Don’t Forget To Vote:

There is just over a week to go for UCU members to vote in the consultation on the final “four fights” offer made by UCEA on behalf of higher education employers.

This is a very important e-ballot and it is crucial that all of our members use their democratic right to vote.

The “four fights” are pay, gender and race pay gaps, workload, and casualised work.

The UCEA offer is here.

National UCU negotiators believe that the current offer represents “significant movement” on three (pay inequality, workload, and casualised work) of the four fights, but “falls short on the fullest extent of our demands”.

Our negotiators decided to consult members. Their statement can be found here.

The UCU Higher Education Committee (HEC) are advising the offer should be rejected.

The ballot itself contains further information from UCU negotiators on why the offer should be rejected.

All members eligible to vote should have received an email from CES (Civica Election Services) with a unique link to vote.

If you did not receive your e-ballot, click here.

The ballot will close next week, at noon on Wednesday 29th July 2020. 

Information on Action Short of Strike (ASOS):

The focus is now on Action short of Strike (ASOS) and keeping pressure on Cardiff University by working to contract. Under the ASOS mandate UCU asks members to:

  • work to contract
  • not cover for absent colleagues
  • not reschedule lectures or classes cancelled due to strike action
  • not undertake any voluntary activities.

It is worth familiarising yourself with the extensive guidance on ASOS on the UCU action centre webpage:

Historic mandates in Strike Ballots:

The results of the “four fights” and USS ballots amount to an overwhelming vote for industrial action, a clear mandate for our negotiators, and a clear message from staff to employers.

Cardiff UCU would like to thank the small but tireless team of local reps for their work campaigning to get the vote out, as well as our broader membership who voted so convincingly in favour of action to improve our Universities.

We’d also like to apologise to our members for hounding you about voting so regularly for the last month, and to thank you for your patience. It’s essential that as many of us vote as possible, and a steady stream of door-knocks, personal phone calls, and emails are the only tools we have at our disposal to do so.

Nationally, in the pay ballot, a record 55 post-92 and pre-92 branches are in a position to take industrial action, with a higher overall turnout (49%) and a larger yes vote (74%) than ever before. In the USS ballot, 43 branches are in a position to take action, with an even higher yes vote of 79% and an overall turnout of 53%.

At Cardiff, because of your collective resolve we met the punitive, anti-union, 50% threshold in both ballots, with a resounding vote in favour of strike action and ASOS in both too.

Although none of us want to go on strike again, this vote shows that most of us feel the sector needs to change. UCU nationally has called on employers to return to negotiations immediately. In the meantime, the union will plan for the next phase of each dispute. UCU’s higher education committee will meet shortly to discuss the results and consider our next steps, including the nature, timing, and scale of industrial action.

Guardian coverage here.

UCU press release here.

An older, local Welsh news piece which interviews Cardiff UCU activists about the issues underpinning the strike votes is here.

Results of the Cardiff UCU branch vote in both ballots:

CARDIFF UCU PAY, CASUALISATION, EQUALITY & WORKLOADS BALLOT: Turnout 52%

ARE YOU PREPARED TO TAKE INDUSTRIAL ACTION CONSISTING OF STRIKE ACTION?

77% Yes – 23% No

ARE YOU PREPARED TO TAKE INDUSTRIAL ACTION CONSISTING OF ACTION SHORT OF STRIKE ACTION UP TO AND INCLUDING A MARKING AND ASSESSMENT BOYCOTT?

84% Yes – 16% No

CARDIFF UCU USS BALLOT: Turnout 52%

ARE YOU PREPARED TO TAKE INDUSTRIAL ACTION CONSISTING OF STRIKE ACTION?

82% Yes – 18% No

ARE YOU PREPARED TO TAKE INDUSTRIAL ACTION CONSISTING OF ACTION SHORT OF STRIKE ACTION UP TO AND INCLUDING A MARKING AND ASSESSMENT BOYCOTT?

88% Yes – 12% No

The full results for all local branches who voted can be found here

In advance of the ballot: Update your UCU membership page!

Strike ballots can be invalidated by out-of-date information held on members (even on details such as whether a school or department is listed under an old, defunct, name). It’s essential that all our members keep their info updated on UCU’s database. To make sure you can vote this Autumn, and that your vote will be valid, please take a few minutes, and do the following now:

  1. Log into MyUCU here (or set up a UCU account here);
  2. Check and (if needed) update your mailing address (look for the “My Details” section & the “Personal” tab);
  3. Click the “Employment” tab and update your current institution & any other details (if you need to);
  4. Check your membership status to se if your membership type is correct (if you’re a non-voting student member check if you’re eligible for free membership here)

The Current UCU Negotiating Position on USS: How to avoid another USS strike

First up, something we all need to understand before reading on is that there’s no need for any contribution increase in our pensions. It has now been proven convincingly that the scheme is not in deficit. USS has lost its members’ trust and rejected some of the Joint Expert Panel’s (JEP’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.

 

It is shocking that our employers have not joined us in pushing vigorously for USS to take the JEP seriously; it is highly unjust and suspect that USS has rejected so many of the JEP’s recommendations. Had our employers supported UCU’s calls for transparency & rigour in the valuation process these current proposals would be unnecessary. However, the employers’ behaviour since the JEP issued its first report makes it look a lot like they *still* intend to decimate our pensions with the eventual aim of doing away with the Direct Benefit part of the scheme entirely.

 

UCU’s position is that, absent any proper response to the first JEP report, the only fair outcome for this valuation cycle is that USS members should pay 8% and the employers everything else. This is even written into the current USS scheme rules, so it’s not like we’re asking for the moon on a stick here.

 

The employers are currently arguing that members should share a hefty chunk (35% of the costs over 26% that arise from the valuation). This is both unjust and irrational: the employers should cover the full costs of any increases. Why? Because:

  • The employers can benefit from overpayment in one valuation cycle by underpaying in future ones, whereas members cannot;
  • They’ve underpaid into the Scheme in the past (the so-called pensions “holiday”);
  • They can influence the contribution rate in various ways, whereas members can’t; and
  • Members have repeatedly suffered the impact of investment decisions they had no input into, in the form of benefit cuts and earlier contribution increases.

 

Also, they can *afford* to cover the increase, and we shouldn’t be swayed by arguments about costs. This is about priorities, and yet again our employers are choosing to de-prioritise staff.

  • The independent covenant assessments commissioned by USS, along with other factors, indicate that they can afford it;
  • Employers are better placed to absorb the increases than individual members;
  • Members’ wages have been systematically suppressed for more than a decade; and
  • Sector staff costs have fallen in the last decade from 58% of total expenditure to 54% now, and implementing our proposals would raise this figure no higher than 56%.

 

Given the history of cuts to our USS pensions over the last two decades (which staff accepted with little or no serious resistance), and given the vigorous suppression of our wages over the same period, members are in no position to shoulder contributions increases. Tragically, many have already left the scheme citing problems with affordability.

 

Yet the employers, as they always have, continue to work on the arrogant assumption that their own activities, and bottom lines, must never suffer, whatever the cost to us. The employers never:

  • countenance cuts to capital expenditure (“shiny new buildings”);
  • think about changes to their business models; and/or
  • draw on their (often huge) reserves, even in the case of emergency (and what greater emergency than this?).

Instead, they consistently tell us that *we* have to sacrifice our current (or retirement) income to deal with problems that are largely of *their* own making. Enough is enough: it’s time to level the playing field; it’s time, for once, for the employers to give us real support when it matters.

 

You can read the full UCU negotiating proposals here.

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. Continue reading