Solihull College UCU Rotating Header Image

******* IfL BALLOT RESULT ******

Message from Sally Hunt!

Dear colleague,

I wanted
to write to tell you the result of the referendum held by UCU on the proposed
new fees for the Institute for Learning (IFL).

result was as follows:

of eligible voters: 34,505

number of votes cast: 11,178 (32.4%)

voting Yes (we should accept these proposals for a two year settlement) 3,297

voting No (we should reject and conduct an industrial action ballot to boycott
fees) 7,877 (70.49%)

It is
worth noting that, even at this busy time of the year for teaching staff, the
turnout for this vote has been substantial.  In fact turnout exceeded even
recent national votes on pensions and pay, reflecting its importance to UCU

From my
postbag over the past few weeks I know that you have appreciated the efforts of
UCU’s negotiators to win concessions. However, it is clear that IFL has a
massive credibility problem across the sector which is impossible to get away

In fact,
many of you contacted me during the ballot to say that IFL does little if
anything to support your professional development and that, for the majority of
you, any charge for its services would be too much.

The next
step is clear. The union will now make preparations to ballot members on
industrial action in the form of a collective boycott of the IFL.

In the
meantime I will communicate the result to IFL and the union will redouble our
efforts to achieve a just and fair solution for members.

To win
this battle we will have to turn the strength of feeling against IFL into an overwhelming
vote for boycott. I have no doubt that together we can do that.

For the
avoidance of doubt, UCU members should not pay their IFL fees until further

you for your support.




There will be a full members meeting at 12:30 tomorrow (Thursday 22nd June) in the Staff Restaurant at Blossomfield Campus.

Items to be covered include Strike Action and IfL

E News for Reps

Pension Fund Loss Calculator – Work out How Much YOU wil pay!

UCU has created a pension loss calculator that will allow you to work out how much changes to the TPS will cost you in financial terms and how longer you will have to work.

Click the link below!

Bear in mind the report below on leaked plans to hit TPS further and the costs calcualrted in this tool will just  be the minimum!

Pension Fund Attack Worse than at First Thought!!!!!


TPS under attack – Leaked paper shows Government plans for TPS worse than feared:

Government plans to reform teachers’ and other public sector pensions will be far more devastating than anyone imagined, it was revealed in a leaked Treasury paper published in yesterday’s Guardian newspaper. The paper confirms the Government’s intention to abandon the current teachers’ pension and introduce a massively inferior ‘career average’ scheme that would give members 1/100th of their career average pay for every year in teaching. It also shows that the Treasury proposals will mean members losing even more than figures shown in the UCU loss calculator. The Government says this may not be its final position but talks with unions are now 3 months old and the proposals now on the table are worse than feared. **WHAT YOU CAN DO**: branches have been asked to hold meetings on the TPS dispute, jointly with ATL wherever possible. Please make sure you attend your meeting. Read more here: and read the full Guardian story here: )

Fight of our Lives – Message from Sally Hunt


Dear colleague,

Earlier today I told UCU Congress that we have the fight of our lives ahead of us – education is under attack. Our jobs, pensions and the life chances of a generation are on the brink. You can read the speech here:

In times like these we must think anew and act anew. That is why I want every member of this union to have their say on how we do this.

To stand anew to win the fight of our lives we need to do three things

1.    Build a credible alternative to the cuts

2.    Improve support and representation for members and local reps

3.    Encourage members to get more involved in our union

I want to hear your views on how we do this by sending your responses here:

I am committed to playing my part to renew our union. I know you are too. Together, we can win.


IfL “deal” announced – Ballot to follow

 As intimated in the Congres report, a deal on reduced IfL Fees has been reached, a members ballot is to follow on this as well.




