AGM – 27th November 2018

Please come along to the Coventry University UCU Annual General Meeting which has been scheduled as follows:

Date: Tuesday 27th November 2018

Time: 2:00 pm – 4:00 pm

Room: JA153

Come and vote in a committee which will represent and fight for you in the coming year.

If you would like to become a member of the committee or a rep, please e-mail ucu@coventry.ac.uk or just come along on the day and get someone to nominate you. We welcome participation from all members.

All members are welcome. New members can join on the door.

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#CovUniShame (again)

Remember when Coventry University were in the papers for sacking a group of English pre-sessional teachers – employed by a ‘wholly-owned subsidiary’ of the University CU Services – for exercising their legal right to collective representation by UCU? Well, they are at it again – union busting that is – this time at CU Coventry.

Sham union

On 8 March, UCU officials met with the CEO John Dishman and the head of University HR Magi Hoppitt who revealed that the Group had registered its Staff Consultative Group as a trade union and signed a recognition agreement with it.

  • The Staff Group is not an independent union. It’s a company union, set up and controlled by management.

  • The Group has very few members and those staff who did participate had no idea that it had been registered as a union and were stunned to learn this. Several have since resigned in disgust.

  • Although the Staff Group is not an independent union, a loophole in trade union law means that it is impossible for UCU to lodge an application for statutory recognition.

UCU is in no doubt that this was a deliberate, cynical and planned manoeuvre to exploit the law to deny staff their expressed will and cut off their legal right to a union.

CU Group board meeting minutes from March 2016 show that the Group considered this measure as a possible way of preventing the union from applying for recognition. (see the minutes here: http://www.ucu.org.uk/media/9306/CUC-TU-recognition/pdf/CUCTUrecognition )

The Group was advised in this by the University’s own HR department. This is a shocking and disgusting way for a university employer to behave. Such antics bring shame upon the CU Group and its owner Coventry University and should be an embarrassment to the forthcoming City of Culture.

Public campaign

Since UCU found out about Coventry University’s latest act of union busting – which it had to tell members in CU Coventry about, by the way – we have been waging a highly effective public campaign to put pressure on the employer to reverse the decision.

Firstly, we launched a petition, which now has just under 10,000 signatures from UCU members, academics and sympathetic citizens across the UK and even abroad.

Secondly, we lobbied local politicians, political organisations and trade unions to write to the vice chancellor, John Latham, to reverse this decision, de-recognise the sham union and recognise UCU instead.

You can follow the letters to the VC, as well as messages of solidarity on the UCU website as they come in

Jim Cunningham, MP for Coventry South has publicly condemned the actions of the University, revealing that he has written to the VC and commenting that the “approach taken [by Coventry University] shows a worrying disregard for the wishes of CUG staff and their right to meaningful collective bargaining on the issues of concern”.

“I believe, as The Labour Party always has, that strong trade union representation is tremendously important,” he adds. “I am proud of the link between trade unions and the Labour Party. I have urged the University to change its course, reconsider this approach and agree to an appropriate recognition agreement with the University and College Union (UCU) in accordance with the wishes of staff.”

The Coventry Observer has also been enthusiastically covering the story (see here and here), and we are hoping that other local and national media outlets will pick the story up as the campaign builds.

Demonstrations

Coventry UCU has now also called two national demonstrations (see leaflets here). If you would like printed copies to distribute, please contact ucu@coventry.ac.uk

Wednesday 18 April – Solidarity protest and rally, 1pm. Assemble outside Graham Sutherland Building, Cox Street, Coventry CV1 5PH

Wednesday 16 May – March and demonstration to lobby the University Board of Governors. Details tbc.

What can you do?

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Model branch motion:

[please ensure that you send a copy of your letter to UCU at jwhite@ucu.org.uk so that we can post it on the solidarity wall]

This branch condemns Coventry University for its role in promoting union busting in its subsidiary company ‘CU Group’.

Staff in CU Group have been clear that they want UCU to represent them for collective bargaining yet the University and the company management have attempted to frustrate their will by secretly registering their Staff Consultative Group as ‘union’ and signing a recognition agreement with it.

The SCG is a sham union. It is not independent, it’s been set up and run by management and it has no support from staff.

