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February 26th, 2018:

Solid strike action continues into week 2

USS strikes continue Tuesday and Wednesday with picketing from 8.00-10.30am followed by a meeting round 11.00am in the Student Union building each day. Leaflets, armbands and placards can be collected as usual from the foyer of the Student Union and Granby Row entrance to the Sackville St building. The forecast is for sunny but even colder weather than last week with bitingly cold winds, so please dress warm and take turns to break and seek shelter and warmth.

On Tuesday from 11.00-12.30am UMSU is organising a meeting about the future of HE, NSS boycott, TEF and tuition fees, and on Wednesday we are arranging an Action Against Racism Week meeting.

Our campaign to keep defined benefit pensions could not have got off to a better start. The employers are in disarray and we have won the media campaign hands down with extensive coverage on TV and in the press. Even The Times,  Financial Times and Telegraph, which are not exactly allies of trade unions, have been highly critical of UUK and V-Cs. As a result, UUK have been forced to agree to meet with UCU on Tuesday. 

We sincerely hope this means UUK will negotiate meaningfully. However, the story on the front page of today’s Sunday Telegraph suggests otherwise: a leaked private letter from the chief executive of UUK, Alan Jarvis, to V-Cs says UUK is “not prepared to re-open negotiations”. This suggests that Mr Jarvis’s previous public call for a meeting with UCU is nothing more than a cynical PR exercise and pretence of negotiation. As Sally Hunt is quoted as saying in the article, Mr Jarvis’s letter shows “contempt” for UCU members, adding: “Publicly they spin that they want to talk, while privately they say they have no intention of actually discussing the one issue that can stop the strikes.”

The message is clear: we must keep the pressure on Nancy Rothwell and other hard-line V-Cs so they have to negotiate meaningfully, not just pretend. We look forward to a big showing on the picket lines over the next three days to make our feelings clear. Please join us, especially if you haven’t already done so.

Other bad news for UUK is emerging. Last week we pointed out that 42% – the percentage of pre-1992 universities opposed to any increase in employer contributions – is not a “majority” as claimed by our Senior Leadership Team. However, investigative journalists at the Financial Time have now found out that even this 42% is an exaggeration because UUK allowed individual Oxbridge Colleges, 75% of whom want to get rid of defined benefit pensions, to participate as individual employers in its September consultation. This was clearly not legitimate (UUK’s Articles of Association state that the universities, not colleges, are members) and could bring the so-called “majority” down to something closer to 30%.

Also, a Channel 4 Despatches programme tonight, Monday at 8.00pm will expose lavish expenses claims by V-Cs and their senior colleagues on a scale comparable to the 2009 MPs’ expenses scandal. We do not expect the University of Manchester to feature, but only because it was one of the thirteen out of 157 universities approached who refused to cooperate or did not respond to Freedom of Information requests for information.

Please continue to share your strike photographs and stories via social media, including UMUCU Facebook and UMUCU Twitter.

In solidarity,

The UMUCU Executive Committee