Urgent IFL Update



Dear Colleagues


You may have already be aware through a letter sent to IFL members today that a recommended resolution to the current dispute has been achieved through the government facilitated talks with UCU,  AOC,IFL and other trade unions. The statement arising from the talks can be found at IfL website



A letter ( see below)  has been sent  to all members from Sally and myself today and a press release



This confirms that all members will be consulted on the proposals through a ballot which will open in the next few days. More information will follow. Members are advised to continue not to make any payment until the consultation process is completed,


Barry Lovejoy


National Head of FE


Letter to all members:


Subject: Important news about the IfL

Dear colleague,
We are writing to you with important news about our IfL campaign.
You may have received a message from the IfL this morning stating that they have reduced their fees. We wanted to write to you in person to spell out exactly where we are and what happens next.
As you know, UCU and the other trade unions have been in tripartite negotiations with the government and with the employers to try to find a negotiated settlement.
These discussions followed a fantastic campaign in which 22,000 members signed a mass petition protesting the hike in IfL fees, and withheld their membership in the face of significant pressure.
The negotiations that followed have often been tough but we have negotiated some substantial concessions.
The key concessions are:
1. Reduced fee: The fee for IfL registration has been lowered to £38, almost half what it was. Those who have paid the £68 fee will have two years’ membership. The deadline for registration has been extended until 22 July.

2. Review of IfL: IfL has agreed to set up a reference group with trade unions, employers and BIS where appropriate. The review will look at IfL’s governance, regulatory responsibilities, membership services, its operation and future fee levels.

3. Principle of employer assistance: The employers have recognised that individuals may  approach their employers to seek support in the payment of  fees. UCU will advise members and branches to pursue this option  and where necessary will provide appropriate support.
You can download the full agreed statement here:

We must be clear. We have not got everything that we wanted and feeling on this issue is strong.
However, we should also be clear that UCU’s campaigning and negotiating has won some major concessions.
These concessions reduce the financial burden on members considerably. In addition, we have won what we think is a far-reaching and comprehensive review of how IfL works. We have changed the terms of the debate about IfL. If UCU members were to accept the proposals outlined here, we would have the real opportunity to influence the IfL’s future development.
Considering where we started from earlier this year, it’s clear to us that UCU’s campaign has been highly effective. We believe that this is the best that can be achieved through negotiations and that the alternative would be a full boycott of IfL.
The final decision about where we go next must lie with members. For that reason, we have asked ERS to conduct an email-based ballot of all UCU members in FE. In the next few days, you will be contacted with ERS with a ballot statement and you will be asked whether you support the proposals for resolving the dispute outlined here.
Thanks for your continued support,
Barry Lovejoy, National head of further education
Sally Hunt, General Secretary


UCU Congress 2011 Report

FE Sector Congress Saturday 28th May
Barry Lovejoy National Officer for FE opened the conference with a “state of the nation” speech. In it he commented on the fact that the attacks we were facing were all a part of concerted campaign by the Conservative Government to undermine the welfare state.
He commented on the fact that there appeared to be less on the pad this year and put this down to the fact that we had been busy dealing with the the issue we’d been facing rather than spending time writing motions.

There are 12 college branches currently undergoing action to defend jobs and conditions and this is the thin end of the wedge. However we have had some success in fighting our corner and this is important in bringing members forward with us.

The current challenges are impacting on contact time, teaching hours, supervisions and are creating stress problems for our members.
Barry mentioned the IfL and said that as negotiations were ongoing he couldn’t go into specifics but he could reassure congress that there would be an opportunity for all members to have a say on IfL and that there would be a significant reduction in the financial liability of IfL membership for UCU members.

There had been no response to the UCU claim for a 4% pay rise from the AoC but they had made mention of their intention to discuss changes to productivity and sick pay arrangements.

It is paramount that the 30th June is a success with joint action coordinated locally with PCS, NUT and ATL.


Sector Congress proper started after a debate on TPS. There are a number of things we as a branch really need to do and the first is to get out and about and tell the members what the impact of the changes are going to be on them. It WILL cost them more and they will have to work longer to get less back.

