Strikes and next steps in the disputes
First of all, huge thanks for your strike action over the past four weeks. We have shown university managements across the UK that staff are not prepared to put up with precarious contracts, gender and race inequality, excessive workloads, and effective pay cuts through below inflation pay rises and increases to pension contributions. Special thanks to everyone who has joined the pickets, rallies and teachouts, and made them a joyful, determined and supportive experience. We can go back to work on Monday with our heads held high and the knowledge that our actions have moved the negotiations forward. See the latest negotiators’ update on the Four Fights dispute at https://www.ucu.org.uk/media/10783/Negotiators-update-on-Four-Fights-11-March-2020/pdf/Four_Fights_negotiators_update_11_March.pdf). On USS there is encouraging progress on underlying issues, and signs of frustration with USS from employers, but we still need an improved offer on contributions. We really need our VC to put pressure on USS to make a better offer on contributions rather than refusing to tell us what our university’s response has been on this. Negotiations will continue on both disputes, but sadly it looks as if further industrial action will be needed to get a decent resolution to both disputes. A reballot is due to start on Tuesday, for industrial action in the summer term, including a variety of options for industrial action, probably including an assessment boycott. We expect to hear on Monday whether the UCU Higher Education Committee will change the ballot period due to the coronavirus situation. In the meantime, please change the address UCU has for you to your home address, so papers can reach you if the university closes (via https://ucu.org.uk/myucu, see below *).
Now of course we need to be concerned about the coronavirus crisis. You’ll have seen from our email yesterday that Leeds UCU decided to call off our picketing today, and the march down to a rally outside the Town Hall. This was disappointing, as it would have been a fantastic end to this period of strike action, but we felt it was the right thing to do to reduce the chances of infection. We are concerned about how our university management are responding to the crisis, and we will be contacting the VC first thing on Monday about many issues that members have raised, and to ask for an urgent meeting. We will update you on the VC’s response. We know many staff are worried about risks to their health, and that of their loved ones and students. The union expects much stronger measures to protect staff and students, including provisions for workers on visas, casual or hourly paid contracts, and those with caring responsibilities, and that no-one should suffer financially. We want our university to lead on this, not aim to be ‘middle of the pack’ as they do on so many issues. UCU nationally will be calling for all universities and colleges to be closed. Note: The Home Office have suspended monitoring for students and staff on visas if they need to self-isolate, see https://www.gov.uk/guidance/coronavirus-immigration-guidance-if-youre-unable-to-return-to-china-from-the-uk#licensed-tier-2-tier-4-or-tier-5-sponsors-absences-due-to-coronavirus
Back to work on Monday
- It’s important to report your industrial action (see email from HR on 17th February), by 2 pm on your first day back. We don’t want management claiming low support for the strikes. Please use the ESS system if you possibly can, and if you have problems logging in, please be kind to our IT members (who will also be doing ASOS..) and ask for help via the IT helpdesk. Postgraduates can’t use ESS and will need to follow whatever process their school has told them to use.
- Keep doing Action Short of a Strike, including if you are working from home. ASOS includes working to contract, not covering for absent colleagues, not rescheduling lectures or classes cancelled due to strike action, and not undertaking any voluntary activities. If you have any queries about ASOS see http://www.leedsucu.org.uk/asos-guidance-from-leeds-ucu/ and the national FAQ at http://www.ucu.org.uk/he-action-faqs
Pay deductions and financial support from UCU
For monthly paid staff, management still intend to take all the deductions from our pay at the end of March. This is unnecessarily punitive, and can only erode goodwill further. We are asking them to re-think this, and checking that they intend to put our strike pay deductions towards student hardship funds or student mental health. If you need financial support from the union for these deductions, once you have your pay slip (downloadable from ESS a few days before month end) you can claim to the national Strike Fund and the local Hardship Fund. Postgraduates can claim as soon as they have evidence of strike pay deductions, which may be sooner. See http://www.leedsucu.org.uk/hardship-applications-and-surgeries/
We love our students!
It was wonderful to have such strong support from students throughout our strike. So many students we spoke to understood the reasons for our action and buoyed us up by wearing stickers, bringing picketers treats, and joining our rallies. We are especially grateful to the Leeds Student Staff Solidarity group, who supported us every day, fundraised huge sums for our Hardship Fund, and spoke powerfully at our rallies.
The results are in for UCU elections for the next Vice President, for National Executive Committee (NEC) members, and for Trustees. See https://www.ucu.org.uk/article/10339/UCU-trustee-national-officer-and-national-executive-committee-elections-in-2019-20-ballots. Congratulations to Ruth Holliday from Sociology and Social Policy who has been elected to NEC!
I hope you have a good and restful weekend (remember ASOS!). We will continue to fight to get the offers that we need and deserve on the Four Fights (casualisation, equality, workloads and pay) and on USS pensions.
We will keep you in touch about further developments.
University of Leeds UCU President