Guidance For Those Accused of Bullying or Harassment

Guidance for those accused of bullying or harassment – advice for UCU members and lay Reps/Caseworkers

Supporting/representing members accused of bullying or harassment is never straightforward.  Please see information HERE which provides members in these circumstances with information and guidance which aims to assist in helping them re-frame their reflections about what’s alleged and also how best to react and respond to any allegations.  Although the intended audience for this resource is our members, it is also instructive and useful for Reps and lay Branch Caseworkers to refer to.  Encourage members first accused of bullying or harassment to remember it is their accusers reaction to their behaviour which is important to reflect on, not the members intention or the reaction they think their accuser should have.  Worth highlighting  too that, should a complaint of bullying or harassment be upheld against a member (following conclusion of due process, up-to-and-beyond appeal stage) then the Branch may decide to withdraw ongoing support for that member, aside from advising them of their legal rights… unless there is evidence of a miscarriage of justice.  In harassment and possible serious discrimination cases, harassment being a form of discrimination defined within the Equality Act 2010, the Branch should always contact the Caseworker for Scotland, based in Ingram House Glasgow using the generic Scotland email address below i.e. to discuss and agree a way forward.  Also, if in doubt about a case don’t hesitate to contact UCU Scotland by email in the first instance –

This is important because of the need to assess statutory deadlines and protect a member’s employment rights.  Members experiencing mental distress, no matter the underpinnings of the case, should always be signposted to the following agencies for help:

  • UCU Education Support Partnership provides independent, confidential 24/7 support, to help you deal with stress and anxiety, bullying, career and money worries, and a range of other issues, tel. 08000 562 561 (free, any time from any phone) or email
  • Breathingspace Scotland: tel. 0800 83 85 87 (free, any time from any phone) Mon-Thurs 6pm to 2pm & Friday 6pm to Mon 6am
  • Samaritans: (you don’t have to be suicidal) tel. 116 123 (free, any time from any phone) or email:


Presentation to UCU Scotland congress from Kathy Jenkins, Scottish Hazards

UCU Scotland congress heard from Kathy Jenkins, secretary of Scottish Hazards.  Scottish Hazards provides free and confidential information, advice, support and training to workers on workplace health and safety issues.  They also campaign for safe and healthy workplaces, acting as a focal point for trade unionists and others committed to improving workplace health and safety.

Kathy addressed congress on the issues of workload and work-related stress, and on the work of the Scottish Hazards Centre.  The slides from Kathy’s presentation are copied below.


President’s address to UCU Scotland congress 2019

Ann Gow congress 2019

UCU Scotland Congress 2019 heard from president Ann Gow on the morning of Friday 29 March.  The text of what will be her last speech to Scottish congress in the role of president is reproduced below.

Congress. I can hardly believe it’s a year since we met and that I have just two months to run as your president. It has been a true honour and a privilege to serve UCU Scotland and all our members. Perhaps one of the most rewarding time of my years as a trade union activist in Higher Education.

I have had the real pleasure of working with the UCU Scotland Office team, the Officers and Executive – committed, hard-working and fiercely political and of course, our members. I have met so many over the two years, on picket lines, at rallies, on marches, at GMs, at  campaign stalls, at teach ins and outs, even at singing practice and have listened to their opinions, experiences, and plans to take forward their  organising work in their branches to shape UCU policy and drive our union forward.

While I want to use this time to look forward, I will take a moment to reflect on the past year and the action we took to defend our USS pension. With our employers obdurate in forcing changes through, deaf to our argument that there were no compelling financial reason for changes, and short-sighted in ignoring the threat that the changes posed economically, socially and in terms of employment relations – we took the most transformative action in our history.

We have driven our employers back from the wilful sabotage of our pensions to the point we are at now (and I’m not going into the technicalities here – 13 point update)

This is a critical time and while our strike brought us the JEP (In fact, it was at this meeting last year we witnessed the delight of the negotiators as we heard the news of the JEP)

And it was the JEP that vindicated UCU’s position on the discredited 2017 valuation.

We continue to argue for the implementation of all of the JEP’s recommendations, with the custodians, not (for once) our employers of our pension unhelpfully trying to unpick JEP– and it will ultimately be for members who got us to this point, to decide whether further industrial action is required to achieve the union’s aims.

