Category Archives: USS Strike Bulletins

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.

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.

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.

Strike Bulletin #14

Picket - Hadyn Ellis - 16th March

Picket – Hadyn Ellis – 16th March

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.

Rally Alexandra Gardens 16th March

Rally Alexandra Gardens 16th March

Rally Alexandra Gardens 16th March

Rally Alexandra Gardens 16th March

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…

MC VC and the Regulators

MC VC and the Regulators

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).

Best,
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]


More Images from the Rally on 16th March

 

Strike Bulletin #13

Ides of March

Beware the Ides of March! It’s a fateful day for our employers. Faced with such unity from UCU members here in Cardiff and across the country, as well as a substantial list of student occupations on campuses from Aberdeen to Exeter, we’re hearing VCs climb back on the removal of Defined Benefits and the undermining of strike activity, as with Cambridge. Others, such as Glasgow, say their position is ‘essentially the same as that of UCU’. Others still, such as Queen’s Belfast, state a commitment to independent valuation of the USS. Here in Cardiff, we received the welcome news through Twitter that Cardiff University will spread deductions over three months. Furthermore, they ‘do not envisage circumstances where colleagues [that’s us] will have pay withheld for action short of a strike.’ This is the effect our collective action has taken – the commitment to 14 days of strikes and the courage to say no to a bad deal offered this week.

Ways of reaching out

Members of Cardiff UCU continue to find new ways of reaching staff, students, and the public. Colleagues at the School of Earth and Ocean Sciences, conveniently located in Main Building, have set up a stall to explain their teaching, their research, and the reasons why they’re out on the picket line. It’s a high-traffic, high-visibility spot, and everyone’s welcome to come and find out a bit more about what they do. The idea comes from Marc Millet and Dave Thompson, and we thank Stephen Barker for telling us all about it at today’s rally. (Thanks also to Daniel Hobley for sharing his photo with us.)

People of Earth

Meanwhile, Paul Brennan and Renata Medeiros-Mirra represented UCU at an open session with about 50-60 students, including undergraduates and postgraduates, organised by the Students’ Union. This was a student-only affair, with Karen Holford and Amanda Coffey representing university management. Students were naturally worried about the impact of the strike action on their learning, but they showed strong support for the action and for the right and need to decent pensions. Their questions were directed mainly at the university management to understand what will be done to support them, whether they will receive compensation, and why the university isn’t communicating more with them. Many thanks to Paul and Renata for taking part.

Our continuing series of teach-outs met this afternoon. Environmental issues were on the table, including a provocative session from UCU environmental officer Paul Rock, Trevor Dale from Biosciences, and People Planet on sustainability and the kinds of companies and initiatives our contested USS currently invests in.

Taking the struggle further

An open letter is circulating to put our concerns about the USS in writing to the Welsh Government. Cardiff UCU member Vicki Wass has been invited to meet with Lynne Neagle Chair of the Education Committee to expand the discussion started in the open letter. There’s still time to sign the letter, however, by clicking here.

We had the potential for a double appearance of MPs at our rally. Sadly, Jo Stevens was called away to Westminster. We were nonetheless cheered to hear from Stephen Doughty, a firm union supporter. He reiterated what we heard at the Assembly on Tuesday: support for our struggle and affirmation of our vote to reject the proposed deal. Further, he agreed with our broader struggle to ensure universities are fair, open, and administered in line with public values. Steven told us he will be meeting with our vice-chancellor, Colin Riordan, next Tuesday, and he promised to report back on the outcome of that discussion.

Stephen Doughty with picketers

We’ll be back to work by then, but we have one day of strike action left.

Tomorrow

We want to put on the biggest rally yet to demonstrate the solidarity and growth that Cardiff UCU has shown over the last four weeks. If you haven’t joined us yet, here is your chance. If you have come down – once, twice, or every day – don’t miss it.

  • Join your school picket line from 8am.
  • A special note that CARBS will not be picketing at their building tomorrow, out of respect for the funeral that day. But any CARBS members who want to take some action prior to the funeral are encouraged to convene at Main Building so IT staff can picket outside their buildings instead of at Main Building.
  • That’s where everyone can gather at 11 for a mass rally of music, speeches, and fancy dress.

