Report of the 15th European Work Hazard Network Conference on ‘The Future of Work in a Digital Era’, Copenhagen 20-22 September 2018

Between 20 and 22 September 2018 UCU member and Dundee UCU branch secretary Ian Ellis attended the European Work Harzard Network conference on behalf of the union.  The conference was themed ‘The Future of Work in a Digital Era’.  The text below is Ian’s diary and report of the conference.

Wednesday 19th September: Setting off in Storm Ali may not have been the safest of starts to my journey-especially when I was going to a works hazard conference.  I had arrived at Dundee train station to be told all trains south of Dundee were cancelled due to the storm. In order to make the flight I decided to drive to Edinburgh. Risk assessment done (at least in my head) I drove to the airport and arrived at the airport in good time especially as the flight was delayed and then again. Leaving around 4 hours late I arrived in Copenhagen at 2AM. After checking into the hotel it was off to bed.

Thursday 20th September: The day started late due to not getting in on time. Luckily registration started at 2pm and the first meeting was 4pm. After a brunch sitting beside one of the major squares in central Copenhagen I wandered around the streets taking in the sights. What impressed me most was the number of bikes and the distinct lack of cars. The conference took place in between the AAA (Metal Workers Union) HQ and PROSA (the IT workers Union) HQ. The registration introduced me to some of the finest hosts you could wish to meet. They made all of us feel very welcome. The ability of everyone to speak fluent English was great. I caught up with Scott Donohoe and Ian Tasker from Scottish Hazards over coffee and was introduced to the Greater Manchester Hazards team and the legend that is Hilda Palmer.

The conference started with a number of speeches including from Janne Hansen (the President of the Danish Metal Workers Union), Thora Brendstrup (Chair of EWHN) and Laurent Vogel (ETUI lead from Brussels). The following day was to be split into workplace visits including: the main hospital in Copenhagen, the docks, the Royal Danish Theatre and the hotel sector. In order to set the agenda for our visits we split into the groups we had volunteered for during pre-registration. I had joined up to visit the hospital and we had a diverse group of trade unionist, safety inspectors and members of hazard networks. We came from all over Europe- including Denmark, Germany, Austria, England and Scotland. We were to meet two very different members of staff- the head of radiology to listen to her thoughts on work related cancers and then the head of the porter’s union to hear about the stress and work patterns of this group of staff. After a discussion and getting to know each other it was off to tea in the metal workers union café for further talks and discussion with others from across Europe.

Friday 21st September: An early start (8.30AM meet up) helped by large doses of coffee and off by bus to the Rigshospital, Copenhagen University Hospital. The hospital was so large it has an underground “train” to take patients, laundry, beds across the area. The first presentation was by Prof Ilse Vejborg the head of radiology at the hospital. Her talk ranged on breast screening programmes in Denmark and how work breast cancer is treated in the Copenhagen area. Her thoughts on the strain of resources were similar to ours in the NHS. Trying to meet targets with less staff and ageing machines. A full discussion on how the breast cancer compensation scheme worked in Denmark was incredibly eye opening. Next followed a visit to the radiology department to see it working flat out. The work conditions of the staff were difficult to say the least. The break area was so small only around 5 people could fit at once- with a staff of hundreds that made it compact. The radiographers analysed results in the corridor which had all sorts of implications for data protection. Following lunch we met up with the Head of the Porters union and the highlight of the trip- the helicopter landing pad on the roof of the hospital. This gave incredible views across the whole of Copenhagen. It also made us aware of the issues of working at heights in high winds when a helicopter is coming into land with a trauma patient on board. Discussion with him took place around work-place hazards his membership faces. This is mainly work related stress, trips slips and falls and lifting issues.

Pics: Rigshospital, Copenhagen University Hospital old building and the helicopter landing pad on the roof

We returned to the centre of Copenhagen to the IT workers HQ. The late afternoon session was split into a choice of 2 workshops each lasting an hour. The first 4 were on the rights of safety reps in Denmark, toxic gases in containers, registry of foreign providers in Denmark and the EWHN stress network. The stress network workshop was run by Ian Draper (Hazards, UK) and provided an insight into work related stress in the UK education sector. This free standing network provided information about the causes, effects, symptoms and costs of work-related stress and mental health issues. Further information can be found at the link here.

Ellis 5

Discussion followed about how do we as trade union reps actually deal with this. One of the best points raised was what do our unions do for the reps in terms of mitigating the stress of being a rep! No one was sure and the lead for Health and Safety for the GMB took this away as her action point from the meeting. During a conversation with Joan McNulty from Unison (and a member of Hazards) she sent a link to a discussion at the UK Hazards conference in July (see the further information links at the end).

The second set of workshops were also wide-ranging: a discussion of interactive work in the service sector, work-life balance and the connection between domestic life and work in the digital era, and the final one on Brexit: for better or worse for health and safety.

