Author Archives: UCU - University and College Union

Two strike Ballots this Autumn: one on USS pensions; One on casualisation, pay, inequality & workloads

As you now know, UCU’s annual congress voted to prepare for another round of strike action to defend our pensions while also launching a new national campaign to secure a fair deal from both pre- and post-92 employers on pay, workload, equality, and job security. UCU’s Higher Education Committee then decided on 28 June to run both strike ballots at the same time, rather than consecutively.

 

These ballots will run from 9 September to 30 October. Members in branches where UCU has registered a dispute over USS will receive two ballot papers – one for pay, workload, equality and job security and one for USS. Members in other and post-92 branches will receive one ballot paper.

 

New UCU General Secretary-elect Jo Grady explains it like this:

“Those of us who went on strike over USS last year were motivated by a host of factors. Many members who are not even in USS joined us on the picket lines because they wanted to express their solidarity with us and send a signal to our employers that staff deserve better, not just in their pension benefits but in other areas, too. UCU has listened to those members and decided that nobody should be left behind. By balloting simultaneously, we can press employers to reach agreements that protect all of us.”

 

The rest of this post explains the strategies, demands, and rationale for both votes as they currently stand.

Our demands for USS
For USS, our demands are simple. USS has lost its members’ trust and rejected some of the Joint Expert Panel’s most important proposals. If implemented now, those proposals would lead to a contribution rate no higher than 26%, as it was before the 2017 valuation.

We want employers to use their considerable influence over the scheme to hold USS’s managers to account. If they refuse to do so, we want them to meet the full cost of contribution increases above the rate of 26%, rather than forcing some of them on to members.

A comprehensive deal for university staff on pay, equality, workload, and job security
At the same time, we want employers to move towards a sustainable, equitable business model that puts staff first. Our demands are laid out in the campus unions’ annual claim for 2019-20. These include:

  • reducing the number of zero-hours and hourly paid positions
  • working to close the gender and ethnicity pay gaps
  • limiting unsafe, excessive workloads
  • increasing pay by 3% plus RPI.

These are *all* things on which we represent our members, but we have been faced by remarkable intransigence from the employers at national negotiating level for years. If we don’t give our negotiators the leverage they need to improve our lot there is no indication this situation will change.

 

Practical questions
Once again, employers are leaving us with no resort other than a strike, even if it stops us all from doing the valuable work we entered this sector to do. But we should remember how quickly they came to the negotiating table once last year’s USS strike started. The more members take part in the ballot, the sooner employers will make us a serious offer.

UCU has the capacity to manage two campaigns. The fact that we are balloting simultaneously does not mean that we need to take twice as much action as we did for USS. After the ballots close, we have a six-month window within which to schedule any strikes, so we can be flexible in terms of the timing and amount of action we take.

The union will support branches in getting the vote out and preparing for action. I am pleased to announce that UCU’s National Executive Committee recently approved a trial expansion of the strike fund, so that members earning less than £30,000, and/or on fractional and hourly paid contracts, will be able to apply for more days of reimbursement than they could in the past. When you decide to go on strike, your action will be properly supported.’

I will be touring branches in September and October to meet members and discuss both campaigns. I will circulate dates and locations and provide further information about the ballots in due course. Until then, please continue to contact me with any questions you have.

VC Pay Outcry: The view from Cardiff

Despite calls to improve transparency around senior pay at universities, four-fifths of institutions (81%) still allowed their vice-chancellor to attend meetings where their pay was set last year, and only a third (32%) provided full minutes of the meeting, according to UCU research on VC’s.

Cardiff Uni boss Colin Riordan, while not a member of the local remuneration committee, still attends the body which sets his own considerable pay packet.

Prof Riordan currently got £298,000 in pay and bonuses in 2018, up a whopping £51,000 on the year before. This figure is clearly obscene at a time when we’re facing the loss of 380 jobs over 5 years as part of “Transforming Cardiff”; when staff have lost 20% of the value of their pay since 2009; when precariously-employed colleagues scramble for job security; and when so many of us lost so much in strike deductions last year.

That the VC gets to sit in on the meetings that grant him such princely pay rises is just a further insult to his staff.

The Guardian covered the national story , and the UCU has covered it as well

For info on the Cardiff VC’s pay see p.43 of the latest annual report.

One Month On, What Does the Election of Jo Grady Mean for UCU?

One month ago, Jo Grady was elected as our next General Secretary. What does this mean for rank and file voices in the union and for our prospects of beating back the employers’ assault?

In this piece, written for the UCU Branch Solidarity Network, Lesley McGorrigan (Leeds UCU), Andy Williams (Cardiff UCU), and Marian Carty (Goldsmiths UCU) give their personal takes: What does Jo Grady mean for the UCU

If you’d like to write a piece for the Branch Solidarity Network, or have suggestions for future blog posts, you can email: branchsolidaritynetwork@gmail.com 

Appeal for volunteer case workers: Your colleagues need YOU!

