Text from branch president Ben Plumpton’s email to members
Unless negotiations are successful in the meantime, Leeds UCU will be on strike with 59 other branches for 8 days from Monday 25th November to Wednesday 4th December inclusive, after the impressive results of our ballots on the two disputes: Four Fights (casualisation, workloads, equality and pay) and USS pensions. We will be on strike in both disputes at the same time. Action short of a strike will begin from 25th November and will be ongoing. Our employer has been notified.
What we are asking you to do
This is very serious. We ask each and every UCU member to walk out together on the strike dates. It is with good reasons that we have decided, collectively, to take this action, and that you voted so decisively at Leeds to do so. All UCU members who work for the University of Leeds can take strike action, however long you’ve been a member, however you voted in the ballots, whatever type of contract you are on, and whether or not you have completed probation. If you have concerns about your particular situation, for example over clinical or similar issues, please get in touch with email@example.com Remember that you do not need to tell anyone in advance whether you will be taking strike action.
We hope that the employers (represented by Universities UK for pensions, and by UCEA for the Four Fights) will decide they need to avoid significant disruption and will agree to come back to the negotiating table ready to work constructively with the union. Your union will keep you informed of any progress. But it’s likely that it will take concerted and determined strike action to help them to see sense.
Preparing for the strikes
We are asking you to help build for the strike. We’ve done it before, incredibly successfully for the USS strikes last year, and with your help we can do even better this time. There are lots of things you can do – putting up posters, making placards, writing picket songs, offering Teach Out sessions on the strike days and much more. Please volunteer, and send any other ideas, to firstname.lastname@example.org. Nearer the time we will be asking you to sign up for picket line duty on specific days, and to join marches and rallies. And of course, we always need people to support the strike on social media, by talking to colleagues, or by contributing to the traditional picket line cake mountain…
We have met with officers of Leeds University Union to explain about the disputes. It’s important that students understand why we are striking, so we’d encourage lecturers and any other members who have contact with students to let them know what’s going on and why. Many staff have found that the personal touch makes a real difference in communicating with students: if you feel able to and have the opportunity, it would be great if you could explain to them why you personally think this strike is so important. Some example slides are here – feel free to adapt or produce your own. And perhaps encourage students to follow us on Twitter (@leedsucu) for latest news. Don’t forget that the National Union of Students supports us in these disputes, see https://list.mercury.ucu.org.uk/t/92335/43921/9084/1/
Other trade unions
The other campus trade unions (Unison and Unite) also balloted on the casualisation, workloads, equality and pay disputes but unfortunately were not able to beat the 50% turnout threshold. They are very supportive of our action.
We know that striking can be financially challenging for members on low incomes or on insecure and casualised contracts. UCU has increased financial support to members from the national Fighting Fund, see https://ucu.org.uk/article/10333/Strike-fund-support. We also have a local Hardship Fund which can top up national support, and we will be asking members on secure contracts and higher incomes to contribute to these funds to help their colleagues. If you’re concerned about your finances, look out for a detailed update about union financial support, and then get in touch with any questions so we can discuss how we can help you. We hope that nobody will be deterred from taking part in the strikes.
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. Details at https://www.gov.uk/guidance/immigration-rules/immigration-rules-part-9-grounds-for-refusal#pt9variation Your union will support migrant members in every way we can, look out for more news about this.
Keep in touch
UCU will be building up an FAQ about the strikes, so if you have specific questions please get in touch with email@example.com and we will find the answers and get them added to the FAQ. Keep an eye on www.leedsucu.org.uk and https://twitter.com/leedsucu for latest news.
No one takes striking lightly. We would much rather get on with our jobs. But if we are to defend our futures, and that of decent higher education, we must take action, together. It’s been great to hear already from our reps and many members how angry people are about these issues and how the support for the strikes is building. Thank you.
PS EGM today
Remember we have an Extraordinary General Meeting today (Thursday 7th November) to discuss union democracy, followed by a discussion about the industrial action. Please come: 1 – 2 pm in Roger Stevens LT 16 (12.16.See directions and accessibility info).
Ben and the Committee