We all get used to it. The dripping tap scenario.
It could be the leaky gutter outside your bedroom window. Brambles growing over your garden wall. The mounting bill pile perched on the mantelpiece.
It could be your pay.
Higher education pay, in fact, which has declined in real terms by 21% since 2009.
In general however, perhaps a few percent a year is hardly noticeable, or perhaps only a momentary annoyance when you notice your commuting cost has risen out of line with your pay packet.
Now imagine you had lost that 21% overnight, or that your pay was a lot more complicated. For some HE staff, on a precarious contract, pay may not be certain. Or manageable. Or enough. UCU needs a mandate in order to pressure UCEA into negotiating nationally on this issue.
The Trade Union Act 2017, designed to frustrate direct action, is not just a hurdle, it is a high jump. Expecting Branches to reach a 50% turn-out threshold although not required for any council or government election, stacks the odds against establishing a strong hand in UCU negotiations.
It is essential that UCU is not paralysed and rendered ineffective. We really do need members to post that ballot paper. We need to keep reaching for that bar—and over it.
As the summer months have swept by, you should by now have received your National Pay & Equality Ballot paper through the post. If you have not received a ballot paper and/or need to request a replacement, please fill out the online form here: https://yoursay.ucu.org.uk/s3/Replacement-postal-ballot-HE-pay-2018
As with the USS ballot, we are asking members to let us KNOW WHEN YOU HAVE VOTED (you do not need to tell us how you have voted!), please reply or email: email@example.com with the single word ‘voted’ so that we can climb our way towards that ALL-IMPORTANT, ALL-ENCOMPASSING, 50% LEGAL THRESHOLD.
Members may also find this article yesterday of interest – USS crisis: can the pension system be reformed?
As always, please do not hesitate to get in touch with any questions –
It is very important that we get the word out and that we are ready for the formal Pay ballot, so please make an effort this week to check with at least one colleague:
1. Do they know what the 50% threshold means?
In March 2017 the Govt introduced a 50% turn out threshold for any UK union which wanted to take legal strike action. ‘Ballots have to achieve at least a 50% turnout of eligible union members, with a majority voting in favour of strike action’. It is therefore essential that members post their ballot paper, whatever their actual vote.
2. Do they know the significance of the 2% Pay offer in real terms?
The employers’ latest pay offer of 2% does nothing to restore ground lost against inflation which, as measured by the Retail Price Index (RPI), is currently 3.4%. UCU estimates that HE staff have taken a cut in real terms of 21% since 2010) when pay settlements are cumulatively compared to rises in RPI.
3. Do they know why it is a Pay & Equality dispute?
You may not be aware but HE employers are increasingly resistant to national bargaining. Apart from senior pay, in higher education the only aspect of salaries that is getting bigger is the gender pay gap. The employers are currently not willing, at a national level, to address gender inequality or precarious employment in the sector.
Please forward on, or knock on a door and ask a colleague!
From USS itself:
During the period in which UCU have been consulting about the Captured Content Policy, there have been some important and positive changes. These include that recordings cannot be used without consent, including during strike action, and that there is no staff appraisal metric associated with the use of captured content.
Feedback shows that members are prepared to use captured content in their modules, but concerns remain about time constraints; availability of support; and “enforcement” of teaching approaches. Although the Policy stipulates that Panopto use is not compulsory (this is not legal) it is anticipated that teaching staff may be under huge pressure to provide recordings of their lectures.
What the policy means for you depends on what your Department or School decides to do.
• There may be meetings amongst your Heads of Department / Directors of Learning and Teaching / Programme Directors, so approach the relevant people for information and find out what is being planned for you
• The policy is to be decided by the Staff-Student Liaison Committee (SSLC) which reports to the Board of Studies. As any changes to the delivery of teaching on a module needs to go through the Board of Studies please engage fully with your Boards of Studies meetings
• The policy states that every module should include captured content for the next academic year (2018-19) and beyond. Bear in mind that there are hundreds of modules across the entire University, but finite resources. If your Department proposes something that seems unrealistic ask for confirmation that the time and resources are guaranteed before agreeing
• The Policy aims to develop local practices that are acceptable and realistic. All teaching staff should have some input into these decisions – however if staff in your department are being frozen out of such discussions then please let us know – this is not the intention of the Policy as we understand it from meetings with TEL.
We hope this helps, we will continue to be in touch on this issue.
Lecturers have the option under law not to have their lectures recorded without their informed consent. Even University of Nottingham managers cannot force their academic staff to sign away their rights under law.
The USS consultation closed at 2pm today.
The result was as follows:
Total balloted: 53,415
Total votes cast: 33,973
Total number valid votes: 33,913
Yes to accept the UUK offer 21,683 (64%)
No to reject the UUK offer 12,230 (36%)
This represents the highest turnout in any national ballot or consultation of any kind in UCU’s history.
My thanks go to all the branches and UCU staff who did so much to encourage members to participate in such enormous numbers as well as to the thousands of members who contacted me direct to discuss and debate our next steps during the consultation.
In line with the decision of members the union will suspend its immediate industrial action plans but keep our legal strike mandate live until the agreement between UCU and UUK is noted by USS.
We will now get on with the job of making the joint expert panel work for you and your pension.
For the avoidance of doubt, all currently planned industrial action – including that scheduled for next week – is suspended and members should work normally.
However you voted, thank you so much for participating in this record breaking consultation and for all of your support for the union throughout this historic dispute.
UCU general secretary
We have today received this message from a member of the campaign group on campus: ‘Surrey Students Support The UCU Strike’
To the academic staff that have invested in my personal development and education over the last four years,
I am writing to express my support and solidarity with UCU members that will be striking and partaking in other industrial action on Thursday 22nd February and Friday 23rd February. I will not cross picket lines, and therefore will be deliberately not attending any contact hours during these days.
Myself and many students recognise the importance of this strike action: it represents not just the labour interests of current staff, but also of current students, future staff and all those that wish to pursue a higher education in years to come. We see the severity of this industrial action as entirely justified and proportional as a response to UUK refusing to reopen negotiations about the proposed hardline, brutal pension cuts. There are structural flaws in the HE sector, however when the few who are in power continue to act in short-term, self interest at the cost of the many – there is no chance of dismantling these barriers.
Staff working conditions are student learning conditions, and if we allow the hard work of our academics to become treated as an exchangeable commodity, we then become complicit in the commercialisation of our own education. We become complicit in upholding the current barriers that prevent disadvantaged groups participating in HE, as a result of the increasing marketisation of education. We become complicit in degrading academia. There will be disruption; that is the point. If we do not disrupt UUK now, we stand to see the education become disrupted, warped and shaped in the interests profit, not people.
I believe universities are an environment where we invest in our minds, discover and develop a strong sense of self, so we can collectively research and address the challenges in our society. Perhaps the Bioscience Department exemplifies this most. Why are we here is we don’t care about understanding and improving life on Earth?
The University of Surrey is not and should not be a market place where we trade knowledge, it can and will remain a place with values and integrity. If we forget what it means to be part of an academic community, if we forget to stand in solidarity together, if we forget that our individual experience at Surrey is the result of the hard work of a much larger collective – then we have learnt nothing.
I stand in solidarity with UCU. I stand in solidarity with what Higher Education should be.
‘Surrey Students Support The UCU Strike’
Surrey Students Support UCU will be sending an open letter to Max Lu on Thursday Feb 22nd