How did we do this?

We did it because at key moments we all saw the value of unity – the message that sends to members when we are fighting together.

We did it because of the brilliant leadership of our branches, because of our determined negotiators and – of course – our fantastic staff.

When we work together we are very hard to beat.

One of our students told me when I was explaining our action, of an Ethiopian saying that he thought I’d like “When spiders webs unite, they can tie down a lion”

And we have a lot to unite against.

Challenges in our workplaces

Challenges as a country

Challenges internationally

Unity is the key to fighting these challenges

We see the big issues our members struggle with in branches

workload, stress, casualization and equalities.

I’ll delighted to welcome Kathy Jenkins from Scottish Hazards to talk to us on workload and work related stress. And also to welcome Letitia McGowan from Unison to address congress on the fantastic success of the equal pay campaign in Glasgow.

Branches are the keystones of our union I must take a minute to recognise the immense work they do, day in day out for their members facing these challenges.  QMU, taking action to defend members from swingeing cuts, Heriot Watt, smashing the 50% barrier as they GTVO, Edinburgh for detailed and driven work on casualization, Glasgow for H&S approaches to work related stress.

Work done by the inspiring activists in branches along with our colleagues in the UCU Scotland office.

It has been a transformative year

In which we have seen our membership and influence grow – We have grown our membership to over 7000 in Scotland

A transformative year in which we have fought and won at work.

In which we have increased participation in the union at every level

UCU Scotland starts from the position that the staff who deliver education must be at the centre of a fair, just and efficient education system. As I see it, questions of professional status and of academic freedom form a bridge between employment issues and those affecting the state of universities.

They remain as pressingly important as ever, if not more so. Progressive encroachment on the professional autonomy of our members in their workplaces through performance management schemes, have a direct impact on their working lives not least through workload.

The truth is that they have been actively created by the gradual development of managerialism internally in response to successive government initiatives from the Thatcher period onwards. I needn’t rehearse these factors here: they can, I suppose, be summed up in two mantras – ‘value for money’ and ‘efficiency gains’ From the outset, instead of actively challenging the obviously destructive policies of government, VCs and governing bodies rolled over and accepted almost without a murmur the supposed need for crass efficiency gains. We see this starkly in the rush to the game of REF and the destruction this causes to research that doesn’t fit the game playing strategies that we are about to see enacted in our universities.

Together we must keep pushing for the things that I think matter.

Like opposing the march of the market in higher education: misplaced priorities and treating higher education as a zero sum game rather than a public good and a civic and political and economic resource for the polity. This is a deep institutional problem, and a deep political problem.

Like proper investment in our universities – we have seen a Scottish budget that attacks HE with damaging consequences for students and staff in universities, at an already uncertain time – if we want Scotland to have a world-leading university system, that is also accessible to students from hard to reach backgrounds, it needs to be properly funded

Like our work with NUS, University Scotland, Scottish Government and Equally Safe in HE on fighting GBV in HE. I have had the privilege to sit on committees working together to address the 1 in 7 reports from students of unwanted sexual behaviour during their time at University. We have produced GBV support cards given to all staff in Colleges and Universities and are working towards strategy for Fresher’s week.
Like standing up for staff on casual contracts – the people who make our universities tick – and who deserve so much better. Local claims at various universities across Scotland are beginning to take effect as we see staff moved from zero hours or zero hours by another name, to contracts and gaining the employment rights that come with this.

And these are just some of the challenges that face us in Scotland over the next months and years.  If we look beyond our horizon, to borrow a shipping forecast metaphor, that the outlook is not fair.  Yes, here it comes – the B word

Brexit. I started writing this speech earlier this week so who knows where we are, certainly not the government. And this is still true on Thursday evening as we look to MV 3 on Friday.

What we do know is that Brexit is looming over everything we do, causing fear and anxiety across our membership.  UCU members have voted overwhelmingly in favour of the union supporting a referendum on the final Brexit deal negotiated by the UK government (whatever and whenever that may be)

We see a huge outpouring on the streets and through petitions, as a split parliament and country tries to find a way forward.

