Wednesday, 7 December 2016

Branch Annual General Meeting (AGM)

Save the date!

All members welcome
  • Wheatley Campus: Tuesday 28th March 2017, 2:00pm, J116
  • Harcourt Hill Campus: Wednesday 29th March 2017, 10.30am, Westminster Sq
  • Gipsy Lane Campus: Thursday 30th March 2017, 9.30, Union Hall

Meetings last a couple of hours. Tea/coffee & biscuits will be available. There will be a guest speaker at GLC. All members are entitled to attend these meetings without loss of pay or benefits. You do however need to let your line manager know in advance. If you encounter any difficulty, email: or speak with a UNISON Rep.

Hope we’ll see many of you there!

Keep in touch

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Follow us on Twitter and like our Facebook page to keep up-to-date with the Oxford Brookes University Branch’s news and activities.

Casework Update

Yvonne Aburrow is the new Branch Casework Co-ordinator, and worked in that capacity for 5 years at the University of Bath UCU branch. She will be responsible for workload allocation of cases among stewards, organising support for any issues arising, and maintaining a list of caseworkers and cases.

We currently have two vacancies for stewards, and would love to see more people getting involved. Accompanying members to meetings with management can be very empowering and gives you the satisfaction of helping with issues ‘at the coalface’. You will also receive training in how to handle casework, and can develop many useful transferable skills. If you would like an informal chat about what’s involved in this or any other union role, with no commitment, please email or

We would also urge members to raise issues at the earliest time that a conflict arises, rather than leaving it until the last minute when conflict has escalated to the point of no return. It is always better to resolve things before they get out of hand.

So far this month we have dealt with two grievances, demand for repayment of an overpayment of salary, and a request for a change in hours. We are available for enquiries about any work-related issue. Please email

Read more about being a Steward

Tuesday, 6 December 2016

Report from UNISON Black Members training

By Beverly Sesay

I attended the UNISON Black Leadership & Motion Writing Course on the 16th - 18th September 2016, at a hotel in Eastbourne and this was my first ever UNISON training. It was a very useful, engaging and welcoming weekend, and was aimed at all black members. We arrived on Friday evening and after registering we had the opportunity to get to know each other and learn about other branches that the other members were from. This was very useful as I was able to meet other members in the Oxfordshire area and we were able to share ideas and knowledge.

The next day we got a chance to learn all about UNISON and we then took part in workshops on leadership skills, what makes a good leader and motion writing skills. This session was quite engaging and I learned a lot. We spent the rest of the weekend practising how to put together motions to raise at UNISON’s National Black Members Conference in January. This was done in a very supportive and friendly environment and we all felt confident about writing motions that we can present to the National Black Members conference in January.

I had the opportunity to present a motion, which I wrote with two other members, to the rest of the group. This motion was regarding the lack of career progression of Black workers and one of the action points of the motion was for the National Black Member Committee to work with the National Executive Committee to campaign to increase Black career progression in all workplaces. I am pleased to report that this motion has been submitted to the National Black Members Conference by the South East Region and it is now on the agenda for the conference in January.

If any black members of the branch would like to go to any training or conference next year, please let us know at The cost of the training and transport is met by the branch, and all food, accommodation and childcare facilities are included. If you would like to get more involved in UNISON in some other way, please email

I would thoroughly recommend it to any black members who are interested in their union or black members issues.

For all UNISON courses run by the South-East Region see:

You can also contact Paula Luckett in Headington Library who is the branch Education Co-ordinator (ext 3145).

The branch will normally pay for you to attend UNISON training courses to help you fulfil your role in the branch but also to support your personal development. If you would like to attend a course, contact

Guest Speaker Tomosa Bullen on Pay Dispute: September 2016

Pay Dispute: September 2016

Tomosa Bullen’s Pay Speech

Following a consultative ballot, the result was to reject and move to a formal industrial action ballot. UNITE and EIS are also balloting. UCU have already taken two days of strike action and are awaiting the outcome of the on-going ballots before announcing what they will do next. Their executive has already discussed further strike action and action short of strike which would include a boycott of setting work.

