Additional local information
Local strike information (text of email to members 19 November 2019)
Local strike information (text of email to members 19 November 2019)
Text from branch president Ben Plumpton’s email to members 19th November
Our strikes are coming up, starting next week – Monday 25th November to Wednesday 4th December. You will have received an email yesterday from the HR Director setting out our management’s plans for deductions. The tone of this letter will have been read, understandably, by many of you as threatening, which is a sign that across the UK university managements are worried – they saw how solid and steadfast our USS strikes were last year, and that we won the fight to keep defined benefit pensions. The employer bodies are hoping we can’t do it again. Don’t let them frighten you – we are strong and we can definitely do it again! We need to take this action to put a stop to ever-increasing casualisation and impossible workloads, to improve pay equality, and to stop the increase in pension contributions.
We know striking is hard. No-one wants to strike, no-one wants to harm education and research. But if everyone takes strike action, the strike is more effective and employers are forced to negotiate sooner and better. If we don’t do this, things will get worse, our health will suffer, research will suffer and students will suffer. We know that Leeds members recognised this because you voted so strongly in favour of industrial action. Now is the time to stand together.
How to strike
Action short of a strike (ASOS)
We start ASOS technically from 25th November but effectively from our first day back after the strikes, i.e. Thursday 5th December. This involves:
Yesterday’s email containing letters from Francesca Fowler and Tom Ward talks about the recovery of missed learning after the strike period. Please note that this does not refer to missed teaching; you should not reschedule or otherwise recover missed teaching. We are pleased to see that, unlike in 2018, the University is not threatening to deduct pay for staff who refuse to reschedule teaching. However, they are still threatening to deduct pay for ‘partial performance’. We will be providing you with further guidance about this soon, but in the meantime please refer to UCU FAQ on industrial action and the UCU FAQ on working to contract.
We note that after the 2018 USS strikes, similar threats of deducting pay for ASOS were quietly dropped – to our knowledge no-one at Leeds had pay deducted for ASOS. This was the case more generally across HE – university managements backed down as a result of the strength of our action, in order to avoid reputational damage, and to avoid further deterioration in working relationships.
For those who have marking coming in between now and the end of term, please note in particular the advice on marking within the UCU working to contract FAQ. If, after having taken strike action and working to contract following UCU guidelines, you are unable to complete your marking by the deadlines set, you should let your Head of School know. This is true in all cases, but doubly so if your marking time is reduced by the failings of Minerva or the December Minerva downtime.
Working to contract is an essential part of the overall action which we are taking. It ensures that you cannot be required to make up the hours lost to strike action, because your absolute maximum working time should be the legal maximum of 48 hours per week (it’s worth knowing, however, that the university calculates sick and holiday pay on the assumption that you work 37.5 hours per week). Please take seriously the advice in the FAQ to refer matters to your line manager/Head of School – this is the best way of making the impact of the work to contract visible. If you have any concerns about how your line manager responds to you, get in touch with email@example.com. If you are a line manager, please escalate every concern raised with you to senior management, work to contract yourself (don’t cover for other staff) and let staff know that you support and respect the work to contract action.
‘Striking Insights’ Teach Outs
As last year, we are organising an exciting programme of alternative lectures and seminars, open to all, offered by strikers so that students can have some brilliant educational opportunities on topics they might not normally come across. We will email you with more details shortly. If you’d like to offer a session please email firstname.lastname@example.org
We are receiving a lot of emails with various questions about the strike action, ASOS and deductions. Please bear with us if it takes a while for us to reply personally. In the meantime please check the UCU FAQs at www.ucu.org.uk/heaction which have been compiled incorporating legal advice.
I found standing on a picket lines last year was an amazing experience. I had many memorable conversations with colleagues and students, I learned lots at the teach outs, we had fun singing and dancing. The solidarity felt tangible. It renewed my faith in what a wonderful group of people UCU members are and how much you care about education and making a better world.