UCU have an online tool for calculating this and we need to perhaps look at a stall at the college where members can input their details and see for themselves what the impact will be. We also need to get publicising the 30th June ASAP and develop links with other unions locally!
The motions debated this morning all seemed to have an underlying thread in that they all demonstrated a concerted attack on people who are vulnerable to marginalisation such as disabled staff, migrant workers and young people.

FE1 discussed the impact of redundancy on disabled members and highlighted the fact that in these circumstances a lot of disabled people bear the brunt due to misconceptions and a reluctance to make adjustment. All too often a redundancy is made the easy option for the employer. Carried Unanimously

FE2 concerned the attacks on EMA and support for young people to gain a foothold in a meaningful career progression. The most disadvantaged people are the ones that are being targeted here as EMA hits the poorest people hardest. Carried

FE3 Called for the UCU to join the campaign to keep ESOL funded. Again this is another attack on people who need support to become as useful as possible in society and this just gives ammunition to the far right, who will focus on the consequences of the removal funding as further evidence of “lack of integration”. Government dogma about multiculturalism is enacted in this policy, ultimately it smacks of racism. Carried Unanimously

FE4 Called on UCU to fully support the principles of second chance education and oppose funding cuts to provision. Most of those given a second chance are young people who have made poor decisions in life or were failed by the system and they should not be denied the opportunity to recover. Carried Unanimously

FE5 Calls on UCU to relaunch the Manifesto for Education and to lobby for accountability for incorporated colleges. Carried unanimously.
Afternoon Session

FE6 – the issue of principles pay was raised through this one. There is a clear feeling of disgust at how unequal the pay and rewards for college principles are in comparison to working people such as lecturers and support staff. Some have had pay hikes of almost 100% whilst we have been faced with an effective pay freeze and increased productivity and other demands. Carried unanimously.

FE7 – discussed the prospects of low funding for apprenticeships and the move toward in house narrow focus training by employers rather than FE colleges. Vital that we support proper vocational training with decent wages for young people delivered by professional teachers! Carried unanimously.

FE8 – This one was a little controversial as it couched concern over risk assessments for NEETS and SLDD students. It was felt by the floor that RAs should cover all students and be fit for purpose regardless of individual students. To single out groups like this was wrong and masked a problem. It was agreed to remit the prop.

FE9, 10 and 11 all covered lesson obs and the ultimate result was that we need to ensure a consistent approach that doesn’t include agreement over LO’s. Westminster and Kingsway College has been in dispute for over three years which has involved a boycott of LO’s, this has been solid and provides an example of what concerted action can do. This should be an issue that we can organise round especially with the forthcoming meetings around LO’s. All were carried albeit with some fluffing around remitting of parts of FE11 that I haven’t been able to work out yet!

FE12 – IfL started off as a “lets pull the plug on IfL” affair and then the amendments make it into work for reduced membership fees blah, blah, blah. Ultimately I think that a deal is being done and it will be put to the members to decide, bit of a kop out really. Interesting point about this is that the rules only say you have to REGISTER as a teacher with IfL not be a member so that is perhaps something we can look at as a branch.

FE13 – calls for the IfL to be called to account on how it is investigating issues of equality of access for women, BEM, LGBT and disabled teachers. It is supposed to do these things why is not doing them, Carried

FE14, 15 and 16 related to sessionals work and fractionalisation. |There are clear inequalities in the way HPL and Agency workers are treated and the UCU should be doing its utmost to ensure that the best terms and conditions are achieved for workers in the sector. Women in particular are disadvantaged by this situation. All carried

FE17 – Missed this debate – carried

FE18 – All branches should be celebrating disability month and utilising the UCU poster celebrating disability.

FE19 Carried

Full Congress Sunday 29th May

The business of congress was done at such as pace that it was difficult to take notes. Standing orders were suspended so that time for speakers was reduced and motions were formally seconded with little or no debate.

