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July Committee Meeting Minutes

Committee Meeting July 2020 – Minutes

Attendance: Tanya Serisier; Rebecca Gumbrell-Mccormick; Mike Berlin; Alex Colas; Andi Fugard; Ashok Kumar; Simon Deville; Lou Miller; Trevor Fenner; Paddy McDaid; Mike Berlin; Jaswinder Blackwell-Pal; Robert Stearn; Eva Szatmari; Chrys Papaioannou

  1. 1.       Committee Matters

1.1 AGM Minutes

Agreed that these should be more substantive and reflective of discussions, including of the election of office bearers. 

AP – TS to update. Other committee members welcome to feed in suggestions/amendments.

1.2 Office-Bearers

Vice-President roles – agreed to have 3 vice presidents representing 3 major groups of staff: RGM for permanent academic staff, MB for T+S staff and SD for P/S staff.

Secretary – agreed that this wasn’t needed as we have Membership secretary role.

Communications Officer – agreed to establish office-bearer position and co-opt Jordan Osserman and Rebekah Cupitt into role if they agree. Some discussion about need to work with JI to improve social media presence, website (ideally not on the College server), email and other communications to members and ability of branch to communicate more quickly and effectively to members when issues arise.

Learning Officer – agreed that this requires a dedicated person as the remit of the role could be expanded.

AP – TS to draft job description for Comms Officer and Circulate to Committee. Following this position to be finalised.

JI to ensure website updated and accurate.

Committee to do further call-out encouraging members to get involved either in committee or another way such as delegates.

1.3 Committee Meetings

Agreed to schedule monthly committee meetings in advance. (Suggested time last Thursday of the month). Noted that day/time will need termly checking with committee members, particularly T+S members whose schedules; also noted that will need checking with college events and committees, and with UCU national schedule. It was also noted that this would make it easier for members to attend or get involved, although the need to involve members through campaigns/activism rather than more procedural meetings was noted.

AP – JI to check these matters and propose series of provisional dates for summer break and Autumn term.

1.4 Committee Communications

General agreement to look at moving Committee discussions/planning to an alternate format such as Slack or Loomio. Also possibility of a Branch sharepoint site and collective calendar were raised.

AP – JI/new Communications Officers/TS to investigate.

1.5 Officer roles and priorities

TS noted need to talk to office bearers about priorities.

AK and JBP spoke about plans to conduct mapping exercise to feed into branch renewal plans (below) as Membership secretaries.

CP spoke about plans (with Aviah Day) to extend existing equalities work, such as BLM and to link in with other campus unions and organisations like Students’ Anti-Racism network. Also noted plans to work on uneven impacts of Coronavirus, job precarity, workload and working from home – particularly in relation to race/ethnicity, disability status and gender.

  1. 2.       School/Department Representation and Organisation

2.1 Departmental Reps and Organisation

Agreement to aim for School/Departmental level OHS rep alongside other reps. Discussion about the need to revitalise departmental reps/organising, better communicate expectations and offer ways to more effectively feed into committee and direct branch. Need to offer induction, advice on role and ongoing support so that School/department delegates are enabled to participate but not left feeling overwhelmed and unsupported. Agreed mapping/consulting exercise of current membership/delegates. Noted that this should dovetail with plans to build union campaign around current conditions.

AP – AK/JBP/AC to work with JI to undertake mapping exercise of current members, delegates and density in schools/departments. (As part of this, develop better induction materials, communication structures and expectations for School/Departmental Delegates to encourage them to create discussion space for members).

Delegates will be asked to nominate as OHS rep for School/Department.

  1. 3.       Branch Negotiations

Reportback on negotiations, outlining discussions around the job retention scheme and the current outcome where we believe the majority of T+S staff will retain their work at prior levels or with a partial reduction. Discussion about the fact that this hasn’t been effectively communicated to T+S staff and is not filtering down through schools. Noted that this shows that the Branch needs to be more effective and proactive in communications and that there needs to be wider involvement in the process of preparing for and debriefing from negotiations, as well as instigating a better practice of rotating members of negotiating team (whether as participants or observers).

AP – To develop branch communication to members, particularly T+S staff about progress of negotiations.

To feedback to College concerns of members about the slow pace and lack of communication to T+S staff and inconsistent practice across schools.

Invite additional committee members to negotiation pre-meetings and debriefs.

  1. 4.       Branch Campaigning/Planning

General discussion about campaigning priorities for the coming months/year and a general consensus that these centre around linked issues of job protection/workload/working from home and the demands placed on staff in the context of Coronavirus. There was discussion about the fact that there have already been some successful interventions such as the ‘Questions for your line manager’ and the ‘Pledge’ for permanent staff not to take on work lost by others, but that there is a need to make these actions more collective and less individual. 

There was discussion about the need to continue to focus on issues such as BLM but also the fact that equalities play a key role in the isues discussed. The idea of campaigning around a ‘Corona Bonus’ to recognise and reward the extra work that staff have done over this period was discussed. The College finances and the possibility of an ‘alternate budget’ were also discussed although there was disagreement over the best way to respond to the College’s depiction of finances. Overall there was a general sense that we need to challenge the College presentation of the financial situation and particularly their presentation of what is required for financial stability (ie reducing ‘staff costs’).

There was discussion about a staff survey to be modelled on the T+S survey consulting with members about experiences, concerns and frustrations. While we can only send this to members we can ask members and School/departmental delegates to forward to other staff and use this as a recruiting tool (noting that we need to take extra measures to ensure that emails/communications reach T+S staff). There was also discussion about the branch previously operating to a ‘Branch Plan’.

AP – RS to send out T+S survey link.

AP – MB to send out previous branch plan for amendment/updating.

There was general consensus around developing a survey for use in launching a campaign based around key working conditions and precarity. There was also consensus around building towards an open meeting/campaign launch in September. But we need to decide still:

  • Initial next steps – shall we have a campaign planning meeting in the next couple of weeks?
  • Timing of survey vs general meeting – will we use the survey to build towards the general meeting or the meeting to launch the survey? (More generally, at what point do we try to get members involved in organising different elements)
  • Should we also aim for departmental meetings as part of launching survey – these could be open to all staff (and could potentially be modelled on the FMACS coffee mornings)?
  • Once we decide we need a timeline/plan for moving forward. Key steps and deadlines for these.
  • A lot of this relies on us having more effectively communication with members.
  • Do we want to also pursue an alternative budget/investigative accounting effort? (there’s been some dissent around this). This also ties into the need to engage more effectively with the College’s strategic plan as a whole (raised by Simon). We could develop a working group to look in detail at this, seeing if some of our more financially literate members are keen to be involved. And/or look elsewhere for expertise. (I can check with Goldsmiths UCU about exactly what they did).