Alternative Dialogue - news for Durham UCU members and supporters

Alternative Dialogue – June 2019

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w/c 17 June 2019

Need to know


The 2019 AGM will be held on Monday 24 June at 13.00-14.00 in ER (Elvet Riverside) 142. Please come, and bring a couple of friends! We need 50 people to be quorate and it would be good to achieve that again this year! 

Big Meeting Saturday 13 July

UCU is assembling for the Miners’ Gala at 08.00 for a 08.30 departure on Saturday 13 July under the Viaduct near the old County Hospital. Bearpark and Esh Colliery Band will be leading UCU on the march. Bearpark and Esh is the nearest colliery band to Durham University and has a number of university staff and students as band members. Accompanied by the band we will march to the racecourse, pausing outside the County Hotel at Old Elvet for the band to play their “party piece” to the invited guests on the balcony. After the Gala, we will march out at 14.30. Several national officials are coming as well as representatives of UCU branches from around Northern Region and elsewhere. Please let’s have a good turnout from Durham! Full information available at .

Facility time and changes to rep and casework team

DUCU has been promised additional facility time to conduct negotiations, represent members in personal cases and perform other trade union duties. As a result, we have expanded our rep and casework team to include Jon Warren (St Cuthbert’s College), Laura Campbell (MLAC), Richard Smith (Education), as well as Karen Jones (Education), Sarah Elton (Anthropology) and Francis Pritchard (Hon. Secretary). Marek Szablewski is taking well-earned research leave in 2019-20 but will be back on the team in 2020-21. Please continue to email if you require help or advice. DUCU is always looking for new reps, caseworkers and activists: please contact Sarah Elton ( if you’d like to get involved.  

Personal cases

If you need to contact DUCU about representation for a personal case, please use the central email rather than emailing personal addresses. Emailing the central email not only relieves the pressure on Marek and the other case workers but also ensures that the Personal-Cases Coordinator can direct your issue to the most appropriate person immediately and hence reduces delay. The address is checked every day and is confidential.

Education Support Partnership

The Education Support Partnership is there to help those working in education. It complements the work done by UCU and provides support and advice for those suffering from stress and anxiety, in financial hardship or for those experiencing sexual harassment. It has support lines open all day (and night), every day of the year. If you ring, you will speak to a trained counsellor, who will either provide help on the spot or will refer you to the most appropriate other service. For more information, go to


At the JCNC on Wednesday June 12, DUCU representatives raised issues around the PG certificate of academic practice, lecture capture, recognition, car parking, contracts, ease of accessing information about employment, JCNC reports to Senate, and workload. If you have items for inclusion on the agenda for the next JCNC, please contact Francis Pritchard (

Would you like to be a Union Learning Rep?

Every branch should have a Union Learning Rep, to help train and develop members, and DUCU is currently seeking one. Even though all UCU members are educated and trained to a high level and have access to a range of professional development opportunities, Union Learning Reps enhance that and the role comes with statutory time to perform duties. More information can be found at and

Recognition – Grade 10 and hourly-paid academics including PGR students who teach

At the June JCNC, DUCU informed University management that it would write to them in the near future requesting formal recognition for DUCU to represent Grade 10 staff and casualised hourly paid academics including PGR students who teach. DUCU does not expect the University to recognise DUCU voluntarily for those groups of staff so will seek to undertake the formal process for recognition via the Central Arbitration Committee (CAC; see for more information). DUCU thinks it is very important that University management does not arbitrarily ‘slice and dice’ the academic and academic-related unit and is particularly concerned that academics on precarious casual contracts cannot be officially represented by us on pay and terms and conditions. (Note that as it is a legal right to be a member of a trade union and represented by them in personal cases so Grade 10 and hourly paid members can still call on UCU for help with such matters.) DUCU is encouraged by the recent news from Bath that professorial members voted for recognition. It will take collective work and a strong campaign to gain recognition at Durham and UCU HQ is helping us with this: a campaign is taking shape. More information will be available once DUCU has sent the initial letter to University management and received the formal response. If you would like to be involved in the campaign, please email Sarah Elton ( and she will register you on the Slack page being used to coordinate the campaign. 

Latest news


Congress was attended by three DUCU delegates – Sarah Elton, Francis Pritchard and Siobhan McGrath. DUCU is particularly grateful to Siobhan for attending at very short notice. Votes were passed on many issues, including balloting for further strike action on USS (if needed) and pay, establishing committees representing migrant workers and campaigning for casualised staff. One motion that narrowly fell (needing a two-thirds majority – 120 votes – as a rule change but gaining only 118) was to establish a democratic forum for making decisions during strikes. This was part of the work to come out of the Democracy Commission, and a special conference on its recommendations will be held in November. If you’d like to read further thoughts on Congress, go to for some comments from the Twitter sphere. 

Casualisation claim

DUCU and University management had a second meeting about the casualization claim on June 11. It was again positive but no specifics on pay and hours were presented. DUCU has asked to see these before the next meeting on July 11 and will consult on them with members beforehand if humanly possible.


Who are our universities for?

All are welcome to the Centre for Global Higher Education’s panel seminar ‘Who are our universities for?’, to be held in Durham on Thursday 11 July. Please see for further details. 

DUCU Lecture Series – A Fairer University

The next lecture in the DUCU series ‘A Fairer University’ will be delivered by Dr Sol Gamsu, of the Department of Sociology, on ‘universities within the community’. Date, time and venue to be confirmed. All are welcome, and we hope to combine this with an end of year social. We also hope to invite several speakers from UCU nationally in the 2019-20 academic year. If you have an idea for a topic for discussion in our ‘A Fairer University’ series, please contact Sarah Elton ( thanks to those who have already suggested topics.

Events and Activities

Big Meeting

Please come to the Big Meeting on Saturday 13 July! Further details above. 

Rep and activist training

Three DUCU committee members attended training in Manchester in May. Others have registered for training later in the year, including a one day course on casework. If you would like to attend UCU training you can find links by region via If you cannot attend training in the Northern region, you can attend elsewhere (e.g. Manchester or Leeds): just apply via the website. Please make sure to let Sarah Elton and Francis Pritchard know you are attending training so we can put you to work afterwards!