We note that UCU has called a national campaign in support of members at CU Group aimed at securing a proper recognition agreement with UCU, sanctioning the use of ‘all possible measures’.

This branch resolves to support the national campaign in any way possible, including:

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Model letter:

[Please ensure that you send a copy of your letter to UCU at jwhite@ucu.org.uk so that we can post it on the solidarity wall]

Email to: John.latham@coventry.ac.uk

Dear Professor Latham,

On behalf of UCU at — I am writing to protest at the outrageous actions of the CU Group’s management in setting up and recognising a sham union. We believe that this legal manoeuvre was a transparent attempt to frustrate the will of staff who have demonstrated that they wish to have UCU recognised to negotiate for them.

The actions of the company’s management are disgraceful enough but it appears to have been taken under the advice of the University’s senior management.

Coventry University is gaining a reputation as an anti-union pariah institution in the UK higher education sector and we believe that its actions reflect very badly on the sector as a whole.

We are calling on the CU Group to de-recognise its fake union and recognise UCU for the purposes of collective bargaining across the Group immediately.

In the meantime, our branch will offer all possible solidarity to our members in the CU Group, including supporting any actions that they call for in relation to Coventry University.

I look forward to your response.

Coventry University blasted in The Guardian

Last week The Guardian newspaper published a letter from UCU general secretary Sally Hunt – scroll down to the bottom if you haven’t yet read this.

This letter made the point that public outrage about University leaders paying themselves outrageously high salaries is not the full story of what is happening in universities today. It also concerned the new terms and conditions staff working in these institutions are having to face. Sally singled out a CU Coventry (formerly Coventry University College) as an example of this.

While this ‘no-frills’ provision is trumpeted by our Senior Leadership team as a “life shaped learning”, the lower costs for students at the College are entirely at the expense of staff, who are not covered by existing collective bargaining agreements, earn earn lower wages, work longer hours, have shorter marking turnaround times and are not allowed to join the Teachers Pension Scheme (being offered instead a scheme where the employer makes half the contributions). As we have argued, the whole purpose of these “wholly-owned subsidiaries” within the Coventry University Group is to drive down costs and create a surplus for the main University.

What has this got to do with members of staff at the main University? The answer lies in the New Academic Year that the Deputy Vice Chancellor Ian Dunn has recently proposed (2/11/17). This asks you teach across three semesters for 13 weeks at a time, to halve your turnaround time for marking, to keep on top of the ballooning volume of administration, and maybe make some time for research as well.  In other words having got away with creating mini institutions with lower pay and inferior conditions, the plan is now to make the university more like the subsidiaries.

While the New Academic Year plan has been delayed for a year – reality had to bite somewhere – the plan is still to proceed with this no matter what the cost to your well-being, to the student experience, or to the quality of the teaching and learning on which our reputation is based.

Indeed the long term game plan was expressed by Ian Dunn, deputy vice chancellor for student experience, in The Guardian (5 December, ‘U-turn on two-year degrees predicted as fears grow over funding’) when he said the main university would be keen to introduce two-year degrees on its bigger courses if higher fees were brought in.

Our deputy VC qualifies this statement with a recognition that not all students would want to study on accelerated degrees, however, we would argue that any introduction of 2 year degree within the main University – and the massive restructuring such changes would require –  will push the university staff and systems to breaking point. They will not raise the quality of education at Coventry University – this will be cheapened.
As is the habit of University management, the Academic Year plan was announced in an email with absolutely no consultation with the recognised trade unions, staff or students. It is for this reason that UCU, alongside the other two recognised unions Unison and Unite, have called on the management not to proceed with these plans without thinking about the impact they will have on staff and to consult with those recognised trade unions.
We are taking this stance because we are already aware of the stress staff are under fulfilling existing demands. We want Coventry University to be a place where staff who work very hard and care about the quality of education our students receive are listened to and consulted on changes that affect our working lives.
More than ever, we need our recognised trade unions to remind our disconnected leadership team what is going on.
Sally Hunt’s letter in The Guardian:

Your article on university attitudes to accelerated degrees (U-turn on two-year degrees predicted as fears grow over funding, 5 December) makes reference to Coventry University College’s “no frills” educational offer.