Motion 1 called for the UCU to support the opposition movement and a general strike. This was given full support.
Subsequent motions spoke on the funding cuts being faced and the need to challenge them.

A series of emergency motions were heard relating to the problems individual branches are having with incalcitrant employers and wholehearted support was received for Newcastle, Barnsley, CONEL, Coleg Morgannwg and NW Kent followed by motions in support of the de recognition issue at Robert Gordon Uni and the Londonmet funding cuts in undergrad provision. The union is being challenged on basic principles and must stand up as united organisation to ensure that no one is left isolated in the battle. All were unanimously supported.

A series of motions were then galloped through with minimal fuss apart from couple of issues over wording and these were dealt with by the chair ruling that these motions could be dealt with in parts so that the underlying principles wouldn’t be lost due to wording.

This morning’s experience was a novelty after almost 25 years of attending conferences I’ve never seen such a rush to get through business possibly at the expense of debate.

End of morning session

The afternoon session was more of the same rapid fire motions….

The pensions issue is clearly of paramount importance and the addition of 5 amendments to Motion 21 showed this. All of which were carried and, ultimately, set out the fundamental principles of united action to support all members pensions regardless of age, gender, disability etc. and the intention to maintain benefits such as final salary schemes.

Motion 22 caused a bit of debate (for a change) as it appeared to call for no action on the TPS unless it was coordinated with other TPS members organisations NUT etc. This was rejected by the floor as we can’t have a situation whereby UCU members are go for action but are held back because another union isn’t and vice versa.

23 and 24 reaffirmed UCUs position on casualisation and Zero Hour Contracts. These were both not undermining FT positions but they were also selling those teachers on these contracts short due to them receiving less and worse training and having less support in the role. Where UCU members manage these individuals then they should make every effort to renew contracts, redeploy into vacancies and avoid ZHCs.

Motion 26 is of particular interest as it covers the plan of action from the Stress and Bullying work group. This has a bi annual full membership stress survey and publicity campaign at its core so should be helpful across the piece in tackling stress at work.

Sally Hunt gave a speech to congress which outlined some items of interest such as the need to reduce the size of the NEC (no brainer) a new idea about putting legal advisors out into the regions, which smacks to me of giving up the ghost on local negotiation and accepting we have to go to law. Sally did make a suggestion about how this would be funded but I didn’t quite understand what she meant. Either way, all that will happen is the legal advisor will look at the case in hand, give a sharp intake of breath and then say “well, you haven’t got a better than 50% chance of winning so we won’t represent you”

I had to leave congress at about 17:00 due to feeling unwell and didn’t catch the remaining debate. I did attend the delegate’s dinner that night but left early due to being unwell. I didn’t even eat my desert which, those of you that know me will show that I really was ill!

Monday’s sessions once again were a whirlwind of activity with most of the motions going through without incident or debate! Rules Changes session was hard work as I’m not that familiar with the UCU rule book (who is?) and the consequential of some of the changes had to be explained to me.

The only real areas of concern during the day were Motion 59 a rule change on elections for casualised members which I didn’t fully understand so abstained and 70 which concerned the EUMC definition of anti-Semitism. Ultimately the debate got heated but it was passed. Clearly the state of Israel cannot be given carte blanche to do what it will without criticism.

John McDonnell MP gave a rousing speech as he is wont to do and there is a genuine feeling that there is something in the air particularly around the 30th June and the way a number of TUs have come out in favour of general strike, however, we’ve had these false dawns before and we need to maintain a sense of realism.

The whole of congress was pretty much in accord on where we are going and what we are doing. My experience working with Communication Workers Union members suggests that the issues facing us as educators are pretty much the same with privatisation/marketisation, bullying and harassment, poor pay and pensions, casualisation and inferior contracts all being things we have in common as workers. This is perhaps now time to all come together and stand up for ourselves and refuse to take the blame and pay the bill for the current economic woes!

