UCU Scotland Official Mary Senior reports from Argyll and Bute
The Scottish Association For Marine Science (SAMS) just north of Oban off the west coast of Scotland, must be in one of the most stunning locations of any education institution, with the Argyll hills and the natural harbour as the backdrop. It was, however, blowing a gale when Louise and I arrived there two weeks ago to hold some workplace UCU meetings and run an Early Careers session.
SAMS is a unique institution in many ways – it’s an academic partner of the University of the Highlands and Islands with a small staff of around 160, it is one of the newest institutions in the USS pension scheme, and our UCU reps negotiate around a “Whitley” table. UCU is fortunate to have two enthusiastic and hardworking reps in Arlene and Ray, and they’d encouraged a dozen or so new members and prospective members to come along to the Know Your Rights session. We were impressed that the start of our session was announced to all staff over the Tannoy system, and thought that must be a first for a UCU training session.
The Early Careers Guide and the information on rights at work provoked a lively discussion amongst participants, most of whom were Post-Docs and researchers at the early stage of their career. It was felt that employer-employee relations at SAMS were generally positive, and the small size of the institution helped. However, people were aware that research funding could be precarious and were keen to understand more about their rights as employees. We’re hopeful that we convinced a couple of others to sign up as reps – one member was interested in becoming a Green Rep – as well as others who wanted to join the union and attend future UCU training in Scotland.