We’ve been so impressed by everyone’s commitment, and we’ve got a lot to be proud of. We’ll see you there tomorrow.

Best,
Cardiff UCU Strike Communications Team

Andy Williams in the Western Mail

Coverage in the Western Mail

Andy Williams in the Western Mail

Opinion piece by Dr Andy Williams

Strike Bulletin #12

Pickets outside Law

Pickets outside Law & Politics

Referring to Wednesday as “hump day” is a fairly modern tradition in American English. The term represents the idea that a week can be visualized as a mound or hill that a person climbs, with Wednesday typically being the middle or peak of the week. more… [external link]

Wednesday in the US and Canada1 is traditionally known in 9-5 office parlance as ‘hump day’. This is our only full week of striking in this set of actions, and now we’re over the hump. We felt what was, for many, confusion and despair on Monday night, followed by the collective resolve of Tuesday morning and the sunny, buoyant high of our political lobby.

All these views were expressed at our 11 o’clock rally at Main Building, and we’re sure they were mirrored on all the picket lines as people made sense of what had happened. Our representative to the national Higher Education Committee was Nick Russell, and he brought the strike committee upto date on how that meeting went. Negotiators noted that it was the strength of early picketing that brought them to the table in the first place. UUK’s starting position was the January meeting where the Defined Contributions scheme was forced through. Rejection of the proposed agreement would mean a return to square one.

One speaker at Wednesday's Rally

One speaker at Wednesday’s Rally

However, reject is what they did. Branch delegates described informal votes across the country very like ours here in Cardiff. Every branch but one rejected by overwhelming margin – often unanimous. One rejected but by a small margin. Discussion moved to the whys and hows of the negotiating effort, followed by a consideration of next steps. Nick mentioned focusing on the methodology: that the underlying assumptions are flawed and our expertise can speak to that. It was also encouraging to hear that support for the strike is growing and has grown universally, in every branch across the UK. The HEC heard all of this and voted to reject. Things will be tougher from here, but we have the resolve to see it through. The focus now is on maintaining the status quo of our pension scheme until we get an academically robust methodology to assess the value of the USS.

The forceful nationwide motion to reject was heard not only by our union but by our employers. Late afternoon, Universities UK issued a release saying they are planning more, urgent talks. Their statement notes, ‘We listened to the concerns of university staff, and proposed to increase employer contributions to the scheme to maintain meaningful defined benefits.’ As always, we’ll see what that looks like in practice, but it’s welcome language to hear. Some vice-chancellors have clearly heard the message: Cambridge’s VC suggests amendments to the rejected plan that address some of our own complaints. It’s not *the answer*, but it shows a humbler spirit.

Creative expression
Following the rally, members led small workshops in sketching and photography. As our ace photographer Jonathan Marsh notes, perspective is really important. That’s both a practical tip for snapping compelling shots and a metaphor for how we view this struggle. So take heart!

Others joined the University Matters teach-outs at Cathays Methodist Church. Values were up for discussion: Chris Graves spoke about balancing competing values, so that if you focus on competition and control, losing sight of collaboration and creation, you get out of balance and ultimately fail. One example is Apple, which got so successful it needed the money people to manage it. The result was firing this crazy guy called Steve Jobs and ceasing to collaborate and innovate. The company reversed that decision later on in order to succeed, bringing Steve Jobs back into the company. James Whitley gave this some historical perspective, noting that ‘city’ states in ancient Crete and Greece survived 700-1000 years when they had relatively flat structures. Archaeological evidence suggests that as and when they moved to hierarchical structures, they only survived on average about 150 years. In between, Steve Smith led a whole-group discussion on ethics and values. The key take-away here was that values can be seen differently depending on your perspective. In this way, philosophy can be a lot like photography.  A late session on archeology at Caerau finished just an hour ago.

Picket Support

Picket Support

Taking care of yourselves financially
As we approach the end of this phase of strike action, a reminder about strike pay. You can apply nationally to UCU’s fighting fund. We have a local hardship fund similarly set up, and you should register your interest by Friday 23 March. Details are here.

