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Pay and equality ballot: vote YES for strike action and YES for action short of a strike

University employers have refused to improve their 2018 pay offer of 2% despite the fact that inflation has risen again. In July the CPI measure of inflation rose from 2.4% to 2.5% while RPI reached 3.2%. CPI is not expected to drop below the Bank of England’s 2% target until some time in the first half of 2019, which means we are facing yet another fall in real pay despite the fact that university balance sheets continue to show the kind of surpluses many private companies can only dream of.
 
UCU is therefore balloting members nationally on industrial action to support our joint pay claim with the other four UK HE sector trade unions, which includes:
  • 7.5% or £1500 increase in pay, whichever is greater, to catch up on the massive 21% cut in real pay we have experienced since 2010,
  • action to close the Gender Pay Gap by 2020,
  • action on casualisation and precarious contracts,
  • recognition of excessive workloads and stress.
Your ballot paper should arrive in the week after August 30th and a successful vote for action can only proceed if at least 50% of members vote. Therefore, please do not delay, please post your vote back promptly.  You can check that your postal address is up to date by using this link.
 
As was demonstrated by the Staffnet news item on 7th June, Update on pay negotiations, which scandalously presented the 2% offer as an above inflation pay increase, we cannot expect any generosity or sympathy from the University’s (very well paid) Senior Leadership Team. This outrageous claim, which was reached by adding the average incremental pay increase awarded to staff to the 2% offer,  just goes to show how out of touch they are and how little they truly value staff – 44% of whom are at the top of their grade, so will receive no incremental increase this year, and rely entirely on annual pay settlements to maintain their and their families’ standard of living.
 
Therefore, please look out for your ballot paper and vote YES to strike action and YES to action short of a strike.
Further information, including posters and leaflets, can be found here: https://www.ucu.org.uk/he2018

Support for UMSU

Statement in support of UMSU

UMUCU offer full support to the University of Manchester Students’ Union for the action taken by your officers in painting over the “If” poem by Rudyard Kipling  and replacing it with “Still I rise” by Maya Angelou.  We believe the Students’ Union officers should have been consulted over the choice of poem, and that any such public display of poetry should be sensitive to Equality and Diversity Issues and be reflective of our diverse student body.  We further understand that this action has led to thoroughly reprehensible abuse and death threats via social media that we completely deplore.

USS Dispute Latest Update

Consultative ballot result

The result of the members consultation on accepting the latest proposal on ending the dispute from the employers was as follows:

Total balloted: 53,415
Total votes cast: 33,973
Total number valid votes: 33,913
Turnout: 63.5%

Yes to accept the UUK offer 21,683 (64%)
No to reject the UUK offer 12,230 (36%)

In line with the decision of members all current and future industrial action is suspended but the union will keep the legal strike mandate live until the agreement between UCU and UUK is noted by USS.

USS Dispute Update 29th March

As you will have seen from Sally Hunt’s email, the Higher Education Committee have decided to consult with members about the latest proposal regarding the USS dispute.  Her email also contains some background material and further information.  Here I will update on our local survey and discussions, and the meeting of branch delegates I attended in London yesterday.

As we all know from student feedback, the comments from a survey are often as useful as the tick boxes.  In the case of our survey on the proposals there was overlap between the points and questions raised by members, whichever box they ticked (ballot now, don’t ballot at this point or don’t know).  A very similar range of points were also raised by the branch delegates so I’ll go through the points raised, some information from the delegate meeting and some of my own views.

An important point raised in our survey and by delegates is about what happens if the USS board and/or the regulator acts in a way which means it is not possible to proceed with the proposal.  As Sally noted in her email, the regulator has made it clear he sees this as an opportunity to bring all sides together.  She also revealed that the regulator indicated to USS that USS has sufficient contingencies in place.  Finally, UCU and UUK have seven members of the USS trustees between them.  However, we do have to prepare for any eventuality, which is why UCU is going ahead with notifying employers about future strike action.  In our case, this begins with a week of strikes starting 16 April, and further days in May/June aimed at the peak exam-marking time.  We have to be prepared to take action if necessary.

There were many comments (from the survey and other delegates) along the lines “No-one trusts UUK”.  I think we’re right to be cautious, and it doesn’t help when UUK seems to lurch from one position to another.  The best we can do is prevail on the more “friendly” VCs (unfortunately I’m not convinced this includes our own) to keep pressing UUK to act reasonably, and, for example, to make sensible choices of their representatives on the expert panel, if we accept this proposal.

Many concerns were raised about ambiguous wording of aspects of the proposal.  Some of these have been clarified by subsequent statements, but clearly if these are not interpreted in the way we expect them to be we may need to take action in the future – but I think the employers now realise we can and will.  A point raised by the survey was clarification about how we are going to select our members of the expert panel (and this was a point I focussed on at the delegate meeting).  This is a very important point, since it is the members of the panel that will be interpreting the sometimes ambiguous wording.  It is essential therefore, that the members of the panel have the necessary combination of academic and financial expertise, but also share our understanding of what, for example, is meant by terms such as “broadly comparable” (and what isn’t).

