Update of my activity – mid October to beginning of November

Here is an update of my activity as ULU Vice President from mid – October to the beginning of November:

–          3Cosas Campaign:

Last year workers at the University of London won a campaign to have the London Living wage implemented at the UoL. This finally happened in July, 2012. However, contracted workers are now being pressurized to work harder as the outsourced companies and the University seek to recoup the small additional outlay in wages they are now making.

Furthermore, in terms of sick pay, holidays, pensions, payslip problems, workplace bullying and a host of other issues the outsourced workers are still much worse off than University employees. There are three areas (‘tres cosas’) where the disparity between University and contract workers is greatest – SICK PAY, HOLIDAYS and PENSIONS. The next stage, which I am heavily involved in, is to persuade the University to ensure that all workers have the same rights in these three areas. It is eminently affordable, and it is the only right thing to do. I have been heavily involved in  organizing the campaign.

At the last ULU Senate meeting it became official policy of ULU to support the 3Cosas campaign, I am campaigning the Vice Chancellor and senior figures within the UoL on this.

Check out more info here: https://sites.google.com/site/3cosascampaign/que-queremos

–          London Colleges:

I have been active on local colleges; attending meetings, meeting students and involved in local work that is going on. I have visited UCLU, Heythrop, Kings, St Georges, LSE, Queen Mary, RHUL, the IOE, Goldsmiths, London MET, City University and Greenwich.

–          Student activities work:

For those of you unaware, as ULU Vice President, I head up the work of the SA department alongside Allan Adams, the SA department manager.

Some of the big areas of work for the department at the moment:

  1. College Visits – meeting Staff & Sabbaticals – discuss what support is required and how we can help
  2.  Provide publicity material  by post, email, social network & personal visits. We are doing mail outs to colleges with materials (about campaigns as well as SA) every 2 weeks.
  3. More training, taster and development days for students
  4. “ Get Involved Programme” to introduce new sports and activities not currently provided by BUCS or LUSL – Dodge Ball, Soft ball, Tag American football & Tchoukball, 5 A-side Football
  5. Holding ULU Intercollegiate Cup competitions – all of the UOL & non-UOL colleges are participating.
  6. Dodgeball Tournament on site
  7. Introducing more sports and C & S activities on site so the sports hall and the venue and other rooms when available can be utilised –
  8. Invite colleges who are a long distance away from ULU to our events and put on special events so they are included in all of our planning. (Après fresher’s party etc.)
  9. Summer Leagues – To provide a programme of Summer ULU Sports Leagues for UOL, Non-UOL college students, Small & Specialist
  10.  Cross London Event – Sport record attempt  and a club & Societies event all done with the involvement  of UOL college sabbaticals –  to benefit charities
  11. Student Activities officer training, support and development for all C & S officers – treasurers etc. Advice on building numbers.
  12. Encourage and advise on putting on events so C & S’s can showcase their activities – Perhaps different C & S’s can do joint events
  13. Support and host the “ The clash of the Jazz Orchestra’s
  14. Meet each ULU society officer individually and monitor numbers and room usage
  15. Develop some ULU sports teams e.g. UoL Rugby team to play invitational friendly matches against Cambridge, Oxford and Combined Services. Source a high calibre Coach to train the team and select the team and very best players
  16. We have provided  First Aid training and Referee Scholarship opportunities for our Sports and clubs & societies
  17. Launch of the ULU Sports on-line shop in January – any profits made to go into a special fund to support colleges who struggle to afford pitches and kit – We may be able to help to subsidise in some cases
  18. Sponsorship initiative – Involvement from the business community to help fund some of the C & S & Sports activities & events
  19. The return of Student Activities Committee – re-establishing the essential bodies necessary to properly run all of our activities. We held our first student activities committee meeting of the year, which went very well. The SA committee is made up of myself, ULU SA staff members and students from across the colleges. It’s the main governance arm for the SA department, and provides democratic oversight over the running of the dept.

–          First trustee board meeting:

I chaired the first ULU Trustee Board meeting of the year.

There were a few main items of discussions:

–          The Board received reports on the work of the sabbatical officers.

–          We had a lengthy discussion about the ULU funding review. The result of the discussion was the decision to release a collective statement on behalf of the trustee board for the funding review, instead of individual submissions.