Cardiff UCU exec members have been canvassing with our comrades in other unions. PCS Wales and Unite both committed to making contributions, and we’ve been hearing generally about how important a victory is for us: if we lose this fight, it will be difficult for other pension schemes to fight back against these incursions.

You’re welcome to share details of our fund with others. Get this message out, as it’s a concrete way that others can support us.

Visits tomorrow
We will have two visits from Cardiff MPs tomorrow.

  • Jo Stevens from Cardiff Central will be our main speaker at the 11 o’clock rally at Main Building.
  • Stephen Doughty from Cardiff South and Penarth will visit us at 12.
  • In between, SocSci lecturer Steven Stanley will lead us on a walking meditation.

So be sure to come to your pickets and then join us at 11. The penultimate day of strike action promises to be a rousing one.

Best,
Cardiff UCU Strike Communications Team

1 We have a Canadian editor this evening
2 We have an honorary Welsh, English editor proof reading tonight and emailing out

Strike bulletin #11

Today was an important day – probably the most crucial day of our strike action so far. As probably all of you know, UCU and UUK reached a proposed agreement that went out yesterday evening. Response on Twitter was strong and consistent, but many of us were worried and confused. Was this really the deal we took such unprecedented action over? And what were the implications for us, our students, our employers, and the public by rejecting such a deal?

This was the feeling on the picket lines this morning, and no amount of home baking could soothe the unease. Nick Russell, our Cardiff UCU delegate, was already on the train to London to carry our response to UCU headquarters and the Higher Education Committee. So what would we tell him?

Move 1 – Responding to the offer

We met at the Cathays Community Centre, but strong numbers meant we had to move on. The bingo hall has a limit of 200, and given our impeccable attendance at rallies and pickets, it’s no surprise we exceeded that. We took a slow march to Alexandra Gardens, where several members expressed their views: their determination to reject, their ambivalence about the deal, and their constructive desire to accept as a step to greater change. It was then put to a vote (with our feet), and the 250 members in the park gave an unambiguous steer: Cardiff University UCU rejects the proposed agreement. See the attached document for a more thorough summary of that decision.

Move 2 – Lobbying the politicians

We then piled on coaches, bicycles, and other sets of wheels to meet outside the Senedd in Cardiff Bay. The sun sparkled on the water and warmed our faces, and we had a warm reception, too. Trade union representatives were there in solidarity, and politicians from Labour and Plaid Cymru came out on the steps to speak to us. They told us they understood our difficulties, that we were right to reject the offer, and that they would support us to get an acceptable deal. Throughout, we heard a litany of responses from other UCU branches who sent representatives to the Higher Education Committee meeting – at least 47 branches rejected. UCU rejected the offer, noting an ‘overwhelming’ response to reject from the members.

Some of us took the chance to speak with individual AMs and press our case. We received support and also good advice, such as building bridges with Scottish branches and organising a meeting of Wales vice-chancellors at the government’s behest. All ideas that we can take forward, because the fight is on in earnest, now.

Move 3 – Listening to the students

Many of us are worried about what we now say to our students. We have rejected a deal that would have brought us back to work this week. Some staff attended the teach-out sessions on neoliberalism at the Cathays Methodist Church. Alongside diverting discussions from Jan Machielsen about spin and discourse during the Protestant Reformation and from Val Walkerdine and Surhan Cam about the individualising aspects of neoliberalism – how it erodes our mutuality – we had constructive workshops with students, postgrads & precarious workers, and academic staff. This was our first chance to talk with students about this.

We heard again the message that they wanted their lecturers to speak more openly about the issues surrounding the strike before we went out. Some expressed as well a lack of consideration for students amid the rhetoric of protecting our pensions and winning our dispute with management. Certainly, if neoliberalism works to isolate us and pit us against each other, we all recognised the need to communicate well, to respect different views and not judge, and to put our own struggles in a wider context.

To quote UCU HQ, for the avoidance of doubt, this week’s strikes are on.

Best,
Cardiff UCU Strike Communications Team

Strike bulletin #10

Welcome back for a full five days of picketing. What can we say? We’re sad to be out here but glad to be out with so many great people, fighting to protect the university we want and the values that it stands for. We were really heartened to hear at today’s mid-morning rally that Physics has grown from a picket of one to a gathering of 16 outside. JOMEC reports two new UCU members on the line today plus four members making their debut at a picket. Staff have not been scared away by the length of this strike and its costliness; in fact, it has demonstrated our commitment and inspired numbers to grow.

