This post reproduces the email sent to all members Friday 2 March by branch president Vicky Blake.
Strike Up Your Life going VIRAL!
Before you do anything else, watch our branch’s (increasingly viral!) music video for “Strike Up Your Life”(fourteen days: hold tight!) to remind yourselves how amazing you all are. At the time of writing it had 5,756 views on [Facebook] and a further 1,441 on [Youtube], plus more on our [website]. It went up yesterday morning! Give it another share among your friends and family!
In this email:
- #StandFirm: Making our strikes massive again from Monday!
- Be heard: meetings including for feedback into national decision making (+updates)
- ASOS: make sure you’re clear on what it means + how we support members on this
- Pensions: contributions + reassurance re “death + incapacity” benefits
Be heard: member meetings
The Higher Education Committee (HEC) meeting that was due to happen today was called off because dangerous snow + ice meant considerable numbers could not make it – it was considered that to go ahead with reduced numbers would be unrepresentative and undemocratic so it has been rearranged for Thursday 8 March. However the Branch Briefing went ahead yesterday, and Lesley and I covered it between us (after a ridiculously early start to get there in Snowmageddon). It was a very positive meeting which really reinforced that we have made the significant progress we have due to the strength of our strike action, which we need to maintain and build, and reinforce with our Action Short Of Strike (ASOS) – more on that below.
Given the above we have decided to call two meetings:
Members’ Discussion Meeting: Wednesday 7 March 12 noon (Quaker Meeting House)
This meeting is to give members room to discuss ideas and ask questions, and to feed into what Lesley and Vicky take forwards to HEC on 9 March as branch feedback.
EGM: Tuesday 13 March 12 noon (Quaker Meeting House)
This is a formal meeting of members which means we will be able to finalise motions we send as a branch to Congress (UCU’s annual policy-making forum) and to allow members to bring local motions or other input in response to any developments in the dispute, following a report back from the 8 March HEC.
Our University’s management looks increasingly isolated in its threat to dock 25% pay for every day staff refuse to reschedule classes lost to strike action, having already docked those days’ pay. It has been widely noted that in the letter from the Directorof HR on 15 February, reference was made to a “voluntary & ex-gratia” payment of 75% for full days worked by members who observe UCU’s ASOS by not rescheduling teaching activity. We have opposed this by writing to the Vice Chancellor and senior management, and appeal to all members to spread the word by social media.
Remember: we confirmed our branch commitment to extend the local Hardship Fund to assist any member for whom ASOS deductions mean they will struggle financially. Yesterday we had confirmation that the national Fighting Fund will do the same.
Some members have been expressing confusion, which is in part due to the way the HR letter is worded but also due to incomprehension that the University could be acting this way. Key points are covered here – please [click] and read!
What to do:
- Social media:
- Share our open letter on social media and with family and friends
- Ask people to write to the Vice Chancellor and tweet the University (@UniversityLeeds) copying us in (@leedsucu) with links to the open letter, expressing disgust.
- The above may be particularly effective if coming from University of Leeds alumni and/or potential students / family of potential students.
- Are you a Head of Department or similar?
Are you willing to speak up about the impracticality and unfairness of insisting teaching be rearranged, noting we have set out objections along these lines in our open letter? Please add your voice to this issue.
Pension contributions during strikes
Question: Will death / incapacity benefits be paid if it happens when someone is on strike?
YES. Don’t worry about this one. Benefits from a pension should anyone die or become incapacitated during a strike action will still be made, even if death or incapacity happens on a strike day – regardless of whether contributions were being made during that period of strike action. This has been confirmed by USS themselves, by UCU’s pensions officer, and by senior HR. Prior to this strike, this position was less clear from USS, but now we have confirmation.
Question: What about my contributions during the strike? What’s going on with the deadline that has passed?
Pension contributions are made both from the individual employee and the employer. Some universities continue to make employer contributions during strike action. The University of Leeds has chosen to stop making pension contributions for members who take strike action, for the duration of the strike. They included an option for members to make their own side of the contributions *if* they pre-registered that they would take strike action. We have strongly appealed this decision, not least because it represents an inducement from the University to undermine the strength of the action. This is one of a number of ways the University sought to encourage members to pre-warn them of strike action.
The overall ‘loss’ from your pension as a result of contribution not being made during a strike isminimal, and should be seen in the context of the much larger losses we are taking action to oppose. However, we have continued to press management to reconsider, on the grounds that offering inducements to pre-report seems rather unethical; that membersmay not have known whether the strike might be called off before the University’s deadline; and that some members have joined UCU / joined the strike midway through the action.
Check out the specific entry in the UCU FAQ [here], noting the above assurance that death in service / incapacity benefits will be honoured by USS even if it happens during a strike period.
Together we are strong
Remember this daily. This strike action has brought out incredible solidarity and promoted important conversations between members that might not normally meet, and almost certainly would have struggled to have time for given our typical workloads. Dialogue with students has also been uplifting and refreshing. We are making a big impact – news of our strike action has gone worldwide. We are part of an important defence of workers’ terms and conditions and of the right of everyone to enjoy a decent quality of life in retirement. Whether you have been out before or if this will be your first time, check in at the pink gazebo next to Parkinson steps:
See you on the picket lines!
Vicky and the Committee