Alternative Dialogue - news for Durham UCU members and supporters

Alternative Dialogue – March 2019

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Need to know

A Fairer University’ lecture – Prof. Charles Adams

The next lecture in the DUCU series ‘A Fairer University’ will be delivered by Prof. Charles Adams, Director of Joint Quantum Centre (JQC) Durham-Newcastle, on Wednesday 3 April at 18.00 in the SCR of St Cuthbert’s Society. Charles will speak on ‘The individual versus the collective: a failure of leadership’. The bar will be open after the lecture, and all are welcome.

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.

 Are you paying the correct level of subs? Are you doing it by direct debit?

Please check that you are paying the correct level of subs. It’s really important that you are on the correct membership rate: you may not receive legal advice and other membership benefits if you are not enrolled correctly. In HE, free membership is currently available only to enrolled postgraduate students contracted to teach in UK institutions. Subs are levied on a sliding scale based on income, so if you are part-time, on a low wage or a casual contract, membership rates are quite low. Please see for a breakdown. Mary Irwin ( can give further advice. Remember that you can get tax relief on 67% of your annual subscription ( You can arrange to have your tax code altered by ringing HMRC or applying online.  

Most members pay subs by direct debit but some people get their subs deducted from their salary. If you’re still paying via salary deduction, DUCU would be very grateful if you could transfer to direct debit. Please contact Mary Irwin ( to arrange this.

 Volunteer wanted – Wellbeing Working Group

The trade unions have been asked to nominate a representative for the Wellbeing Working Group. Are you interested? Please let Sarah Elton ( know if you are.

Latest news

Colleges restructure

The University has announced plans for a restructure of College operations, including redundancies and downgrading of posts. (Detailed coverage can be found in the Palatinate  The campus trade unions are working together to support members and minimise job and pay losses. Following the meeting earlier this week for DUCU members affected by the proposals, if you require personal representation for the consultation and have not yet contacted DUCU, please email

Casualisation claim

University management has agreed to meet DUCU formally to discuss elements of the casualisation claim. The meeting is scheduled for Monday 8 April and an update will be given in the next Alternative Dialogue. 


Members will be aware that USS is proceeding with increases in contributions for employees in April 2019 with further increases planned in October 2019 and April 2020. UCU is disappointed that USS have acted prematurely given the report of the JEP [Joint Expert Panel] set up by UUK and UCU which shows more appropriate methods for valuing the fund which would avoid any increases now and allow time to assess options. Your tremendous unity in taking strike action did achieve retention of a defined benefit scheme so it was not wasted action.  UCU locally and nationally is ensuring that employers know the issue is not resolved and we will be pressing for changes to future planned increases in the cost of the scheme, which we believe are not necessary at this time. Members who want to read more of the detail of UCU actions and position should see and useful detail can also found on the USS page

Some members will have seen Durham University’s response to the UUK Consultation on the Proposed Technical Provisions and Statement of Funding Principles for the 2018 Actuarial Valuation (downloadable from DUCU is disappointed with the response, not least because it does not even mention the Joint Expert Panel (JEP) recommendations, let alone endorse them, and will write accordingly to University management.             

Consultations and requests for information

In the past few weeks, DUCU has had input into the University’s REF code of practice, and the review of the Departmental Promotions and Progressions Committee (DPPC) process, as well as the formal trade union consultation meetings over restructuring.

DUCU has asked for formal responses to various questions about the DPPC process at JCNC in Easter Term and a report will be included in AlternativeDialogue. Thanks very much to Departmental reps for collating and forwarding responses.

At the request of members, DUCU also raised the issue of seminar scheduling.  University management responded thus: “…There seems to be some misunderstanding about the operationalisation of this policy. The purpose of requiring a session(s) to be held during the daytime was to allow those with caring responsibilities to attend. People are allowed to attend more than one session a week – the ask was to find a session through the timetable which would mean that a scheduled space is identified to enable all people to attend at least one seminar a week.  However (we) will review your feedback and consider if we can develop further guidance to support this. We will also consider moving the time to a 4 p.m. (from 5) slot. (We will) contact you when the review has been completed”.  DUCU will provide an update in a future Alternative Dialogue.

DUCU has a meeting with the Associate Provost and HR about proposals for mentoring on Tuesday 2April. DUCU commented on the plans for professional development of members in PSS, and will have a meeting in early May with the University training team to discuss this further. Please do send thoughts about mentoring and professional development to Sarah Elton ( so she can feed them into the discussions. 


DUCU Lecture Series – A Fairer University

In case you missed the notice above, the next lecture in the DUCU series ‘A Fairer University’ will be delivered by Prof. Charles Adams on Wednesday 3 April at 18.00 in the SCR of St Cuthbert’s Society. Charles will speak on ‘The individual versus the collective: a failure of leadership’. The bar will be open after the lecture, and all are welcome. 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

Rep and activist training

Thanks to those who came to the training in January. We will run another short training course later in the year – please contact Sarah Elton ( if you’d like to come along. If you would like to attend a longer training session 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!