Let’s support each other, stand strong together, and win these disputes!
See you soon,
Ben & the committee
University of Leeds UCU President
Text from branch treasurer Jonathan Saha’s email to members
With increased pension contributions, a below-inflation pay offer, systemic pay inequality, rampant casualisation, and escalating workloads, our current disputes are vital in our fight to preserve the value of our labour and to defend the rights of all staff employed the higher education sector. Strike action has become necessary to win significant improvements in pay, conditions and the security of employment, as well as to save our pensions.
The impact of taking strike action is not equally felt by all members, and some may be hit hard by withdrawing their labour. For staff who are paid a monthly salary this impact will not be felt until the new year, as University of Leeds senior management have confirmed that pay deductions for the 8 days planned strike action will come out in January. For hourly paid staff, the impact may be more immediate. At the last meeting of Senate, members of the UCU successfully spearheaded a motion calling on senior management to spread deductions over a number of months. We urge them to comply with Senate’s decision. You will be deducted a day’s pay for every day you strike, calculated at 1/365 of your annual salary for full time staff, and pro rata for part time staff. If you are hourly paid you lose the payment for the hours you don’t work. Senior management are also threatening to make punitive deductions for “partial performance”, which could amount to double-docking salary as staff would be deducted first for striking and then again for not rescheduling the disrupted work.
For those facing financial vulnerability due to pay deductions, the union can provide the following support:
For those of you who are able to, you can donate to the UK-wide Fighting Fund here: https://www.ucu.org.uk/fightingfund. Donations to the Local Hardship Fund can be made by direct bank transfer to: UCU Leeds LA29 (Hardship Fund), Unity Trust Bank, Account Number: 20391511, Sort Code: 60-83-01. The local branch will also be organising fundraising events – watch this space! – and if you would like to organise something yourself or ask an organisation you are part of for a donation, that would be very welcome.
This support will materially mitigate the impact of taking strike action for financially precarious members, and through this strengthen our collective resolve.
Treasurer Leeds UCU
Text from branch president Ben Plumpton’s email to members
Unless negotiations are successful in the meantime, Leeds UCU will be on strike with 59 other branches for 8 days from Monday 25th November to Wednesday 4th December inclusive, after the impressive results of our ballots on the two disputes: Four Fights (casualisation, workloads, equality and pay) and USS pensions. We will be on strike in both disputes at the same time. Action short of a strike will begin from 25th November and will be ongoing. Our employer has been notified.
What we are asking you to do
This is very serious. We ask each and every UCU member to walk out together on the strike dates. It is with good reasons that we have decided, collectively, to take this action, and that you voted so decisively at Leeds to do so. All UCU members who work for the University of Leeds can take strike action, however long you’ve been a member, however you voted in the ballots, whatever type of contract you are on, and whether or not you have completed probation. If you have concerns about your particular situation, for example over clinical or similar issues, please get in touch with email@example.com Remember that you do not need to tell anyone in advance whether you will be taking strike action.
We hope that the employers (represented by Universities UK for pensions, and by UCEA for the Four Fights) will decide they need to avoid significant disruption and will agree to come back to the negotiating table ready to work constructively with the union. Your union will keep you informed of any progress. But it’s likely that it will take concerted and determined strike action to help them to see sense.