“Backbeat, the word is on the street that the USS numbers are wrong…”

Today’s rally was also a chance to show our creativity. Various members have been adapting song lyrics to suit our purposes, and we’re happy to showcase that talent. Nicky Priaulx and Steve Davies gave their treatment to “Wonderwall”, and as an added bonus, they came to the rally prepared with photocopies, so everyone can join in. Carina Girvan from SocSci gave us a version of Dolly Parton’s “Jolene”, penning a plaintive tune to Colin to keep his hands off our pensions. And Michael Munnik somehow managed to play a disco classic on the ukulele, getting the crowd to sing out that “It’s like thunder, lightning – the way you treat us is frightening!” Plenty of messages to those making the decisions that are keeping us out on the street.

Rob Smith, Carina Girvan and Steve Davies singing

“I’m beggin’ of you, please don’t take our pension…”

Following the rally, many staff and students met in the Bingo Hall at Cathays Community Centre for an open meeting – a chance to check in with each other, update on where we are and what strategies we need to win this struggle. We have plans for further engagement with students, asking each other for concrete ways to reach out and also dealing with the clashes that may come for many of us when we’re asked to reschedule work we’ve missed on strike days. This will be a challenge for many in the next few weeks, so keep in touch with each other and with UCU reps: we’re here to support each other when things get difficult! We also took the opportunity to update members on our joint statement from last week with the Vice-Chancellor and reiterate our campaign goals. Here’s what we still want, to ensure best protection for staff and for students. (Full statement is here.)

Teach-outs took place at Cathays Methodist Church, on the theme of Crime and Justice. This included a look at the fascinating work of the Cardiff University Innocence Project (you can find out more about their work in this great, slightly dated article in the Guardian).

“It’s no secret about it – we’re experts at this stuff, so see to it that we retire with enough…”

Tomorrow is a great opportunity to present our case to the political powers here in Wales. We’ve organised a lobby at the Senedd at noon. Cardiff UCU has laid out for a coach to take some of us down to the Bay after the rally at Main Building. Hop on or make your own way down. We want a good, strong showing, and you can meet your AM and talk with them directly about why this is important. We’ve gotten great support already from politicians, but this takes things up a notch.

Our main aim is to build on that impressive political support and encourage the Welsh Labour government to intervene with Universities UK and back the UCU’s objective: to keep our direct benefit pensions. If you haven’t already told us you’re coming, sign up here. If interest is high, we can put on a second coach, so click now and join us at the Senedd tomorrow. Don’t worry about limits on who can come into the building – it’s also really important that we get a contingent outside, bringing our usual energetic rally to a very public and powerful place. AMs will come out to address us, and we’re getting a strong indication that a contingent will be able to meet directly with the Education Minister to discuss our case.

We will be back in central Cardiff in time for the teach-outs, again at Cathays Methodist Church. Tomorrow’s theme is everybody’s favourite – neoliberalism! If you aren’t getting enough active political chat, here’s your chance for some good discussion.

Best,
Cardiff UCU Strike Communications Team

Strike bulletin #9

But picket, 8 March
Well, folks, we’ve come to the end of Week Three. We wish we didn’t have to be out here still, and we hope for goodness at the national level in talks between UCU and UUK. Locally, though, we’ve seen a lot of progress with a joint statement released today between our local UCU strike committee and university management. In it, “the Vice-Chancellor and Cardiff UCU have agreed to call on both UCU and UUK to work with USS to challenge the Pension Regulator to accept an academically robust, new and independent actuarial valuation.” Furthermore, “the Vice-Chancellor reiterated his support for working towards a solution that works for employee and employer alike.” You can read the whole thing here.

That’s not enough to pull us off the picket lines, but it certainly gives us something to talk about with our colleagues when we’re back in the office tomorrow (barring any freak snowstorms…) We are the union, and it is our strength and resolve that has gotten us as far as we are.

