Anti-casualisation resolution

November 23, 2016 § Leave a comment

This Branch acknowledges without endorsing the action taken by casualised staff in the School of Government and Society to withhold registers until they had all been issued contracts and paid in full for work undertaken in good faith. It views the apparent breakdown in relations between the University management and a key section of the teaching community to be indicative of a widespread and dismissive attitude taken by the University management towards those teaching on casual (fixed-term) contracts, across the University as a whole.

BUCU finds it unacceptable that the University management considers it a permissible practice to employ staff to undertake teaching and then fail to pay them. This represents unacceptable treatment of those who are already employed on low incomes, have little job security, yet perform work that is crucial to the operation of the University.

The Branch therefore instructs the branch committee to engage in action to bring to the attention of staff and students the condition of casualised staff across the university, informing them of the action taken by staff in Government and Society, and to actively attempt to develop solidarity between casualised staff and permanent staff at both the local and university level.

Adopted 23 November 2016

Saturday examinations resolution

November 23, 2016 § Leave a comment

This branch notes with considerable concern the unilateral move by the University management to introduce Saturday examinations without any prior consultation or agreement with UCU, despite UCU being the recognised representative of academic and academic-related staff at the University of Birmingham.

Weekend working is widely recognised as poor practice in terms of work-life balance and equality issues in that it clearly discriminates against those with caring duties, the majority of which continue to fall disproportionately on the shoulders of women. Family unfriendly working times therefore have a disproportionately detrimental effect upon women and it is established in employment law that such practices represent a form of sex discrimination.

If the University of Birmingham management wish to have their declared commitment to equality and diversity taken seriously, then they should consult staff before changing working times, and they should avoid the introduction of family unfriendly working practices.

For these reasons, University of Birmingham UCU calls for a reversal of the proposal to introduce Saturday examinations, and instructs the branch committee to demand such a reversal from the University management. Failure by the branch negotiators to secure such an outcome should result in a further members’ meeting, where the branch can consider its response.

Adopted 23 November 2016

Workload Allocation Models

November 2, 2016 § Leave a comment

Resolution adopted by the University of Birmingham branch of UCU, 2 November 2011:

This branch rejects the imposition of 1760 working hours annually and a 40 hour working week and any WAM based on these figures and affirms the sector standard of 1650 hours as set by HEFCE/Research Councils UK (37.5 hours).

This branch reaffirms its commitment to the principle that all new Workload Allocation Models (WAMs), and changes to existing WAMs, must be agreed to beforehand by University of Birmingham UCU (BUCU).

The branch notes with concern that new WAMs appear to be being introduced across the University, in many instances without any prior consultation, negotiation or agreement with BUCU whatsoever, and in many cases creating a substantial change to existing terms and conditions of employment.

In the case of the Birmingham Business School (BBS), this has resulted in an increase in working hours of up to 280 extra hours work per year – without any consultation, negotiation or agreement whatsoever.

The branch instructs the branch officers to object in writing with immediate effect upon discovering any new or changed WAM that has been introduced without union agreement.

The branch calls for the branch officers to provide regular updates on current negotiations with the University on the WAM and especially its recent communications with BBS on this issue.

The branch also instructs the branch officers to ensure that any WAM that is agreed – either at University, College, School or Departmental level – be done in a way that is transparent to the degree that the principles and calculations of the WAM are available to all affected staff.

The branch further insists on the need for transparency and consistency in the calculation of any workload allocation that may occur outside of the WAM, and for prior consultation and agreement with the affected staff before any changes are introduced.

Birmingham UCU calls off strike as University takes redundancies off the table

June 24, 2016 § Leave a comment

Birmingham UCU calls off strike as University takes redundancies off the table

University of Birmingham academic and related staff called off their threatened strike today as the University management eventually withdrew its proposal to make staff in Modern Languages redundant.

This brings to an end a round of compulsory redundancies that were threatened in Modern Languages, Neuroscience and Pharmacology, Engineering, and Hydrogeology – all now concluded without any compulsory redundancies. It also marks what the union hopes will be a new approach to any future restructuring at the University.

Roland Brandstaetter, UCU Birmingham branch president, said, “This represents a huge victory for our branch. The University of Birmingham has pursued a series of reorganisations, all coming with proposed compulsory redundancies, over the past 12 months, which exposed over 100 members of staff to the health risks associated with the biggest work-related stress factor that there is – that of losing their jobs. We are glad that the University has now taken these proposals off the table and we hope that we can prevent any such job and health-threatening proposals in the future.”

For more details contact Roland Brandstaetter, University of Birmingham UCU Branch President: rolandbrandstaetterrb[@]gmail.com

BUCU statement on University of Birmingham governance

April 13, 2016 § Leave a comment

It is now over a week since we called for a full investigation into the financial affairs of the Chancellor of the University of Birmingham, Lord Bilimoria. We remain very concerned about the reputation of the University of Birmingham. Despite several messages from the University management about the apparently “challenging environment for the sector” – no mention whatsoever has been made of the fact that Lord Bilimoria has been the subject of considerable discussion in the international media, as a result of his connections with offshore tax havens.

