Build the Union – national recruitment week

With the next National Recruitment Week fast approaching in just over a month’s time (27th February until the 3rd of March) please discuss with colleagues what activities you are going to run to invite more staff to join UCU, and let the Scotland office know your plans. We are all available to help, so again please put your requests in as soon as possible.

Quite a number of branches have asked for advice on what activities they might undertake. We have therefore put together a short list of suggestions for activities you might consider. Experience fed back from branches has shown that the recruitment activities which bear most fruit are the simplest, and take the least effort and organisation.

  1. Start early – make sure that members know that it is recruitment week. Email members and let them know when it is. If possible let the other campus unions know what you are doing and work with them. You should have access to lists of your members via eMembership system (If there is a problem with this let us know).  Ask for your members help in organising recruitment and ask them for their suggestions.
  1. Run a stall or run a workshop? If you have suitable area with good throughput or if you have a central dining area where everyone goes, run a stall. In bigger campuses, what we find work particularly well are stalls in individual buildings which involve local reps and members. Why not run a drop in area? “Come to us to ask advice.” Try to run it for an hour or two over lunch every day to allow access to the maximum potential audience, rather than all day. It may take a few days for word to spread.
  1. Visiting staff rooms and door knocking- Many find this prospect daunting, but having a reason to be there (workload, the pay ballot, local issues) can be the key to overcoming this and if possible letting the members know in advance.  The staff from the Scotland office can also help you with this activity. Activities like this raise the profile of the branch. This takes little time to organise and can be done for a short period of time each day over the week rather than lots of time spent on one day. Look at your membership list. Sort it by department. Where do you have few members? Make a point of visiting these areas.
  1. Involve as many people as possible. Members? Their interests are best served by a strong branch. Committee? Recruitment is the responsibility of all. Many branches as well as reps have local contacts so this is an ideal time to involve them. Everyone should be aware that this is UCU national Recruitment Week, the more participation, the more potentially successful the outcome
  1. Celebrate your successes. Branches do huge amounts of case and other behind the scenes work. Tell members and non-members about all the important work the branch and more widely the union has done.
  1. Recruit a rep or contact. It is a fact that where we have reps and local contacts we have lots of members and where there is no rep we have fewer. If you recruit a new member in a department with few or no reps or contacts, ask them to become a contact for their area. The basic duties of a new contact can be to represent the union in their area and distribute union material to staff. If you have no new members in the department, ask an existing member.

You can order materials (leaflets, posters, pens etc.) using the simple online form here. For guidance, ideas from other branches, downloadable resources, and promotional videos see our Build the Union blogsite here

Rights for fixed-term staff – important announcement

Message from Sally Hunt regarding legal dispute with the University of Stirling.


Dear colleague,

Members will recall that UCU won an historic case in the Supreme Court last year against the University of Stirling on the principle of the union’s right to be consulted about the proposed redundancy dismissal of staff on fixed term contracts. The court’s ruling followed years of campaigning by us on the important principle that all parts of the workforce deserve protection when jobs are at risk, and was on the back of other similar claims also taken by the union, including an appeal in a claim against the University of Lancaster to the Employment Appeal Tribunal.

Reprehensibly, the UK government then moved the goalposts so that an employer proposing to dismiss fixed term employees is no longer subject to the same consultation obligations as would apply to permanent staff.

Today,  UCU is pleased to report that the long running legal dispute with the University of Stirling in relation to collective consultation over fixed term contract staff whose contracts came to a natural end during various periods between May 2009 and 1 February 2012 has been resolved. The union and the university have released this joint statement:

‘The university and UCU are pleased to report that the long running legal dispute between them in relation to collective consultation over fixed term contract staff whose contracts ended, has been resolved on terms which are confidential, but which both parties agree represent a sensible and mutually beneficial solution in the circumstances. Both parties now wish to put this matter behind them and work together to improve industrial relations and ensure that the university continues to be a place of excellent research, learning and teaching.

‘If you were employed at the university on a fixed (or limited) term contract which terminated during one of these periods and at the effective date of termination had more than three months continuous employment you may be eligible for a payment. If you fall into this category and have not received a letter from the university please contact them at ( for more information.’

Please share this email with your fixed term and casual colleagues who may not yet be members of UCU and ask them to consider joining a union that stands up for staff whatever their contractual status.

I am proud that the union never gave up fighting for the staff at Stirling and elsewhere. The campaign taken as a whole resulted in an estimated 560 employees on fixed term contracts sharing out an estimated £1.33 million as a result of the cases we brought. The union will continue to fight for the rights of all staff, and campaign against the exploitative employment model which underpins much of higher education.

Yours in solidarity,

Sally Hunt
UCU general secretary

Access for Retired Members

Message from the Retired Members’ Branch, UCU Scotland

Dear colleagues

UCU Scotland Congress has agreed motions in support of the right to continuing access to academic journals for retired members. In pursuit of this objective, the Scottish Retired Members Branch has drafted a letter to the Principal of each University in Scotland asking for access to be offered to retiring staff as a right, rather than on a selective basis as at present. We seek an offer from the University to each member of staff who is retiring for appointment as an honorary fellow in order to have access to electronic journals. We seek this as part of the response of a University when a staff member applies to retire. This changes the focus from one initiated by the staff member to one initiated by the University.

In practice we expect that there will be little change in most instances since the mechanism proposed requires the staff member to opt in by accepting the offer, and because the option will lapse if a staff member does not remain active in scholarship.

The SRMB asks for your support by putting the letter  below on the agenda for your next negotiation meeting (JNC) with management. The issue is one that affects your members who are moving toward retirement and consequently we hope that you will agree that it is legitimate to raise the matter and of benefit to your members to secure agreement.

We would be more than happy to arrange for one of our officers to attend either a general meeting or a committee meeting should you feel that would be useful in discussing this proposal.

Thank you.

Draft letter to Principals 

Dear Prof XXXX

Retired members of UCU who wish to remain active in scholarship at present face an obstacle in achieving this objective. While some are invited to be Honorary Fellows or Professors, this courtesy is not extended to all staff. We respect the right of the University to invite selected staff to accept an honorary or emeritus post but wish to secure an agreement that will allow all retiring staff who remain active in scholarship to retain a link with their University through an invitation to accept honorary status. The key advantage associated with an invitation made as part of a retirement package is that it then becomes established good practice.

The benefit for the retiring staff member would be access to electronic data bases. The potential benefits to the University and to their Department would be a continuing scholarly contribution. In some cases this may lead to contributions by retired staff to bids for grants or to publications by currently employed University staff. In other instances voluntary mentoring of new staff has been undertaken by retired staff at the request of a Head of School. There are therefore considerable potential benefits to the institution for negligible cost. We seek this courtesy to be extended to all staff including support staff as we are aware of some in learning support, academic administration, or library and IT who are research active and publishing after retirement.

We acknowledge of course that members with honorary status would be expected to provide evidence from time to time that they continue to be active in scholarship.

We thank you for considering this request and hope that it will meet with your support.

Yours sincerely