Preparing for the strikes
We are asking you to help build for the strike. We’ve done it before, incredibly successfully for the USS strikes last year, and with your help we can do even better this time. There are lots of things you can do – putting up posters, making placards, writing picket songs, offering Teach Out sessions on the strike days and much more. Please volunteer, and send any other ideas, to firstname.lastname@example.org. Nearer the time we will be asking you to sign up for picket line duty on specific days, and to join marches and rallies. And of course, we always need people to support the strike on social media, by talking to colleagues, or by contributing to the traditional picket line cake mountain…
We have met with officers of Leeds University Union to explain about the disputes. It’s important that students understand why we are striking, so we’d encourage lecturers and any other members who have contact with students to let them know what’s going on and why. Many staff have found that the personal touch makes a real difference in communicating with students: if you feel able to and have the opportunity, it would be great if you could explain to them why you personally think this strike is so important. Some example slides are here – feel free to adapt or produce your own. And perhaps encourage students to follow us on Twitter (@leedsucu) for latest news. Don’t forget that the National Union of Students supports us in these disputes, see https://list.mercury.ucu.org.uk/t/92335/43921/9084/1/
Other trade unions
The other campus trade unions (Unison and Unite) also balloted on the casualisation, workloads, equality and pay disputes but unfortunately were not able to beat the 50% turnout threshold. They are very supportive of our action.
We know that striking can be financially challenging for members on low incomes or on insecure and casualised contracts. UCU has increased financial support to members from the national Fighting Fund, see https://ucu.org.uk/article/10333/Strike-fund-support. We also have a local Hardship Fund which can top up national support, and we will be asking members on secure contracts and higher incomes to contribute to these funds to help their colleagues. If you’re concerned about your finances, look out for a detailed update about union financial support, and then get in touch with any questions so we can discuss how we can help you. We hope that nobody will be deterred from taking part in the strikes.
We know that it can be hard for migrant members, who face the ‘hostile environment’ and many problems over visas and more, to join industrial action. It helps that the Home Office has updated its guidelines to specify that striking doesn’t count as unauthorised absence for visa (Tier 2) purposes, via an exception to the rule on absences from employment without pay. Details at https://www.gov.uk/guidance/immigration-rules/immigration-rules-part-9-grounds-for-refusal#pt9variation Your union will support migrant members in every way we can, look out for more news about this.
Keep in touch
UCU will be building up an FAQ about the strikes, so if you have specific questions please get in touch with email@example.com and we will find the answers and get them added to the FAQ. Keep an eye on www.leedsucu.org.uk and https://twitter.com/leedsucu for latest news.
No one takes striking lightly. We would much rather get on with our jobs. But if we are to defend our futures, and that of decent higher education, we must take action, together. It’s been great to hear already from our reps and many members how angry people are about these issues and how the support for the strikes is building. Thank you.
PS EGM today
Remember we have an Extraordinary General Meeting today (Thursday 7th November) to discuss union democracy, followed by a discussion about the industrial action. Please come: 1 – 2 pm in Roger Stevens LT 16 (12.16.See directions and accessibility info).
Ben and the Committee
Results were announced on 31st October for our two industrial action ballots. Leeds turnout was just over 60% for both, which means we beat the 50% threshold imposed by the Tory anti-trade-union legislation. That’s brilliant, thank you to everyone who voted. As always it’s vital that you have your democratic say in union decision making.
The results for Leeds are as follows:
Four Fights dispute (casualisation, workload, equality and pay)
USS pensions dispute
This gives our branch a mandate to take industrial action on both disputes. Thank you for supporting the recommendation of your branch officers and committee, and the General Secretary!
The turnout in some branches didn’t quite make the 50%, which means that some branches will be able to take action and some won’t. We expect that some branches who were close to the 50% will re-ballot. Across the UK, 79% of UCU members who voted backed strike action in the ballot over changes to pensions, and 74% of members polled backed strike action on the Four Fights dispute. Around 60 branches will be able to take action on one or both of the two disputes (post 92 universities are not in the USS pension scheme so those branches did not ballot on USS).
It’s clear that our members feel strongly about these two disputes, and that will strengthen the hand (and heart) of our negotiators as they work their socks off trying to get the best outcomes for us. We hope that the strength of the votes across the UK will bring the employer bodies back to the negotiating table, ready to work constructively with the union to resolve the disputes.
Watch out for details, coming soon, about industrial action. The earliest we can start any strikes is the week beginning Monday 18th November, because trade union law means that unions have to give two weeks notice of any action.