All posts by Collette Maxfield

The HE Pay High Jump

We all get used to it. The dripping tap scenario.

It could be the leaky gutter outside your bedroom window. Brambles growing over your garden wall. The mounting bill pile perched on the mantelpiece.

It could be your pay.

Higher education pay, in fact, which has declined in real terms by 21% since 2009.

In general however, perhaps a few percent a year is hardly noticeable, or perhaps only a momentary annoyance when you notice your commuting cost has risen out of line with your pay packet.

Now imagine you had lost that 21% overnight, or that your pay was a lot more complicated. For some HE staff, on a precarious contract, pay may not be certain. Or manageable. Or enough. UCU needs a mandate in order to pressure UCEA into negotiating nationally on this issue.

The Trade Union Act 2017, designed to frustrate direct action, is not just a hurdle, it is a high jump. Expecting Branches to reach a 50% turn-out threshold although not required for any council or government election, stacks the odds against establishing a strong hand in UCU negotiations.

It is essential that UCU is not paralysed and rendered ineffective. We really do need members to post that ballot paper. We need to keep reaching for that bar—and over it.

Quick thoughts on the Pay Ballot result 2018

Dear members

You will have seen the ballot results sent round by UCU HQ. Only 7 out of 147 Branches made the 50% legal threshold (it’s hard work!).

HOWEVER, if you aggregate the results, there was a 42% national turnout with a nearly 70% vote for strike action. This is the best result that UCU has ever achieved in a national pay ballot.

@ucusurrey got very comfortably over this national average with its 44% – something to be proud of.

Thank you to all our members who voted.

Surrey UCU

Pay is not about Pay

Why do we keep emailing about Pay?

Pay is not really about Pay. Pay is about the race to the bottom.

We saw it with USS. Employers argued that other organisations in the private sector have pushed their employees into gambling their pensions on the stock market, so why shouldn’t HE institutions?

A dangerous logic.

As for the current 2% Pay offer – if you are paid a lot less than inflation for 14 years, you are in the race to the bottom. At some point, this race has to stop.

Other hurdles as HE employees lap the downward track – contracts that are increasingly precarious, casual, insecure. The gender pay gap drags on. Workloads are increasingly stressful.

All of these issues were raised in the 2018/19 UCU Pay and Equality claim. They are the reasons we are now in dispute, and they ARE OUTLINED ON YOUR BALLOT PAPER.

Why do we keep talking about 50%?

If we do not reach the legal threshold of 50% voting turn-out as a Branch we will probably be RE-BALLOTED. We can not take any legitimate action without reaching this figure. We will not be able to join the other 147 balloted Branches who will be strengthening our collective negotiating power in an attempt to improve the employer’s offer.

So Pay is not really about Pay. And your vote really does matter.

Please vote and let us know today.

Surrey UCU


The JEP Report is out! If you went on strike, if you braved those cold pickets, if you were the lone member in your department not in work during the dispute – read the exec summary of the JEP Report (it is a lot shorter, accessible, and very well written). This is your document, an outcome of your action, and remember, if it wasn’t for the action – you would have a defined contributions pension scheme winging its way into existence instead of a report that validates the original UCU arguments against the proposed changes to the scheme. Tide-turners include: the unique position of HE as a sector and the need for long-term thinking as a consequence, the strength of USS as a scheme, the faulty consultation process with employers, and the need for more cohesive consultation with members (i.e. you!).

A sigh of relief. And the first important step in a long process. We still have further to go in Phase 2 of the current JEP remit. However, it is time again to thank all those who made sacrifices last Spring so that voices could be heard and staff provisions defended. Get in touch with your views and let us know what you think.

We have shown UUK that collective action works over pensions, now let’s show UCEA over Pay!

National Pay Ballot

As the summer months have swept by, you should by now have received your National Pay & Equality Ballot paper through the post. If you have not received a ballot paper and/or need to request a replacement, please fill out the online form here:

As with the USS ballot, we are asking members to let us KNOW WHEN YOU HAVE VOTED (you do not need to tell us how you have voted!), please reply or email: with the single word ‘voted’ so that we can climb our way towards that ALL-IMPORTANT, ALL-ENCOMPASSING, 50% LEGAL THRESHOLD.

Members may also find this article yesterday of interest – USS crisis: can the pension system be reformed?

As always, please do not hesitate to get in touch with any questions –

Pay Dispute: Surrey UCU mini ‘Check’ campaign

It is very important that we get the word out and that we are ready for the formal Pay ballot, so please make an effort this week to check with at least one colleague:

1. Do they know what the 50% threshold means?

In March 2017 the Govt introduced a 50% turn out threshold for any UK union which wanted to take legal strike action. ‘Ballots have to achieve at least a 50% turnout of eligible union members, with a majority voting in favour of strike action’. It is therefore essential that members post their ballot paper, whatever their actual vote.

2. Do they know the significance of the 2% Pay offer in real terms?

The employers’ latest pay offer of 2% does nothing to restore ground lost against inflation which, as measured by the Retail Price Index (RPI), is currently 3.4%. UCU estimates that HE staff have taken a cut in real terms of 21% since 2010) when pay settlements are cumulatively compared to rises in RPI.

3. Do they know why it is a Pay & Equality dispute?

You may not be aware but HE employers are increasingly resistant to national bargaining. Apart from senior pay, in higher education the only aspect of salaries that is getting bigger is the gender pay gap. The employers are currently not willing, at a national level, to address gender inequality or precarious employment in the sector.

Please forward on, or knock on a door and ask a colleague!

Have we forgotten USS?

Dear Members,

Remember when our lives were dominated by USS related emails and the never-diminishing-uncovering-of-information on the USS pension dispute? Many members recounted how their lives had suddenly become dependent on the twitter accounts of active pre-92 UCU Branches and UUK.