Choosing the work-life balance workshop facilitated by Kathy Jenkins of Scottish Hazards I was inspired by the forum we created. How do we switch off from the pressure of work when we are reachable 24 hours a day? We discussed how during the UCU Pension dispute I had got my life back and now do not open emails outside of being in the office. We had a rep from Better than Zero who now has a fixed hours contract because of not answering email/texts when he was not at work. The GMB rep also suggested that moving to a 4 day week by the end of the decade (rather than the century) was a suggestion she would be taking back to her union. This time deciding how we dealt with work related issues and how they affected our own health was empowering.

The evening was spent at the conference dinner in the metal workers house. A very rewarding evening of talk and a Hendrix tribute band- the vice president of the metal workers Union on guitar.

Saturday 22nd: An early start fueled by coffee and Danish pastries back at PROSA. I had volunteered to join a group on what we know about work related cancers. It was a very busy discussion in which the UK appears to be blocking most of the legislation going through the EU parliament in a final act of pre-Brexit defiance. We discussed how the day before we had talked about shift work and breast cancer and whether or not there was a link. I was lucky enough to be able to share some of the work I am doing on stress and oral cancer.

My main take from the morning was that the trade union movement has a wary understanding of science and how evidence is collected and reported. Perhaps that is one thing as a scientist I have to be able to sell better. My view is that science needs to be used to best evidence our concerns to make employers and governments shift their agenda from profit to people. Surprisingly four hours later we were still discussing our ideas and formulating how best to take this area forward.

Then it was over and the race back to Copenhagen airport and the flight to a much less windy Edinburgh.

It was an honour to be at the conference and an honour to represent UCU at the event.

The conference agreed a final statement as follows:

In Copenhagen 60 working environment professionals and trade unionists were gathered at the 15th European Work Hazards Conference 20th–22nd September 2018. They discussed the future of work in the digital era. Both governments and trade unions are challenged by this new reality. The digital revolution leads to a lack of control from national government of goods and services. It means that basic worker rights are neglected – Working poor, part-time workers, migrant workers etc are issues, which have become life conditions for many people. Poverty will grow and increase in the background of this present development. We must demand that EU confronts “Better regulation” and instead accepts a social protocol to secure the basic rights for workers – also in the digital era.

Further information:

General help for Health and Safety reps:

Stress awareness:

Help for Reps:



UCU Scotland seminar on a Just Transition to a low carbon economy

UCU Scotland’s vice-president Eurig Scandrett reports on the union’s seminar examining a Just Transition to a low carbon economy.  The seminar was held at Aberdeen’s Robert Gordon University on 4th September and chaired by Lesley McIntosh of RGU UCU.

The idea of Just Transition originates in the trade union movement in the USA and means that workers in our current, unsustainable, fossil fuel based economy must have good, unionised jobs and livelihoods in the sustainable economy that society will, inevitably, have to transition to. Trade unions must be involved at the forefront of planning for a just transition. Whilst workers employed in the oil and gas industry will be the most directly affected by this transition, the change required will potentially affect all workers, including university employees. As PCS’s impressive pamphlet on Just Transition and Energy Democracy puts it “every sector of the economy will be affected by the energy transition – energy, manufacturing, heavy industries like steel, transport, construction, health, education and so on. All these sectors have high levels of union membership therefore every union has a stake in the transition”.

In case we needed a reminder of Higher Education’s links to fossil fuel, UCU’s seminar took place in the Sir Ian Wood Building, named after founder and former CEO of the Wood Group oil and gas company, Chancellor of, and donor to, RGU. The entrance to the building was decorated with the logos of Shell, BP and Marathon Oil sponsoring events at the university. In a financial context of increasing dependence on private funding for research and educational projects, the oil and gas industry plays a significant role in many universities. UCU needs to look at what a Just Transition means for its members, and we have been an active member of the Scottish Just Transition Partnership since its formation in 2016.

The seminar was started by Mary Church from Friends of the Earth Scotland, who outlined the policy context for Just Transition. The Paris declaration of 2016, negotiated within the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, commits signatory countries to actions to limit global temperature increase to “well below 2oC above pre-industrial levels, and to aim for the relatively safer 1.5oC. Mary reminded us that, even at 1oC, where we currently stand, significant disruptions to the climate are already occurring and there are risks of uncontrollable feedback reactions. As a result of ITUC lobbying, the Paris agreement also makes reference to the Just Transition in achieving these targets. The Scottish Government has set ambitious targets for reducing carbon dioxide emissions and Labour in opposition has pledged to be even more ambitious. Moreover, the 2017 Programme for Government committed to a Just Transition Commission, a key demand of the JT Partnership, as well as a Scottish National Investment Bank and a publicly owned Energy Company, possible mechanisms for delivering.

