Roger Kline

A message from Roger

The UCU general secretary ballot result has now been declared and Sally Hunt has been elected. The union and our members face major and difficult challenges from employers and government in almost every aspect of our working lives. The turnout was just 13.9 per cent which in itself suggests the scale of the challenge the union faces. I wish Sally Hunt very well in meeting those challenges. To meet them successfully will require a clear strategic vision and a determined articulate response which members can have confidence in and ownership of. I will seek to play my part in ensuring that is the case through my continuing role as Head of Equality and Employment Rights Finally I would like to sincerely thank the hundreds of members who sent messages of support and campaigned during the election.

Thursday, 8 March 2007

Thursday 8th March

International Women’s Day

On International Women’s Day, just one month before the new positive Gender Duty comes into force, here are eight facts from UCU’s Comprehensive Spending Review submission.

1. In 2005, for higher education teaching professionals, for every £1 earned by a male, their female colleagues earned 83 pence.

2. For further education teaching professionals, for every £1 earned by a male, their female colleagues earned 87 pence.

3. Female academics are more likely than males to be on a fixed-term contract.

4. In pre-1992 universities nearly half of staff on the most junior lecturer grade were women, but only 14% of professors were women.

5. Around one-third of further education staff in 2003-4 were employed on a casual basis, with at least 50% of part-time lecturers employed on hourly-paid temporary contracts.

6. In higher education 45% of all academics in 2003-4 were employed on a fixed-term contract – including 91% of researchers

7. Cuts in ESOL and adult education impact disproportionately on women staff and women learners.

8. Over the period 1998-2001 the public sector gender pay gap marginally narrowed, from 20% to 19%. For university and polytechnic teaching professionals and for higher and further education teaching professionals, the pay gap fluctuated, but was considerably wider in 2001 than in 1998.

Over the period 2002-5, the gender pay gap fluctuated around the 18% mark for public sector employees. For both higher and further education teaching professionals, the gap narrowed between 2002 and 2004, but then widened in 2005.

The challenge

Pay levels and contractual status are only two elements of a raft of inequalities affecting every aspect of women’s working lives in education

Since, for starters, many institutions in post 16 education have completely failed to meet their obligation to consult with trade unions on the implementation of the gender duty, never mind implement proper equal pay reviews, there is a very very big challenge ahead.

Wednesday 6th March

That ballot result

Voting closed today at midday. The result will be known at 10.45am on Friday 9th March.

Here is a curiosity.

General Secretary candidates are to be excluded from the count for the UCU GS election later this week.

This is not on advice from The Electoral Reform Society which is conducting the ballot or the Trade Union Certification Officer who is responsible for the statutory elements of governance of trade unions.

It is a decision of the two UCU returning officers. It is unclear why this decision has been taken. I have failed to discover why.

A quick ring around a sample of unions couldn’t find another union in which candidates were not able to be present at the count if they wished. In at least one of the predecessor unions it was the norm.

Given that the result may be a close run thing, some might have thought it was in everyone’s interest to invite candidates or their nominees to be present to check there is no dispute, for example, about what precisely constitutes a spoilt ballot paper given the awesome complexity of the ballot paper.

It would also avoid any one candidate inadvertently learning of the result before another candidate. If essential work commitments clash (for example I was speaking at a seminar on ESOL with Bill Rammell on Wednesday morning and Sally Hunt was at a JNCHES meeting at the same time) then nominees could be present as is normal in such cases.

No one is suggesting any underhand motives, or that the ERBS doing the count are incompetent. It just seems sensible, certainly in respect of openness about what constitutes a “spoilt” ballot paper given there are many other elections on the same ballot sheet.

Anyway, if any reader of this blog knows of another example of a union which says candidates for the most senior elected position in the union can’t attend the count, I’ll buy them a coffee and croissant. Please form an orderly queue now.

No doubt something to bear in mind for future elections……..

Tuesday 5th March

What’s climate change got to do with UCU?

I’ve just heard that a UCU branch may be submitting a motion on sustainability to UCU’s Congress in Bournemouth in June.

I hope they do.

And before I get emails saying “what’s this got to do with my union subscriptions”, let me explain why.

One. Climate change doesn’t have a UCU members' exclusion zone. It affects us all – union members or not, our families and our friends.

Two. Whilst the science isn’t conclusive enough for some people, it seems conclusive enough for most scientists. Conclusive enough to assert that there is some connection between human activity and a threat of global warming.