There were questions about what happens after April 2019.  There will be a DB scheme running for the next three year cycle (2019-2022), the terms of which will be “broadly comparable” with the current scheme.

Thus there were a significant number of respondents and delegates who wanted more detail, clarification or assurances about elements of the proposal.  A significant minority of respondents to our survey, a significant number of people at the local discussion on Tuesday, and some branches reporting back yesterday, wanted more substantial revision of the wording of the proposal document.

Within our survey, the comments from those who wished us to ballot now (in addition to questions of clarification mentioned already) included that it was important that the membership now had a say on the proposals and a fear we would lose support (from members and others, such as students) if we did not ballot now.

Overall results from our survey that I reported to the delegate meeting (based on the numbers available then): were 638 completed surveys, 57% ballot now, 31% do not ballot at this point and 12% don’t know.

Sally has indicated we will be given supporting information alongside the proposals.  I encourage us all to take a well-earned break over the Easter weekend, and then to carefully consider the information once it comes out next week.

Finally, on a completely different matter, some of you will know that we had support from UNITE members at Fujitsu during our strikes.  They have an ongoing dispute, see  HERE for details and would welcome people joining their protests during their strike days next week (Tuesday to Friday, 7 to 10am).

Yours in solidarity

Gregory Lane-Serff

President, UMUCU

Update, Tuesday 20th March

We have produced a leaflet, HERE which gives an update on the dispute which you can share with staff and students to help explain the current situation.  In addition, UCU gives answers to a number of FAQs on the dispute and related matters here.
 
We will update you on further developments, and plans for future action, later in the week.
 
UMUCU Executive

University strikes remain on as UCU rejects proposals

13 March 2018

University strikes remain on as UCU rejects proposals

UCU has rejected a proposal drawn up at talks between the union and Universities UK (UUK) to end the university pensions strike. UCU representatives from the universities where staff are on strike over plans to cut their pensions met at the union’s headquarters today (Tuesday).

The union is calling for urgent negotiations with the universities’ representatives Universities UK aimed at resolving the dispute. The union said the strikes and action short of a strike remain on, and it would now make detailed preparations for strikes over the assessment and exam period.

Last week the union said that universities would be hit with a second wave of 14 strike days targeted at exams and assessment if the dispute was not resolved.

UCU general secretary Sally Hunt said: ‘Branches made it clear today that they wanted to reject the proposal. UCU’s greatest strength is that we are run by and for our members and it is right that members always have the final say.

‘The strike action for this week remains on and we will now make detailed preparations for strikes over the assessment and exam period. We want urgent talks with the universities’ representatives to try and find a way to get this dispute resolved.’

Make Monday MASSIVE!

UUK and UCU are meeting with ACAS tomorrow. UUK would never have agreed to this if we had not gone on strike but we must now send a loud and message to our own university leadership and UUK’s negotiators that industrial action is not going to fizzle out just because they have – extremely reluctantly – come back to the table.

Therefore, let us Make Monday MASSIVE! Everybody out. Everybody picket.

We have written again to the President & Vice-Chancellor – see here – pointing out that, contrary to her claims in the video released on Wednesday, UCU has tabled proposals that are both affordable in the short-term and sustainable in the long-term.

Even the Provost & President of University College London, Prof. Michael Arthur, whose Director of Finance is UUK’s lead negotiator on the USS Joint Negotiating Committee, came out saying he ‎is willing to increase contributions in order to maintain defined benefit pensions, adding that he’s been talking with staff on picket lines and saying “we are one community”. How different from the University of Manchester!

https://uclnews.org.uk/UAA-5HNM1-383YPC6G32/cr.aspx

Therefore, our focus tomorrow will be on how the University of Manchester and other hard-line employers are looking increasingly isolated – see this new leaflet.

If you can, please also stay after picketing  and participate in the Teach-In in the Student Union building. The programme is shaping up and will likely include sessions on the University’s finances and governance, precarious employment and low pay, marketisation of HE, and “Hashtag Rothbot”.

See you tomorrow and let’s Make Monday MASSIVE!

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

UMUCU correspondence with President and Director of HR

UMUCU correspondence with President and Director of HR

USS meeting for ALL STAFF (non-union members) please notify your colleagues – Monday 19th February

Just a quick reminder about our meeting for ALL STAFF, including non-union members on Monday 19th February.
We are aware that non-members are currently getting a one-sided account from management and we would like to provide more balanced information.  If you know colleagues who aren’t UCU members, but would be interested in getting a more complete picture, please encourage them to come along.
Please feel free to copy and paste the following invitation and pass it on to your non-union colleagues, either individually or if you can, via staff lists.
Best wishes
UMUCU Executive Committee
 
 
 
 
 
Dear Colleague
 
As you will no doubt be aware, University and College Union will be taking strike action as a result of the detrimental changes to our USS pension scheme.  The local branch has arranged a meeting on Monday 19th February, 1-2pm in lecture theatre 2, Crawford House to outline the issues and the concerns that UCU have in relation to the position taken by the employers.  
 
UCU are encouraging ALL STAFF (especially non-union members) to attend in order to gain a more balanced view of the changes to our pension scheme.
 
Further information can be also be found at https://www.ucu.org.uk/strikeforuss