Union Suspends Industrial Action at University of Aberdeen and Agrees Recommendations to Avert Compulsory Redundancies

The University and College Union (UCU) Scotland has today (Friday) called off industrial action at the University of Aberdeen following agreement on a  proposal to the University Court on Tuesday (30th June) that will avert moving to compulsory redundancies.

Staff at the university were due to take strike action on Wednesday 1 July and Monday 6 July in protest against the university’s proposal to cut 150 jobs as part of a £10 million savings plan. Following negotiations with UCU, the university has now agreed a proposal to its governing body to extend its voluntary redundancy scheme until 10 November 2015, and proposing that no compulsory redundancies will be made during this period.

Commenting on the development, local UCU representative Dr Andrew Mackillop said: “We’re delighted that the university has worked with us to find a way forward in proposing to Court to withdraw the threat of compulsory redundancies and that management will instead look to find savings from voluntary redundancies and natural staff turnover. The union will suspend the planned industrial action including the two day long strikes.  We will continue to work with the university in the coming months to seek alternative savings and allow staff to focus on their teaching and research rather than worrying about their jobs.”

Mary Senior, UCU Scotland Official, added: “I have no doubt that the hard work of local UCU negotiators, our campaigning and the strong ballot result from union members has been instrumental in the employer’s decision to change its proposed approach on job cuts.  We can now move forward more constructively with the employer to focus on ensuring that the University of Aberdeen continues to be one of the best in the world”.

Professor Jeremy Kilburn, Senior Vice-Principal of the University of Aberdeen said: “We are pleased that the dialogue with the UCU has been constructive. If the proposal we are putting to Court is passed the management will no longer seek a mandate from the University Court for a programme of compulsory redundancies and instead, recommend the University Court approve an extension of the current Voluntary Severance and Early Retirement Scheme to 10 November 2015.

“We remain committed to realising the ambition of our Strategic Plan to grow our position as one of the world’s leading universities and we look forward to working together to achieve this shared vision.”

Better University Governance

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The Scottish Government today (17 June) published the new Higher Education Governance (Scotland) Bill.  The bill contains measures that UCU members across Scotland have been pushing for many years including elected chairs of governing bodies; trade union and student nominees on governing bodies and an agreed definition of academic freedom to protect all academic and related staff.

In April this year we handed over to Angela Constance, the Cabinet Secretary for Education and Lifelong Learning, more than 1400 signatures in a petition calling for Ministers to reform governance.  Each of those signatures was hard won having been collected by UCU members on campuses across Scotland and we’re delighted that we now have firm proposals in the form of a draft bill.  But the devil, as they say, is in the detail and UCU will be playing a full part scrutinising the bill as it progresses through the Parliament. 

As it stands the bill allows for universities to appoint their chair in accordance with an agreed process to be determined by Ministers in regulations.  We are determined to see this through and ensure that those regulations mean all universities and institutions in Scotland appoint their chair by a democratic election in which the staff and students have a vote.

Commenting on the publication of the Scottish Government’s higher education governance bill Mary Senior, UCU Scotland Official, said: “UCU members have been campaigning for the reform of higher education governance for many years.  We welcome the publication of the bill as a major step forward in reforming how our universities are governed.  UCU members want universities that are more democratic, representative, and transparent, and we’ll be working to ensure that the chairs of university governing bodies are elected by the people with the biggest interest in the success of our universities – the staff and students who learn, teach and carry out research there.”

Report from Dungavel Protest

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New UCU Scotland President Douglas Chalmers reports from the Dungavel protest…

Why Dungavel Needs Closed

On becoming UCU Scottish president, I was pleased that within a week, I and others from the union, had our banner on the STUC demonstration outside Dungavel detention centre near Strathaven, demanding its closure.

That morning, hundreds of trade unionists and campaigners were showing that like the UCU, they believe that the existence of Dungavel is a disgrace to a modern compassionate society. Keeping innocent people – charged with no crime – locked up for unspecified periods of time goes against the spirit of the 1951 Refugee Convention , the European Convention of Human Rights, and the Human Rights Act. The UK is the only country in the European Union to keep refugees detained indefinitely – another disgrace.

Claiming asylum and seeking protection from war, oppression, torture and discrimination is not a crime. Those seeking refuge should be treated with dignity and respect, yet it is a disgrace that one of the first things our Prime Minister David Cameron and Home Secretary  Teresa May did, upon being re-elected was to accompany the police on a dawn raid in London to ‘see how it was done’.

Similarlyfdsf, it is shameful that less than two weeks ago, in Glasgow, 15 officers in anti stab vests broke down an asylum seeking family’s door, while the husband was out at the shops, and within 12 hours, despite the best efforts of lawyers and campaigners, a woman and her kids were on a plane back to Africa.

The figures are frightening. Although, due to Scottish government demands, children are no longer detained at Dungavel – this has just shifted families with children into other detention centres such as Yarls Wood in England. In the last 5 years of the previous Government coalition, over 600 children were in detention, with 10 percent split from their families.