–          Report on the financial accounts 2011 – 12: ULU has recently been audited by Knox Accounts. It has been found to be in a healthy financial state, with strong net assets.

There are a few points of information that I think are worth mentioning:

  1. 1.      Grant income, which is received from the University of London, has decreased from £768k last year to £716k.   This represents contributions from member colleges of the University of London. The decrease in grant is 7% and is in line with the HEFCE teaching grant funding reduction.
  2. 2.      Conference room hire and rental income increased to £629k from £627k last year.
  3. 3.      Venues include Bars, Catering and Other (Lunchbox). Total income for venues increased to £1,960k from £1,817 last year. Bar income increased to £961k this year from £740k last year.
  4. 4.      Lunchbox income decreased slightly to £597k from £614k. Catering turnover decreased to £403k from £463k. There is now a lot of competition in the local area and it is felt that the performance of the Lunchbox outlet in the 2010/11 year will be difficult to repeat. With regard to Catering, the decrease in turnover is down to a decrease catering functions held at ULU.
  5. 5.      Recreation facilities relates to the Energybase, which incorporates the Gym and Swimming facilities. Income fell from £845k in 2011 to £724k in the current year. The facilities in Energybase were poor and in need of upgrading. This had resulted in numerous comments by members and it was likely that some members had not renewed during the year. After discussions with the University of London (UOL) it was agreed that UOL, as landlord of the property, would pay for a refurbishment of the facilities. This commenced in May 2012 and resulted in Energybase being closed for the last three months of the year. Last year, Energybase made a surplus, before overheads, of £524k, however, it was only £396k this year.

–          ULU Funding review:

I have written something separately on this, here:  https://dancooperulu.wordpress.com/2012/11/06/ulu-funding-review-all-should-read/

–          Education/Public Services campaign

I have been doing a number of things on this:

–          TUC demo ‘Education Bloc’:  We organised a very successful ‘Education Bloc’ on the recent TUC demonstration, see a full report here: http://ulu.co.uk/news/index.php?page=article&news_id=346653 A special thank you to Liam Mcnulty, our Campaigns and Engagement coordinator, who did an excellent job of organising the bloc.

–          Feeder March:  ULU and the National Campaign against fees and cuts have called a feeder march on the NUS demonstration – see full details here: http://www.facebook.com/events/299407760175516/?fref=ts

–          Quebec Solidarity tour: I have organised, alongside UCLU, for a student from Quebec to come over to the UK to share their experiences of building a strong and successful student movement. Full info here: http://anticuts.com/2012/11/03/ncafc-quebecois-speaker-tour/

–          Put together materials for FE students, check out the ULU website for more information. ULU is organising leafleting sessions and talks at FE colleges in the lead up to the national demonstration.

–          Organised a cross London demos and campaign meeting.

–          We are organising a day of action and evening meeting and dramatics on the subject of unpaid internships, see here: http://www.facebook.com/events/160783274066188/?fref=ts and https://www.facebook.com/events/264154693685930/290365747731491/ and https://dancooperulu.wordpress.com/2012/11/05/the-devil-pays-nada-exploitative-unpaid-internships-and-workfare-13th-november/

–          We pledged support for UCL students campaign against the destruction of the Carpenters estate, and are trying to help the campaign, see here: https://dancooperulu.wordpress.com/2012/10/30/ulu-vp-supports-uclu-carpenters-campaign/

–          We responded to the news that the government has a large funding shortfall in the university budgets: https://dancooperulu.wordpress.com/2012/10/25/ulu-vp-reacts-to-1bn-shortfall-in-university-funding/

–          Our questions to the Major about the treatment of International students were taken up: https://dancooperulu.wordpress.com/2012/10/24/questions-asked-of-mayor-in-london-assembly-about-international-students/

–          We have been providing a lot of support and assistance to London students’ unions about their individual campaigns building up to the national demonstration on the 21st November.

–          University of London Careers Board:

As ULU Vice President I am the student representative on the University of London’s Careers Group. It is a consortium that delivers career development and associated services to education institutions. The Careers group helps organisations and institutions create and deliver their careers and employment strategies, as well as help employers recruit, retain and develop employees. Their clients include: Graduate recruiters wishing to interact with students and graduates at any stage in their working lives, Academic institutions wanting to deliver career and employability services to their students, graduates and staff, Careers service providers seeking support, Organisations looking for help with career development activities and Individual jobseekers or career changers.