Let’s be clear about what “no frills” actually means in this context. Coventry University College, or CU Coventry, as it’s now called, charges lower prices for its three-year degrees and claims to offer students a more flexible experience.

But if you teach at CU Coventry – a subsidiary of Coventry University – “no frills” means you get paid much less than your colleagues at the university, your teaching year is much longer, your workload heavier, and you have no access to a decent occupational pension. About 40% of the teachers are paid by the hour and this “sweating of the assets” means there is a heavy turnover of staff.

All of which helps to explain why these teachers are fighting hard for a union. Their colleagues at Coventry University can be in a number of unions that are recognised by the university. Appallingly though, the board of governors at CU Coventry decided recently to resist any approaches from unions at the college.

CU Coventry’s “no frills” model is highly profitable. In 2016 it registered post-tax profits of £3.8m which it then gift-aided to its sole shareholder, Coventry University. The CEO of CU College is the pro-vice-chancellor of Coventry University and the board includes two deputy vice-chancellors and the university secretary.

The university sector is currently beset by scandals over senior pay and perks, and it is right that a light is finally being shone on the murky world of remuneration committees. It is also time to take a proper look at the role of subsidiary companies and how they treat their staff.

Sally Hunt,
General secretary, University and College Union

Growth is ok … but what about quality? (May 2017 edition)

EEC at Sea

In May this year, Coventry University UCU published a pamphlet entitled, ‘Growth is ok…but what about quality?’

You can download the pamphlet here: UCU Pamphlet April 2017 w Equality Charter

This pamphlet criticised Coventry University’s Corporate Strategy 2021, which we see as unsustainable for a number of reasons articulated in the pamphlet

  1. Financial risk – the corporate plan aims to invest ‘at least £350m, with a surplus every year of 7% of income’ – the total net assets of the whole University Group are only £251m. We are concerned that if the bottom falls out of the aggressive growth plan the University has been pursuing, if student numbers fall significantly for example, it will be our members, our colleagues and our community in Coventry that will bear the consequences.
  2. Housing crisis – The Corporate Plan seeks to increase student numbers across the Group to an eye watering 80,000. According to HESA data, there were 27,600 HE students at Coventry University in 2014/15. The Corporate Plan, therefore, seeks to almost triple student numbers across the group. Coventry is already suffering a housing crisis, and the student accommodation being built now to accommodate these students doesn’t even scratch the surface. Tensions are rising in the city, with residents having mixed feelings towards the two universities, which they feel to be increasingly taking over.
  3. Quality – Coventry University’s rise through the league tables, although impressive and worthy of celebration, has been earned through the cashing in of the good will of staff who are working far beyond capacity to meet the unrealistic needs of the Corporate Plan. Our working conditions are our students’ learning conditions, and as the recent (2015) Green Paper on higher education, ‘Fulfilling our Potential: Teaching Excellence, Social Mobility and Student Choice’ suggests, teaching quality is fundamentally linked to the status and conditions of teaching staff, and to the proportion of teachers on secure contracts. Teaching ‘excellence’ is a professional practice, ‘not something achieved easily or without focus, time, challenge and change.’
  4. Equality – We have one of the most extensive and active equalities committees in UCU, and since the start of 2016 Coventry UCU equalities reps have made numerous representations for information, support and adjustments in order to support the rights and interests of our members. This new edition of the pamphlet describes this work and outlines our vision for a fairer university in our ‘Equalities Charter’.

We launched the pamphlet at the end of the last academic year (2016/17) at one of our best attended meetings, with about 100 members coming to collect their physical copy, have a samosa and listen to Stephen Cowden (Coventry UCU chair), Jane Nellist (Coventry TUC president) and Douglas Chalmers (UCU vice president) speak to the issues raised by our intervention.

In the new academic year we will be building on this success by pushing forward with our key campaigns, engaging in our day-to-day equalities and case-work activities, as well as pushing forward with new campaigns, Come along to our Annual General Meeting in Oct (details tbc) to hear more.

SOLIDARITY WITH COLLEAGUES AT WARWICK UNIVERSITY

Coventry University UCU expresses its solidarity with our colleagues in Warwick UCU in its ‘Save Our Statue’ Campaign.  This campaign concerns the way the University Management at Warwick are currently seeking to remove Warwick University’s ‘statute reforms’; which involves the repealing of current provisions for redundancy, discipline and dismissal.  These changes makes it quicker and easier to sack and discipline members of staff at the University.