The second speaker was Adam Price, UCU’s environment rep at Aberdeen University. He gave an outline of the kind of activities which the university has been promoting towards energy reductions and promoting sustainability in the curriculum. There are many opportunities for branch reps to engage in work for sustainability, including for a just transition, in their own institutions. Then Leslie Mabon of RGU outlined his research into the potential for transition in Aberdeen and the North East. He emphasised that the oil industry is not homogenous and encompasses a wide range of jobs and skills, not all of which are well paid. By contrast, decisions about the future of the industry are being made by a small number of wealthy white men at the top. We need more clarity on the range of skills in the workforce and their potential for transition to a sustainable economy, and to involve these workers in the decisions that affect them.

Tommy Campbell is an official with Unite, representing many workers in the offshore oil and gas industry. He emphasised that the transition will require investment in renewables, building homes to higher standards, insulation and energy efficiency and a sustainable public transport system. The market is failing to deliver this and the government must play a central role, including the re-nationalisation of energy. The Scottish Investment Bank is a vehicle through which public investment in the transition can be driven. Trade union environment reps can play their part in the workplace and these should be afforded the time off and facilities required to do their jobs.

For the JT Partnership, there is an opportunity. Despite the fact that the meaning of just transition is being watered down and the trade union movement left out, we have the promise of a Commission, a commitment from both SNP and Labour, and unions are ready to be involved. Just transition has the potential to be a key part of the Scottish government’s industrial strategy.


Message from Marion Hersh (UCU Scotland Equality Officer) about STUC Black Workers’ Conference and STUC Women’s Conference

Can I encourage Black and women members (self-identified) to think about putting themselves forward  to attend the STUC Black and Women’s Conferences.  It would be particularly good to have some Black women as part of the delegations at both conferences, as well as Black disabled and LGBT+ and disabled and LGBT+ women.  It is also good to have a mix of members from those who have just joined the union,  to those who are very experienced.

The STUC Equality Conferences are friendly and welcoming to new people.  They are a good way to network and find out what other unions in Scotland are doing on equality issues.  If you are feeling isolated it can be very helpful to meet other union members in similar situations.

We are also looking for topics for motions for the Women’s conference.  Topics based on your experiences as a woman working in HE or problems you have observed in your institution are particularly welcome.  Please submit suggested motions to Murdo Mathison, Policy and Communications Officer, no later than the end of Friday 27 July 2018 at

Do contact me ( if you have any questions.

STUC visit to Brussels with Scotland Europa

Sharon Sweeney is a UCU member at the University of Dundee.  She is also the chair of the STUC disabled workers’ committee and a member of the STUC general council.  In summer 2018 she visited Brussels with the STUC for a series of meetings.  This blog contains a report of the visit presented to UCU colleagues on her return.

STUC Brussels trip - Sharon Sweeney June 2018Picture credit STUC

Firstly, thank you to everyone for supporting me to attend this short trip with the STUC.  Our meetings arranged by Scotland Europa were very interesting and informative.

We were met by Eleanor McKeegan, Senior EU Policy Executive and Sarah English, Head of Brussels Office, both Scotland Eruopa.  We discussed the meetings for the day, the likely issues and what to expect.

Firstly, we visited the Icelandic Mission and met with Thordur J Sigtrygsson, Counsellor of the Icelandic Embassy.  Thordur discussed Brexit from Iceland’s perspective – positive and hoping for opportunities around fishing.  I asked about Icelandic students studying in the UK, of which there are many and Edinburgh is a regular choice.  Thordur said that he would put me in touch with his colleague who has the education brief.  I think this would be helpful as if the UK becomes a ‘third country’ in the eyes/machinery of the EU, then it might have quite an impact on Scotland’s education.  This could be positive of course.

Then we met with Jude Kirton-Darling, MEP and Daniele Basso, Advisor to the ETUC, where the discussions were around trade.  Very interesting but with less of a specific focus on education.

Following lunch, we met with Thomas Jorgensen, Senior Policy Coordinator, European Universities’ Association (UUK equivalent).  This was very interesting indeed.  Thomas has done work around social inclusion and I asked him to send me his paper.  We had a good discussion around support for disabled students.  He was very aware of our pensions’ dispute and indicated that most people in Europe don’t understand how there can be insufficient funds!  There was a general discussion around Brexit also.

Finally, we met with Fabian Zuleeg, Chief Executive of the European Policy Centre.  Fabian’s perspective on Brexit is that it is all very negative and outlined the ‘apocalypse’.

However, on a positive note, I came back with some potential information and contacts for UCU Scotland; an understanding that, in Brussels, Brexit is much lower on the agenda than we are to believe by our media and, that there is a lot of potential of collaborative work in Europe, post Brexit.

