Cardiff UCU Members: A New Year Appeal to Action

We begin 2019 in very turbulent times.

We are at a low-point in the marketisation of UK Higher Education and we face numerous and related challenges: unprecedented attacks on pensions, jobs, and pay; stifling and intransigent managerialism; rising inequality (between male and female staff, senior managers and the rank and file, as well as permanent and precariously-employed workers); endemic casualisation and the spread of gig-economy style working conditions; and sky-rocketing workloads (with a consequent creeping mental health crisis among colleagues).

But we’re also at a high-point in resisting all of this. Although they were emotionally and physically bruising and exhausting, the struggles of 2018 unified and strengthened us. Our collective understanding of these problems has never been clearer. The UCU, both locally and nationally, is bigger, stronger, more active, more democratic, and more able to fight back than ever before.

Please read our important updates below, inform yourself of the evidence behind our planned actions, read what you can do to join in, and ready yourselves for a year of solidarity and struggle.

The union makes us strong; the University belongs to us.

The Cardiff UCU Executive Committee

Our jobs are at risk: Vote for local action to empower your negotiators to save them

As you know from our newsletters before the winter break, Cardiff UCU has declared an Industrial Dispute over the danger of compulsory redundancies associated with the “Transforming Cardiff” cost-cutting exercise.

Our jobs are under threat, and the only effective way we can protect them is to have an active mandate for industrial action ready when/if compulsory job cuts are announced later in the year.

We have now received authorisation for a postal ballot for local Strike Action and Action Short of a Strike (ASOS) between 1st-22nd February 2019.

We will do *everything* we can to avoid industrial action over this issue, but without the threat of local resistance we’ll have little leverage to do protect our jobs.

This local ballot period will overlap with a second national strike ballot on the issues of Pay, Equality, and Casualisation (see below).

The evidence against “Transforming Cardiff”

As you know, “Transforming Cardiff” is a restructuring exercise being carried out at Cardiff University. At its core lies the third voluntary severance scheme in under 6 years, and the danger of compulsory redundancies in the future.

As well as declaring the dispute discussed above, we have also found that the whole cost-cutting exercise is rooted in sustained mismanagement and misleading analysis.

The USS strikes taught us that our Union is strongest when combining expert analysis and evidence with unified industrial action, sour expert Finance Working Group has been looking in detail at the Uni’s accounts, as well as its case for cutting costs and shedding staff. Based on our findings, we’ve asked management to pause the whole scheme, to take stock, and address our evidence-based concerns.

This (12-minute) video summarises our analysis in detail.You can also find our analysis in text form, or check our shorter (4-minute) summary video here.

National Postal Ballot: Pay, equality, and casualisation, 15th January-22nd February

Last November we, along with most other UCU HE branches, narrowly missed out on reaching the 50% threshold for members voting in a ballot for industrial action over stagnating/equal pay and the scourge of casualisation. A special UCU HE Sector Conference agreed to re-ballot members on the same issue, but using an aggregate ballot (which takes the UCU HE membership as a whole, rather than workplace by workplace). Postal ballots will be sent out to your work or home address between 15th January and 22nd February.

When we voted on this last year, in Cardiff we achieved a turnout of 44%, which is the highest ever for a dispute over pay. But it’s not enough. We urge you again to vote early, and vote “Yes” for strike action and for ASOS.

Check out our FAQ on the issues, and please read our members’ Rowan Campbell and Steven Stanley‘s persuasive accounts of why action is needed, and why you should vote for it. You can also check out this video piece about casualisation at Cardiff from BBC Wales Today, which covers the work of Cardiff UCU’s Anti-Casualisation Working Group (health warning: highly misleading claims are included from the employers about the proportion of staff on secure contracts).

If you didn’t vote last time, please do so this time

  • Not voting plays into the hands of the architects of the punitive 50% threshold for strike action – please do not tacitly support this regressive, anti-union law by abstaining;
  • Yes, this is about pay, but arguably more important are the issues of inequality and casualisation. Marginalised and precariously-employed University workers stood with more established colleagues in (often selfless) union to protect our pensions last year;
  • If you are in secure employment and wavering about this vote, now is the time to stand together and repay this solidarity.

Take Action: How to help resist these cuts, protect our jobs, improve pay and conditions, and make the University a more equal employer?

  1. Update your member details (workplace, correspondence address, etc) on the UCU website, so you can be sure of getting your postal ballot cards;
  2. Vote, vote, vote: vote early (don’t put it off): please vote Yes to Strike Action and ASOS in both ballots; give our local and national negotiators a strong mandate and real leverage;
  3. Discuss, share, and raise concerns about the issues and the evidence/analysis in the videos above (as well as the posters and flyers we circulate). When you hear colleagues expressing fear, concern, or unease, persuade them to join the UCU, and follow up with an email to show them how to sign up;
  4. A good place to do do this will be our regular Monday-lunchtime “Resist Transforming Cardiff” gatherings in the foyer of the Main Building on Park Place (see also the attached flyer). Come along for an informal opportunity to chat, learn, organise, engage, and show solidarity.
  5. Attend local UCU meetings (the next General Meeting is 23rd January, 1.20pm, Glamorgan Building, Committee Rm 1) as well as the all-staff meetings we’ll be holding in the coming weeks and months;
  6. Join our new dispute committee, which will guide our strategy and campaigning in these disputes, and is open to all members. The next meeting will be held in the John Perceval Building, room 1.31, 1pm-2pm, Monday 15th January.