The Trade Unions met with the employers’ organisation UCEA 3 times during March and April. The employers originally offered 1% on all spinal points above point 7 with a higher increase for those on point 7 or below ranging from 1.6 to 3.1%. After two dispute meetings the 1% offer was raised to 1.1%. It is shameful that many staff working in HE on grades 1-6 still earn less than the foundation living wage.

The fact that UCEA have advised Universities to implement the pay award whilst we are still balloting is viewed by UNISON as extremely provocative by UNISON, who has written to them with those views, is an attempt at “divide and rule” and an attempt to influence the ballot. UNISON has produced a standard form of words for those universities who impose the offer. 

Can universities afford a decent pay rise? Of course they can. Universities have put £21bn into reserves and have increased management posts. The average V-C’s pay award last year was 6.1% with the average V-C pay now £274k excluding perks. Oxford Brookes financial statements show a reduction in staff costs during 2015. The mission statement refers to investment in students and buildings but a reduction in staff costs – so you are a cost. In reality, the biggest investment any employer can make is in its staff. Students come and go, buildings begin to deteriorate as soon as they are complete but staff stay and develop the organisation. You are deserving of investment in pay, terms and conditions and training. Surveys show that students remember their cleaner who cleans their room, the caterer who gives them a few more chips and the admin help, not their building. It is you who provide the student experience that senior management continually talk about but expect you to continue to deliver the excellent service you do whilst struggling to make ends meet. 

There hasn’t been any strike action by support staff for 2/3 years. Before that event, the employers were talking about performance related pay, removing the incremental pay grades, removing sick pay for the first three days and that we had too much holiday. After the strike, which resulted in a face saving 2% pay rise over 18 months, all of those were off the table and we were back talking about pay. However, recently, these things have resurfaced and we need to tell the employer that we are prepared to stick together to defend our terms and conditions and that we are not daft. We can see the huge amounts of money going into HE and we are not prepared to accept poverty pay and a miserly pay offer. We need to state clearly that we will not accept any attacks on our terms and conditions. We are part of the investment that the employers should be making. The return on their investment in us far outstrips and return they will get from buildings or students. 

The £9k fee and its possible annual increase under the Higher Education Bill and TEF has not reduced applications. Universities charge for everything which is why their reserves have increased so dramatically whilst the amount spent on staff has fallen by 3%. V-Cs chose to reward themselves and appoint numerous senior managers’ with over 5000 employees now earning over £100k. At the same time an FOI request by UNISON showed that £200m was spent on agency workers last year with a 45 universities spending over £1m. This is poor planning and is another example of highly paid staff being rewarded for failure.

The only way to bring the employers back to the negotiating table is to vote to reject the offer and take strike action. It is time to redress the balance and get investment put into us – it is no more than we deserve.

Questions from the first meeting
Public Sector pay
Pay in the public sector, which is usually seen as local government and health services has either been frozen or fixed at 1%. However, it has always been ambiguous as to whether HE is in the public or private sector – it was always dependent upon political expediency. It is more arguable now than ever that we are in the private sector as the funding goes to the student to spend where they wish and not to the HE provider. Funds have continued to pour into universities whether through fees, accommodation charges, research grants, consultancy, catering, photocopying etc. There is more than enough money in HE for it to be spent on buildings which are great for winning architectural awards but are not user friendly. That investment has largely been completed, yet the money still rolls in. It is time for the money to be spent on us.