And we also witnessed the dreadful events in Christchurch, the damage to mosques in Birmingham and Newcastle – events that are driven by hate and fear. We see extremists organising groups on campus and we know that racist attacks are on the rise. The rhetoric of the right fuels this fear and hatred and as TU we MUST call it out, stamp it out whenever we see it.

Education is what this union is all about and our response to the horrific incident in Christchurch must be to continue to champion knowledge, truth, tolerance and diversity. These are values that are worth fighting for.

And we can learn from the magnificent response from New Zealand both government and people –  united in the face of hatred  and we can watch real leadership show steel and compassion as Jacinta Arden says “We are one”

All these things matter to our members so we will campaign on them across this union because these issues of equality, justice and opportunity are in the DNA of UCU Scotland; hard wired into everything we do.

Our strength – our unique strength – in the trade union movement- is the spirit of solidarity that permeates everything we do.  It is that commitment to each other and to a common cause which gives us everything we need to fight back.

We see clearly what happens as polarising debates breed distrust, contempt and fear and hatred. But it is that spirit of unity that I have had the huge honour to witness at first hand across all our branches in my term as president that gives me hope for the future.

As we move to our debates  I know we will do so in that spirit of solidarity, to be calm and reasonable in our discussions, to listen and to respond to opposing views and to show our  spirit of unity  at all times.

Let us celebrate the achievements we have made, the USS action, in the equality gain, in local claims, in the changes in governance, in opposing GBV and look to the future – we have a day of debate, discussion and planning ahead.

Let us make this Congress a celebration of what our members do and a signal of our determination to defend them and defend education.

If I can crave your indulgence for a moment longer, I’d like to thank my fellow officers, the UCU Scotland staff who work incredibly hard supporting branches and our members, my colleagues, family and friends for supporting me to be able to take on this role. I’d thank my son but as he’s 16, that’d embarrass him forever, so I won’t.




UCU Scotland branch organising awards 2019

UCU Scotland congress took place on Friday 29 March 2019 and, as well as the important business of passing motions and setting policy, congress also saw the annual awarding of the UCU Scotland branch organising awards.

The awards are decided by the UCU Scotland elected officers and recognise outstanding work in local organising carried out by branches in the preceeding year.  Announcing the awards, UCU UK president Vicky Knight said that 2018/19 had been a particularly difficult year to decide the winners given the significant organising work carried out by branches and reps across Scotland building on the the USS dispute; organising around pay, workload, anti casualisation and equality; and campaigning against education cuts.

However she did announce the winners with the first branch rep award going to James Richards of Heriot Watt branch in recognition of the outstanding GTVO campaign which delivered a 64% turnout at Heriot Watt branch in the Pay and Equality Ballot, along with the follow-up work of capturing the data and activity to develop a blue print for branch GTVO campaigns in UCU and across the trade union movement.

James Richards award pictureJames Richards from Heriot-Watt UCU receiving his award from UCU president, Vicky Knight

The second, branch organising award was presented to QMU branch in recognition of the outstanding campaigning and organising work of the branch in the face of employer cuts, and in securing a 72% turnout in a local industrial action ballot.

QMU award pictureQMU UCU branch officers at congress receiving their award from UCU president, Vicky Knight

UCU Scotland education conference video and documents – a resource for branches

UCU Scotland has produced a video and policy discussion documents to help branches develop policy and hold policy discussions on issues of key interest and concern to members.  As well as developing policy through motions and at UCU UK and Scottish congresses, the union also runs regular education conferences looking at the future of higher education in Scotland.  The 20 minute long video below contains content from our most recent conference titled ‘What next for Scottish higher education?’  In the video you’ll see speakers consider the big questions of the purpose of universities and academic freedom.  The video ends with a series of questions branches can use as a starter for discussions locally.

As well as the video, UCU Scotland’s education committee have produced five policy discussion documents.  These cover casualisation, workload, higher education governance, widening access and principals’ pay.  As with the video, these are for branches to use for local discussion rather than statements of UCU Scotland policy.  They give an outline of the current policy debate on each issue, summarise the union’s perspective and then have some suggested questions and areas for discussion for branches and members to consider.  Printed copies are available from the UCU Scotland office or you can download each of the policy discussion papers below.



