Email sent to all members 25 January 2019
This email contains important information about our live UK-wide ballot, free pizza, and the upcoming UK-wide UCU elections. We’ve recently lodged our branch [anti-casualisation claim] and pushing hard for further progress over our branch equal pay claim. We will be pursuing further meetings about the significant problems in IT, and continuing with quite a volume of individual and collective casework. We’re all working hard as a branch, and it makes me ever proud to be Leeds UCU – but that’s not why I am emailing you today…
In this email:
- Ballot Day! + pre-meeting for Postgraduate Members (5 Feb, 12pm, free pizza!)
- Why is there so much we have to POST by snail mail?
- Why the Casualisation, Equal Pay, Fair Pay + Workload ballot matters
- What about USS?
Ballot Celebration Day
5 February, Refectory Entrance
Tuesday 5th February – Ballot Day! Come for a free slice of pizza and an “I’ve voted” sticker to celebrate union democracy in the casualisation, gender equality, workload and fair pay dispute. We’ll be in the Refectory entrance from 12 – 1pm. If you haven’t voted yet, there is a post box just there so you can post your ballot paper immediately. If you’re not sure how you want to vote, come and have a chat first. We’ll also be talking about how our local gender pay and anti-casualisation claims connect to the UK-wide bargaining strategy.
Postgrad? Drop in before the event to chat in more detail about how the current UK-wide ballot and the local anti-casualisation claim directly affect you. We’ll be there from 11.30-12 – you’ll be there early for the hottest picks of the free pizza!
Why postal votes?
The restrictive Trade Union Act 2016 further obstructs effective and democratic trade union organising in the 21st Century (the UK has the most restrictive TU laws in Europe!). By law, ballots over trade disputes have to be conducted by post. UCU opposes these laws, but until they are changed, we are bound by them. There are two postal votes to be aware of:
- All members are asked to vote in the very important ballot over Casualisation, Equal Pay, Fair Pay + Workload. You should have received your ballot paper by now (if not, you can request a new one [here] or by clicking the personalised link in your email from HQ dated 21/1/19)
- We all need to vote in national UCU elections which will open on 1 February (votes need to be received by 1 March). We will have local hustings for Vice Presidential candidates on 12th February (12 noon) – more detail on this meeting soon!
Why this Ballot Matters
UCU has repeatedly called for meaningful action on insecure contracts, pay gaps, unrealistic and unfair assumptions about workloads, and on the declining value of pay in the sector as a whole. Prior to the introduction of anti-democratic 50% ballot turnout thresholds in 2016, our vote in favour of action for fair and equal pay, secure work and decent workloads would bea cause for celebration and our employers would have been reeling. Only the legislation protects our employers from having to deal with palpable anger in our sector over what are termed “pay and pay related matters”. So, we are balloting again and we need everyone to vote. We ask you all to vote “Yes, Yes” this time for willingness to strike and take action short of a strike. If you’re not sure how to vote, please get in touch or come along to a meeting (eg on 5 Feb, with pizza!) but most of all, please vote: do not let our union’s democratic voice be silenced.
How does this all work?
We have UK-wide collective bargaining agreements over “pay and pay related matters” in the higher education sector, which means all branches in UCU can stand and act together. This makes us stronger. Collective bargaining was lost in our sister sector, further education, where pay has eroded even more rapidly. As we fight to regain UK-wide bargaining in FE, we fight to protect in in HE.
“JNCHES” is the bargaining mechanism through which UCU and other unions recognised in higher education negotiate for what are termed “pay” and “pay related matters”. Every year, all higher education unions come together to formulate a joint claim, and UCU has been instrumental in insisting that “pay related matters” be extended to include casualisation, equal pay (pay gaps), and workload, alongside the “headline” rates of pay. Our [branch report] on the special Higher Education Sector Conference on pay in November 2018 includes a brief explanation JNCHES.
All four of pillars of our Casualisation, Equal Pay, Fair Pay, and Workload claim are connected. There is strong appetite for action among members of UCU. We need all members to be very clear about the issues we face:
- We need a strong voter turnout in this ballot to maintain the credibility of UCU as a force with a democratic voice, and to smash the anti-union 50% threshold
- We need a strong vote for “Yes, Yes” in this ballot to exert maximum pressure on our employers, strengthening the hands of our national negotiators to extract progress on all issues in the claim
Without a “valid” ballot result, our employers
can effectively ignore our collective voice on the very issues which affect
members most. This will impact other disputes, including USS.
A strong turnout and a strong “Yes, Yes” vote in this ballot will mean our employers have to negotiate properly with us (represented collectively by UCEA for pay and pay-related negotiations). Without it, they will continue as they have done, claiming as they are wont to do that they have no mandate to negotiate on issues outside of the overall pay rate, and offering such an insulting sub-inflationary pay rise as they’d be more honest to name it for what it is: a pay cut in real terms.
Senior managements constantly cite concerns of a risky, uncertain future of our sector. We heard the management cry of alleged near-helplessness during the USS dispute, but we see that our employers do seem able to drive the kinds of change that favour shiny new buildings, but which too often leave the people behind. In fact, many members already face a risky, uncertain future, because they are employed on a precarious contract! While there are challenges (Brexit, the hostile environment, and more) our employers often neglect to emphasise the power and agency they do hold as a collective group, to effect and influence change. Imagine a future where university “leaders” took a progressive approach to all the issues tied together in our current pay and equality claim. UK higher education would flourish.
What about USS?
We all received a ten-point update email from UCU HQ on USS yesterday. We also recommend reading this thread written up by our favourite mathematician and USS negotiator Sam Marsh explaining where we are right now: [Important USS thread]
The next meeting of the Higher Education Committee is on 15 February, where USS will be on the agenda. If any members would like to feed comments directly to me in advance of that meeting, please do get in touch (bear in mind my deadline to submit motions, of which I’m allowed to send 2, is 8 Feb!)
In Solidarity, forever!
Vicky and Committee