last year's 2023/24 campaign was built on UCU's core demands of improving pay, manageable workloads, binding national bargaining and professional respect. This year we will be asking members to: 

  • build the strength of the union: through asking your colleagues to join the union and getting involved in your branch  
  • campaign and get the vote out during a national industrial action ballot to exert leverage to agree national bargaining with the employers.

Click here to read the full update from UCU general secretary Jo Grady.

UCU and University of the Highlands and Islands signed joint recognition agreement

On 14 February, UCU and the University of the Highlands and Islands (UHI) signed a trade union recognition and procedural agreement establishing arrangements for information, consultation, and negotiation on employment matters. Congratulations to UHI UCU branch and colleagues in UCU Scotland for their hard work. You can read the full joint press release here.

Northumbria University UCU dispute over compulsory redundancies

UCU members at Northumbria University announced on 15 February that they declared an industrial dispute. University senior management has indicated that they will push through huge reductions in spending on staff, and has failed to rule out compulsory redundancies, even while insisting that the institution's 'underlying financial position remains very strong'. You can read the full story here including a joint statement by UCU and UNISON.

University of Kent: job cuts

The University of Kent announced recently that there are likely to be up to 58 academic redundancies. This is on top of year on year cuts that have seen a dramatic decline in staffing. The current situation is entirely of the employer's own making: there is no reason, other than management failings, that Kent find themselves in this mess. UCU are determined to fight this academic vandalism and defend the university; show your support and sign this petition.

Oxford Brookes University: defend jobs and education

In November 2023 management at Oxford Brookes University declared 48 jobs 'at risk' with 20 needing to be cut. Our campaigning, negotiating and balloting have reduced the number of compulsory redundancies to two. UCU still intend to reduce that number to zero.

Please read and share UCU's open letter here and sign our petition to save jobs at Oxford Brookes University.

Stop the cuts to Coventry Adult Education Service 

Coventry City Council is proposing drastic cuts to services which threaten our members' jobs in adult education as well as opportunities for the people of Coventry. Reductions to central government funding have left the council looking to make savings by proposing to scrap centre creches and cut back on key staff. Please send messages of support to our Coventry Adult and Community Education (ACE) branch who are calling on the council to reverse the proposals.

New research staff and casualisation report

UCU released a new report that exposes the lack of security of employment for research staff. Click here to download the full report, which is based on freedom of information (FOI) requests. Around two-thirds (66%) of research staff are employed on fixed-term contracts, some less than a year in length.

We have produced an accompanying branch guidance which highlights how you can use the report to seek improvement to security of employment for research staff locally.

Journal of Further and Higher Education editor-in-chief vacancy

The Journal of Further and Higher Education, which is published by Taylor and Francis for UCU, is currently recruiting for a new editor-in-chief. Anyone interested in being considered for the role can find more information here; applications are invited by 1 March 2024. If you would like an informal discussion about the role please contact Jenny Sherrard.

Energy limiting conditions and UK academia survey

If you currently work, or have previously worked, in UK academia and have an energy limiting condition, chronic illness or energy impairment, please consider completing this survey. The survey is part of an ISRF-funded project on burnout, exhaustion and ableism in UK academia from the perspective of academics with energy limiting conditions.

Energy limiting conditions (ELCs) include any conditions in which energy impairment and debilitating fatigue are key symptoms (e.g. neurological, musculoskeletal, auto-immune diseases, ME/CFS, fibromyalgia and Long COVID). For inquiries please contact Dr Bethan Evans.

Equality research conference

The second UCU equality research conference, entitled 'Nothing without us: pride, diversity, respect and liberation', will be a one-day hybrid conference for academics, researchers and activists conducting research on equality issues, lives and aspirations.

The call for papers is now open with deadline Monday 4 March 2024. Proposals of no more than 500 words are now invited to be submitted online here.

UCU delegation to TUC LGBT+ conference

UCU LGBT+ members are invited to express interest in joining the delegation to the Trades Union Congress (TUC) LGBT+ conference, to be held on 27-28 June 2024 in Congress House in London, by completing this online form. There are a limited number of places; deadline for completing the form is Wednesday 28 February (17:00).

Ceasefire NOW!

UCU joins with many others in Palestine, the UK, and beyond to reiterate the demands for an immediate ceasefire, the immediate and unconditional release of all hostages, unrestricted access to humanitarian aid, and the lifting of the siege of Gaza. You can read the union's latest statement on education in Gaza here.

We have launched a new page on our website to collate in one place all of our information, resources and events for UCU members and branches to continue to campaign locally around these issues.

In solidarity

Simon Foster
UCU head of campaigns

Last updated: 20 February 2024