Widening access


Principals pay

For more information on UCU Scotland’s policy work or the work of the UCU Scotland education committee contact UCU Scotland office on 0141 225 8160 or scotland[at]

Lessons learned from 2018 – UCU article in the Scottish Left Review

An edited version of the article below by UCU Scotland official Mary Senior appears in the March/April 2019 edition of the Scottish Left Review.

We were told that the Trade Union Act would mean the end of any national UK-wide industrial action.  The Tories, who forced austerity upon us, cut services, jobs and pensions, were hammering working people and their legitimate representatives, by raising the bar for industrial action ballots.  Our first crucial lesson from 2018 is that when unions work systematically to get a vote out, when we are organised and put in the ground work, and when the employers are out of touch with their workers, we can win through and beat the Trade Union Act.

That’s what UCU did in January 2018, as the first union to win a UK-wide ballot to enable national action to go ahead.  We learned that to be successful the crux of the matter needs to be strongly, deeply and widely held.  When the unilateral change the employers were imposing ended guaranteed pensions, decimated the pension scheme, and left the average lecturer £10 thousand pounds a year worse of in retirement, we can see why UCU members felt so strongly they voted to strike.

This pensions grievance was not just felt by ordinary lecturers, senior managers – university Deans and heads of schools – did not want to see their pensions slashed any more than our members on hourly paid contracts.   We even had the spectacle of the principal of Glasgow University, Professor Sir Anton Muscatelli, addressing picket lines through UCU’s megaphone – not a sight you expect to see during a dispute.

This was a unifying battle, and UCU learnt that we had to use the right terms too: this was a dispute affecting librarians, IT staff, administrators, student advisers, and lab managers – not just lecturers.  That this issue was felt by so many across the university sector was vital to getting the vote out, in sustaining the industrial action, and when influencing the employers to change course.

It’s fair to say that the planned 14 days of industrial action was ambitious when it was agreed by UCU’s Higher Education Committee in January 2018.  However, in the following two months we demonstrated that picket lines on an issue that matters, can build solidarity and gain momentum – and beat the Beast from the East.  From the Scottish Association for Marine Science, near Oban on the west coast, to St Andrews in the east; and from Glasgow’s Crichton campus in Dumfries, to Heriot Watt’s Centre for Island Technology in Stromness, our picket lines were strong, solid and increasing; covering the length and breadth of Scotland.   And when so much was at stake – our pensions being gambled away for good – members were prepared to be out for the long haul.

The next lesson is that trade unions must have the support of the people that matter.  For UCU that is the students. The National Union of Students along with local students associations were fully behind our picket lines, they know our working conditions are their learning conditions.  Employers were unable to turn students against us, rather, united we could not be defeated.  It also helped to have the support of our comrades from across the trade union movement, support that was heartening as it was practical.   Motivation on picket lines, solidarity messages, hot cups of coffee, along with donations to our hardship funds: actions which are not new, but rather good old fashioned trade union solidarity which made a massive difference to our campaign.

Social media played its part too, and the sharing of picket line snaps united Aberdeen with Aberystwyth. Some pointed tweets quickly told the employers what members thought of an early offer.  Online platforms also reminded us of the need for care, respect and understanding of others, particularly our comrades and colleagues.  There is always a danger that the immediacy and anonymous nature of social media means things can escalate unintentionally.  All unions will know the advantages of using social media to mobilise and highlight issues, but it is worth being aware of the pitfalls too.

As our dispute progressed, we also needed negotiators and experts to challenge the employers on the detail of the pension scheme and the disputed valuation: we needed effective leaders to argue the union’s case.  Cool heads and engaged minds complemented the direct action of the strike days.  Pensions are complex at the best of times, but last year we were faced with a disputed pension scheme valuation, the scheme board and trustees, stubborn employers, as well as the Pensions Regulator who needed to be satisfied with the scheme operations.   Negotiating a path through this minefield to save guaranteed pensions, and avoid pension benefits being left to the whim of the market, was no small feat.