People die when health and safety regulation is removed

Reproduced below is an article from the Guardian Online by Rory O’Neill which discusses the implications of the Governments cuts in public spending, this is why we marched on 26th March.

Full article available here

A scalping or amputation is unlikely to be investigated now – under Chris Grayling’s regime how bad will an injury have to be?

Pesky safety regulations and meddling inspectors are bringing the economy to its knees and stifling job creation, or so the business lobby says. And it has received a sympathetic ear from the government, which this week announced a giant stride towards safety lawlessness at work.

Health and Safety Executive (HSE) inspections will be slashed, red tape will be cut and most firms will be assured an inspector will never call. All for safety’s sake.

There are three large flies in this deregulatory ointment. The arguments are bogus, the statistics behind them are rigged and there’s enough couldn’t-give-a-damn employers out there to ensure millions suffer work-related health problems each year.

Still, this hasn’t stopped the government scuppering a system it acknowledges has delivered one of the world’s better workplace safety records. Never mind that safety regulations properly enforced are accepted to be the best way to make employers behave safely.

Launching the “Good health and safety, Good for everyone” strategy, employment minister Chris Grayling instead said Britain’s health and safety culture was “stifling business and holding back economic growth“.

And unsurprisingly, the British Chambers of Commerce (BCC), which publishes an annual off-with-their-regs manifesto, was among those to welcome the new strategy.

The most recent edition of BCC’s “Business burdens” report estimates workplace safety regulations lead to a recurring annual cost to business of £374m.

It sounds a lot. But BCC’s sums are seriously skewed.

BCC discounts entirely from its calculations the benefits to business from safety regulation, an omission it only acknowledges in the small print.

Whether it is safety-driven innovation, not making workers sick or not haemorrhaging valuable skills, there are real business benefits to not maiming your staff.

BCC ignores too the cost paid by the victims of slack health and safety standards. This human price outstrips the business cost several times over .

There’s the crunch of breaking bone in a workplace about 80 times every working day. Eyes or limbs are lost at work at a rate of two a day. Official figures indicate last year 1.3 million workers were harmed by their work, an increase on the previous year.

And these are just the injuries employers own up to – under-reporting is acknowledged to be rife.

There’s also a cash cost.

In Britain, occupational cancers alone cost society several billion pounds every year. Add in work-related heart and respiratory disease, mental illness and injuries and BCC’s costs complaints seem trivial bordering on ludicrous.

In fact, the total cost of neglecting workplace health and safety barely falls at all on business – the one party with something to gain from cost- and corner-cutting at the expense of safety.

HSE estimates less than a quarter of the cost of work-related injuries and ill-health is borne by employers, falling instead on “individuals and society”. And some recent evidence suggests this “cost-shifting” by business could be costing the rest of us considerably more.

When business and government frame health and safety protection as a job killer, rather than its absence as a killer full-stop, this keeps the real costs – people who get sick and die – safely out of the argument.

Safety enforcement was in crisis before the latest lurch toward lawlessness.

The prospects of a workplace seeing an HSE inspector last year slipped to once in a working lifetime. Just one in 15 major injuries at work – a scalping, blinding, the loss of a limb or two – resulted in a visit.

At the same time, HSE prosecutions sank to a record low, with just 735 convictions secured.

The workplace is already a safe haven for most rogue employers. Further deregulation will amplify the injustice, but that’s just what the government wants.

A 21 March ministerial statement from Chris Grayling noted the government would now concentrate “on dealing with serious breaches of health and safety regulation”.

If a scalping or an amputation is already unlikely to receive a knock at the door from HSE, under the new regime just how serious will an injury or breach have to be before an inspector calls?

Business over-estimates costs and ignores benefits with a purpose. It doesn’t want regulations and it doesn’t want enforcement. It has a government and a minister keen to oblige.