Fab rally

March panorama

But let’s not get ahead of ourselves – today was also great because of the mighty rally (thanks Jonathan Ablitt for the mind-bending panoramic photo). It’s been our custom to gather outside the gates of Main Building at 11 o’clock, but today, we put on extra numbers and were joined by students, unionists from other sectors, and a healthy clutch of politicians. We had drums, dogs, and determination, and we marched down Park Place, past the museum and City Hall, then up past Registry (where some of us got a few thumbs-up from the window!) and into Alexandra Gardens. It was inspiring to see so many of us out there, smiling, marching, and making noise. The police figure there were 600, and since police numbers work the opposite of UUK pension maths, we can be certain we had a thousand out.

We had rousing speeches, including a fiery, bilingual, and on-point address from Plaid Cymru AM Adam Price. We had strong women from politics and union activity speaking to us here on International Women’s Day, including Labour MPs Anna McMorrin and Carolyn Harris, Beth Webster from the Royal College of Nursing, and Claudia Boes linking our struggle to the International Women’s Day Strike held this afternoon. Finally, Adam Johannes gave a passionate speech that put our struggle in the wider context. What will people say about those academics who stood up in 2018? How will we be remembered? I hope they will say more than, “Well, they sure did protect their pensions.”

More political pressure

So let’s keep the heat on. Though we have a positive statement from university management, we will continue to press them on retaining the defined benefits and removing the threat of deducted wages for action short of a strike. Though the vice-chancellor seemed unaware of any such threats during his Question Time appearance on Monday, Cardiff University still sits on the Academic Boycott list for excessive punitive action on non-strike days. We’d also like a commitment from the university *not* to deduct our pay, given the opaque conditions through which Cardiff’s reply to UUK on the valuation risk was made. And we will continue to press for clarity on that decision making process, to protect us in the future.

We’d like to be back to work next week, but that requires a resolution that satisfies our demands. Until that happens, we keep pushing. Cardiff UCU members met this afternoon with Stephen Doughty, MP for Cardiff South and Penarth. He is fully supportive of our cause and says he’s keen to meet the V-C to advocate for us.

Stephen Doughty with UCU members

We have organised a lobby at the National Assembly for Tuesday 13 March. Between 1 and 2, we will be hosted by Julie Morgan and Jenny Rathbone, and we need a great and diverse turnout. Let us know you want to come down, and then let your own representative AM know you’ll be there. The more people we have and from more constituencies, the more effective this lobby will be. Cardiff UCU will put on transport to get us down there, so register your interest now!

Share the word

Meanwhile, we’re back to work tomorrow. Keep strong, keep motivated, and keep talking to your colleagues about the positive spirit we’ve experienced on the lines and the positive results we’ve secured – locally and nationally. UCU membership has been climbing: we’ve had 300 new joins since February. Everybody’s affected by the success or failure of the pension scheme; we improve the changes of success if everybody takes the burden of risk and the decision to fight – to down tools, get to the picket lines, and press for the pension we need.

Inca the Dog looks determined

Inca the Dog looks determined: match her determination. Unless you hear otherwise, we’ll see everyone Monday for Day Ten of the strike.

Best,
Cardiff UCU Strike Communications Team

Strike bulletin #8

Pickets

It was another busy day today. Pickets were established from 8am onwards at Heath Park, Newport Road, Hadyn Ellis, Colum Road, AHSS, Modern Languages, Law, Careers, Psychology, Biosciences, Main Gate, Bute, Glamorgan. The CARBS was the biggest yet (see photo below).

11 o’clock rally

As usual, staff from the picket lines throughout the University gathered at the Main Building for a rally at 11 o’clock. Sara Whittam, a member of PSS staff from MEDIC, addressed the rally in Welsh (and translated it into English for non-Welsh speakers), speaking about the solidarity she had found on the picket lines, from colleagues and students. The rally also heard from Mary Heimann, a Professor in SHARE, who noted that support from Cardiff University students continued to grow, and over 6,100 signatures were now recorded on the students’ petition to the Vice Chancellor. Paul Brennan, Vice Chair of Cardiff UCU, noted that the Vice Chancellor said that he was pleased with how Monday’s meeting with staff had progressed and that he valued hearing from members of staff. Paul also remarked on his feelings about going back to work Friday, unsure what he can accomplish in a day. But saying that he knows how much he could accomplish if he was back to work all of next week. Thanasi Hassoulas from MEDIC, compared his experiences of industrial action in Greece to the current UCU strikes.

