Text from Branch President’s email to members 17th February 2020
As you know, we will be striking again soon, starting this Thursday, 20th February, over our two disputes. This means you should not do any work on strike days (including working from home or anywhere else, and including anything you do because you work for the university). Don’t inform management in advance that you will be striking, and don’t rearrange things to avoid the strike days. Every member who strikes increases our leverage in these disputes. Every member who pickets helps to show our strength and determination. YOU are needed to make this action successful! Remember, the union has financial support if the strike deductions cause you hardship. Together we can win these disputes!
What’s happened with negotiations?
Negotiations since the November/December strikes have made a little progress but not enough. Our investment of 8 days action and loss of pay must not be wasted, we need to keep the action going to get solid sector wide settlements on casualisation, workload and equality, and to achieve fair pay and pension contributions. Check out this excellent summary from the #FourFights negotiators. For a short USS update read this Twitter thread from UCU pensions negotiator Sam Marsh. You could also watch the video of Friday’s live Q&A session with Jo Grady, UCU General Secretary. And please come to our members’ meeting tomorrow, Tuesday 18th February (12 – 1, Roger Stevens LT16) to hear more and discuss the disputes. Remember, in both disputes we are looking for sensible longer term arrangements so we don’t need to keep taking industrial action.
- Please sign up for picket duty here. You can just turn up on the day, but it’s helpful to get an indication of how many people we can expect. There’s a space on the form to let us know if there any adjustments we could make, or support we could provide, that would help enable you to picket.
- Please come to the pink gazebo, which will be outside the main entrance from 7:30 am every day, to sign in and get placards and leaflets.
- We’ll suggest where to go with the aim of covering all the entrances, but if you have a preference (e.g. if you’d like to picket near where you work) you can tell us when you sign in.
- If you haven’t picketed before, we’ll make sure you’re with someone who’s experienced (not that it’s hard, honestly, you’ll be handing out leaflets and stickers and chatting to people).
- Wrap up warm with waterproofs/umbrella – the weather forecast at the moment is rainy and windy.
- We’d love you to bring your own placard or banner.
- Toilets – you can use the toilets (which include disabled toilets) in the Quaker Centre (across the main road from Engineering).
- If, for whatever reason, you might find it difficult to stand on a picket line for a long time, or if you might need time to recuperate out of the weather, we have booked a room in the Quaker Centre from 9 am each day where you can have a rest. You can also make yourself a hot drink for a donation.
- You don’t have to picket every day, do take some time for yourself. Since it’s half term this week, we’d encourage members without children to make a special effort to picket this Thursday and Friday because many parents may have booked holiday or will want to spend time with their children. Similarly, we’d encourage parents to do as much picketing as possible after half term.
- Children are welcome on pickets if parents think it’s appropriate, but please take care because most of our pickets are by busy roads.
- Do take photos and talk about the strike on social media – it helps to create a buzz and keep others informed. Please tag @leedsucu and use hashtag #UCUstrikesback. Remember to get parental consent before posting any photos of children on picket lines.
- We’d recommend everyone pickets on the day of our General Meeting (Monday 2nd March) and the last strike day (Friday 13th March) for our final big march and rally.
Rallies daily at 11:00
Pickets and supporters will be meeting up on the Parkinson steps at 11:00 each day for a short rally, including speeches, updates, visiting speakers. We hope to see our UCU UK President Elect (our very own Vicky Blake) on some of the days, and to hear from student supporters. Let me know if you’d like to contribute.
We’ll be doing a big march down to the Town Hall on Friday 13th March, leaving Parkinson steps at about 11:30. Big name speakers, lots of noise, let’s show how determined we still are! We’ll be inviting comrades from other universities and from our sister unions to join us, and of course student supporters. The National Education Union at Notre Dame college near the university will also be on strike on 10th March (on similar issues: pay, working conditions and security of employment) and we hope to join them for a rally on that day.
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. The national UCU FAQs for migrant workers are the best place for up to date information about visas and striking, indefinite leave to remain etc. Your union will support migrant members in every way we can.
Notifying about striking, and strike deductions
You definitely do not need to notify anyone in advance that you are striking. Please don’t, because it enables management to reduce the effectiveness of our strikes. You just need to notify HR on your first day back each time you come back into work after strike days. The email from HR also says that the university intends to take all the deductions this time from our March salary. Many other universities have spread strike deductions over many months, but sadly our university seems to take a more punitive approach. Be assured that our local Hardship Fund is still healthy, so anyone in hardship as a result of striking will be able to claim from that, and also from the national Strike Fund.
Out of office message
Here’s a suggested email auto reply for use during the strikes – feel free to adapt as you see fit.
Thank you for your email – this is an auto-reply. I am currently taking part in the University and College Union’s (UCU) strike action about ending casualisation and excessive workloads, about pay equality and a fair pay rise, and about defending our pensions. More information here. Please request that our Vice Chancellor (firstname.lastname@example.org) uses his influence to urge the employer bodies to negotiate meaningfully with UCU.
‘Striking Insights’ Teach Outs
We are developing an amazing programme for this. If you’ve been considering offering a session, please add it asap to https://tinyurl.com/vn7ot7t so we can get the programme out.
Talking to students
If you have a student-facing role, we’d encourage you to let your students know that you will be striking, and the reasons. Last week I mentioned some slides which you could adapt and use in lectures, but the link didn’t work for everyone, so you can now find them here. Also please encourage your students to read this blog, which thanks them for their support and hopefully helps to clear up some concerns.
We’re pleased that more and more colleagues are joining the union and wanting to join us on strike. The union is growing, and every new member means our action will have a bigger impact. Please encourage your colleagues to join – it’s easy to join online or by phone, and people can do so right up to the point of arriving for work on a strike day. See https://www.ucu.org.uk/join
Right then, I think that’s everything. I’m sure that with your support, and the same at 73 other universities round the country, we can win these disputes.
See you on the picket lines! We expect to have some more pink UCU beanie hats to give out if you missed out on one last time..
0113 343 0235
University of Leeds UCU President