This is a clear attack on staff terms and conditions and job security at Warwick University.  If this is allowed to go through these moves will be emulated throughout the Higher Education sector in general.

We are concerned that these changes come at a time at which the stress levels experienced by staff in the HE sector are rising considerably.  A recent study into this by Prof Ronald Persson, who has previously worked at the University of Huddersfield, noted that:

“The deterioration [in staff well-being] between 2006 and 2010 has been remarkable…The pressure caused by the REF has grown much worse…if you examine newer universities, in particular, they have really embraced the concepts of new public management wholeheartedly,” he added, saying these are a major source of staff unhappiness. (THE 4/5/17)

We see these initiatives as part of a developing approach by University Senior managers in which they have ceased to see themselves as not publicly accountable.  British Universities are legally defined as charities and as such they have a responsibility to consider the wider public interest.  It is difficult to see how an initiative such as this which increases the power of academic managers is in the interests of staff, students or the wider public.

Coventry University UCU joins the calls across the HE Sector  for these changes to be withdrawn as soon as possible.

Sign the petition here

Ken Loach at Coventry University

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On the 22nd February 2017, Coventry UCU were honored to have co-organised a screening of I Daniel Blake with Unite Community (Coventry and Warwickshire Branch) along with supporting organisations Peoples Assembly and Coventry Recovery Centre.

Our aim was to raise awareness of the sanctions regime in the benefits system and to highlight the desperation and indignity that this imposes on thousands of people in Britain today.

After the film there was a question and answer session in the theatre led by the director of the film Ken Loach, which was a huge success and enabled some very important issues to be raised and discussed.

The Q & A was filmed and we hope to be able to put on another screening for those who didn’t manage to get a ticket with a screening of the Q & A later this year.

Thanks to everyone who came and made this event a success.

Event: Mini Congress 2017

Do you know how democracy works in UCU?

Would you like to get involved in setting local and national policy?

Hillman Lecture Theatre (GEG32)

Wednesday 8th March, 1 – 3pm

Only members can vote, but all welcome!

This year we are trying out a new experiment. We are holding a ‘mini congress’, which will imitate the national UCU congress, and inform our policy for the next year.

Successful motions will also be sent to national congress, and if you submit a successful motion, you could have the opportunity to move that motion at national congress.

Submit a motion here:

https://goo.gl/forms/pyx9gclkTZmmCWWF2

PLEASE NOTE: You or another member must move your motion at the Mini Congress

What are motions?

Motions are statements asking for specific actions from the union. Branches, regions, the NEC and other national committees can all bring motions to congress, where votes take place on whether they are to be used as policy. These cover a wide variety of areas. You can have a look at last year’s motions at https://www.ucu.org.uk/congress2016 to find out about how they are put together and please get in touch with us at ucu@coventry.ac.uk if you would like any further help.

Motions should:

  • Be no longer than 150 words
  • Be relevant to education, further education, higher education, prison education or land based education (i.e. within the remit of our union)
  • Ask for specific actions (e.g. “Produce materials for branches to use to campaign on the issue of ESOL cuts”)

 

Model motion from last year

HE8 (EP) Campaign to protect the public interest in higher education – Coventry University

Conference notes that the 2015 green paper suggests (part C, chapter 3, pp. 66-68) that Higher Education Corporations (HECs) should in future have the right to dissolve themselves into for-profit providers.

Conference also notes that providers such as Coventry University are already taking over large sections of their city/town centres and thereby increasing their asset portfolios.

Conference is aware that such developments could lead to the privatisation of publicly-owned spaces and that such assets will be extremely attractive to ‘corporate raiders’ such as hedge-funds. Such privatisation could therefore lead to the asset-stripping of town and city centres for the purposes of shareholder super-profits.

Conference agrees to launch a broad-based campaign to:

  1. raise awareness amongst members, students, citizens and local authorities about these proposed changes
  2. to commit existing higher education providers to place the public good above private profit and in the process democratise institutional governance.

 

Follow this link to read about UCU National Congress: 

https://www.ucu.org.uk/article/3414/Annual-congress–sector-conference