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Working from home for academic staff

Dear Member,

As last week, in relation to the 15 day turnaround of marking and feedback ‘policy’, a substantial number of members have contacted myself or local reps regarding the institutional ‘Working From Home Policy’. A number of incorrect and contradictory statements have been made by various managers over the last week or so, on this issue. Once again I apologise for the length of this email, but it is all important information.

In contrast to the 15 day turnaround of marking ‘policy’ which does not exist as such (see previous post for details), there is indeed a ‘Working From Home Policy’ (which can be found on the HR pages of LJMUWeb); however, IT DOES NOT APPLY TO ACADEMIC STAFF. Changes to working practices in relation to academic staff currently being pushed by management and HR around the institution have not been decided upon in consultation with UCU. The ‘Working From Home Policy’ was agreed before UCU came into existence and was not consulted upon, negotiated with, or agreed to by NATFHE (the union which then represented academic staff at LJMU, and which was one of the unions which later amalgamated to form the UCU).

The Policy is in fact an agreement between LJMU and UNISON, relating to administrative and technical staff only.

The Post ’92 contracts of employment we ‘enjoy’ recognise the professional and largely self-supervised nature of academic activities: The Post 92 Staff Handbook (Agreed National Text,, which our institution agreed to as much as any other Post 92 institution states;

1.3.1   On the matter of the working week, it is not appropriate in a professional contract to be specific as to the exact hours of availability for duties; moreover, it is accepted that in the case of the obligation to undertake research and other scholarly activity that obligation will not necessarily require attendance at the institution. However, in relation to teaching duties a reasonable norm may be helpful at institutional level. Such a norm should be comparable with those of other employees in the institution and with those of related professional groups; it is not to be regarded as either a minimum or maximum.’

And from the Post 92 Contract;

8.3 Your research and scholarly activity will be principally self-managed.’

It is, obviously, perfectly reasonable for management to expect and require presence on University premises for scheduled teaching activities, meetings (whether administrative or with students), advertised ‘Office Hours’ where these are the norm and other activities which are a contractual requirement and for which physical presence is necessary. This is not, however, the case where physical presence is not required to carry out our assigned duties – in fact, particularly in the case of staff expected to work in multi-occupancy offices, where colleagues may be holding meetings with students because of short supply or non-existence of alternative accommodation, physical presence may significantly undermine our ability to perform our assigned duties, be they research, scholarly activities, marking or administrative tasks. We are professionals, recognised as such by our contracts of employment and the handbook guidelines on their implementation, to which our institution is a signatory; e.g. ‘You are expected to work flexibly and efficiently, and to maintain the highest professional standards in discharging your responsibilities, and in promoting and implementing the corporate policies of Liverpool John Moores University.’

It would not be unreasonable for management/HR to expect to codify working arrangements by reaching an agreement with UCU relating to availability for contact when off the premises etc., but they have not attempted to do this. Instead they are either allowing local managers to make things up as they go along, or have operated unilaterally and without consultation, in clear breach of the Recognition Agreement between LJMU and the three unions with recognised rights to representation, negotiation and consultation at LJMU.

Once again, as with the issues relating to ‘15 day turnaround’, the issue of the implementation of the ‘Working From Home Policy’ will be taken up with management.

In Solidarity,

Jim Hollinshead,

Branch Secretary,


15 day turnaround – your questions answered

Apologies for the lengthy post, but this is important information. A number of members have approached their UCU Reps regarding statements being made by some managers about the 15 day turnaround of marking and feedback ‘policy’.
This is the situation as UCU sees it: anything said to you contrary to this has not been consulted upon or discussed with UCU and does not form part of LJMU’s stated ‘policy’: in any event, in the words of senior management: “There is no formalised 15 day turnaround policy, only a leaflet and agreed practice, as this was something agreed between SMT and LiverpoolSU which never went through committee”. What does exist is a series of guidelines (all the statements below are documented in ‘policy’ statements, guidance notes or the minutes of various meetings) – not ‘Policy’ – which:

