You’ll have seen from your email on Monday from the UCU general secretary Jo Grady that UCU have announced 14 more days strike action during February and March. Our negotiating team and elected Higher Education Committee think that, despite some real progress in the negotiations, the employers are holding back and are not taking the concerns of staff seriously enough. Leeds University UCU is therefore called to strike on these dates in pursuit of two legally distinct disputes: USS, and #FourFights (see: https://www.ucu.org.uk/article/10621/UCU-announces-14-strike-days-at-74-UK-universities-in-February-and-March )
The dates are:
- Week one – Thursday 20 & Friday 21 February
- Week two – Monday 24, Tuesday 25 & Wednesday 26 February
- Week three – Monday 2, Tuesday 3, Wednesday 4 & Thursday 5 March
- Week four – Monday 9, Tuesday 10, Wednesday 11, Thursday 12 & Friday 13 March
This is such a crucial moment for higher education in the UK, and every member is needed to make this action successful. Employers have moved a bit in negotiations as a result of our actions so far. We need them to move further, and to put decent, trustworthy offers on the table to resolve these disputes. We know some VCs are already shifting. We need to increase the pressure we exert – and this is where hard-hitting, escalating strike action comes in. UCU has campaigned relentlessly, lobbied, and carefully explained all these issues. That we have been forced to take industrial action to shake our employers awake pours shame upon them. More details on the two disputes below. Note also that the employers’ bodies have two weeks to come up with better offers before the strikes start, and there are deliberate pauses during the strike period for that purpose too.
To have everyone supporting the actions will make a huge difference to their effectiveness. Remember, the union has financial support if the strike deductions cause you hardship.
Together we are strong, and together we can win.
General Secretary Facebook Live Q&A: Thursday 13th February 1- 2pm. If you have questions about the disputes or negotiations, you can ask Jo Grady direct and listen to the questions from others. The live stream will be available on the UCU Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/ucu.campaigns/ and it will continue to be available for viewing after the session has ended. You don’t need a Facebook account to view it. Questions can be submitted via Facebook or to this email address, either in advance or during the session.
The union’s Higher Education Committee (HEC) has called a series of branch briefings across the UK, starting next week, and Leeds will be sending delegates who will report back to the branch. We’re organising local meetings before and after this:
- Action Group: Tuesday,
11th February, 1-2 pm, Baines Wing G03
Get involved with planning for the strikes. There will also be further placard-making sessions and chances to get creative!
- Members meeting Tuesday
18th February 12 noon – 1 pm, Roger Stevens LT16
Not a formal meeting with motions but a chance to discuss the disputes. There will be updates from the branch briefings and from national negotiations, a report from the Higher Education Committee meeting (14th February), and plenty of opportunity for discussion.
- Branch General Meeting Monday 2nd
March 12 noon – 1 pm (previously announced, but venue TBC
as it’s a strike day)
To discuss the progress of the disputes, motions to UCU Congress, and any other issues members wish to raise (see http://www.leedsucu.org.uk/general-meetings-2019-2020/ for our year’s schedule of general meetings)
(you don’t have to do every day – it’s important we look after ourselves! – but it would be great to have every member doing some picketing).
Also, please start thinking about any sessions you might like to offer as part of our Teach Outs providing alternative learning for students.
Why we are striking – the two disputes
Our negotiators have pushed UCEA from the language of ‘recommendation’ into ‘expectation’, which represents a foundation for the development of UK wide bargaining on workload, casualisation and equality. This is significant and new, but UCEA’s offer needs to go further, and it needs to include agreement on a mechanism of implementation or oversight. We also need to see movement on pay. See the detailed statement from the UCU negotiating team about the UCEA offer at https://ucufourfights.com/2020/01/29/27janofferresponse/
UCU is in twin track talks to address both the current dispute with Universities UK over the USS pension scheme, which centres on the hike in contribution rates we pay, and to address the underlying issues (focusing largely on valuation methodology and governance) which have resulted in multiple disputes over this scheme. To resolve the dispute, we need employers to recognise that the recent hike of member contributions to 9.6%, with a likelihood that they will go up to 11% from 2021, is itself a huge risk to the scheme as lower paid and insecurely employed members increasingly opt out altogether. See the UCU counter offer at https://www.ucu.org.uk/article/10231/UCU-counter-proposals?list=9041
We hope that ongoing discussions following the second report of the Joint Expert Panel will make good progress on future valuation and governance, but our immediate concern in this dispute is to reverse the increases to our contribution rates.
One action you can take right now! ASOS (Action Short of Strike)
We’ve made some great local posters to make our ASOS more visible – your local UCU rep will have lots, so if you haven’t already got one, ask your rep for one and put it on your door/by your desk. Also don’t forget we’re collecting examples of activities that have not taken place and requests for voluntary work which have been refused as a result of members doing ASOS. Please fill the short form here
recording each activity as a separate incident. This is completely anonymous and we will use the information to demonstrate how much the University relies on goodwill, voluntary labour and overtime. Remember our local ASOS guidance is here: http://www.leedsucu.org.uk/asos-guidance-from-leeds-ucu/ and the national FAQ here: http://www.ucu.org.uk/he-action-faqs
Over to the employers
Senior leaders – including our own – must now mandate their representative bodies to make meaningful offers to resolve both disputes, in terms that we can trust will hold. Armed with the most impressive ballot results UCU has ever achieved, with members in 74 universities (after some re-ballots) able to strike across two disputes, now is the moment to stand up for higher education.
Don’t forget! If strike deductions
from November/December are causing you hardship, you can apply to the national
Fighting Fund and our local Hardship Fund – details of how to apply are at http://www.leedsucu.org.uk/hardship-applications-and-surgeries/
Let us know if there are any problems with your pay deduction – we’ve heard of various errors happening at other universities.