STUC congress

UCU Scotland delegates made a significant impact on April’s 2018 STUC congress in Aviemore with UCU motions on workload and funding in higher education; the USS pension dispute; freedom of movement, immigration and Prevent all being passed.  The congress was chaired by Prospect’s Satnam Ner, the first black and minority ethnic trade unionist to hold the role and a strong supporter of UCU during the recently ended USS strike.  UCU delegates also made important contributions to other debates including a Just Transition to a low carbon economy and the impact of the use of technology in the workplace.  As well as participating in the debate, a UCU delegation also met with trade unionists from Catalonia to better understand the political situation there and the impact on and views of workers and trade unionists.  A selection of photographs from congress are included here.  (All pictures Fraser Band).

Branch award winners

UCU Scotland Congress saw the annual awarding of the union’s organising awards, recognising the hard work of branches during the preceding year.  UK UCU vice-president Douglas Chalmers presented the first organising award to our St Andrews branch for both their significant increase in membership and also their initiatives to successfully organise post-graduates employed at the university.  The second award was given to the Heriot-Watt branch for securing the highest turnout of any branch across the UK in the USS industrial action ballot.   Douglas is pictured above with St Andrews branch president Tom Jones, and with Heriot-Watt branch officer Marion Winters.

Report of UCU Scotland congress 2018


UCU’s Scottish congress took place on Friday 23 March at the Golden Jubilee Conference Centre in Clydebank near Glasgow. Around 60 delegates from branches across Scotland came together at the end of the week when the first phase of strike action in the USS dispute ended.  After a meal the night before with guests including MSPs, senior civil servants and journalists joining delegates the conference proper started on the Friday morning.  Given the timing, the pensions dispute – at last for those branches in the scheme – was a significant point of discussion but delegates also considered motions on many other subjects important to Scottish higher education. These included violence against women on university campuses, how we build UCU into an even more effective union, excessive principals pay and the funding of higher education, and Brexit as well as revising UCU’s rules and standing orders to bring them up to date a decade after our formation.

The debate on sexual harassment and gender based violence was informed by a presentation by congress’ key-note speaker, Anni Donaldson from Strathclyde University’s Equally Safe in HE project.  As well as hearing background on the problem in Scottish universities and society, congress also heard details of the project’s newly launched toolkit which allows institutions, unions, staff and students to challenge gender based violence on campuses.

A list of the motions passed at the congress is included below.  There were a small number of motions which congress did not have time to consider and which were therefore remitted to the UCU Scotland executive committee.  The union’s executive will also progress action on the motions passed over the coming year.


Resolutions of the 12th UCU Scotland Congress, 23 March 2018, Golden Jubilee Conference Hotel, Clydebank 

  1. Violence against women

Congress notes and supports the Domestic Abuse Bill recently passed by the Scottish Parliament. Congress welcomes the Scottish Government’s commitment to tackling violence against women by supporting the NUSS campaign against violence against women on campus. UCUS endorses the Scottish Government’s recognition of the need to address all forms of violence against women as part of a coherent analysis of gender-based power, and encourages UCU branches to support local campaigns to tackle gender-based violence that adopt this approach.

  1. Combatting domestic abuse

Congress recognizes that domestic abuse is an issue which affects staff and students in the HE, FE and ACE sectors of post-16 education irrespective of class, race, or gender, and welcomes legislative steps to eliminate all elements of this. Congress notes and welcomes in this regard the passing of the Scottish Parliament’s domestic abuse bill which recognizes the concept of coercive control as a crucial element used by the perpetrators of abuse.

We also welcome universities which have recognised the elimination of gender based violence on campus as a priority.

Congress asks the union to ensure that current advice to union members regarding Domestic Abuse should draw on the best work taking place in the different jurisdictions of the UK to ensure that our advice to members is relevant, up to date effective and practical.

  1. Sexual harassment policy

Congress acknowledges that a 2011 survey by the NUS noted that one in four female students had experienced unwanted sexual behaviour while at university. This is a UK wide phenomenon. Figures on sexual victimisation released from an extensive survey of 10,000 adults who took part in the Scottish Crime and Justice Survey (SCJS) for 2014-15 noted young people, particularly young women, experienced the highest level of stalking and harassment: 12.7 per cent of 16 to 24 years old women had experienced at least one type of stalking and harassment in the last 12 months. This figure was approximately double the average rate of 6.4 per cent. Congress welcomes initiatives against sexual harassment of students or staff such as Cambridge University’s Breaking the Silence approach, GCU’s Gender Based Violence Policy and Strathclyde University’s ‘Equally Safe’ policy. We call on UCU Scotland to actively campaign on this issue in the coming period.

  1. International solidarity with LGBT+ and Disability Organisations

Congress deplores 1. The lack of human rights of LGBT+ people and continued persecution and criminalisation for sexual orientation and/or gender identity in many countries e.g. Chechnya. 2. The continued exclusion, including from education and employment, lack of human and technological support, othering and marginalisation of disabled people in many countries worldwide. Congress recognises the importance of international solidarity and the valuable lessons we can learn from it. Congress encourages solidarity with LGBT+ and disability organisations worldwide and asks UCU Scotland to:

1.     Use the website to highlight abuses, campaigns for change and solidarity actions, including letter, signing petitions, demonstrations, political pressure and fund raising.