  • Does not prescribe how marking should be done (i.e. online or hard copy), that’s up to you.
  • Does not prescribe how feedback should be given to students (there are however some reasonable guidelines in terms of good practice on this available on LJMUWeb).
  • Does not require that feedback be written – “Individualised feedback provided within a taught session or audio feedback is … acceptable”.
  • Does not require that a mark be included in this feedback.
  • Does not make ‘failure’ to meet the 15 day ‘deadline’ a matter for any form of disciplinary action – it is a target, and so long as students receive notice of any change and an explanation for why this is being made, this is ‘acceptable’, this is particularly the case in instances of staff illness during marking periods.
  • What it does do, is say how the 15 day period should be calculated:
  • It starts from the submission date (for electronic submission – so think carefully about submission times you set); there is ambiguity on hardcopy marking, but clearly, you cannot mark hard copy you don’t have, and time (which in practice may be is little as a day) should be added for printing, if submission is not in hard copy. There is no reason under the ‘policy’ as stated that you cannot require students to submit electronically and hard copy, which may speed things up.
  • Once set, the ‘deadline’ is not ‘set in stone’ but can be amended with adequate notification to students and an explanation of the cause of delay – it is our contention that this new ‘deadline’ becomes that to which any reporting of ‘failure’ to reach the 15 day target should relate.
  • The turnaround period should not include time spent on moderation – this is ambiguous, and could mean reporting of totally un-moderated feedback and/or marks (which we would consider very bad practice), therefor this implies that time spent in bench marking at the beginning and moderation at the end of the marking period should not count as part of the ‘15 days’.
  • The period is ‘15 working days’; it does not include therefore:
    • Weekends
    • Days when the institution is closed (i.e. bank holidays, Christmas/Spring break periods)
    • Days when you have annual leave formally booked
    • Days of sickness absence.

UCU has asked for a Common Interest Committee (the institutional vehicle for consultation and negotiation on issues relating to a single union) on this issue, but this has not been forthcoming. We will be pursuing the matter further and will report back in due course.

In the meantime, please report to your Rep, or the branch via me, any instances of statements from managers not in line with the above, in particular any instances of threats direct or veiled, regarding ‘consequences’ of non-compliance with any instructions which are not in line with the above.

In Solidarity,
Jim Hollinshead,
Branch Secretary,

Lambeth College UCU on indefinite strike

As you are likely aware, Lambeth College UCU members went out yesterday, Wed 4th June 2014, starting a period of indefinite strike action. The dispute concerns the serious erosion of terms and conditions at Lambeth College.

UNISON members are joining the strike next Wednesday and Thursday, with escalation to follow.

You can learn more about the strike by following the strike’s blog:

Please send messages of support and donations via the following page:-

You can follow the strike action’s twitter feed at:

Without doubt, support and solidarity from the LJMU UCU Branch to all those at Lambeth.
An attack on one is an attack on all.

LJMU Branch AGM 2014 – Election Results

At the branch AGM held on 21/05/14, a set of branch officers were elected for the coming year.

On behalf of the branch officers and branch committee, I would like to thank all those outgoing branch committee members who did not stand for re-election for their efforts on behalf of the branch and UCU members at LJMU. In particular thanks are due to Chris McMahon, outgoing branch chair, for his contribution and hard work over the years.

Branch Officers/Branch Committee members for 2014-15 were elected as follows:

Chair: David Lamb (Computing and Mathematical Sciences)
Secretary: Jim Hollinshead (Humanities and Social Sciences)
Deputy Secretary (x2): Alex Pimor (Law)
Vice Chairs (x2): Tricia MacKinnon-Day (Art and Design), Paul Kenny (Built Environment)
Treasurer: Sam Davies (Humanities and Social Sciences)
Senior Health and Safety Officer: Alastair Balchin (Business School)
Equality Officer: Julia Bradshaw (Law)
Disability Officer: Brigitte Hordern (Business School)
Website and E-communications Officer: Jamie Finlay (Engineering)
Fixed-term/Sessional/Probationary members Officer: Will Jackson (Humanities and Social Sciences)
Pensions Officer (x2): Chris McMahon (Business School), Paul Kenny (Built Environment)

As newly elected National Executive Committee member representing women members, Saira Weiner (Education, Community and Leisure), will attend Branch Committee meetings Ex Officio

There having been no nominations for them by the closing date, this leaves the following positions vacant:

Deputy Secretary (x1)
Membership/Recruitment Officer
Minutes Secretary

Nominations for these positions will be reopened. Nominations should be sent to me, accompanied by the written consent of the nominee, supported by the signatures of the proposing and seconding branch members and must be received no later than the closing date of June 13th. Nominees may submit an election address of no more than 150 words. Where/if more than one nomination is received for any position, a ballot will be organised.

If you would like to discuss the role/commitment of time etc. associated with these posts, please get in touch.

