Well done, everyone! We’ve completed fourteen days of striking over four weeks, and we have reached the end in a much stronger position than when we started. Clearly, we’re not out of the woods yet, but UUK has learned that we are not to be coaxed back to work by a modest improvement on the position they gave us back in January.
Membership has grown over the four weeks. Attendance on the picket lines has grown. Despite rejecting an offer, our relationship with the students remains strong, as seen in the open meeting organised by the students’ union and by the presence of fabulous students at our rallies and picket lines.
Locally, we have pressed our vice-chancellor to support an independent valuation of the USS. Moreover, this week had the university agree to divide the deductions for strike action over three months, and we have an (albeit ambiguous) relaxing of the university’s strict stance on action short of a strike. Hold that in your heads and hearts as you return to work next week, when you face questions about rescheduling teaching that was missed during the strike.
Support and cameraderie
We’ve been pleased by the strong attendance at the individual picket lines. And our habitual gathering at 11 was, as we hoped, sufficiently strong that we moved around Main Building to the Alexandra Gardens1. There, we had rousing speeches, excellent fancy dress, and musical support as well. Our thanks to Dominic McAskill from Unison for his message of solidarity as well as impassioned speeches from our own members Paul Brennan of MEDIC and Andy Williams of JOMEC.
Then it was time for our collective creativity to shine. MC VC and the Regulators entertained us with renditions of Jolene and Tubthumpin’, along with a popular reprise of Steven Stanley’s original rap, Get Your Paws Off Our Pensions. A group of singers from Biosciences at the Hadyn Ellis Building led us in adapted lyrics to Bohemian Rhapsody, accompanied ably if inadequately by the ukulele2. And local skiffle band Railroad Bill sent us out with great tunes about gambling and debt – just perfect for a strike centred on pensions…
What happens next
We’ve all earned a rest this weekend. Next Monday, it’s back to work as usual. But we’re not clear of the dispute. Strike days are set by the national union, and we remain in negotiation with UUK over the terms of the pension. We don’t want to lose touch with members and other colleagues after all this effective enthusiasm.
First we have arranged a lunchtime open meeting on Monday 26th March in the Wallace Lecture Theatre. We may well organise another one that week at the Heath Park campus if that makes sense. This and any other open meetings will be aimed at communicating our position on the USS Pension to all staff. This then opens up a channel for communication with staff who are in USS but did not support the strike. More information about this event will be communicated on Monday.
Meanwhile, our resident pension experts have prepared to talk about the issues at the core of this dispute. Woon Wong will speak on Wednesday, 21 March at 3pm in Room 0.16 Post-Graduate Teaching Centre. The presentation will explain the basic principles used in the valuation of a defined benefit pension scheme, and then discuss the valuation methods adopted by USS as well as the guidelines of the Pensions Regulator. Empirical evidence from data analysis concludes that the annual valuations from 2012-2017 by USS are predicated on a flawed basis and it is necessary to fundamentally re-think how the correct message should be communicated to UUK, UCU, the Pensions Regulator as well as the public. Phantom Deficit of USS Pension – Summary version.
Staying involved with the conversation on the dispute and related matters
Once back at work it will be harder to sustain the conversations we’ve been having on the picket lines and at the rallies. These conversations have been immensely beneficial, not least because we’ve had the opportunity to communicate with colleagues normally separated from us by the organisational divisions within Cardiff University.
Cardiff UCU has available various online methods to enable us to extend the opportunity for these conversations to continue (between our meetings) but in a way that will dovetail with normal working practices or home life (you get to choose which or both).
Cardiff UCU Strike Communications Team
1More photos will be on the website version of this bulletin by Saturday morning
2The editor for Bulletin #14 is being too self-effacing! [Managing Editor]