This was the first meeting of the year. Therefore it mainly dealt with the financial performance and budget of the department – the group made a surplus. This is to be reinvested in the University of London.

The Careers group, like the UoL as a whole, is very focused on shared services. I am extremely concerned about shared services, having seen it’s damaging effects on other campuses. See a good post on the subject here: http://bloomsburyfightback.wordpress.com/2012/10/24/shared-services-the-very-latest-in-driving-down-wages-and-conditions/ This will definitely be an area ULU focuses on in the coming months.

–          University of London International Programme Academic board:

The Academy collaborates with 12 University of London colleges to offer flexible and distance learning programmes.

There was notification that the International programme is to undergo a funding review. This was decided by the new UoL Vice Chancellor, Adrian Smith.

The ULU Funding review was mentioned at the meeting. ULU was recognised by Jonathan Kydd, the head of the Intl Programme, to be a great contributor to their work.

–          ULU relationship with local colleges:

I have now completed the ‘Memorandum of Understandings’ for each of the ULU colleges. These come off the back of a marked change in emphasis with our local colleges this year at ULU. We are radically re-thinking the relationship amongst different colleges within ULU but also between ULU centrally and local constituent SUs.

We believe it to be an absolute necessity for ULU to have a sustained, positive presence on local college campuses, contributing to the projects and initiatives being run. We would like the relationship between ULU and Courtauld, for example, to be professional and effective.

There have been a number of “staging posts” by which the MOU documents have been put together. We began initial discussions early into our terms of office, this was followed by the ULU Training, continued by follow up discussions, ULU Senate. The MOU is to ensure local colleges get the best deal for their members, and for that impact to be recorded.  We think this would be useful for a number of reasons, including:

  1. To document specific areas of joint work between ULU – Courtauld
  2. To document expectations of ULU officers
  3. To provide a framework for the collaborative work during 2012/13. 

These documents can be periodically reviewed, and should be discussed at the end of the sabbatical year to note areas of progression and improvement. Furthermore, it can be used for local students’ unions to explain why ULU exists, what it does, and ultimately, its value to London students.

–          ULU Presidential Elections:

I was on the elections committee for the current Presidential election. However I have resigned from the elections committee to support Michael Chessum’s campaign. See the bottom of this blog for clarification on this.

It was great to see so many candidates (6!) for the post. Many doubted whether we would even be able to muster one candidate for the election. However, over the past few months lots of hard work and promotion has gone on to evidently positive results.

Check out the candidates: http://ulu.co.uk/elections/content/884993/candidates_and_manifestos/

I was organising polling booths on many ULU campuses to build interest in the elections. See full info, and don’t forget to vote: http://ulu.co.uk/elections

After resigning from the elections committee I publicly came out in support of Michael Chessum for the role of President, I would encourage you all to vote for him.

–          ULU Lobbying – Housing:

At the first ULU senate meeting of 2012/13 we agreed to focus on accommodation and housing in London as a primary cross – London campaign. We held our first meeting to discuss in greater depth how we intend to proceed with the campaign.

A few proposals have come out of the meeting:

–          ULU should make the case for decent, affordable housing and greater caps/regulation in housing prices and quality.

–          We agreed to commission research into the question of housing in London. With a day conference on the subject.

–          We agreed on the need to greater publicise the work of the ULU housing department, see information here: http://housing.london.ac.uk/cms/

–          We agreed to do a big, cross London campaign on the fight for Universal credit. In London local councils are thinking of making students, the unemployed and disabled pay council tax, where previously they were exempt. More to follow on this.

–          We agreed to lobby constituent colleges and the GLA on support for international student’s precarious housing situations. This would involve looking into whether ULU could act as a Guarantor. More to follow on this.

–          We agreed to pool skills and share ideas between local Unions on housing projects and campaigns that are being run.

–          We agreed to feed into the London Citizens ‘Living Rent’ campaign.

–          ULU’s Networks:

ULU networks are set up and running. We have online networks in the following areas: small and specialist, Sports and societies, Liberation, Welfare, Education, International students, Postgraduates, Communications and media, Environment and ethics. Each of the networks in bold have met recently.