Asylum seekers who are not detained are of course, denied the right to work, and yet are portrayed in some of the media as a threat to jobs – just as immigrants are often blamed for low wages.

It is not immigrants who set wages of course, it is employers.szdcsdgsfgd

In the last 5 months, more people have sought to escape war, hunger, starvation, and lack of medicine by travelling in unseaworthy boats than did in the whole of the previous year. Four thousands have been counted as dying at sea – in reality the toll must be much higher.

University research has come up with medicines which help cure epidemics such as diarrhoea and help provide clean water,  yet over 13 million children have been killed by the former – more than all those killed in conflict since the second world war.

Worldwide 11 million children don’t live to see their fifth birthday.  These are the conditions that families are trying to escape from – exacerbated by conflict in war zones.

As university activists, we are aware of the potential that each human being who enters higher education can offer society and indeed humanity as a whole. Asylum seekers are denied these chances – the way they are treated in the UK shows they are denied even basic rights.

Let us imagine how society could benefit if the talents of all those seeking asylum and refuge could be used for the the good of all. That’s why our banner was there. That’s why Dungavel needs closed. 

Scottish Universities Supporting Palestinian Students

pixIn 2014 UCU Scotland lent its support to the creation of SUSPS  – Scottish Universities Supporting Palestinian Students – a charity which sought to raise funds to cover travel and living costs for Palestinian students while encouraging Scottish universities to provide fee waivers to postgraduate taught programmes.  The first institution to offer a place was Queen Margaret University in Edinburgh, and in March 2015 Enas Saber arrived to commence her studies in International Health.

Here Enas tells her story in her own words.  See below for a link to the video detailing Enas’s journey  and for more details on what you and your institution can do to help.

“I’m a pharmacist in profession and I grow up in Palestine and work under difficult  health circumstances. And that motivates me to apply for IIHD at QMU to study International Health MSc.  I’m a Palestinian refugee and lived my life in a refugee camp and worked during the dangerous security situations. So, I perceive the health challenges that any refugee and displaced people can live. I decided and now, I’m working on my MSc degree in this field which designed for working in developing countries.

I’d been offered unconditional offer at IIHD to study International Health MSc and then I applied for a new scholarship called SUSP “Scottish Universities Supporting Palestinian Students”, and QMU is one of these universities.c

This scholarship made all difference and without this scholarship I couldn’t be able to reach my study . Because I couldn’t  cover my fees here.

Since August 2014 and I’ve been trying to leave Gaza to reach my study but It took about 7 months to take the permission to travel . At first , I couldn’t make my visa because of the closure of British Consulate  after the Israeli attacks against Gaza . And when I had it I failed   to leave because of the tight siege that prevent Palestinians from travelling by closing the crossing borders around Gaza. I spent 7 months calling and trying with all the related bodies to get the permission from the Israelis or having a space between  the travellers’ names on the Egyptian border . I failed to get it 4 times from the Israelis and tens of times from the Egyptians but that didn’t stop me from trying . On the ground, the hope was little, the failure was expected and I lived days and months under stress and wondering why I had been prevented from departing as I had sent the documents showing my scholarship and UK visa. It was hard to pass that difficult time specially when I couldn’t begin my course either in September or in January. There was no clear reason stopping me from getting the permission, but I was hopeful to get it and that was the motivation all along.

Finally, on March 18th 2015, I received the call that I’d been waiting for for months, when the Israelis  allowed me to leave. I picked my essential things and left my family who had supported me most during that hard period. So, I’ve arrived here to begin a new stage of my life studying and make the most of my opportunity here in the UK.”

Film maker Jonathon Pullman has produced a short video highlighting the work of SUSPS and the bravery of Enas and students like her.  If you would like further information or details on how to donate to SUSPS then please contact susps2014@gmail.com To support our efforts in obtaining additional fee waivers then please contact UCU Scotland or your local UCU branch.

Scotland vs. Qatar Protest

The STUC is holding a protest and leafleting session outside the Scotland V Qatar game at Easter Road in Edinburgh on Friday 5 June to raise awareness of the labour abuses that are happening in Qatar. The details for the event are as follows:

  • 4.00 pm – meet at the Artisan Bar, 35-36 London Road, Abbeyhill, EH7 5BQ
  • between 4.00 and 5.00 – leafleting bars, cafes, restaurants close to the ground – London Rd, Easter Rd, Leith Walk, Duke St etc
  • 5.00 – 5.30 – meet at Leith Dockers’ Club, 17 Academy Street, EH6 7EE for photo opportunity
  • 7.00 – leafleting outside West stand, East Road Stadium

Details of this and the Public meeting on Qatar on the 18th June at the STUC are available on the STUC website http://www.stuc.org.uk/campaigns-and-external-events/qatar-world-cup

There is also a dedicated facebook events page for the protest https://www.facebook.com/events/1639123382985614/

For more information on the leafleting session on Friday or to attend the public event please email hmartin@stuc.org.uk