2.     Encourage members to submit information for the website

3.     Circulate to members and branches at least one call for solidarity action with LGBT+ and/or disabled people internationally regularly.

4.     Develop links with LGBT+ and disabled trade unionists and LGBT+ and disability organisations internationally.

  1. Governance

UCU Scotland Congress recognises the improvements made in the revised Scottish Code of Governance published in 2017.  In particular the recommendations for staff, student and trade union involvement in arrangements for determining senior pay are to be welcomed.  However it is recognised that a minority voice on remuneration committees will not of itself address the issue of excessive executive pay and that broader action is required.  Congress instructs the executive to push for UCU involvement on remuneration committees and to produce guidelines for alternative models of determining senior pay.  Guidelines should include advice on possible multipliers of average pay, job sizing, and extending the salary scale beyond point 52.

  1. The contribution of universities to the common weal’ of Scotland

Congress notes the worthwhile activities of the ‘Reclaiming our University’ movement calling for fundamental reform of the principles, ethos and organisation of Higher Education, with the aim of ‘restoring universities to the communities in which they belong, fulfilling their civic purposes in a manner appropriate to our times, and operating in the defence of democracy, peaceful coexistence and human flourishing’.

Congress believes that the trade unions in the sector have a key role in collaboration with our colleagues in the student movement and Scottish Government, to promote the positive benefits of higher education to Scottish society. Congress therefore asks the Scottish Executive and local branches, to consider how to continue to renew the national conversation on the contribution of universities to the common weal’ of Scotland and its people.

  1. Health and safety awareness at Higher Education Institutions

UCUS believe that staff and students should be able to work and study in a safe environment. UCUS believe that the views of staff on safety/well-being at each HEI should be represented by TU’s at a forum where issues around safety and (especially mental health) well-being can be raised.

UCUS Congress notes that the Health and Safety at Work Act and the SRSC regulations provide a starting point for all HEI to have a functional and productive Health and Safety Committee. UCUS resolves to produce guidance to all member branches in respect of the proper constitution of a Health and Safety committee ensuring each HSC have equal numbers of management and union representatives.

UCUS Congress also asks that UCUS Executive write to each HEI asking if it has a safety committee and what is its composition and what steps it will take to align with the Act.

  1. Higher education inequality

Congress notes the Audit of HE report that “strong overall financial position masks underlying risks within the sector. Surpluses and reserves are concentrated in a small number of universities”. Audit Scotland note, of 19 universities, two accounted for 41% of total income, and eight accounted for 79%. Such inequalities pose a risk to members’ jobs, and a two tier system with a ‘race to the bottom’.

Congress believes that Scottish Government and SFC have a duty to consider the overall health and collective viability of the higher education sector through their system of funding. Congress calls on the executive and officers to address this issue with the Government and SFC, and as well as calling for increased funding to the whole sector to support measures that would reduce inequalities in funding between universities over time.

This would strengthen the ability of Scotland’s universities collectively to withstand hostile actions from forces that would undermine their independence and social, scientific, economic and cultural contribution.

  1. Using Athena Swan to challenge cultures of exclusion and advance the equality agenda

Congress recognises:

1.     Universities are taking Athena Swan very seriously due to the impact on funding.

2.     The potential for using AS to advance the equality agenda and the risk of window-dressing activities which do not lead to meaningful change.

Congress agrees to ask HEC to:

1.     Collect information from members and branches on successful initiatives

2.     Produce and circulate guidelines on the effective use of AS.

3.     Encourage branches to use AS to encourage departments, schools and institutions to:

a.     Organise regular seminars and poster campaigns on e.g. removing barriers to trans students and staff, ending violence against women, intersectionality and celebrating the equality calendar

b.     Provide non-binary options in data collection and do not collect unnecessary data.

c.     Provide sufficient gender neutral facilities, including toilets and changing facilities.

d.     Move beyond equality audits in ending the gender pay gap.

e.     Start to dismantle institutional sexism and other discrimination.

  1. TEF

Congress notes the continued participation of a number of Scottish universities in the TEF and further notes, while the public debate around the rights and wrongs have died down, that it is important to continue to pressurise those universities who do participate to withdraw and those not participating not to join.  Congress believes that the same arguments used against the TEF – that it brings increased marketisation to higher education and that the existing Scottish system of quality assurance is superior – remain the case and resolves to ensure that Scottish higher education institutions’ involvement in the TEF is minimised.

Congress therefore calls on UCU Scotland to maintain opposition to the TEF and to continue contact with the Scottish Government and Universities Scotland making our opposition clear.