Somewhere down the line, people die when regulatory protection is removed.

That is not a burden on business, it is a burden on families and a burden on the state.

That’s the ultimate capital crime.

Julie Burchill: The unions have been demonised, so the bullies have taken their place

Reproduced below is a piece from the Blog of the Independant’s Julie Burchill.

The original article is avilable here

As I think I might have mentioned before, I come from a trades union family, and while my dad had the theory down and wasn’t above a bit of secondary picketing, my mother lived and breathed the struggle for workers’ rights. Or, as we call it today, Going Off On One Big Time.  I can’t recall the number of times I’d get home from school expecting to be greeted by an Individual Bird’s Eye Chicken Pie and my dad preparing to leave for his nightshift at the factory only to see my mum – who should have been at work – gesticulating wildly over the fence to the neighbour. My dad would look at me and smirk: “Boss looked at her funny again!”My mum was forever downing tools and marching out of her shop or cleaning job because the boss had allegedly Looked At Her Funny. The nature of this funniness was never wholly defined but we assumed that it was something to do with the boss feeling that he was in some way better than her. And as anyone who had ever seen her sing “My Canary’s Got Circles Under His Eyes” could have testified, this was provably ludicrous.

I don’t miss much about the past, but I do miss the days when workers had the nerve to walk out of a job on a whim because they knew that they could walk into another the next day. I’m thinking of that this week because my friend’s 22-year-old son is currently involved in an appeal against his employers. Not only did his boss look at him funny, but the manager of the shop where he works for some reason saw fit to harass, bully and physically attack him over a prolonged period of time until earlier this year he had a nervous breakdown. Mick Molloy of the GMB, who has been representing him, says: “I would liken the ‘relaxed’ working practices of this company to Lord of the Flies on the shop floor” – and this is not a man given to dramatic pronouncements. We keep hearing – most recently from Jamie Oliver – that today’s youth are pampered little potentates who are afraid to get their hands dirty and expect jam on it, with a level of entitlement unseen in any generation of workers before. But with the unions weakened and demonised, the reality is that the modern workplace is a tragic kingdom of exploitation, especially for the young. Lured by promises of “perks” and the camaraderie of “team spirit”, in reality what they get is very long hours for very little pay and if, like my friend’s son, you happen to work for a slap-happy scumbag, you will have to endure verbal and even physical abuse disguised as BANTER, because WE’RE A FAMILY HERE! (That would be the Manson Family?)There seems to be a special and unexpected tendency for self-consciously hip and liberal workplaces to go in for such vile behaviour. The artist whose work you see here has a friend whose first job was at a design company, of all places, where the boss’s chosen method of team-building was screaming into his employees’ faces “YOU’RE USELESS, I’LL KILL YOU!” followed some time later by “If I shout, it’s only BECAUSE I CARE!” A few months in and this man – “a 6ft-plus shaven-headed bloke!” – had developed a nervous stutter; a decade on, the experience still haunts him.When my friend’s son went to the police to report the physical assault by his boss which was the final straw, he was rewarded by a letter from them some weeks later which told him that even though the bully had admitted the offence, they would be taking no further action against him. At the appeal last week, according to Mick Molloy: “The individual who took the meeting had little or no knowledge of any of his own company’s protocols and procedures and talked amazingly at one point how the experience was ‘a learning curve for him’ and that it would ‘enrich his personal development’. They have found that the young man WAS assaulted but allowed the manager to continue working at the store. This company clearly leaves its employees to ‘get on with it’ – with disastrous consequences. The exploitation of the very young by the highly untrained certainly seems to be the key to the success of this company. Sadly they are not alone.”My mum may have taken it a bit too far at times, but how much better were the days in which workers walked out of jobs just because the boss looked at them funny than the days we live in now, when bright, sweet young men like my friend’s son are driven to the point of considering suicide because their boss is allowed to bully them with complete confidence and impunity. Progress, don’t you love it!