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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!

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

USS Strikes – latest update

We had a very well attended EGM last week, with members clearly angry at the attack on their pensions and willing to take serious action to defend our scheme and bring the management back to meaningful negotiations.  Details of planned action and events before and during the strikes was given at the meeting, but further ideas are welcome (  If you want to get more involved, there is a Local Contacts meeting on Thursday 15th February at 12.30-1.30pm in Academy 3, in the Students Union.
Our industrial action needs to make a significant impact, but we realise this will have bigger effects on some than others.  At the EGM members supported a motion to set up a local strike fund, to complement the national fund.  This will, for example, allow us to support members in the early days of the strike before the national scheme kicks in, especially those such as GTAs for whom the loss in pay may be a significant proportion of their income.  We’ve already had contact from some retired members, now receiving a good pension, who want to donate to the fund.  Details on how to donate coming soon.
Following suggestions from some of our members we’re running an Information Meeting on USS aimed at non-members.  We’re aware that non-members are currently getting a one-sided account from management and want to provide more balanced information.  If you know people who aren’t UCU members but would be interested in getting a more complete picture, please encourage them to come along: Monday 19th February, 1-2pm, lecture theatre 2, Crawford House.
Further support from local politicians: Lucy Powell (MP for Manchester Central) has pulled out of a lecture she was due to give on one of the strike days further details can be found HERE
In contrast to the prompt responses we’ve had from local politicians to our communications, the Vice Chancellor has yet to respond to a LETTER we wrote two weeks ago.
Finally, Senate elections.  Academic and research staff in all Faculties currently have a chance to vote for elected representatives on Senate. Please use your vote. Senate is the supreme academic authority within the University, and two-thirds of its members are elected. It is vital that your representatives on Senate are independent-minded people who are prepared to challenge the senior leadership team when necessary, and speak up for principles of collegiality and good governance. Note that all candidates for Senate have to opportunity to submit a “biography” – please support those candidates who have a declared interest in promoting the role of Senate as the leading academic body of the University.

USS strikes update

Dear Colleague
UCU representatives from the Manchester area had a constructive meeting with Andy Burnham, the Mayor of Greater Manchester, on Tuesday.  He is concerned about the impact 14 days of strikes at Salford and Manchester (both major employers with over 50,000 students between them) on the city region. He offered to write to the Universities Minister about the USS dispute and assured UCU that he would not undertake any engagements at Manchester and Salford Universities whilst UCU members are on strike.
There will be a UMUCU branch Emergency Meeting on Wednesday 7 February, 1.15 – 2.15pm lecture theatre C, Simon Building  to give you further information about the progress of the dispute and information about the industrial action.
No-one wants to take strike action, especially on the scale we will be embarking on in this dispute, but the attack on our lifetime income is unprecedented: a loss of over £200k for a lecturer near the start of their career.  It is this we need to set against any short-term losses from taking strike action, and it is why we need to take substantial action, beyond our more usual one or two days of action, to have a significant impact on our employers and make them think again.
UMUCU Executive

Suspension of M2020 working to contract

We hope you have returned from the holiday period feeling rejuvenated and wish you all the best for 2018 – especially since, as we move from one year to the next, it looks as though we will also be moving from one dispute with our employer over M2020 redundancies to another over USS.


Suspension of M2020 working to contract

But there is good news. In particular, as you know, our forthright opposition to compulsory redundancies forced management to back down; just one week after our two-day strike, it was announced that no academics would be made redundant.

Before the Christmas break one UCU PSS member of staff remained at risk so we could not call off industrial action entirely. However, our Regional Official has now written to Nancy Rothwell saying that we are as of today suspending action short of a strike (ASOS) on the understanding this member will soon be redeployed. The member concerned agrees with this and we are confident we can suspend ASOS since an organisation with 3000 PSS staff should have no difficulty finding a suitable role for one person. (The letter also makes it clear that, if our colleague has not been redeployed by February 28th, we will take it as evidence of a lack of goodwill and consider notifying further industrial action, but we sincerely hope this will not be necessary.)

Sally Hunt, the UCU General Secretary, has sent us this message: “This is a significant outcome that should make it clear to other universities and vice-chancellors that UCU will vigorously oppose compulsory redundancies throughout the university sector. University of Manchester UCU members should be proud of the campaign they ran and the strong action they took that led to the university rowing back on its plans just a week after their strikes. We would also like to thank shadow education secretary and Ashton-under-Lyne MP Angela Rayner for her support. We are suspending our action in good faith until the end of February and hope the university will now sit down with us to deal with this one outstanding issue.”

This, therefore, represents the end of last year’s campaign to protect jobs. We thank every single member of UMUCU for their support and contribution to this success, which proves the relevance of trade unions as the only real protection employees have when faced with out-of-touch senior managers who know the price of everything but the value of nothing and who fail to understand the difference between management and leadership.

UCU Press Release

USS negotiations

Talks about will be taking place this and next week between UCU with the Universities UK, whose consultation with employers is due to end this Friday. It is vitally important that we give the UCU negotiators the strongest possible backing; if the University of Manchester turnout is less than 50%, the UMUCU branch will not be able to join any national action to defend pensions.

Therefore, if you have not done so already, PLEASE vote YES to take industrial action to defend your defined benefit USS pension. The ballot closes on January 19th. If you have not received or have lost your ballot paper, please order a new one here: USS Don’t miss your chance to vote(though please check your pigeonhole, home, bag, litter bin, first).



With best wishes for 2018,

Support from Shadow Secretary of State for Education Angela Rayner MP

Angela Rayner’s message of support: ‘I would like to express my solidarity and support to members of UCU at the University of Manchester, who are to go on strike on Monday and Tuesday of next week. This is a concerning case, given the fact that UCU members feel as if management have not been clear, or provided any convincing rationale for job losses.

‘The university has also claimed that it needs to create ‘financial headroom’ in light of an uncertain climate for universities. This is not a convincing argument when it recorded a £36m surplus last year, and is also sitting on £1.5bn of reserves.

‘I hope that management will get their house in order and give the UCU workers the respect they deserve.’

The ballot result is in…

86.7% vote in favour of strike action and 93.1% in favour of taking action short of a strike
 This is a tremendous show of the strength of opposition to the Senior Leadership Team’s unwarranted and unnecessary proposals to make staff compulsorily redundant – which are being discussed THIS AFTERNOON by the Board of Governors. The current SLT, HR and Board of Governors have undeniably lost the confidence of a very large section of academic, academic-related and senior PSS staff.
UMUCU Executive Committee