To access the online or physical networks, email daniel.cooper@ulu.lon.ac.uk

–          ULU is hosting and helping to organise Transgender Remembrance evening on the 20th November: http://www.facebook.com/events/245831835539847/?fref=ts

–          Rights at work:

We had the opening meeting of ULU’s rights at work campaign. SUPERSIZE MY PAY: How young workers in New Zealand took on McDonalds, and won. The meeting was about young, precarious workers employed by the likes of McDonalds, Burger King, Starbucks, Pizza Hut, and KFC organised to take on their bosses over the low pay and exploitation they faced at work. After a campaign of direct action, including the world’s first Starbucks strikes, they succeeded in winning significant pay increases, including the abolition of the youth rates of the minimum wage. How do they do it? And can…we do it here?

Young workers and working students in Britain face many of the same issues, including casualisation and precarious working. Some argue that it’s impossible for workers to organise and fight back in those jobs, but the experience of Supersize My Pay suggests something different. We will be showing a film about the ‘Supersize My pay’ campaign in New Zealand, followed by discussion.

This year, ULU is running a student workers’ campaign to raise awareness of rights in the workplace and help working students organise. Come along to watch the film and discuss the campaign. More info here: http://ulu.co.uk/content/869753/your_union/campaigns/student_rights_at_work_campaign/

Here is my speech from the meeting: https://dancooperulu.wordpress.com/2012/11/07/supersize-my-pay-my-speech-from-the-meeting/

We will be running skills share, and training events, ‘Know your Rights’ stalls, conferences, mobilising solidarity with disputes on campus and in London and organising with and engaging with student staff on London campuses and much more.

 

***

Clarification on ULU Presidential elections: I should have made clearer on my blog that I had resigned from the elections committee before coming out in support for Michael. The blog was an account of my recent activity, and I felt it important to note my presence on the committee. It was a seperate point about support for Michael’s campaign.

I have checked, and had it confirmed with the ULU Returning officer that to publicly support a candidate, once one has given notice of departure to the committee Chair, is in line with the elections rule book.

A few comments on those questioning my support for Michael:

In my election I promised to expand and improve ULU’s democratic functioning. Over the last few months I have done this rigorously. This has involved talking to universities about releasing their elections data, making sure we got all of the data in time during an irregular elections period for ULU. I have promoted the elections on campuses across ULU – we now have a record 6 candidates at a time when the consensus was that we would not be able to find any candidates at all. I have organised for student volunteers to flyer to promote the elections and hold polling booths during the elections on all but 3 of the ULU campuses. Students’ unions have been consulted, reported to, and asked for their opinions on the elections as a whole. The elections committee has a senate representative, and the elections have been made the principal business of Senate. I have done my job as ULU VP/President to fairly, openly and democratically encourage students to take up the elections, as well as vote. In fact, better than any VP has done for many years.

But this is a political election, and a political question. There are a series of candidates with varying programmes and ideas on the future of ULU. I am not a neutral observer, or here just to put together the mechanics of the election. I want the next leader of the organisation to share my political aims. Michael fits with my vision of ULU as a credible and active organ, with a focus on housing and liberation. The election regulations avow this – current sabbatical officers are able to back candidates for elections.

Also, I think people should declare their political affiliations, or support for a candidate. It would be worse if I pretended to be a dispassionate or impartial witness to the elections. It would be dishonest and undemocratic that members were unaware of my support for a certain candidate, and that the information was hidden. Open and publicly available information is the basis of a democratic election.

All of this is not counterposed to the work I have done previously, and I think it is mistaken to suggest that this would “undermine” the elections. To do that would misunderstand what the election is about, and what has gone on in the months leading up to it.

If Michael isn’t elected I will of course work with any of the candidates, and act professionally. Sure, I may not have backed them but we are grown ups and here to do a job. I didn’t share the politics of my fellow sabbs at RHUL last year, neither did I back them to get the post, but once we were there, we got on with it, recognising that the student body had chosen their lead officers. I am sure any person elected to the post would have a similar understanding.

To come out in support of Michael doesn’t undermine the values of ULU, or mean that the elections aren’t being scrutinised properly. The elections rules have been upheld , and the elections committee is functioning properly. The committee is scrutinising the running of the elections from the start and will do to the end on Friday and, lastly, are ensuring the elections are run efficiently. In fact these have been the best run elections in years: in large part, that is down to my political commitment to making them that way.
**

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