It is starting to look as if this so-called “challenging environment” is simply something that is conveniently referred to whenever staff seek to maintain their existing pay rates in the face of ongoing inflation – regardless of the University’s earnings or ability to pay – or whenever the University feels a justification for proposed redundancies is needed. In his most recent e-mail our Vice-Principal refers to “increased costs from this year due to pensions (£3.5m a year), National Insurance (£4.4m a year), the apprenticeship levy (£1.5m a year) and for work permits for overseas staff (£182k a year)”, all of which sum up to about £10M, i.e. only about 20% of last year’s surplus, and allowing for a £15-20M investment in a new hotel and conference centre.

A quick google search for Lord Bilimoria reveals that his offshore company – Mulberry Holdings – is a company related to the fallout of his bankrupted earlier company, Cobra Beer. It appears that Lord Bilimoria himself earned £3.2 million in dividends from that company, at the same time as it was about to go bankrupt!

The University’s recent actions, and silences, raise a number of questions that need to be answered:

  • Why has the University of Birmingham issued no statement on the financial affairs of its own Chancellor, despite being the only university chancellor in the country to be exposed by the Panama Papers leak?
  • Why was Lord Bilimoria considered to be a suitable leader of this University in the first place? Who made this decision, and according to what criteria?
  • If we face such a “challenging environment”, then why do we have a Vice Chancellor earning £416,000 per year, one of the highest in the country? Why was our most recent operating surplus £45 million? Why is the average salary of UEB members £145,000?

We would like to encourage you to vote in both of the current UCU ballots ongoing at present – on local industrial action on redundancies, and on national industrial action on pay.

 

BUCU statement on Lord Bilimoria, University of Birmingham Chancellor

April 6, 2016 § Leave a comment

It has become apparent that Lord Bilimoria, the University of Birmingham’s Chancellor, has recently been exposed for having connections with one of the offshore tax havens detailed in the recent “Panama Papers” leaks.

This has resulted in national and international press coverage and raises extremely serious questions about the Chancellor’s financial operations.

Guardian coverage here

Coverage in student paper, The Tab, here

BUCU are absolutely opposed to the use of offshore tax havens, or the support of their use, as a means of undermining the tax revenues of the national government. Indeed, in a time when we are constantly reminded of the need for austerity, it absolutely beggars belief that a leading member of this university appears to have actively contributed to the dwindling of government resources.

That such a development should occur at the University of Birmingham also raises serious questions that go the heart of the operation of this university. We have one of the highest paid vice-chancellors in the country; and now it seems we have the only university chancellor in the country that is exposed by the Panama Papers leak. It is absolutely unacceptable to run a university in a way that shows concern only for private individual gain, profit, and status, without concern for scientific progress or the contribution that higher education can make to wider society.

BUCU notes that the Prime Minister of Iceland, Singmundur Gunnlaugsson, has been forced to resign as a result of the same leaks, despite his claims that he was not personally implicated. Indeed, the very business of tax havens is such that arms-length associations are a means by which direct personal involvement is concealed.

BUCU calls for a full investigation into Lord Bilimoria’s financial affairs, and for an end to any association between this University and the shadowy world of tax havens and offshore finance which threatens to damage the reputation of all who work here.

BUCU committee

 

Birmingham University faces ongoing term-time strikes

March 17, 2016 § Leave a comment

Angered by unnecessary redundancies and management’s unwillingness to engage in meaningful negotiations, academic staff at the University of Birmingham recently voted overwhelmingly to hold a ballot for strike action that would seriously disrupt teaching for all students from September 2016 onwards.

protestpic1

The vote follows an ongoing series of job losses that have been proposed by the University, with job cuts in the areas of Engineering, Neuroscience/Pharmacology, Hydrogeology, and Modern Languages.

Over the last 12 months, more than 100 members of staff have been put at risk of redundancy. More than 100 members of staff have been exposed to the threat of losing their jobs.

This is despite the University paying over £400K in salary to its VC, and reporting a £45m surplus in its most recent annual accounts.

The academic staff union, UCU, has repeatedly encouraged the University to find alternatives to what are widely believed to be unnecessary job losses. However, the intransigence of the University management position is such that academic staff members have been forced to consider the option of ongoing strike action.

If the ballot produces a yes vote, which all indicative polling suggests is very likely, then this could lead to significant disruption to the teaching and learning of students at the University of Birmingham.

A UCU spokesperson said, “These job losses are entirely unnecessary and threaten the quality of teaching at the University of Birmingham. The strike action that has been suggested could be entirely avoided if only the University management would enter into reasonable discussions with its own staff. However, sadly this has not been the case so far and we have therefore been left with the proposal for strike action as our only option”.

More details can be found here:

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