We are still in the EU and will be for some time. The UK already received research grants from foundations outside of the EU and this will continue. The government has stated that it will match funds up to 2020 and then other arrangements will have bene put in place. The UK has an international reputation for research and talk about losing such funds is scare mongering.
Staff recruitment and retention
HEIs, especially in the South and South-East are beginning to find difficulty in recruiting and retaining staff as the higher wages offered in the private sector companies based in London have lured staff away. This is currently most noticeable in IT but it is beginning to be felt in other sectors. It is only 55 minutes from Oxford to London, 1hr 10 minutes from Southampton. Private sector pay has begun to overtake public sector pay with the BBC reporting in August 2016 ago that the average pay rise, excluding bonuses was 2.2%. This results on higher staff turnover with extra work being placed on those who remain and a reduced student experience. HE needs to remain an attractive career option and this can only be achieved with an attractive pay rise both now and in the future.

Students thinking about a career in HE have been sold the idea of higher fees in return for higher salaries. If HE wants to attract students with high levels of debt into the sector, they have to pay higher salaries, otherwise they will go to the private sector.

HE also faces competition from those companies which are now offering higher apprenticeships and training in-house. This offers would be lecturers another career path and potential students the opportunity to study and gain qualifications without incurring university debt. 

You gave an example of having to empty your own waste paper bins. Whilst this seems trivial, this is another job that you have to do, part of the increased workload. Instead of employing more cleaners, your employer seeks to make efficiencies by getting you to do that work. Other areas of work are also becoming cash cows e.g. parking, catering, bus fares. It all adds up.

Oxford Brookes, according to their latest financial statements, invested £23.6m in fixed assets last year and generated an operating surplus of £6.9m. That is down to you, the experience you provide to students which makes them come year after year and all of those extra jobs that you do now that you did not do before. If HE wishes to continue to be as the successful as it has been, it needs to invest in you.

Vote to reject the pay offer and take part in strike action.

Monday, 5 December 2016

One Day Without Us - 20 February 2017

One Day Without Us - 20 February 2017

What is it?

A day when all workers who were born in another country take the day off to remind everybody that immigrants add tremendous value to the culture and economy of this country. It will be on 20 February 2017, which is also the UN World Day of Social Justice.

Why is it needed?

In the aftermath of the referendum vote, a huge spike in the number of hate crimes was reported - a 42% increase.

Recently the government has advocated that companies should list how many foreign workers they employ.

LSE academics of non-British origin have been rejected by the Foreign Office as advisers on Brexit.

The rise in hate crime and the anti-immigrant rhetoric from both the Leave campaign and the post-referendum government have caused alarm and despondency among both immigrants and people who support an open and inclusive society.

Proposals regarding what will happen to immigrants from both inside and outside the EU have created an insecure situation and will have a massive negative effect on the UK economy and the HE sector.

What’s happening?

If you will be directly affected by the government’s proposed anti-immigration measures, especially if you were not born in the UK, you are urged to take a day off on 20 February 2017.

Brookes Unison Branch will have a stall in the JHB building with more information on showing solidarity with migrants.

There will be a lunchtime event with a speaker from Asylum Welcome or Close Campsfield, and Hope not Hate.

More information Migrants strike in Britain

Facebook event One day without us in Brexit Britain by Matthew Carr

Winter fuel grant

Get help staying warm this winter

There for You's Winter Fuel Grant launched on Thursday 1st December 2016 and runs until the closing date of 17th February 2017.

Help is at hand

Application forms can be downloaded from the UNISON website and will be available from branches and via UNISON DIRECT. Members must complete the application form and survey. There is also a section on Qs and As for members to assist them in completing the form.

There for You, UNISON’s own charity has set up a limited fund to help UNISON members on low income by way of a one-off payment of £50 per household.To apply download the forms or simply contact your UNISON branch office at

**Please note that this year eligibility now includes those in receipt of housing benefit and the amount of the grant has risen from £40 to £50 per eligible household.

Applications without a membership number and the relevant documentation attached will not be processed. Applicants must have paid a minimum of 4 weeks subscriptions before 1st December 2016 to apply.

Completed applications need to be sent to:

There for You,
UNISON Centre,
130 Euston Road,
NW1 2AY.

to be received by Friday 17th February at the latest.