Alternative Dialogue - news for Durham UCU members and supporters

Alternative Dialogue – May 2019

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Need to know

Use your vote – General Secretary election and hustings

You should have received your paper ballot form for the General Secretary election. It needs to be returned by noon on 23 May. Please use your vote – last time only around 13% of members voted, despite the importance of the General Secretary position for the direction and future of UCU. You can request a new ballot paper via the link at Northern Regional Committee has arranged for the candidates to visit Durham for hustings. All three candidates – Jo Grady  Jo McNeill, and Matt Waddup – are planning to attend. Hustings will take place on Monday 20 May in CG60 (Chemistry) at 13.00. Please come and hear what they have to say!

CEM – consultation

We have been made aware of a proposal for staff at the University’s Centre for Evaluation and Monitoring (CEM) to be transferred to another employer. We have been told that the Transfer of Undertakings Regulations (TUPE) will apply. As one of the trade unions recognised by the University for staff who work in CEM we have asked for formal consultation to begin with us. This began in the formal meeting with trade unions this week (after the meeting with CEM staff), and we will update our members in CEM about the outcome of that meeting as soon as possible. A meeting is planned for next week – details will be sent to affected staff. Any member who has a query should contact

Job Families – ongoing consultation

HR is currently consulting over job titles as part of the implementation of job families. PSS members who want to have input into job titles can speak to managers. Alternatively, you can email, as Brian Elliot and his team are keen to receive questions and feedback. At a recent meeting with HR, DUCU was told that more detail on job families, titles and specifics of roles would become available as the job families project reaches completion, and DUCU will seek an update on this at the first 2019-20 JCNC. 

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.

UCU Congress

Francis Pritchard (DUCU Secretary), Marek Szablewski (Vice-President) and Sarah Elton (President) will be attending Congress (May 25 – 27). You can see the Congress motions at Between them, the delegates are likely to represent most of the spectrum of opinion within DUCU, and will also consider amendments and listen to the presentations of the motions before voting. If you would like to give guidance about how delegates should vote on specific motions, please email Sarah ( before May 24. 


The next standard Joint Consultative & Negotiating Committee (where DUCU meets university management) will be held on Wednesday June 12. If you have items for inclusion on the agenda, please contact Francis Pritchard ( 

AGM and committee elections

The DUCU AGM will be held towards the end of term, date to be communicated soon. Various places on the committee are available: please consider standing and getting more involved in the work of DUCU. If you’re interested in standing, Sarah Elton ( will be pleased to answer questions and discuss roles. Please send motions for the AGM to Francis Pritchard (  

Latest news

International Workers’ Memorial Day

Alan Mardghum, President and Secretary of Durham Miners’ Association (DMA), spoke a campus trade union vigil for International Workers’ Memorial Day (IWMD) on Monday April 29, organised by Sol Gamsu, who also spoke. The DMA and campus trade unions intend to hold a bigger event next year to mark IWMD, held at Redhills. 

Department and Faculty admin restructure (Phase 2) and emergency Senate

The University has announced plans for a restructure of Department and Faculty support operations, including downgrading of posts and possible redundancies. Many of those facing restructure are female. See Palatinate for coverage The campus trade unions are working together to support members and minimise job and pay losses. If you require personal representation for the consultation and have not yet contacted DUCU, please email To rectify inadequate consultation with Senate, there will also be an extraordinary Senate next week to discuss the Department and Faculty restructure: please contact your AEA representative or local senator as soon as possible if you have thoughts to feed into the debate.

Big Meeting band and banner

At its meeting in April, UCU Northern Regional Committee passed a motion to ask UCU NEC to officially sponsor a local band, the Bear Park and Esh Colliery Band, and banner at the Durham Miners’ Gala. One of DUCU’s committee members, Tim Packer, is in the band, and DUCU is keen to keep building its relationship with the Durham Miners’ Association, the Big Meeting, and local groups. More information to follow…

Casualisation claim and recognition

DUCU and University management had a productive first formal meeting about the casualization claim, and further meetings have been arranged for June, July and September. Many aspects of the claim were received positively by University management, and we hope that this will translate into improved pay and conditions. DUCU looks forward to further talks. However, one concerning aspect of the April discussions is that University management states it does not recognise DUCU officially for casual teaching staff. This is in addition to its lack of formal recognition of DUCU to negotiate terms and conditions for Grade 10 staff, despite a written agreement stating that we represent all academic and academic-related staff, with no reference to grade. University management permits DUCU to represent members for personal cases regardless of grade, and DUCU has repeatedly said that this should extend to collective bargaining. Recognition issues will form a substantial item of business for this term’s JCNC, and DUCU will embark on the formal process to gain recognition for casual and Grade 10 staff if necessary.

PSS mentoring and professional development

DUCU met with the University Organisation Development team and HR to discuss plans for PSS professional development. The meeting was incredibly positive and productive and DUCU made a number of suggestions about professional development that will be incorporated into the Training team’s plans. An update on how the training programme has been developed will be given at the first JCNC of the 2019-20 academic year. In the meantime, staff can register for a coach / mentor via, and further information on coaching and mentoring can be found at

A Fairer University

Members enjoyed a highly stimulating talk by Charles Adams of Physics on ‘The individual versus the collective: a failure of leadership’. Charles has since followed up on some of the ideas about how we get a fairer university with the Vice Chancellor, and DUCU members at the talk were keen to establish a campaign around some of the themes. Further information on a potential campaign will be given at the AGM. Thanks also to St Cuthbert’s Society and its staff for hosting the lecture, including opening the bar just for us afterwards!


In the past few weeks, DUCU has had input into the University’s proposals for academic mentoring, PSS training and staff development, and the toolkit for managing performance, as well as the formal trade union consultation meetings over restructuring. Various issues will be picked up at JCNC. A fuller report will be given at the DUCU AGM.


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, but towards the end of term. 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

General Secretary hustings

As mentioned above, Northern Regional Committee has arranged for the General Secretary candidates to visit Durham for hustings. All three candidates – Jo Grady, Jo McNeill and Matt Waddup – are planning to attend. Hustings will take place on Monday 20 May in CG60 (Chemistry) at 13.00. Please come and hear what they have to say!

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. Three DUCU committee members are attending training in Manchester next week. 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!