ICM Cleaners at John Lewis balloted for Strike Action for London Living Wage

IWW unionised cleaners at John Lewis are continuing their campaign towards a wage increase above Minimum Wage and to the London Living Wage.

Following extensive attempts by the workers to improve their situation, their union IWW entered a new pay claim with ICM on 26th October. Clear, realistic and reasonable, not to mention necessary, the pay claim aims at an immediate and backdated increase to £6.72 p/h for cleaners, £8 p/h for supervisors, plus a timetable of discussions aimed at securing full London Living Wage of £8.55 and full sick pay.

Cleaners are currently paid at minimum wage, £6.19/hr.

IWW Link

EU Workers Strike and Protest against Austerity

Massive anti-austerity strikes and protests swept across Europe as millions took to the streets to express their frustration over rising unemployment and dire economic prospects. Many rallies ended with violent clashes with police.

Workers marched in 23 countries across Europe to mark the European Day of Action and Solidarity.

General strikes had been called in Spain and Portugal, paralyzing public services and international flights, in Belgium and France transport links were partially disrupted by strikes and demonstrations, in Italy and Greece thousands of workers and students marched through the streets.

Other EU countries, such as Germany, Austria and Poland, saw well attended union-led rallies.

The Europe-wide strike action, the largest in a series of protests against the austerity policies, was coordinated by the European Trade Union Confederation (ETUC) and promoted on Twitter under the “#14N” hashtag

(Quote from Russia Today online)

Further details about the UK’s TUC action in support:

Please encourage your MP to sign Early Day Motion 609 – BLACKLISTED WORKERS

Please support UCATT’s Postcard Campaign against the recent Blacklisting scandal and email or write to your MP, asking them to sign EDM 609 asking for justice for the Blacklisted workers in the recent Consulting Association.

UCATT’s campaign page is here, with more details and a template email to send to your MP:’s page on the EDM (showing those MPs who have already signed) is here;

Unilever workers on strike over pension

Unite, USDAW, and GMB workers at Unilever in Port Sunlight and Warrington, in addition to their other sites across the UK, are to take strike action on Friday (9th Dec) over changes to their pension scheme. The changes include withdrawal of the final salary pension benefit from existing scheme members.

Unilever seem to have forgotten their reputation for treating workers well, and are instead opting for BA-style punitive measures, above and beyond deduction of pay. They are reported to have retaliated by undertaking a number of measures, including:
-Withdrawal of workers’ Christmas hampers at striking sites
-Blocking holiday bookings for next year
-Refusing to pay sick pay for this week (2-9th Dec)


Current students can expect to graduate with £24,700 debt

A Grauniad article on student accommodation finishes with a depressing stat in the last couple of paragraphs.

“…Meanwhile, a report published last week suggests the problem of student debt is getting worse. The Push Student Debt Survey, which questioned 2,000 students, found that those starting this autumn can expect to owe £24,700, compared with students who began courses last year who are likely to graduate with debts of £23,200.

Undergraduates now owe, on average, £5,600 for each year of study after any help they are given by parents is stripped away. The report found that average debt for students at university in England is £5,293 per year, while in Wales it is £6,411. In Scotland, where fees are still paid centrally, the average debt per year of study is just £2,637.”

Applied retrospectively, do you think you would you have been discouraged from studying for a degree on these terms?

The TUC’s Brendan Barber on November 30th


Yesterday the Sun asked the TUC General Secretary Brendan Barber to write 200 words setting out the case for the day of action. They are not in today’s paper. We have been asked to reproduce them here:

This government cancelled the tax on bankers’ bonuses. Instead it has brought in a nurses’, teachers’ and lollipop ladies’ tax.

This is what the increase in pension contributions – around £1,000 a year for a nurse – really means. It is not paying for pensions but going straight to the Treasury to fill the hole left by the bonus tax.

It takes a lot to get Brits to strike. Yet the government has driven millions of its own staff to stop work, including unions that have never gone on strike before such as head-teachers. They are not stupid or manipulated by union leaders, but ordinary decent people doing important jobs taking a stand as a last resort.

We know the strike will cause difficulties today, and we regret that. But it’s proved to be the only language the government understands.

I’ve been leading talks with ministers for months. But they were going nowhere. It’s only when we called a day of action that government started to move. Ministers should listen carefully today to their staff, and get stuck into trying to reach the fair negotiated settlement that unions want.