All union branches are powered by oodles of “unseen” voluntary work carried out by branch officers and active members. In this very real sense the Union is powered by its members, and is only as effective as its membership is active, informed, and engaged.

Case work is one of the most important, but least appreciated, examples of this invisible Union work. It involves representing and supporting individuals or groups of members experiencing difficulties in their jobs.

 

The Cardiff UCU Case Work team is always very busy, but it is currently going through a big spike in demand – made even worse by the current (and unnecessary) “Transforming Cardiff” cuts.

If you have previously done Case Work at Cardiff or one of your other workplaces, and don’t currently, please consider volunteering again now;

If you’ve never done case work but would consider volunteering to help out with this extremely good, and often very rewarding, job please get in touch (ucu@cardiff.ac.uk)

You can find out more on the national UCU site about what case work involves, and how it’s done. If you volunteer, you will not be sent into the field unsupported, and the union has excellent training which prepares you very well.

UCU Warns Unis of September Strike Ballot Over USS Pensions:

Universities risk prompting a wave of industrial action across UK campuses later this year if they do not rule out benefit cuts or contribution increases for members of the Universities Superannuation Scheme (USS).

UCU has written to 69 institutions warning that if they fail to confirm by Wednesday 19 June that they will limit members’ contributions to 8%, or meet the cost of any additional contributions, then the union will prepare for an industrial action ballot in September.

We all said at the end of our successful strike action in 2018 that if they came for our pensions again, and if they ignored the expert recommendations of the Joint Expert Committee (JEP), we would be prepared to strike again. It’s looking increasingly like this will be necessary.

We will keep you updated on important developments over the summer.

Challenging Car Parking Fee Increases:

UCU will challenge a large (30%) increase in staff car parking fees on behalf of its members who face ever increasing pressures on their finances following 10 years of real terms pay cuts. In recent years UCU has worked with the University on a number of successful initiatives which make it cheaper, easier and more convenient for staff members to commute sustainably. Unfortunately, in the case of this increase, UCU has not been consulted or involved. The University has now agreed to meet with us about this. We will demand the establishment of a review group in partnership with the campus trade Unions and the University to consider the introduction of a more fair and environmentally-friendly car parking scheme that will look at fees, how fee money is used by the University, how car parking spaces are allocated to staff, and how this fits within a broad commitment to green and active travel policies.

Call on Cardiff Uni to Declare a Climate Emergency:

Following the University’s recent Climate Emergency debate, a letter to the Vice Chancellor has been drafted by a group of Cardiff academics requesting that the University declares a Climate Emergency. They are calling for all members of staff of Cardiff University, including doctoral students, to sign this letter, to demonstrate the support for such a measure. Please do also share this widely among colleagues within the University.

The UK and Welsh Parliaments declared a climate emergency this year, as have two of the GW4 universities, Bristol University and the University of Exeter. We strongly urge Cardiff University to demonstrate its leadership in the academic community by being the first Welsh university to publicly declare a climate emergency, to help move forwards the sense of national urgency on this matter.

Read more and add your name to the letter here.

Sign a Petition to Support an Academic Boycott of Trinity College Cambridge Over Moves to Withdraw from USS:

The Council of Trinity College, Cambridge, has voted to withdraw the college from the USS pension scheme. USS is a mutual scheme with more than 400,000 members across the UK, and Trinity’s action undermines pension provision not only for its own employees but for staff across the entire pre-1992 Higher Education sector. They’ve admitted that the scheme is in good health, but are going ahead with this mover anyway. This needs to be resisted in the strongest terms, if necessary, by an academic boycott. So-called “grey-listing” procedures have already been initiated by UCU at its recent 2019 Congress.

Read more and sign the petition, initiated by UCU Branch Officers at Cardiff and Sheffield Universities, here.

Cardiff UCU General Meeting:

There will be an all-member General Meeting for the branch on Wednesday 12th June at 1.10pm in Committee Room 1 in the Glamorgan Building.

We will discuss, and share info about:

  • Transforming Cardiff;
  • USS Pensions; and
  • Our up-coming claim to the University on fighting the scourge of casualisation.

Full details of the GM, including the Agenda, can be found here. Lunch will be provided!

Anti-casualisation campaign update

The anti-casualisation working group held an open meeting on Tuesday 4th June to work on an “Anti-Casualisation Manifesto” as a base document to inform our campaign and future negotiations with the University management. This manifesto is based on the premise that secure employment is that which guarantees continuity of gainful employment (e.g. ongoing contracts with consistent work and payment). 

We’re aware, based on our own research and many examples of members seeking support through case-work, that Cardiff University uses contracts which do not fit this description in a wide variety of situations in which this would not be necessary, with dramatic and damaging consequences to staff. 

We have initiated conversations with University management about these issues and we will soon submit a claim to demand the University to engage with UCU in reviewing the use of fixed-term and atypical contracts across the University and work towards providing secure working conditions to *all* staff.       

We will be presenting results from our precarity survey and discussing our manifesto and our claim to the University at our General Meeting next Wednesday, as well as sharing more widely, and we would value the input from all Cardiff UCU members!