On the backfilling of Professional Services roles…
Despite knowing the given, valid, reasons why the University felt the need to authorise any backfilling of PS roles and consequently save money, it still seems a bit odd. Effectively, we undertook a PS Review that was supposedly never about cutting staff, but lo and behold, after the outcomes are forgotten, we start losing PS roles.
There was an outcome from the Professional Services Review which highlighted a lack of career progression for PS staff. Shortly afterwards we get the halt on backfilling of professional services roles.
Any roles which were rejected for backfilling are likely to be roles which are lost forever. If the backfill is refused and we manage to limp along with fewer staff, why would they ever be replaced down the line?
The initial communication about the backfill situation specified that this process was for PS staff only. After the initial backlash it was then said that of course it would be affecting academics too, but this would be handled in the departments rather than centrally. So the situation is impacting everyone, they just omitted to mention it in the initial communication. Though, seemingly, the departments do seem to have managed to put through some academic promotions whilst rumours were circling, not much earlier, of them struggling to backfill some of the PS staff maternity cover.
PS staff have always known, due to the nature of their roles, that the University valued them less, but recent communications over the backfill of PS roles made it a little more explicit. This is a strange situation relating only to working in academia. We all know that the University is a good place to work, particularly in the absence of much other local employment, but the effect on morale of ranking the importance of staff based on whether they are an academic or a PS member, regardless of grade, is damaging.
If academic staff decide to go on strike again due to USS pension issues, it might not be well-received by colleagues on grades 1-6. Anyone who needed to cross the picket line during the previous strike ended up late for work as traffic slowed. For some this will have meant a shortened lunch break in order to make up their hours. As much as many would like to support colleagues and empathise with their disappointment at their eroded contracts, staff with a Local Government Pension commented that it was galling to be told that a 19% contribution was an insult – LGPS gives a contribution of around 14% (which is actually very generous compared to industry standards). Anyone on a grade 6 or above was able to work from home and avoid the unpleasant crossing of picket lines, but this is not an option for those on grades 1-5.
In regards to the proposal for collective nouns for senior managers, Wiktionary already has a nice glossary of collective nouns. The one for managers is ‘an asylum of managers’.
Is it possible to apply a little humour to effect change regarding the wording of the automatic notice on emails originating outside the University?
‘This email originated from outside of the University. Do not click links or open attachments unless you recognise the sender and know the content is safe.’
‘Outside of’ is bad enough, but ‘from outside of’ is excruciating!
Thank you, guardians of my sanity.
The Students’ Union’s just held its first quorate General Meeting since 2014. That meeting was headlined by a motion that I had authored, in relation to a campaign that I had spearheaded. Similarly for the last quorate General Meeting before that, in 2013. Subsequent LUSU officers have long bemoaned their inability to do this, making the usual lame excuses of ‘outmoded structures’ and ‘changing habits’ when no-one showed up, but the formula has always been tried and true, so let me share five simple tips for student tubthumpers of the future who want to get people out of their beds and into the Great Hall.
1. You won’t get 300 students into a room to listen to your officer reports and vote on your affiliations. A General Meeting needs a single issue to draw people. In 2014, it was fee and rent increases. In 2013, it was the closure of the music degree and the threat of further cuts. In 2012, it was the threatened redundancy of departmental administrators. Sell the consequences of inaction, and they will come.
2. A General Meeting also needs to be tightly controlled by the executive, and should be a campaigning tool disguised as a democratic exercise. The purpose is to announce what it is that you’re furious about, and tell the students that you can’t do anything about it unless they turn up and vote. Thus, your officers have the mandate to act, and the democratic vote to use as ammunition against university management.
3. A General Meeting should not last more than 30 minutes. It is a burst of excitement that draws quoracy in the first place, and that excitement should not be sapped away by grandstanders getting up to quote bye laws and propose procedural motion after procedural motion. The Chair should make sure that everything is constitutionally sound in order to avoid a chapter / verse yawnfest. Leave that to your backroom, minuted meetings – not your big rally.
4. Keep speakers and speeches to a minimum. Chances are, everyone there has already made up their minds, and just wants to vote for their officers to go forth and fight.
5. Officers, take ownership of the agenda! You want a General Meeting to be your chance to tell the students that you need their support to go forth and fight their cause. So get up, speak, tell them you are raring to go and thank them for taking the time out of their day. Monday’s General Meeting lacked that great oratory from the executive, and swiftly degenerated into a two hour b*ll*cking session as officers grovelled like restaurant managers apologising for the disgruntled waiter. It’s all well and good letting the students vent at you, but it’s far better to inspire their trust and support!
It was my pleasure to participate in perhaps the greatest exercise of democracy the Students’ Union and the University have seen for many, many years. I must pay particular tribute to a handful of students who went above and beyond in the weeks building up to the meeting and during the meeting itself, in particular Cllr Jack O’Dwyer-Henry and Cllr Oliver Robinson, as well as Atree Ghosh who was behind the Save Our Sugarhouse campaign. Many others played very important roles and they know who they are. There were stumbles along the way, but in the face of blatant obstructionist behaviour by senior SU staff members, a fantastic outcome was achieved for all.
Acting General Secretary, Lancaster University Labour Club, and latent SCAN News Editor