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UeL UCU Newsletter 3


Dear colleague,  Apologies for the length of this article but there are a few key issues and meetings to discuss.

As I said in my last email it has been a difficult start to the year for any academic staff especially those in ‘reconfigured’ schools.  Academic staff are under pressure and desperately trying to maintain the student (and staff) experience in face of crumbling systems and processes as well as bullying and divisive tactics by management especially around workloads. This clearly cannot continue but to make it stop will require each and everyone one of us in all meetings and individual discussions to stand up for our rights.

Field Leader role and AWAM

UCU Officers will, of course, make representation about all these issues.  We are meeting on Friday to discuss motions passed at the last Branch meeting about AWAM and changes to the Field Leader role.  The branch wants action on both these issues.  Members will remember that at the end of last year we were almost at the point of declaring a dispute but then sat down with management and produced a joint statement that bound us to better relations and set out what the issues were and how they were going to be discussed.  Management are dragging their feet in response to discussions and allowing, into this vacuum, all sorts of bad practices especially around AWAM/workloads to occur.  I will repeat again, as I am hearing members say that Field Leaders and Deans are advising staff there is no AWAM, that we HAVE an agreement with management that AWAM is still to be used to allocate your workload and the Portfolio model is NOT a mechanism for allocating workload.  You have to defend your rights and therefore insist on to an AWAM and reject any attempt to determine your workload through Portfolios. All UCU members should have an AWAM and you must make sure that it is up to date.  If you are being asked to work above your AWAM you must call for UCU representation in meetings with Field Leader or Dean.

Hourly Paid Staff

Linked to workloads is another issue that is surfacing in some schools about HPLs.  Programme Leaders in ADI have been advised that there are to be no HPLs next semester.  Some staff are being asked to teach more or to agree to large group teaching i.e., one staff member with 70-100 students for 3 hours in what is called ‘workshops’.  This wrong on so many levels but is perverse when considered in relation to student experience. It also does not work for some modules i.e., those that are production based and require access to computers for example.  Of particular concern is that pressure that is being applied to some staff but not to all.  If there is a genuine financial problem then all within a school should come together to discuss a way forward in a spirit of openness and transparency.  This situation is unfair and will result in inequitable treatment for some staff which we must resist.

There is also the serious issue of the rights of HPL staff.  We have negotiated for those staff in place when the HPL Agreement was signed to move to a Permanent Hourly Paid contract before, after 4 years, applying for a permanent fractional contract.  Therefore HPL staff cannot be singled out for dismissal as this decision implies; they have the same rights as other permanent members of staff. We must be prepared to fight over this issue as it is a matter of principle and fairness.   Please identify any HPL staff working on your modules and ask them to contact UCU for guidance.

Joint Union Meeting

We are therefore calling a joint union meeting in Anti-bullying and Stress week to discuss the many issues facing all staff at UEL.   It will be on Tuesday 8th November between 12-1pm, room TBC.  This academic year we appear to have rising student numbers, have lost colleagues through the VS and Early Retirement scheme and have a healthy financial position.  Why then these dramatic cut backs when we should have maximised our income?  If we did not maximise our income this year why not?  Why are things so unclear around finances and the resources available to schools with cuts taking place when we have increased numbers?   What will be the impact on the student experience of larger classes and exhausted academic staff?  Why are staff just not being consulted more about things that matter?  The management style both at VCG level and at School level leaves much to be desired at the moment especially in relation to their academic staff.  Those staff who have been at UEL for some time and have experienced change before know that it does not have to be this way.  Change is never easy but it can be managed in a way that is respectful.  UEL staff are a fantastically loyal group of staff but our goodwill has been stretched so far this year and we need to come together, discuss issues and through our unions make our voice heard; we deserve better from management.   Now is the time to defend our institution.   Please come to this important meeting. 

Day of Action – 30th November

One way to make our voice heard is to have everyone who is a member of UCU on the picket line for the 30th November day of action.  We need to have a show of strength at UEL and will be joined by other unions as well as students; I am asking ALL members to come to the picket line.    Please do not take this as an opportunity to work from home, as busy and overwhelmed with work I know that you are.   We already have one Dean putting School Board on the day of the strike which is very provocative.   We must withdraw our labour for this day and come together to feel the strength that comes through unity.   Thanks to all who have signed up for picket duty already.  Please let me know what time of day you would like to cover, we are asking for a commitment of 3 hours.  We will be operating from 8-5pm.  More guidance will be issued closer to the day about what to do but be prepared for cold and rain.

Having just returned from the lobby of Parliament and a meeting with local MP Stephen Timms I can report that security staff at the Houses of Parliament were saying that had not seen anything like this with over 5000 people going through the security system by 2pm.  Whilst not all were there to lobby a good percentage were and there were many more waiting outside.   We spoke about the pensions issue briefly as he had met other education workers earlier on during the day and he also asked about UEL.  I expressed some of my concerns especially about the pressure that staff are under at the moment.   I urged him to sign the Early Day Motion opposing the privatisation of universities which I feel is linked to our pensions, i.e., they need to soften up the pension schemes so universities will be attractive to private providers.  We will be holding a social event in the last week of Semester A which I hope you will attend where we will be showing the documentary ‘College Inc’, by US PSB Front Line that exposes poor practice from  private providers of Higher Education in the US and in particular the company that owns the University of Phoenix franchise which has been in meeting with the UK government recently.

Student Protest Wednesday 9th November

There will be a contingent going from UEL.  Assembly in central London is from 12.00.  I will advise of meeting points as soon as I know.  If you want to come but wish to meet in central London email and will let you know a meeting point or give a mobile phone number for contact on the day.


Please let me have your comments about these difficult issues.



UCU (Docklands) Branch Secretary

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