Unions support the BAME Staff Forum’s response to the Sewell Report (May 2021)

Essex UCU, Unison and Unite support this response from the BAME Staff Forum (University of Essex) to the recent Sewell Report on race and ethnic disparities that was commissioned by the UK Government:

The Sewell Report – ‘Writing out Racism’

 BAME Staff Forum’s response to the Sewell Report, University of Essex.

We, the stakeholders, reject the findings of the Commission on Race and Ethnic Disparities, chaired by Dr Tony Sewell, for ‘writing out racism’ in the UK. Through downplaying the structural and institutional reasons behind racial disparities, the report not only denies the everyday lived experience of Black Asian Minority Ethnic (BAME) communities in the UK it shifts attention away from attempts to deal with racial disparities and racism collectively. The report lacks coherence, accuracy and integrity and dangerously supports an ascendant right-wing culture war against struggles for justice by all progressive groups in the UK. As a counter to the claims of the report, we pose some questions below based on credible existing research from academics, unions, independent committee reports and the Runnymede Trust.

Is there no structural and institutional racism in the UK?

Why are unemployment rates higher among BAME groups, and remain unchanged since the 1981 Brixton uprising for Black/African/Caribbean groups?

Why is there an ethnicity pay gap in most institutions in the UK?

Why are Black women five times more likely to die during childbirth?

Why are exclusion rates higher for Black Caribbean students in English schools than their White peers in some local authorities?

Why are BAME people, and Black youth in particular, disproportionately stopped and searched by the police?

Why do nine out of ten children on remand come from BAME communities?

Why do BAME men and women constitute 25% of prisoners, and over 40% of young people in custody from BAME backgrounds, despite making up just 14% of the overall population?

Why are BAME communities disproportionately affected during the Covid-19 pandemic?

Why were nine-in-ten (93%) doctors who died of Covid in the UK from BAME communities?

Is it much different nearer home – in Higher Education institutions?

Why are fewer than 1% of the professors employed at UK universities Black?

Why are more than nine in ten college Principals (93%) and University vice chancellors (94%) white?

Why are Black students over three times more likely to drop out than their white counterparts?

Why is there an award gap between students from BAME background as compared to their white counterparts?

In view of the lack of credibility and the sheer ingenuity of the report in denying racism, it becomes a challenge to accept some of its more valid suggestions, for example the viability of the term BAME. We recognise the existence of institutional racism and the pervasive ways in which it affects all of our lives. We stand in solidarity with those affected by all forms of racism and seek to address the structures that perpetuate it. Racism has no place in our institutions or in our communities.

Some relevant references

Commission on Race and Ethnic Disparities: The Report (March 2021) or The Sewell Report

The Stephen Lawrence Inquiry Report or The Macpherson Report (February 1999)

The Lammy Review Report (September 2017)

Fair Society Healthy Lives: The Marmot Report (February 2010)

Joint Union statement in response to the Sewell Report

Sewell Report: Runnymede Responds (April, 2021)

British Sociological association (April 2021)

The Sewell Report: an example of institutional racism (April 2021)





Today- 19 May 2021, 12pm: Let’s Discuss Professional Services staff and the issues facing them

Essex UCU are holding another ‘Let’s Discuss’ event dedicated to addressing issues facing Professional Services staff, including expanding workload, career progression, and other pressing concerns. We will be discussing in particular the disconnect between job descriptions and job roles. This will be a free-flowing conversation hosted by a member of our professional services team. This event is also open to those who are not UCU members or those who do not work in professional services but who would like to support their professional services colleagues. The meeting will take place Today, Wednesday, 19th May, 12:00-1:30pm. https://essex-university.zoom.us/j/92704863698.

Jo Grady, UCU General Secretary, joins our all-staff USS pension discussion 14 May 2021

Essex UCU are delighted that Dr Jo Grady, UCU General Secretary, will join our branch USS pension discussion on Friday 14th May 1-2:30pm. This will be an all-staff meeting – not just for  UCU members, so any USS pension member may join. Jo is able to join us and speak for the for the first 30 mins,  then other UCU reps will answer questions.

https://essex-university.zoom.us/j/92411340533 (waiting room enabled, outlook invitation attached).

GM today, AGM is on 23 June, and nominations are open! (24.3.2021)

A reminder that our branch GM is today, 24 March 2021 1pm. Zoom link has been emailed to members.

Please note that our branch Annual General Meeting will be on Wed 23 June 2021 at 1pm.
A zoom link will be emailed to members closer to this date with the calling notice.

Please note that nominations are opening 24 March 2021 (Branch online nomination form 2021)

Issues facing Professional Services staff and open meeting on 17 March 2021

Open letter on the issues facing the Professional Services section (published Wed 10 March 2021)

Please read the above open letter to all staff in which we note with concern the difficult circumstances that many staff in professional services at Essex are facing.

