Motions for AGM 2021

Motion 1: Support for Liverpool UCU – Cuts to Health and Life Sciences : Proposed by DG Driver seconded by Titus Hilberdink

This branch notes:

  • The appalling decision by the University of Liverpool to make Health and Life Science teachers and researchers redundant
  • The detrimental effect this will have on student learning
  • The devastating impact on staff of losing their jobs during the pandemic
  • The determination of UCU Liverpool members to fight for their members

This branch further notes:

  • Managers at other universities want to exploit the pandemic to make cuts
  • This makes the battle for jobs at Liverpool a dispute of significance to us too
  • It is in the interests of all workers, including us, that UCU Liverpool wins its dispute

This branch resolves:

  • To send a message of solidarity to UCU University of Liverpool
  • To donate £200/- to the Liverpool UCU strike fund
  • To invite a Liverpool striker to a future branch meeting
  • To actively support and publicise their ongoing strike action

Motion 2: Congratulations and solidarity with UoR staff who are having their terms and conditions of employement improved under the Collective Agreement Proposed by DG Driver seconded by Rita Balestrini

This branch notes

  • the successful change of a number of our grade 6 members to grade 7 as a result of a collective agreement
  • the importance of the work of colleagues working on anti-casualisation initiatives within the branch
  • early evidence that some colleagues affected by these changes are not being put on the correct spinal point within grade 7 that is commensurate with their experience.

This branch

  • thanks UCU colleagues & staff, and those in UoR management for working persistently on this important effort.
  • expresses solidarity with all grade 6 staff who have been affected by this process and those who may have moved on and therefore would not benefit from these changes, given the time that has elapsed since the start of this process
  • mandates RUCU committee to continue to push forward on the anti-casualisation agenda by reducing the race pay gap and gender pay gap, as well as moving more precariously-employed staff to permanency.
  • mandates the RUCU committee and negotiators to work with People Services and UoR management to ensure that all staff who have just been moved to grade 7, as part of this exercise, are put on spinal points that reflect their experience, rather than simply being consigned to the bottom of the spine; and that where they have worked for three or more years, they are not subject to any probationary period in the form of a special monitoring regime using the PDR process.
  • Sessional staff moved to a permanent post will not be subject to a three-year probationary period
  • The Agreement should take effect retrospectively from the start of the academic year 2020-2021 and a review for sessional contracts signed between September/October 2020 and January 2021 and running throughout the academic year should be carried out

Motion 3 : Learning technology, Covid pandemic and members’ rights Proposed by DG Driver and seconded by Titus Hilberdink

This branch notes:

  • the rapid deployment of many elements of learning technology at the University of Reading, particularly during the covid-19 epidemic .
  • the HE sector-wide proliferation of casualised gig economy jobs and highly surveilled employment relationships which can be mediated by such technology
  • Incursion of international learning technology organisations bringing exploitative employment models from Big Tech.
  • Increased reuse of recorded or pre-written materials rather than interactive teaching and learning including with the aim of making up for the lack of colleagues who have left / lost their positions or as a result of new efforts to control hiring costs

This branch mandates RUCU committee to work with UCU departmental representatives and members :

  • to explore the challenges to staff posed by learning technology and ‘tech platforms’
  • to ascertain its impact (if any) on increased casualisation at the University of Reading
  • to ascertain and to document its impact (if any) on surveillance and close supervision elements affecting employees’ autonomy, academic freedom, wellbeing, intellectual property rights and privacy rights
  • to recognise contextual particularities of different areas of the universities
  • to consider and report back to members at every general meeting the findings of such discussions and whether and how RUCU may fight casualisation and deterioration of working conditions arising from such new learning technology

Motion 4: USS valuation Proposed by DG Driver seconded by Titus Hilberdink

RUCU condemns:

  1. The decision by the USS Trustee to proceed with an out-of-cycle USS valuation at the height of the Covid-19 pandemic especially given the valuation was dated 31st March 2020
  2. The Trustee’s valuation proposals that drastically increase members’ and employers’ contributions including in some instances taking total costs to over 50%, which is absurd.
  3. Universities UK proposals to slash benefits and propose a two-tier scheme offering a lower value scheme for casualised and lower paid members.
  4. Reckless behaviour by the USS Trustee to propose so-called de-risking of the Scheme by moving the Scheme out of growth assets.

This branch asserts that:

  • a. The Scheme is healthy and has grown from £66.5 bn to £80 bn since the last valuation and this includes performance and stress during a global pandemic. Our contributions currently exceed our benefits and do not utilise either the £80 bn assets or the returns on the assets. The Scheme is expected to be cash-flow positive for at least the next 25 years. It is clear that current benefits could be maintained at 26% total contributions, were it not for unjustified and intentionally pessimistic modelling of projected deficits.
  • b. the effects of incorrect valuation models are profound and would undermine the Scheme by pressuring members and employers to opt out due to unjustified soaring costs or slashed benefits and this could lead to USS closure.

RUCU asks UoR management to publish their full response to the UUK consultation and to all past consultations since 2014

RUCU urges UoR management, and mandates RUCU committee to:

  • i. implement a multi-pronged strategy to defend USS at current costs and current benefits. As a starting point, such a strategy could include a joint working group with RUCU and management to come together , as is the case at many other universities with a view to deepening management understanding of the points made by our members and by UCU’s actuaries First Actuarial .
  • ii. call on UUK to (A) withdraw proposals for benefit reductions and / or worse benefits for lower paid members and (B) put pressure on USS to modify valuation approach such that the benefits remain the same and total costs remain at or near 26%