Tomorrow’s (Thursday 8th March) march and rally

Tomorrow’s rally is due to be the biggest rally yet, with more and more people coming out to support the action. Speakers at the rally include, among others, Anna McMorrin MP and Adam Price AM. Please do encourage colleagues who have not yet come out on strike to strike tomorrow and attend the rally. Also, bring placards with your messages on them, and whistles, drums and other things that can be used to make noise.
In more practical matters, Phil Parkes will be coordinating the march and rally tomorrow. The route is not yet confirmed, but we will meet at the front of Main Building for 11 o’clock. Phil is looking for at least one more first-aider for the march; please email Phil if you can help out on Phillip.Parkes@sky.com.

An important date for your diaries: Lobby at the Welsh Assembly on Tuesday 13th March – link to sign up below

Cardiff UCU has arranged a lobby of the National Assembly for Wales for Tuesday 13th March between 1pm and 2pm.

The Welsh Government is an important source of funding and support for Welsh universities and particularly Cardiff University. It is vital that Ministers, especially the First Minister Carwyn Jones and the Education Minister Kirsty Williams are made aware of the impact of the proposed changes to our pensions, the strength of feeling of staff and the damaging affects that these changes will have on our university. Our aim is to speak to AMs and urge the Welsh Government to make a public statement calling on Universities UK to accept a new evaluation of the pension scheme and to negotiate in good faith with a view to retaining a Defined Benefit scheme.

Two of our local Assembly Members, Julie Morgan for Cardiff North and Jenny Rathbone for Cardiff Central, have agreed to host our lobby.

We need as many people as possible to commit to coming to the lobby next Tuesday. There will be transport provided by Cardiff UCU.

If you would like to attend the lobby and help to persuade the Welsh Government to support our case, click here and fill in the form

https://cardiffucu.onlinesurveys.ac.uk/lobby-of-national-assembly-of-wales

Further political support

In addition to support from Jo Stevens MP (Cardiff Central), Julie Morgan AM (Cardiff North), Jenny Rathbone AM (Cardiff Central), Leanne Wood AM (Leader of Plaid Cymru), Kevin Brennan MP (Cardiff West), Anna McMorrin MP (Cardiff North), Stephen Doughty MP (Cardiff South and Penarth), Mick Antoniw AM (Pontypridd) and Neil McEvoy AM (South Wales Central region), we have also received a statement from David Melding AM (also South Wales Central region) expressing concern ‘that UUK’s pension cuts have been made without proper engagement with the university sector and the affected employees’.

Yesterday’s teach out: Mental Health Matters

The teach out, led by Prof Ben Hannigan, HCARE, involved a range of talks focused on mental health services and the University’s legal obligations in relation to mental health, mental health concerns by students and University staff. More details can be found here: Mental Health teach-out

Yesterday’s activity: Flash Mob

Led by Steven Stanley, a silent flash mob assembled on the stairs in front of the Cardiff University Union. See a short video here:

Do you have an hour spare to help out?

The various strike committees have been working hard over the past three weeks, and are looking for people who would like to volunteer to contribute an hour or two over the next week. If you are able to help out, please speak to your UCU department rep.

Next week’s teach outs

It looks as though we will be on strike again next week. We have talks all week on subjects such as Crime and Justice (12th March), Making sense of Neoliberalism (13th March), Community Values (14th March), Archaeology and History (14th March evening), Creativity and Resistance to Oppressive Institutions (15th March), Climate Change and Divestment (15th March) and Wales and Strikes (16th March). All events will take place between 1-4 PM except for the Archaeology and History event which will take place between 5-7 PM. The venue for all of the events is Cathays Methodist Church, Crwys Road, Cathays, Cardiff, CF24 2NE (at the corner of Crwys Road and Fanny Street). They are open to everyone – students, staff and the public, so please do publicise these.

See you tomorrow at the rally and march! Come down and bring a friend.

Best,

Cardiff UCU Strike Communications Team


Further images from today: