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Members' Bulletin, 6 July 2018

Members’ Bulletin 6 July 2018

Contents

Academic Board

Workload models and academic expectations

Equal pay

Hardship fund

AGM motion on UCU

 

 

Academic Board is Alive and Kicking!

Board agrees to extended consultation on contentious workload and expectations documents

Despite rumours of its demise as a body for democratic deliberation, the College's Academic Board held on June 18th witnessed an unprecedented attendance and widespread debate.
It is difficult to avoid the conclusion this wider mobilisation among College staff over matters concerning our working live is a result of the winter strike action.
UCU branch committee member Brad Baxter spoke at the very beginning of the meeting on Workload Allocation and Academic Expectations, stating the UCU view that further dissemination of information and greater deliberation were necessary before Academic Board approval. This prompted an extensive discussion involving both union and non- union members.

 

Several colleagues emphasised that many College Departments already have perfectly functional workload allocation models; that the Workload Allocation model is contradictory in tone and unclear in purpose; and that much of College has only seen the documents because of UCU dissemination. Management claimed that it was 'normative, not prescriptive', but it was pointed out that the document wording does not reflect this position. Former members of Senior Management, such as Stephen Frosh, spoke in support of the UCU view that better and more extensive consultation were needed before proposals are passed. Contrary to the impression that may have been given at the meeting, the documents in their current form have NOT been agreed or approved by the UCU. Chairing the meeting, Vice-Master Matt Innes committed to circulating an individual staff consultation on the workload allocation model, within a timeframe that would also allow the proposals to be collectively discussed at departmental meetings.

Other matters raised at the Board included Safeguarding (item 10), concerning the disturbing intrusion of a far-right group in College during the industrial action: a banner from 'Generation Identity' (https://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/home-news/generation-identity-far-right-group-training-camps-europe-uk-recruits-military-white-nationalist-a8046641.html) was displayed on the terrace of the Birkbeck bar at the beginning of Easter, presumably aimed at SOAS. Keith Harrison agreed to reply to earlier UCU emails concerning this intrusion. Our UCU colleague Sophie Hope also spoke on the International Committee (item 12), making the important point that Birkbeck needed to be less overtly hostile to international students, despite changes in law.

Academic Board is the closest we have at Birkbeck to a College-wide democratic body, so it was very heartening to see it become a venue of substantive discussion and participative decision-making. The local UCU branch will continue working toward making 

College governance ever more accessible and representative of the Birkbeck community as a whole.

 

Workload models and academic expectations consultation

 

The major concerns raised by the UCU about both documents have not been assuaged and despite some small textual changes and clarifications, the major, core problems remain:

 

  • Stipulated normal annual teaching hours (70-100)
  • The exclusion of tutorials from the teaching load metric
  • A stipulated equal division between research, teaching and service which does not reflect the reality of many colleagues and Departments
  • Generic descriptions of academic expectations that background disciplinary variation and specificities
  • A lack of clarity about the objectives of both documents and their connection to teaching-only roles (a separate union document will be issued on this topic)

 

The UCU position, disseminated several months ago, and widely supported across the college, is as follows:

 

  • We support the goals of workload allocation models that are fair and transparent
  • We support the clarification of what is expected of academic staff at different stages in their careers, under the headings of research, teaching and service
  • BUT we also believe that Workload Models should be devised and operated at Departmental level and that the stipulation of normal teaching hours and of an equal division between research, teaching and service are irrelevant to the goals of fairness and transparency
  • The Expectations of academic staff document should be subject to discipline-specific amendments written by Departments
  • The consultation period should be extended into early Autumn term in order to allow Departmental discussion of these documents, as agreed at Academic Board

We therefore urge colleagues to respond to the consultation organized by the Vice-Master, in light of the points above and please cc your comments to the UCU office ucu@bbk.ac.uk

 

 

Equal pay claim?

 

There is a revolution in equal pay collective action in the UK. Many of you will have read reports about the ‘gender pay gap’ in organizations, defined as the difference between the average (mean) pay for all male employees compared to the  average for all its female employees. Some of this difference may be due to men and women performing different jobs. But part of the gender pay gap will be driven by unlawful and unequal pay, ie different rates of pay for men and women performing similar work (or work of equal value) which cannot be explained by factors such as qualifications or relevant experience.

College governance ever more accessible and representative of the Birkbeck community as a whole.

 

Workload models and academic expectations consultation

 

The major concerns raised by the UCU about both documents have not been assuaged and despite some small textual changes and clarifications, the major, core problems remain:

 

  • Stipulated normal annual teaching hours (70-100)
  • The exclusion of tutorials from the teaching load metric
  • A stipulated equal division between research, teaching and service which does not reflect the reality of many colleagues and Departments
  • Generic descriptions of academic expectations that background disciplinary variation and specificities
  • A lack of clarity about the objectives of both documents and their connection to teaching-only roles (a separate union document will be issued on this topic)

 

The UCU position, disseminated several months ago, and widely supported across the college, is as follows:

 

  • We support the goals of workload allocation models that are fair and transparent
  • We support the clarification of what is expected of academic staff at different stages in their careers, under the headings of research, teaching and service
  • BUT we also believe that Workload Models should be devised and operated at Departmental level and that the stipulation of normal teaching hours and of an equal division between research, teaching and service are irrelevant to the goals of fairness and transparency
  • The Expectations of academic staff document should be subject to discipline-specific amendments written by Departments
  • The consultation period should be extended into early Autumn term in order to allow Departmental discussion of these documents, as agreed at Academic Board

We therefore urge colleagues to respond to the consultation organized by the Vice-Master, in light of the points above and please cc your comments to the UCU office ucu@bbk.ac.uk

 

 

Equal pay claim?

 

There is a revolution in equal pay collective action in the UK. Many of you will have read reports about the ‘gender pay gap’ in organizations, defined as the difference between the average (mean) pay for all male employees compared to the  average for all its female employees. Some of this difference may be due to men and women performing different jobs. But part of the gender pay gap will be driven by unlawful and unequal pay, ie different rates of pay for men and women performing similar work (or work of equal value) which cannot be explained by factors such as qualifications or relevant experience.

3. That the newly established Commission on Union Democracy should consider how the rights of members, delegates and officials can all be protected. It proposes that a vote of no confidence at Congress should be permitted but if passed, it should trigger an election for the post of General Secretary, not a resignation.