  1. Anti-privatisation

One of the biggest obstacles to stopping privatization is the level of secrecy at the top of Scotland’s educational institutions. Areas such as food service, cleaning, security, printing and others are sold off to the detriment of jobs, workers’ rights, student experience and the education sector as a whole. With layers of bureaucracy protecting managers who oversee such deals, their actions can’t be held accountable.

Congress calls for and commits the union to campaigning for a full opening of the books. Unions must be given access to all the financial figures, including where money goes, where it comes from and how much. We must use this information to campaign for the reverse of all privatizations and outsourcing and the creation of democratic, public controlled education service that our students, staff and communities need and deserve.

  1. Workload and managerialism

Congress notes that, despite the Scottish Government’s modest increase in the budget for Higher Education in last year’s budget, the ongoing impact of successive cuts is still being felt by staff with unmanageable workloads and work-related stress. This is exacerbated by the imposition of, and senior management collusion in, externally imposed regimes of dubious value, including REF, TEF, NSS and student surveillance. The increase in managerialism associated with demands for increased productivity, excessive reporting regimes, and gimmicks designed to promote competition between institutions.

Congress supports UCU’s campaigns for a manageable workload and an end to unnecessary competition in the sector.

Congress affirms its commitment to a Higher Education sector which is democratic, collegiate, cooperative and values its staff and their work.

  1. Women and pensions

Conference notes the disproportionate impact upon women in the workplace in terms of the gender pay gap, breaks in employment service due to caring responsibilities and being excluded from promotion.

This negative impact continues into retirement where many women will have lower NI contributions, lower pensions and an expectation by society to re-engage in caring responsibilities.   This will all be reflected in a woman’s work-based pension and state pension incomes combined.

Disabled women are further subject to additional pressure on their retirement income as many will not have their disability leave recorded correctly, mainly due to pernicious absence monitoring practices, and therefore may be more likely to have increased breaks in their employment history.

Conference calls on UCU Scotland to execute an Equality Impact Assessment upon the outcome of a work-based retiral pension, in comparison to men, for:

  • Part-time women members
  • Disabled women members
  • Women members of the union.
  1. USS

In proposing changes to the designed benefit USS pension by the Employers (Universities UK), USS noted that “Benefits already earned by both active and deferred members are protected by law and in the scheme rules. Benefits already being paid to retired members are not affected by this decision”. There is, however, no explicit assurance that future payments to retired members will continue to be linked to inflation indices. The current arrangement of CPI index linked to a cap of 5% is inadequate for a sustained period of increased inflation.

Congress supports the continuation of inflation linked protection of pension payments for those currently retired and those that will retire with a defined benefit pension, and instructs UCU Scotland to arrange briefing sessions for members in pre 1992 branches prior to the UCU Congress 2018.

  1. Organising and networking

Congress recognises that equality and anti-casualisation are at the heart of UCU and the urgent need to tackle climate change and other environmental problems before a major crisis occurs.

Congress agrees to ask Executive to:

1.   Re-activate the Anti-Casualisation and Equality and Human Rights Networks.

2.   Produce and circulate to branches and members guidelines on introducing equality, sustainability and anti-casualisation issues in teaching and negotiating with management to introduce policies and provide support to do this.

3.   Encourage branches to get their institutions to introduce policies on including equality, sustainability and anti-casualisation issues in teaching.

4.   Enable the networks to work with student and community campaigns, including on divestment and zero hours, and with Ethics for USS.

  1. Supporting branches in disputes

Congress congratulates branches across Scotland for delivering resounding ballot results, leading to serious and sustained industrial action to defend our pensions, in the face of damaging proposals from the employers which would effectively destroy the USS pension scheme.

Congress recognises that this action is not easy and will impact particularly on members on insecure and casual contracts. Congress calls on UCU Scotland to investigate and implement mechanisms to activate support and solidarity from branches not in the dispute and from sister trade unions, for those branches in dispute.

  1. Policy in action

Congress notes the strength of UCU’s activist network and the commitment that many members demonstrate by participating in the critical stages of particular campaigns, for example by taking industrial action. Congress also notes, however, that union issues could take a more prominent role in the daily working lives of our members. Increasing discussion of union issues in the workplace and harnessing the organising potential of the broadest range of our members will be central to the future of UCU.

Congress therefore resolves to develop materials that explain how specific UCU policies can be discussed and put into action by all members of the union in daily working life (e.g. ‘Anti-casualisation in action’).

  1. Working with postgraduate students

Following the initiative of offering free membership to PhD students and postgraduate students who teach, Congress asks the Scottish Executive to consider an extended meeting or a conference aimed at examining how better to work on behalf of this section of our membership. This could examine best practice in combatting casualised contracts, achieving maternity and paternity pay for PhD students and other issues of particular relevance to members in this category. It could also give advice as to how best to draw up a local claim in each of Scotland’s universities on behalf of this community.