Three. We can make a difference as a union. Firstly, by how we organise ourselves – how we run our offices, for example. Secondly, how our employers run themselves, with a particular role for health and safety reps to extend discussions of work environment into wider environmental concerns. Thirdly, by whether we use appropriate opportunities to encourage critical discussion on global warming in our professional work. Fourthly, the extent to which we as a union join forces with others in supporting wider social movements and political lobbying on the issue.

To me it all seems relevant to UCU’s members interests that their union plays its own very tiny part in making sure the planet is there for us to be active in when our great grandchildren go to university.

If a motion does reach the conference floor, we’ll have the chance to discuss all these issues in sunny Bournemouth in three months’ time.

Tuesday, 6 March 2007

Monday 5th March

Digby Jones – an apology

In a sentence the Guardian sub-editors removed for reasons of length from my article on further education last Tuesday I described Digby Jones as “aka the fox in the chicken shed of further education”.

I think I may have overstated my case. One of the more encouraging messages – amongst many received – for the very successful ESOL Lobby of Parliament last week was one from the same Digby Jones, former head of the Confederation of British Industry and now the Government’s “Skills Envoy”.He told UCU:"I am concerned that the government has decided to restrict entitlement to free ESOL with potentially damaging results both to workforce efficiency and to social inclusion. This is a damaging, retrograde step in the nation's pursuit of an integrated productive workforce.

Many migrant workers and refugees need training in English, to be aware of their rights, to make a full contribution to society, and to perform efficiently at work; low paid and vulnerable workers will be disproportionately affected by the restrictions in access to free ESOL provision. Linking entitlement for free ESOL to an extremely complex benefits system will exclude many of those who are in need of it.There is no obligation for employers and agencies to meet the cost of English language courses. The Government must rethink the funding mechanisms, particularly for those least able to afford to pay for their own training. Increased ESOL provision should not be at the cost of literacy and numeracy courses for adults which are also vital.Sir Digby JonesUK Skills Envoy"

No more “fox in the chicken shed”?But I’ll keep an eye out for what happens to further and adult education because the DfES/LSC consultation document on the Leitch Report is a disastrous manifesto for privatisation.But credit where it is due, Digby. Meanwhile the ESOL campaign continues – more details at .

Sunday 4th March

Trade unions and the BNP

I started to catch up with an email backlog after several weeks of combining doing my “day job” with running an election campaign – and having a week away on compassionate leave.

One of the emails that caught my eye was a European Human Rights Court judgment that has determined that trade unions are permitted to expel BNP members. The European Court of Human Rights that unions can expel members of the fascist British National Party. The judgement rested on whether such expulsion was incompatible with the European Convention on Human Rights.
The case was brought by ASLEF, following British courts' ruling in favour of a BNP member expelled from the union because of the incompatibility of BNP views and those of the trade union movement. The BNP has attempted to increase its legitimacy by setting up "Solidarity" - a front organisation to infiltrate the trade union movement.

I welcomed this decision. It is not enough, however, to rely on such court cases. Unions have to demonstrate we are also effective at gaining improvements in the pay terms, conditions and working lives of our members if we are to have decisive authority to effectively take on all forms of discrimination and racism – and the BNP - head on.

Monday, 5 March 2007

Help stop the deportation of Alphonsus Uche Okafor-Mefor:

Paul Mackney and a number of members of UCU have sent messages of protest to the Home Office against the deportation of Alphonsus Uche Okafor-Mefor who is in imminent danger of torture or death if returned to Nigeria. The protest grew out of the Save ESOL campaign and is already having some impact as he was removed from the plane that was due to take him back this week. Please support him by writing a write a letter to Liam Byrne MP, Minister of State for Immigration, Home Office, 2 Marsham Street London SW1P 4DF or email stating the name and case reference number M1320887. He is a leading figure in the campaign group Asylum voice who have campaigned against the abuses suffered by asylum seekers.

Saturday 3rd March

Dundee: There is no magic answer but those who don’t dare don’t win

I have today received this email from Carlo Morelli and colleagues at Dundee University who have run a vigorous campaign against substantial compulsory redundancies.

I reproduce the statement Carlo, Mona, Paul and colleagues have issued. Congratulations to them – a lesson to us all I think – and we would do well to ponder how and why they achieved what they did.