Naturally, since UCU voted to accept the UUK offer and the Joint Expert Panel (JEP) was established, most members have taken a step back, returned to work, and are hoping for the best out of the discussions taking place behind the scenes.

For those looking for a quick update as we head towards the first JEP report in September (who hasn’t got their fingers crossed?), please see this breakdown of news, bite-size.

From USS itself:

– a 1 minute read on The Story So FarIncludes ‘next steps’ from the USS perspective, introducing a secondary plan of proposed increases for staff and employers in contributions under the cost sharing rule.
– a 1 minute read on the USS account of the JEP

UUK does not seem to hold any interesting nuggets on its website but does hold the (very brief) notes from the summer JEP meetings, as does UCU. Mostly, these notes report that the JEP has been reflecting on various forms of evidence submitted,  most (if not all) of the evidence submitted to the JEP so far is available on USSbriefs briefs 25-28, 30, 32-37), as part of the OpenUPP (Open USS Pension Panel) series. 

For an alternative member-led perspective on the cost-sharing exercise, a snap-shot is available for those with twitter as well as for those without, in this thread here

Thank you!

Surrey UCU

Captured Content Policy – UCU Consultation and Member Advice

During the period in which UCU have been consulting about the Captured Content Policy, there have been some important and positive changes. These include that recordings cannot be used without consent, including during strike action, and that there is no staff appraisal metric associated with the use of captured content.

Feedback shows that members are prepared to use captured content in their modules, but concerns remain about time constraints; availability of support; and “enforcement” of teaching approaches. Although the Policy stipulates that Panopto use is not compulsory (this is not legal) it is anticipated that teaching staff may be under huge pressure to provide recordings of their lectures.

What the policy means for you depends on what your Department or School decides to do.

• There may be meetings amongst your Heads of Department / Directors of Learning and Teaching / Programme Directors, so approach the relevant people for information and find out what is being planned for you
• The policy is to be decided by the Staff-Student Liaison Committee (SSLC) which reports to the Board of Studies. As any changes to the delivery of teaching on a module needs to go through the Board of Studies please engage fully with your Boards of Studies meetings

• The policy states that every module should include captured content for the next academic year (2018-19) and beyond. Bear in mind that there are hundreds of modules across the entire University, but finite resources. If your Department proposes something that seems unrealistic ask for confirmation that the time and resources are guaranteed before agreeing

• The Policy aims to develop local practices that are acceptable and realistic. All teaching staff should have some input into these decisions – however if staff in your department are being frozen out of such discussions then please let us know – this is not the intention of the Policy as we understand it from meetings with TEL.

We hope this helps, we will continue to be in touch on this issue.

MEQs, strike action and appraisals 2018

We are aware that members are concerned as to the impact that strike action may have had on MEQ scores, and the subsequent use of these scores within upcoming appraisals. The Surrey UCU Committee advise that it may not be necessary to take action unless you anticipate your manager downgrading your appraisal. You may wish to note on your appraisal form that MEQs may be lower than usual because of legitimate strike action they have taken.
If any punitive scoring or comments arise from the appraisal due to low MEQs from students who were affected by industrial action, we will challenge this on the basis that the member of staff is receiving detrimental treatment as a result of union membership, which is unlawful. We are therefore advising members to keep in touch and keep us informed of any detrimental consequences. We will offer further advice nearer to the appraisal round. Please let us know if you become concerned that your appraisal may suffer because of strike action you have taken this year (i.e. for any role; not just that relating to MEQs). 


Lecture Capture and Your Legal Rights

In response to the THE article we circulated late last week entitled ”Academics ‘must sign away authorship rights’ to recorded lectures”  (if you missed it please click herewe received several queries. In particular, we were asked for further details as to the fifth comment at the end of the article:

Lecturers have the option under law not to have their lectures recorded without their informed consent. Even University of Nottingham managers cannot force their academic staff to sign away their rights under law.
We are conscious that ‘Captured Content’ is not synonymous with ‘Lecture Capture’ – but it is important that your rights are understood and protected.
Members may not be aware that there are legal frameworks that protect their rights when Lecture Capture policies are being developed and implemented. These rights are contained within the umbrella legislation Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988 (it is more exciting than it sounds).
As well as relevant clauses on copyright, s.182 of the CDPA (for short!) outlines the consent required for the recording of live performance. To view what is classed as an infringement, it literally only takes a moment to read the relevant section here
If you are wondering what this means, or its relevance, the following section explains the remit of this legislation to live lectures (please click here )
(2)In this Part — “performance” means —
(a)a dramatic performance (which includes dance and mime),
(b)a musical performance,
(c)a reading or recitation of a literary work, or
(d)a performance of a variety act or any similar presentation
In addition, the JISC legal guide describes lectures as a ‘live delivery‘ and ‘dramatic communication to others of opinions, thoughts and interpretation‘.
Please also note the HEFCE guidelines on this issue (contained within ‘Intellectual property rights in e-learning programmes’ See Page 14:
Performers’ rights
105. Contracts of employment with staff should make clear that they own the performers’ rights in any video or other recording of their own lectures or presentations. Exploitation of such materials should only be undertaken by the HEI following negotiation of a licence from the member of staff.
We hope this gives you some insight as to why the sector norm for HE institutions is to adopt opt-in and opt-out policies (not compulsory).
There are many other facets to this complex issue that you have raised, including concerns related to the provision of technological support within the University, the lack of evidence that such material enhances the learning potential of students, and the extra time it takes to administrate this technology both before and after the lecture. We also understand that with an opt-in system those that find the technology suited to their disciplinary material, and find its facilities constructive, should be encouraged to use the technology available.
This is why we wanted to provide you with a legal ‘lowdown’.
We will continue to take your feedback on board. Thanks all!