We are all with you in solidarity as you strike today to defend jobs and to defend each other. Stand firm!
You have much to be proud of! Not only have members at Queen Margaret University refused to take any threat of staff cuts lying down, you have also smashed the anti-trade union act 2016’s threshold barrier with 72% turnout! May your pickets be massive, fun, and enlightening for all around you!
In contrast, Queen Margaret’s senior management should hang their heads in shame. That management prefer to terrorise staff with the threat of the axe rather than to properly explore alternatives with UCU negotiators is a disgrace.
The proposed cuts would steal livelihoods and intensify workload pressure on staff who remain in post. Your local strike is all our fight. Nobody strikes lightly, so as you stand together for jobs, for education, and for decency and hope: know that we are with you.
Vicky Blake (President) on behalf of us all at Leeds UCU
It will either be at your home address or at work, depending
on which address you chose when you completed your UCU registration or updated
your membership record on MyUCU. Log in
to MyUCU to check and or/update this at www.ucu.org.uk/myucu
You should have received an email from Matt Waddup, UCU Head
Office, on 21st January entitled “Lost ballot paper? Order a replacement”. This
contains a personalised link to request a replacement ballot paper. Or you can fill in the form at https://yoursay.ucu.org.uk/s3/HEballot
We have no choice – voting on paper is a legal
requirement. The Trade Union Act
2016 specifically and deliberately outlawed online voting in industrial
disputes, at the same time as requiring a 50% turnout.
A considerable reduction in the use of
Reducing gender pay inequality
Reducing workloads and work-related stress
Achieving a pay rise that makes up for the
real-terms loss of pay since 2009. The 2% we were offered (and which has been
imposed) doesn’t even cover one year’s inflation.
The employers have offered nothing at all on the first three
points. The unions have been pushing for
progress on these areas for years, without any meaningful progress. ‘Talks’ get nowhere without action to push
the employers to make genuine improvements.
It’s simple – we’re just asking for UUK to properly
negotiate with us around workload, equality and casualisation, as well as
pay. All of the issues are interlinked,
which is why we think that the negotiations need to cover them all.
We are also working at a local level – at Leeds we have submitted
a gender pay claim and an anti- casualisation claim (although so far the only
response we’ve had to these is to suggest some future meetings). It’s important
that there is a national framework for these negotiations so that there are
agreements that individual employers can’t opt out of.
The HE trade unions can’t choose when different
issues are discussed – there are different negotiations machineries for
different issues. The pay offer had to be responded to at the time, because to
do nothing would have meant accepting the first appalling offer. The pensions
dispute is still going on because despite the Joint Expert Panel report largely
vindicating the UCU position, the USS Board are currently doing another
valuation and sounding out the HE employers again about possible changes.
University managements will judge the union’s strength by our turnout and
willingness to take action in the current dispute. If we don’t have a good turnout and strong Yes
vote, they will feel more able to take further liberties with our
pensions. Similarly what happens in the
current ballot will affect the union’s ability to influence any and all future
Last October Leeds members voted clearly (70%) to strike on
this dispute, with a turnout of 49%. It was the highest national turnout on a
pay ballot in UCU’s history. However, the new anti-trade union law imposed a
requirement for a 50% turnout before industrial action can be taken. We were just short of that, so we were
prevented from striking despite a strong yes vote. We think UCU members should
decide, not the government. We’re re-balloting to exceed the 50% legal
threshold so your decision counts.
If you don’t vote, you are effectively voting to stop the
rest of membership from being able to take action, because of the 50% turnout
rule. Union democracy is vitally
important, we need to know what the whole membership thinks, so please do use
your vote. If you don’t think we should strike, vote No to industrial action (but
perhaps Yes to action short of a strike?).
Abstaining is not sitting on the fence. It undermines the strength of
the union across the board, not only on pay, equality and casualization, but
also on pensions, and in the many local issues, disputes and negotiations on
which UCU works for its members.
If you are concerned that you can’t afford to lose pay by
striking, remember that the union has hardship funds, both nationally and
locally, which can provide some financial help.
Also, and most importantly, remember that the higher the
turnout and the higher the Yes vote in this dispute, the more worried the
employers will be about a possible strike, and the more likely they will be to
come up with a better offer. Paradoxically,
the stronger the vote the less likely we are to actually end up on strike!
This dispute is not about the pay spine figures alone, though it is clear that pay in higher education has been eroded, and that there is money in the sector to afford a decent pay rise (compare it to what we have been given, which is equivalent to a cut in real terms). There are four, interconnected aspects which affect most people working in higher education: casualisation, equal pay (pay gaps), and workload alongside the rate of pay itself. Remember that colleagues on casualised contracts supported the USS pension strike even though many didn’t qualify for the pension! Many colleagues are given restrictive contracts on a fractional basis which makes it difficult to find work elsewhere – for example, someone on a 0.2 FTE contract who is timetabled to work those hours stretched across a four-day week will struggle to combine those hours with another job (or jobs) to make ends meet.
It’s imperative to remember that a strong vote will show a strong will to act for the collective benefit of all our members, and affects our overall strength as a union. We actually hope we won’t need to strike, but knowing that we are ready to strike and take action short of a strike in defence of pay and conditions gives our negotiators a much stronger hand. If we do not beat the 50% turnout threshold with a strong yes vote, our employers’ representative body will pretend that it can ignore our concerns, despite the enormous levels of dissatisfaction, stress, and precarious work in the sector. This is also about collective strength, solidarity, and bargaining power. We must not allow employers to feel emboldened about pushing through other deleterious changes while hiding behind the turnout threshold as an excuse to silence us. We urge you to vote “yes, yes” and above all, to vote.
Firstly, we’re not a business – we’re an
educational institution. Usual business
rules often don’t work in a university environment. UCU negotiates with management both locally
and nationally about the pay and conditions of all our members. We work on your behalf to get the best
possible terms and conditions. In the
past at Leeds we have been able to negotiate good agreements with management,
through genuine consultation and discussion.
More recently, there has been a tendency to replace negotiation with
last minute information about changes followed by imposition. And agreed processes are sometimes not
followed. This is not constructive and leads
to all sorts of problems and issues, plus a lot of individual casework when
particular staff are affected. The
changes in IT at Leeds are a case in point.
Over the last seven years, total income across
the sector has increased by 33.1%, operating surpluses by 176.8% and reserves
are up by 259%, yet staff costs as a percentage of income have gone down from
54.6% to 52.9%
2016/17 data shows a mean gender pay gap of
11.8% or £5936 per year
According to HESA, there at least 50,000
university teaching staff on hourly-paid contracts and at least 12,500 with
zero-hours contracts. 66% of research
staff are still on fixed-term contracts
UCU’s recent workload survey showed that HE staff
are working an average of two days unpaid every week