Text of email sent to all members 25 February 2019 by branch president Vicky Blake
In this email:
· 2 important updates: ballot result and General Secretary resignation
· Your feedback for future UCU strategy
· Reminder of very important UCU General Meeting (13 March) +
motions deadline (5 March)
INCLUDING call for Congress delegates + motions!
· Thank you Leeds UCU
We received [news] on Friday that the UCU UK-wide aggregated ballot of higher education members came out strongly in favour of taking action and action short of strike (ASOS), but that this result has again been stymied by anti-democratic, anti-trade union laws. We are very disappointed that we are unable to take action at the UK-level at this time, but we are also very determined to make progress in our local work over our formal Anti-Casualisation claim for which negotiations will begin in March, over the gender pay gap claim we’re already pursuing, and on joint-unions work to address workload at Leeds.
The Trade Union Act 2016 requires all ballots over industrial action to reach 50% turnout, which is a greater restriction than is placed on turnout for the election of politicians who make these decisions. Prior to 2016, we would have gone back into UK level negotiations over Casualisation, Equal Pay, Fair Pay, and Workload with a much stronger hand, because our employers’ representatives would have known UCU was preparing for action.
We have also received word this morning that Sally Hunt, UCU’s General Secretary, has stood down owing to long term ill health. I hope that members will join Leeds UCU committee in wishing Sally well at this juncture. There will be an emergency NEC meeting this Friday (1 March) from which I will report back as soon as possible. The NEC will be tasked with making decisions about the timing and format of the next General Secretary election. Particularly of note here is that the UCU Democracy Commission was tasked with (among many other areas for democratic review) looking at the role of GS and associated terms, in order to make recommendations at UCU Congress, which is Congress’s sovereign policy-making body. At this point I do not know whether NEC will be asked to consider arranging the election for a new GS before, or after the date of UCU Congress. I would be very grateful of any views you may have on this matter and invite you all to email me about this (please use header “NEC feedback” or similar, so I spot it more easily!)
Your feedback for future UCU strategy:
We have now been balloted twice over the 2018/19 pay and pay related matters claim. The first time it was conducted on a disaggregated basis, where every branch was balloted individually over whether we would take action on the claim UCU negotiates on at a national level with our employers’ representative body (UCEA). The second, most recent ballot was conducted on an aggregated basis wherein all members were balloted together as a larger group – this follows the decision of the special Higher Education Sector Conference on 7 November. Results for both the ballots were very similar, with a high proportion in favour of taking strike action and action short of a strike to pursue our claim. The overall turnout was also very similar for both: just shy of 41% in the most recent ballot, and just shy of 42% in the Autumn.
There has already been a lot of informal discussion about our ballot disappointment. The reasons for not breaking 50% turnout are multifactorial, and need to be examined closely to inform future strategy. We should expect to see evidence-based planning for future rounds of negotiation, and this is an issue I continue to raise at meetings of the national executive (NEC) and Higher Education Committee (HEC). As the email we received from HQ on Friday noted, we need ‘reflection’ on what the result tells us. But any attempt to reflect and learn will be meaningless unless we do so with members’ input and help.
After the first ballot, we wrote to members to ask that people who
did not vote let us know why (anonymously unless you wished to be identified).
This gave us incredibly helpful feedback for shaping how we communicated about
the subsequent ballot, and we would like to ask for your input again through a
similar survey — but please do email us your views and importantly,
bring them to the General Meeting so we can discuss them together! We will also
be sharing our survey template with the UCU Branch Solidarity Network, to try
to coordinate similar feedback gathering at other branches.
General Meeting Reminder: Wednesday 13 March 12pm, Roger Stevens lecture theatre 11
See call for motions [here]
Our next general meeting on 13 March is where we will decide which motions our branch will propose to the 2019 UCU Congress, and who we would like to send to Congress as branch delegates (we have had to roll this election over from a previous meeting where we did not quite make quorum).
UCU is a democratic union. We make our local policies together through branch-level general meetings, and our national policy is decided at UCU annual Congress. If you would like to submit:
· Motions you’d like to see become local policy and direct local campaigning
· Motions you’d like to ask the branch to send to Congress so we can put them to the vote for UK-wide policy
… you need to submit them by our local deadline of 12 noon Tuesday 5 March. Please send motions to email@example.com. Any member can write a motion – if you want help in phrasing it, it can be good to talk to a union rep, or to have a look at motions from a previous Congress (PDF).
If you would like to put yourself forward as one of Leeds UCU’s 5 Congress delegates, please let us know by12 noon on Tuesday 12 March, as we will hold the election at the meeting on 13 March at the General Meeting. If you would like to put yourself forward or have questions about the role, please firstname.lastname@example.org.
Thank you Leeds UCU
We have some huge thank yous: thank you to everyone who voted in the ballot. Thank you to everyone who made sure they discussed the ballot with others and encouraged members to all have their say. And a very, very big thank you to all our reps and activists who poured their energies into the ballot to try to make sure that everyone knew there was a vote, and why it matters so much that we build a culture of always voting in these ballots.
We know that a huge amount of work went into getting the vote out (“GTVO”) at Leeds, and given we missed the 50% barrier here in the previous disaggregated ballot last time by only 15 votes, we have good reason to hope and believe that we might have achieved higher than 50% turnout locally, given the better timing of the latest ballot in term-time and the elevated levels of GTVO activity.
Have your say!
There is a lot going on — and we hope to see lots of you at our upcoming General Meeting to discuss it! In the meantime please don’t forget to post your votes in the current [UCU election] for national officers and the NEC – the envelopes are pre-paid 2nd class so to be ultra-safe, make sure you get your vote in the post tomorrow – if you wait til Wednesday you might want to add your own stamp!
Vicky and Committee