  1. Improving our work with Black and Minority Ethnic members

Congress asks the Scottish Executive to facilitate a discussion amongst Black and Minority Ethnic Members in Scotland with the aim of drawing up a medium term plan for improving our offer to BAME members, and the prominence given to the issues facing BAME members of the union.

  1. Academic-related, professional service and technical staff


  • Recognises the significant contribution to the union of members in academic-related, professional service and technical roles (ARPS) in Scotland’s universities;
  • Acknowledges that for historical reasons UCU’s position in relation to recruiting and representing ARPS staff is not consistent across the UK and between pre-92 and post-92 universities;
  • Affirms that in practice, there is no reason why this group of staff should have a fundamentally different experience at pre-92 universities as opposed to post-92;
  • Encourages branches where no other trade union represents ARPS, actively to recruit members from this job group;
  • Endeavours to ensure that ARPS and academic members in Scotland can play an equally active role in branches, UCUS and UCUUK without interfering with the responsibilities of other unions;
  • Agrees to seek further clarity on UCU’s role in representing this group of staff and work towards the removal of current anomalies
  1. Freedom of movement, immigration and Prevent

Congress notes the rise in racist and xenophobic incidents on university campuses.  Congress believes that such behaviours demonstrate and grow from increasing intolerance and a subsequent rise in populism.

Congress recognises that many people feel threatened by these developments, and that we can see attempts to exploit these insecurities.  Similarly, congress believes the Prevent duty stigmatises students, and while implemented differently in Scotland, should be scrapped.

Congress believes that freedom of movement is an important principle, and should not be lost when the UK departs the EU.

Congress calls on Executive to campaign for:

  • The free movement of labour and against Points-Based Immigration Systems
  • The right of EU citizens living and working in the UK to stay
  • International students to be taken out of net migration targets
  • The Prevent legislation to be scrapped.
  1. Supporting staff and students under threat from Brexit

Congress notes the continuing lack of clarity over how the HE sector will suffer under Brexit and welcomes current commitments from the Scottish government to underwrite places for EU students starting university in 2019/2020. Congress also notes the continuing lack of clarity on parity of employment rights for EU nationals with UK nationals following Brexit.

Congress calls on branches to raise the prominence of the issue of safeguards for EU staff and students in their current work and give increasing solidarity to those who are directly affected by current government policy regarding Brexit.

  1. Support for overseas staff

Congress calls on Scottish Universities to have an adequate and efficient support system in place for academic staff from overseas.  Universities continue to avail of the skills and training of staff born, educated and trained overseas yet leave the excessive and exhausting processes of seeking advice, meeting and paying for visa requirement to the individuals.  Congress calls on UCU Scotland to launch a consultative process with overseas staff to inform a UCU intervention on this matter.

  1. Just Transition

Given the imperative for a just transition to a low or zero carbon economy, as affirmed in the Paris Agreement of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, Congress notes:

  • the implementation of motion from 2017 Congress, which confirms that there is interest from both Aberdeen and RGU branches to host an event on Just Transition;
  • ongoing work of the Just Transition Partnership to which UCUS contributes;
  • support from the Just Transition Partnership to collaborate with UCUS on an event;
  • The Scottish Government’s announcement to establish a Just Transition Commission
  • The timeliness and significance of a potential UCUS/JTP event
  • The role which education must play in preparing workers for the new economy.

Thus, Congress calls on Executive to organise a conference in collaboration with the JT partnership and other trades unions, in Aberdeen, on Just Transition and the role of education.

  1. Grenfell Tower

Congress notes the monthly silent mass marches in Kensington in solidarity with the campaign for justice for the victims of Grenfell Tower; the parallel march on 14 February in Manchester; and the call for UK-wide events to mark the first anniversary of the tragedy on 14 June. It welcomes the Edinburgh TUC motion to STUC’s 2018 congress calling for solidarity actions north of the border.

The Grenfell campaign has drawn attention to critical safety issues of concern in Scotland – including in some tertiary education institutions – as well as in the rest of the UK; has raised awareness of the profound humanitarian issues that arise from the social consequences of public policy over several decades; and is of unique relevance to the broader fight against austerity.

Congress calls on Executive:

To support the ETUC motion at STUC Congress;

To encourage, and assist with, anniversary events in June.

L1.  Combatting Racism

Congress notes:

  • UCUS is a sponsor of Stand Up To Racism (SUTR).
  • The presence on the SUTR march in Glasgow on UN anti-racism day 2018, of the Confederation of Friends of Israel (COFIS) holding Israeli flags.
  • The decision by the Muslim Council for Scotland to withdraw from SUTR in expectation of COFIS’ presence.

Therefore, Congress instructs the UCU Scotland executive to contact SUTR Scotland to indicate that, for UCUS’s ongoing support, we require reassurance that any organisation that supports racism will not be welcome at future SUTR events in Scotland.