It was important to get politicians on board, and substantial work was done both in Scotland and at Westminster to get MSPs, MPs and governments to support our cause.   Influencing employers and getting them on side was crucial too, to persuade the Pensions Regulator that an alternative to the dubious valuation was really possible.  Our negotiators achieved all of this, with some help from ACAS conciliators, as well as with the help of a resounding mandate from our members who voted overwhelmingly for a Joint Expert Panel (JEP) to look again at the 2017 valuation.  This resulted in the employers formally withdrawing their proposal to change the scheme, and a chance for a fresh approach. For many of our members this was a leap of faith, but it arguably paid off when the JEP reported in September and vindicated UCU’s position on the discredited 2017 valuation.  UCU is now campaigning for full implementation of the JEP report, and it is heartening to see that the employers’ own consultation confirmed that the majority of them support it too.

So while we’re not yet at the end of this saga, we are in a much better place in February 2019 than we were last year.  As a union we’ve grown in membership, we’ve demonstrated the active mass participation of our members can make a real difference.  In the dispute we demonstrated the importance of inclusion, unity and determination.  Employers cannot ignore our collective voice.

Further editions of the Scottish Left Review including content by UCU are available on their website along with information on how to subscribe.


UCU Solidarity with Disabled and LGBT+ People Internationally

Trade unions are based on solidarity – united we stand… The situation of LGBT+ and disabled people in many countries is horrendous.  As trade unionists we can campaign to change this.  At UCU Scotland Congress last year we passed a motion of solidarity with LGBT+ and disability organisations worldwide.  This involves using the website to highlight abuses, campaigns for change and solidarity actions, including letter, signing petitions, demonstrations, political pressure and fund raising and encouraging members to submit information for the website.  In addition we should be circulating at least one call for solidarity action with LGBT+ and/or disabled people internationally each month and developing links with LGBT+ and disabled trade unionists and LGBT+ and disability organisations internationally.

This blog post is the start of implementing this motion.  Below are details of three campaigns on LGBT+ solidarity which are asking for signatures or donations.  Next month I will highlight some campaigns in support of disabled people internationally.

Contact UCU Scotland if you are aware of other abuses we should be publicising and/or campaigns we should be supporting.

Marion Hersh

UCU Scotland Equality Officer

Chechnya:  We were all horrified by the treatment of men perceived to be gay in Chechnya in 2017 – illegally detained, tortured and sometimes murdered.  The persecution has started again and this time is targeted at women as well as men.  Since December 2018 at least 40 people ‘suspected’ by the authorities of being LGBT+ have been arrested and tortured.  International pressure ended the first wave of persecution and is need again to end persecution, torture and murder of LGBT+ people in Chechnya once and for all.  The Russian LGBT network is organising solidarity and support for LGBT+ people in Chechnya, including buy evacuating people who have survived police torture or who are at risk of arrest and providing safe housed, safe houses, medical care, transit, visa and immigration services and psychological support.  In 2017 UCU Scotland put an emergency motion to the STUC LGBT+ Workers’ Conference and there was also a motion at UCU Congress.  There may be a need for further motions on Chechnya this year.  Members can show solidarity by making a donation to the Russian LGBT network through ILGA Europe, with which UCU is affiliated with. You can donate HERE

Egypt rainbow flag campaign:  The rainbow flag is the symbol of LGBT+ people.  75 people were arrested in Egypt in Septmber 2017 after someone waved a rainbow flag at a concert in Cairo and at least 76 people were arrested and taken to court last year, as the authorities assumed they were LGBT+.   The Alliance of Queer Egyptian Organisations are campaigning together with a German anti-homophobia group to end this discrimination and persecution.  They are calling on people to sign a rainbow flag which will be waved in front of the Egyptian exhibitian at a massive tourism fair in Berlin in March in solidarity with LGBT+ people in Egypt who were arrested for doing this.  You can add you signature HERE

Tunisian gay man sentenced after being robbed and raped:  Anas is a young gay man from Tunisia.  He was robbed and raped, but instead of arresting and charging his attackers the police arrested Anas on charges of being gay.  They then forced an anal test on him to ‘prove’ he is gay.  He has now been sentenced to eight months in prison.  In addition to the total injustice and abuse of his rights he is being attacked and harassed by some of the other prisoners.  You can show solidarity by signing the petition to the Tunisian Prime Minister call for Anas to be released immediately. You can sign HERE