Preferendum 2020

Preferendum 2020

Following last week’s All Student Meeting, we want to know your thoughts on the big issues on campus!

Your Guild Officer Team have called a Preferendum to understand your thoughts on potential UCU Industrial Action next term. This is your chance to tell us how the Guild should respond and represent you to the University. Read more in the FAQs below.

Vote in the Preferendum

The All Student Vote

The All Student Vote is also taking place! This is your chance to vote on ideas submitted by your fellow students, covering the big aspects of student life on campus.

Vote in the All Student Vote

Preferendum 2020

No elections are currently running

The Guild's Stance on Potential UCU Strike Action - FAQs

A referendum is a direct and universal vote in which an entire electorate is invited to vote on a particular proposal; a preferendum or preferenda is a referendum offering a choice of several options.

A Preferendum is used where a question does not have a simple yes / no answer, or where people may have a wide range of beliefs and views on an issue that requires a nuanced response.

The Guild Officer Group, made up of the Full Time and Part Time Officers, believe that it is important that – during this difficult time – students have a right to shape the stance of the Guild in regard to the proposed UCU strike action.

This is an issue that students hold various different beliefs on and which may impact all students. It is therefore really important that all students have an opportunity to inform the response of the Guild Officer Group and of the Guild itself.

Since the vote in January 2020, we believe that circumstances have changed considerably due to Covid-19, that students are facing difficulties we could not have imagined in January and that during this difficult time it is important that we have a clear view from students on industrial action.

We are particularly concerned that it is more important than ever that the Guild is able to meet with the University to advocate for students’ needs.

There will be three options in the Preferendum:

  1. Full support of BUCU’s action, including online only teaching and strike action as necessary
  2. Support staff who are calling for online only teaching, but not strike action
  3. Do not support staff who are calling for online only teaching or strike action. The Guild supports the current model of both face to face and online teaching.

You will be able to rank these options in the order of your preference.

Last year, students voted for a policy that says the Guild should support all industrial action undertaken by staff.

This means that, during industrial action:

  • The Guild supports industrial action and encourages students not to “cross the picket line”
  • Guild Officers do not cross the picket line and continue their meetings with the University on student issues
  • The Guild lobbies the University on behalf of staff

However, this vote was undertaken before the Covid-19 pandemic and the massive changes to teaching, learning and University life. The Guild Officers want to make sure that they are still acting in your interests after all of these changes.

Birmingham’s branch of the University and College Union (BUCU), the trade union that represents academic staff, are planning to ask their members to vote on whether or not they will take industrial action as they do not feel safe delivering face to face teaching due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

If this vote is successful, the BUCU approach will be:

- To take ‘action short of a strike’ (ASOS), by refusing to come and teach in person – instead teaching online, until UCU is convinced that plans for a return to on-campus teaching and working are safe
- To go on strike if the University deducts pay from the staff who won’t teach in person. This would mean that staff taking part in the action would not go to work or deliver any teaching (and therefore not be paid).

During industrial action, you may decide not to “cross the picket line”. This means you act in solidarity with those striking and do not come onto campus for teaching, learning and other activities.

Currently, the Guild Officers meet with University staff to discuss a range of student related issues including Covid-19, teaching & learning, welfare, accommodation, sports etc. on a daily and weekly basis.

Under the current policy, passed by students, Officers would not attend these meetings during strike action.

A picket line is a boundary established by workers on strike, usually at the entrance to their workplace, which others are asked not to cross. We currently do not know what would be considered a picket line when teaching is delivered online.

Industrial action is usually organised by trade unions, most commonly when employees are forced out of work or unhappy with a work related situation where the employees were unable to reach an agreement with the employer. Industrial action can include striking, action short of strike or lockout (where the employer stops workers from working).

The University and College Union (UCU) are one of the largest trade unions in the UK higher education sector, lobbying for the rights of trade union members.

A referendum is a direct and universal vote in which an entire electorate is invited to vote on a particular proposal; a preferendum or preferenda is a referendum offering a choice of several options.

Action short of a strike (ASOS) is defined by the UCU to potentially include: working to contract (only the hours defined by their contract, e.g. 9-5pm); not covering for absent colleagues; not rescheduling lectures or classes cancelled due to strike action; not undertaking any voluntary activities; a marking and assessment boycott.

In this case, it would mean refusing to deliver any face-to-face teaching, and to continue to only work from home where that was the case during lockdown, until UCU is convinced that plans for a return to on-campus teaching and working are safe.

The transformation of a workforce from largely employed on permanent contracts to largely employed on a short-term or casual basis.

An organised association of workers in a trade, group of trades, or profession, trade unions are formed to protect and further the rights and interests of their members (this is different to students’ unions which are charities rather than trade unions).

Either a system of voting secretly and in writing on a particular issue, or as a verb, an organisation asking members to vote secretly on an issue.

A strike is a period of time where employees decide not to come into work in protest about a particular aspect about their employment. They do not get paid whilst on strike. Strikes are often referred to as ‘industrial action’.

All Student Vote 2020

There are no referenda running at the present time.

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