There is no single magical answer to the challenges we face but one element of a successful response is in a determination to resist and a willingness to mobilise members.

What we need to is to pool our brainpower and experiences to both understand what is happening and how best to respond both to each specific challenge and strategically to the larger scale changes taking place.

“Victory at Dundee University

Dear All,

Dundee University has now withdrawn its threat of compulsory redundancies. On behalf of Dundee UCU we would like to thank the literally hundreds, indeed thousands, of UCU members who have shown their support.

This is a real victory for the union and should not be under-estimated. Dundee UCU President, Secretary and Assistant Secretary again ask members and branches to sign our petition for a national campaign against redundancies and privatisation, a UK-wide demonstration and a special HE conference. The petition can be found at;

As can be read from the last two sentences of the Sustainability Review document below (which are now withdrawn) the University was intending to move to compulsory redundancies if the threats of reduced redundancy pay did not generate enough ‘voluntary’ redundancies. The management also agreed to a joint statement taking a voluntary approach (see below)

There are some key lessons from our dispute that now need to be discussed in our union as a matter of urgency;

1. Dundee UCU launched a determined campaign from the beginning against redundancy threats. We rejected an approach adopted elsewhere to immediately enter into negotiation over redundancy terms.
2. Dundee UCU acted to facilitate student campaigns against cuts and campaigns amongst the cuts by the general public. Further we placed education and access to education alongside defence of our members jobs and rejected an approach which placed its own special interests first.
3. Dundee UCU aimed to maximise participation of members with lobbies of Senate, Court and the University’s public events. Members in turn made clear their support for an approach which combined industrial action and public campaigning. Indeed, we gained support precisely because of the recognition that we would not flinch in our resolve.
4. National support for a ballot on industrial action and clear support from UCU Scotland demonstrated that Dundee’s opposition was not simply locally based. Management knew that they were not simply in conflict with Dundee UCU but the whole union.

At Dundee we still have a long way to go in preventing the cuts being introduced in other ways or by a management which could choose to renege on its agreement. Therefore, the campaign is far from over. Still more importantly, for the union as a whole, is the continued threats of job losses at the Crichton campus of Glasgow University, Strathclyde University etc. and privatisation around the UK. We therefore urge UCU nationally to begin a campaign in defence of higher education as a matter of urgency.

Carlo Morelli (President DUCU)
Mona Clark (Secretary DUCU)
Paul Brown (Assistant Sec. DUCU)

Below is the paragraph from the Sustainability Review which Court will be told now has the last two sentences removed and also the agreed statement.

Appendix 3, Paragraph 4 of the Sustainability Review;
Voluntary severance packages. Judgements will need to be made regarding the cost versus benefit of allowing staff to go under such a scheme and the position not being filled. The unions will need to be consulted over the package to be offered to staff. Whatever kind of package was approved, staff could have the choice as to whether they take this as a lump sum payment, whether they use the money to enhance their pension or a combination of both. Such deals would be agreed on the back of Compromise Agreements. Such a scheme should be time limited, after which time a compulsory redundancy situation would prevail if targets had still not been met. At this point therefore, only statutory redundancy payments would be made.”


March 2nd, 2007

Dundee University and the campus trade unions (AMICUS, UCU and UNISON) met on Friday 2nd March in a consultation meeting which focussed on the avoidance of redundancies and related matters.

It was noted that, while approving the Sustainability Review Report, the University Court had not supported compulsory redundancies and had asked officers to strive to achieve the targets set out in the report by voluntary means.

The consultations are being conducted with a view to reaching agreement.

At this initial consultation meeting, agreement was reached on the avoidance of compulsory redundancy, in the following terms:

The University will work in consultation with the campus unions to achieve any financial savings that impact on staffing by purely voluntary means, with an emphasis on methods which can retain staff in the University. In the unlikely event that the financial savings are not achieved by voluntary means, whether in the staffing budget or elsewhere, the University would bring the whole issue back to the table for further consultation with the unions, with an open mind as to how the situation would be addressed and bearing in mind our mutual intention to avoid compulsory redundancy.

Further consultations will take place on an ongoing basis.

Old Blogs

A trade unionist all his working life. An activist and a proud campaigner, Roger has consistently worked to defend human rights of workers. As the leader of the Equality and Employment Rights team in the newly formed UCU he continues to unite the movement around equality and keep employment rights at the top of the agenda.