L2 Compulsory Redundancies

Congress note that UCU takes discrimination against union members and representatives seriously and will actively pursue protections under the law, and correspondingly, the existential threat to Abertay UCU, caused by the recent redundancy situation as regards AUCU officers. Congress also notes that threatened multi-redundancies have been avoided and that AUCU officers and committee have played an important role in this development, while any continuing threat is now solely directed at one officer.

Congress robustly condemns the threat of redundancy against AUCU officers.

Congress resolves to ensure appropriate actions are taken to voice, and where necessary, openly campaign, as regards our concerns, and remits UCU Scotland Executive to act accordingly.

L4  Building on the industrial action

Congress congratulates members and branches on the overwhelming support for strike action during the first phase of the USS dispute, the mobilisation of members, and the preparations they are putting in place for future phases of the dispute.  Congress also welcomes the solidarity expressed by post-92 branches, sister unions, political parties, and the magnificent support from students. Congress notes that while the dispute legally focuses solely on UUK’s proposed changes to the USS scheme, discussions on picket lines, on social, print and broadcast media, in student occupations, at meetings and rallies, has focused also on wider issues including the marketization of higher education, principals’ remuneration, governance, and the indefensible use of casual contracts in the sector. Congress calls on UCUS executive to continue working with branches to consider ways to use the energy and commitment of members demonstrated in the dispute to further progress these issues.

L7  UUK and the USS dispute

Congress notes that:

  • A minority of Universities UK (UUK) members (42%) refused to commit to the level of investment risk proposed by the Universities Superannuation Scheme (USS) in September 2017.
  • The fairness and transparency of the UUK consultation process has been brought into question.
  • It seems this refusal to accept the already highly prudent level of risk proposed by USS in September that is preventing a negotiated settlement to the current dispute over USS from being achieved.

Congress instructs UCU Scotland to:

  • Press UUK to adopt the level of risk proposed by USS in September 2017 by reverting to the September valuation assumptions.
  • Press UUK and UCU negotiators to agree proposals, on the basis of the September valuation assumptions, seeking to maintain the structure of USS benefits at their current level.

C1 USS dispute


  1. congratulates members on the strong strike action, which is transforming the union and which will also enable us to win on marketisation, casualisation, equality issues.
  2. thanks students for their wonderful support throughout the strike.
  3. recognises that it is strike action which brought employers to negotiation and will eventually win the dispute, but that political pressure is also useful.
  4. recognises the strong rejection by all UCU Scotland branches of the proposals and the growing support for the status quo (no reductions in benefits or increases in contributions).
  5. notes that the current valuation of the USS pension scheme is based upon unrealistic assumptions.
  6. Believes the USS scheme should instead be valued on an ongoing basis, i.e. as a going concern. If the USS Board need the Government to guarantee the future of the scheme, then USS and UUK should join UCU in calling for a government guarantee.
  7. Further believes that on an ongoing basis there is no need for changes in contributions nor benefits.

Congress mandates UCU Scotland to:

  1. officially support the status quo for USS pensions and call for an immediate halt to proposed changes to the pension scheme.
  2. propose that this halt period should be used to carry out a fully transparent and independent valuation of the USS fund, its governance and the valuation methodology used. This valuation should include a full gender and equalities audit.
  3. propose no changes to the pension scheme should take place until after the outcome of this new valuation process and members have been balloted.
  4. agree that the replacement of missed work due to striking should not be included in any proposed agreement.
  5. call on the Scottish government, including through a rally at the Parliament, to put pressure on Westminster to support USS and maintain the status quo e.g. by guaranteeing the ‘deficit’ or removing the requirement for ‘full funding’
  6. encourage members to write to and lobby their MPs and MSPs
  7. submit this motion as a late motion from UCUS to UCU Congress.

L12    USS dispute

This Congress notes:

  1. That the evidence base for the proposed cuts to USS has been widely discredited and has been rejected by a majority of University leaders;
  2. The strength of the opposition to the proposed settlement (12/3/2018) across the UK.

Congress believes that it is illogical as well as detrimental to members to pursue changes to USS in the absence of a credible evidence base.

Congress calls on UCU Scotland to:

  1. Support branches in working with students and mobilising for escalation of the dispute, including further strike action;
  2. Work with national leadership to demand retention of the USS status quo pending a further valuation in which members can have confidence;
  3. Work with MSPs to use their influence with university leaders to bring UUK back to the negotiating table; and,
  4. Seek out and pursue fund-raising opportunities to support the Fighting Fund/local hardship funds.

Amendments to UCU Scotland rules and standing orders

 Congress agrees to amend the rules and standing orders of UCU Scotland as per the amendments detailed in paper UCUS/2021 (‘Amendments to UCU Scotland rules and standing orders’).