Save the date! UCU caseworker meeting

Are you a current RHUL UCU caseworker? Have you benefitted from casework and would like to support colleagues in a similar situation? Would you like to make a difference to others at RHUL? Then mark your diaries for our next UCU caseworker meeting:

18th September – 10am-noon

This meeting is for everyone currently involved in casework and for anyone who might be interested in finding out more about what is involved in supporting members with casework. A sandwich lunch will be provided.

You can find out a bit more about casework training in this blog post by Doug Cowie, departmental rep for English, who undertook the training last year.

If you would like to attend, please let our Branch Administrator, Penelope Smith, know – her e-mail is Penelope.smith at

Get involved with the branch for 2019-2020!

Members should have received an e-mail with nomination forms for elections to the 2019/2020 RHUL UCU branch committee.  The elections will take place at the Annual General Meeting on 29th May 12.00- 14.00. Please note this date in your diary.

The timetable for nominations and the election is as follows:

Request for nominations sent out on or before Wed 17th April 2019

Deadline for nominations (28 days before the election to allow time for a ballot, if necessary): Wed 1st May 2019

Annual General Meeting and Election: Wed 29th May 2019

Committee to arrange hand over during June/July 2019

New Committee take over August/Sept 2019

Completed nomination forms are due to the Branch Organiser, Penelope Smith, by 1st May.

Not sure about serving on the committee but still want to get involved with supporting the union and your colleagues? We are always on the look-out for new caseworkers! Caseworkers support their colleagues and protect themselves, and there’s excellent training on offer. Here is what one caseworker has to say:

I became a caseworker because I was grateful to the caseworker who helped me when I first started asking questions about equal pay at Royal Holloway. Casework involves supporting members who are facing difficulties in the workplace, helping to ensure they are being treated fairly, equitably and reasonably in what can be very difficult and stressful times. Caseworkers gain skills, knowledge and expertise particularly in areas of employment policies and law. They are backed up by regional officers. But beyond the good citizen aspect, caseworkers learn how to protect themselves and their colleagues when the going gets tough. And that is increasingly useful in tough times.

I have found it very rewarding that so many of the people for whom I have been a caseworker, have gone on to help others by becoming more active in the UCU or volunteering for assessment panels where they can help to promote equalities. Many of them keep in touch years later.

If you’d like to find out more, please drop Penelope a line at Penelope.smith  at

Notes from the UCU General Meeting, 27th February 2019

We will be circulating the minutes of our most recent general meeting to all members very shortly, but in the meantime, here’s a selection of highlights.

Personal Development Review – “Appraisal” in old money

Officially the Branch’s position on the PDR proposals remains that we suggest members use the agreed 2016 appraisal form, with associated guidelines. We also stand by our call for members to boycott the consultation process on PDR, as it bypassed meaningful campus trade union involvement. At our October meeting with senior management they agreed to work with us to change the PDF guidelines, in particular to ensure a PDR could never be the sole trigger for starting capability proceedings. This work is as yet incomplete.

Ballot outcome

We were re-balloted about action over casualisation, gender gap, pay, and workload – UCU thought a national ballot meant that less engaged branches could be carried by more engaged branches. With only a 40% turnout, this probably means that the 2018 pay claim is now over. We will not be taking any action over pay and equalities. National advice is now for local branches to pursue campaigns on the issues raised on the ballot. Last year’s pensions dispute is far from over.

Pensions Update

We suspended our industrial action over the threat to defined benefit pensions when a joint expert panel (JEP) was agreed by employers and UCU. The JEP initial report looked at the previous valuation (the one about a large deficit), which USS and UUK argued meant we couldn’t have a defined benefit pension. The creation and membership of the JEP was endorsed by employers and UCU, and both sides were hopeful of a long term resolution. The first two recommendations have now been rejected by Universities Superannuation Scheme (USS). It is difficult to foresee a positive outcome from the second stage of the JEP’s work, without more pressure from institutions, so our pensions are still potentially under threat. We will be writing as a branch to ask the Principal of Royal Holloway to use his influence, with other employers, to encourage USS to accept the recommendations of JEP, which indicate a defined pension is feasible with lower contribution increases than those currently planned. Continue reading “Notes from the UCU General Meeting, 27th February 2019”

UCU Caseworker Meeting

The branch will be hosting a caseworker meeting for all existing case-workers on Tuesday 18th September, to review the current state of play concerning the branch caseloads and to look at what might be coming up in the year ahead. We also invite any new caseworkers and those thinking of taking on casework to attend.

Please register your attendance via Eventbrite; you will need to request an invitation from Penelope Smith, our branch administrator. We look forward to seeing you there!

Casework training – worth it?

Until this year my role as department representative didn’t really involve much beyond communicating a few things between the branch and UCU members in my department, putting up posters, and sending out the occasional call to join to those not in the union.  Before, during, and following this year’s industrial action, however, I found myself pretty much continually answering questions and being asked for advice, and a lot of the time I more or less felt like I was winging it, wondering whether the advice I was giving or the role I was filling was really helpful, correct, or what. I also found myself referring certain queries to the branch when I really had no idea what else to do, and like everybody else, my time on the picket line brought me into conversation with lots of different colleagues who I didn’t know before.

I’ve been thinking about these experiences alongside the situation that our colleague Jeff Frank finds himself in, and so decided to take up the offer to attend casework training, in hopes both that the process and responsibilities of casework might start to make a little more sense to me, and that I might also be in a better position to help my fellow UCU members at Royal Holloway. It strikes me as important to have as many willing people as possible trained and available to help one another.

The training was really good, and very useful. Basically, the day consisted of a morning of general discussion of the role of the caseworker and an outline of the legal framework for workplace disputes, and an afternoon of considering a handful of case studies from multiple perspectives. The trainers emphasized throughout the day that casework is always guided by an institution’s policies and procedures, and the role of the caseworker in ensuring that the process is carried out fairly when disputes about employment issues arise.

It’s not my intention to rehash a whole day’s training here, but I would like to say that it gave me a clear sense of how a UCU caseworker can both help guide a colleague through difficult workplace situations, and help strengthen the knowledge and role of the local union branch, and the importance of that role in the workplace.  The training has certainly given me more confidence in my knowledge of how to help my colleagues.

It has also made clear to me that the process of casework is much less mysterious or specialized than I previously thought.

I hope more of my Royal Holloway-UCU colleagues take up the opportunity for this training. You get a pin badge at the end, so you know it’s worth it.

Written by Doug Cowie, Department Rep for the Department of English


The Branch at Royal Holloway will be running a campus workshop on casework in September. We’ll be talking about what’s been going on over the past year, trends on campus and beyond, and we’ll review a couple of actual (anonymised) cases.

If you’re a caseworker, or want to be, a course rep, or just interested in developing a better understanding of our employment policies please do come along.

The workshop will run on Tuesday 18th September, from 10am-2pm (including a sandwich lunch), in IN244. Everyone is welcome.