We also note that on Friday in Essex Weekly, People & Cultures shared a link to an all-staff survey on workload that was developed in conjunction with the three trades unions: UCU, Unison, and Unite. We urge all members to complete this survey so that we can better address the serious problem of untenable workloads that many staff are facing.

UCU will be holding an informal discussion session, Wednesday, 17th March, to talk about the issues mentioned in the above open letter further. It will run from 1-2pm and is open to all staff, not just UCU members, and not just professional services staff. Please come! We need to come together as a community to try to find solutions to the many problems that we’re facing, so all our welcome to help in that endeavour. The zoom link can be found here: https://essex-university.zoom.us/j/91287105242

UCU Essex branch committee

Essex UCU Statement in Support of the University of Leicester Staff, Jan 28 2021

Essex UCU Statement in Support of the University of Leicester Staff


Essex UCU condemns the current attempt to make 145 University of Leicester staff members redundant across 5 academic departments and 3 professional service units. Not only is this an attack on colleagues’ livelihoods and working conditions, it is an attack on students, further undermining their education. To undertake such a restructuring in the midst of a global pandemic where staff are already facing a workload crisis, one where precarious staff have already lost their employment, is irresponsible and abhorrent.


We further condemn both the attack on union representatives and committee members who have been targeted for redundancy, and the attempts to undermine concerted efforts at the University of Leicester to decolonise their curriculum. This clearly political campaign must be opposed and we stand in solidarity with the recent decision by the Leicester UCU branch to ballot for immediate industrial action.


We urge senior management at the University of Leicester to reverse their decision and to engage immediately in good faith negotiations with Leicester UCU. We urge all members to support their campaign and to sign the letters of support below.


Essex UCU


On the abolishment of Medieval and Early Modern English Literature:





On the abolishment of political economy and critical management studies:




Further information can be found here:




Indicative ballot closed: over legal threshold turnout 8 Jan 2021

Fri 8 Jan 2021

The Essex UCU indicative ballot has now closed. We are pleased to confirm that 52% of members participated in the ballot (which is above the legal threshold for an industrial action ballot). Members overwhelmingly voted to say that they would be willing to participate in strike action (71.5%) and action short of strike (83.5%) if the University proceeds with their plan for blended learning including face to face teaching once the national lockdown ends.


We want to thank you all for taking part in this ballot. The fact that so many of you voted despite the ballot falling over the Christmas closure shows the strength of feeling of members at the University. We will be meeting with management next week to discuss our dispute over the plans for blended learning once the lockdown is lifted. We will inform management of the outcome of the ballot during those discussions. We hope that they will acknowledge the widespread and valid concerns of staff and agree to amend their proposals to make it clear that where possible all student facing work should continue to be undertaken online but with exceptions for work that cannot be carried out online and for staff who freely choose to opt in to work on campus once that is permitted by the government. We will keep you updated on the progress of these discussions and on the next steps.


Best wishes,

Irene McMullin

UCU Branch President, Essex


Indicative e-ballot is open: look for email from yoursay@ucu.org.uk

Indicative e-ballot is open

In response to the University’s Spring Term 2021 approved plan, which requires face-to-face and blended learning in all degree programmes, a motion was passed at our Essex UCU branch EGM on 16 December calling for:


  • UCU to declare an official dispute with the University and seek urgent meetings with management with the aim of resolution;
  • an indicative ballot on industrial action;
  • consideration of the outcome of the indicative ballot and the viability of running a formal ballot for industrial action.

All eligible Essex UCU members (ie not retired nor student members) will have received an email at approximately 5pm on Thurs 17 Dec with the indicative ballot (there is a unique voting link at the bottom of this email) This email is entitled ‘University of Essex UCU indicative ballot’ and was sent from: Research Survey ‘yoursay@ucu.org.uk’.

This email went to the email address that you have registered with UCU. To check your membership file to know which email address this is go to www.ucu.org.uk/myucu

To contact the branch if you cannot find this email or have any ballot related enquiries e: ballot@ucumail.essex.ac.uk however please note that due to staff leave over the holiday, you may not get a response until Tues 5 Jan. If you have another urgent branch enquiry either email our caseteam on casework@ucumail.essex.ac.uk or the branch officers on ucu@essex.ac.uk

The branch committee urge you to vote today. Closing date is 8 Jan, however we are doing lots of work to contact members to ensure that everyone votes, so you will be helping us by voting early. We need to ensure that the turnout in this indicatove ballot is high. If we proceed to a formal vote, we will need a 50%+ turnout under the TU Act 2016