Our local Trade Dispute over the threat of compulsory redundancies

As we explained last week, in response to the Vice-Chancellor’s refusal to rule out compulsory redundancies Cardiff UCU has declared a Trade Dispute, as the first step towards balloting our members on Industrial Action. Our principle aim in this dispute will be the avoidance of compulsory redundancies at Cardiff University.

Since last week, Welsh media have covered these plans(please note we aren’t responsible for the headline, which refers only to “lecturers”, and we’ve made clear to the news outlet that all staff are under threat, not just teaching staff – we’re all in this together!). We have also distilled info about the local problems we face, and how we’re planning to respond in this Twitter thread (you don’t have to be on Twitter to read it, but if you are please follow us and share our tweets – it’s an important campaigning tool, as well as a place where you can get useful updates on our work).

No Trade Union takes industrial action lightly, and we’ll do everything we can to avoid the need for it, but Union legislation (designed to make things more difficult for unions) means we need to set the wheels in motion now, plan for the worst, and be ready to face compulsory job cuts if (more likely, when) they come.

What can you do

  • Spread the word about, and attend, our upcoming open staff meetings for information sharing and planning to resist the cuts: The first joint staff meeting will be held Tomorrow (Thursday 20th December) 1-2pm in the Wallace Lecture Theatre (rm. 0.13 Main Building, Park Place);
  • Join our new Cardiff UCU Dispute Committee, which will be open to all members, to plan our strategy for defending our jobs (first meeting soon, TBA; to express interest contact ucu@cardiff.ac.uk);
  • Be ready to vote in indicative online polls and formal ballots on local industrial action in the new Year – and please vote in favour of Industrial action to empower your local negotiators to better defend your jobs and those of your colleagues;
  • Be inspired by the success and tactics of other UCU branches who’ve fought redundancies and won (see p.79 onwards of the Branch Solidarity Network’s UCU Activist Handbook)

Our alternative analysis of Transforming Cardiff and why this damaging exercise in cuts should be paused

As explained last week, our branch finance working group has been poring over Cardiff University’s accounts and financial documents to critically analyze the case for this restructuring exercise. We’ve now shared phase one of this analysis with the senior management of the University.

Please download our lengthy, but necessary, evidence-based request made by the UCU to the VC, other members of the University Executive Board (UEB) and Chair of Council Stuart Palmer to immediately halt all aspects of the latest round of cost-cutting which is known as Transforming Cardiff.

We find that Transforming Cardiff is based on a weak and misleading analysis of the University’s financial position which is then used to argue to cut staff costs – i.e. reduce staff numbers even further at a time when we face a workload crisis, while wanting to grow research income at the same time.

Our letter challenges the dominant narrative of the UEB, and requests a pause for reflection, debate, and genuine dialogue (rather than the fait accompli with which we have been presented so far). Please take 20 or 30 minutes to read the document and think hard about these issues. If you feel that the letter at least raises important questions about Transforming Cardiff then please share and discuss these issues widely in public, on social media, and within your departments, and join us in pressuring the UEB to see sense.

We believe that the outputs of this group have the potential to play a similar role in this local dispute as the work of our amazing pensions experts in the USS Strikes earlier this year – in other words, it’s crucial. If you’d like to join in with the efforts of Cardiff UCU’s expert finance group please contact the local office on ucu@cardiff.ac.uk.

Become a delegate at the UCU Cymru Congress next year, and help shape the UCU’s policy in Wales: You Are the Union!

If we’ve learned one thing this year it’s that our Union works best when rank and file members work together to democratize it from below, and set policies which empower our leadership to represent us effectively.

Wales Congress is the governing body of UCU Cymru and the next Congress will be on 2 March 2019. As a branch, and because of the spectacular growth in our membership, we can now send up to a whopping 23 delegates, and if you would be interested in going then please nominate yourself by emailing ucu@cardiff.ac.uk by 2 January.

Congress is an opportunity to influence policy and, as a branch, we are entitled to submit 2 motions. These will be chosen at our next Cardiff UCU General Meeting (on 23 January) so it’s not too early to start thinking about motions you would like to submit. Download guidance on the basics of drafting a motion.

Latest developments in the USS struggle

Here is UCU’s latest statement to members on the struggle to defend our pensions. A key paragraph is point 3, which states: “The union’s formal policy is that any outcome should provide no detriment to UCU members. The superannuation working group (SWG) which is the body that negotiates with Universities UK (UUK) welcomed the JEP report as ‘a significant and impressive piece of work’ and stated that its recommendations should ‘form the basis for negotiations’.”

UCU nationally also firmly believes that the Joint Expert Panel (JEP’s) recommendations should be implemented in full, and we now know that if this happens the valuation of the scheme would result in a surplus of £0.5billion, as explained by Denis Leach. As Mike Otsuka explains in this thread, USS will be making a statement very soon, and it remains to be seen whether it will itself implement the JEP’s proposals in full. Cardiff University is in favour of accepting the JEP’s proposals in full, as outlined in our joint statement earlier this year

In short, we have been completely vindicated in our arguments and analysis, and we still have the chance of keeping our DB pensions on current terms because we had the courage of our convictions, and backed them up with positive, firm, and militant industrial action.

Re-ballot on the Pay, Casualisation, & Equality Dispute

At a special HE sector conference on pay last month, UCU delegates agreed to re-ballot higher education members nationally for industrial action on the union’s claim around pay, equality and following the recent result of the first ballot. Conference decided that the new ballot would involve all branches, but this time on an aggregate basis (all results counted together, rather than branch-by-branch).

It has now been agreed that the new ballot will open on Monday 14 January 2019 and will close on Friday 22 February 2019. HEC also agreed that the same two questions posed in the recent disaggregate ballot will be asked in the new year aggregate ballot; do members support strike action and do members support action short of a strike up to and including a marking boycott. HEC delegated the formulation of the industrial action plan, which will include sustained strike action and Action Short of a Strike. More info can be found on the national UCU website.

Because of the local threats around redundancies we face, members in Cardiff will now be balloted twice in the New Year: once on the local issue of job losses, and once on the national issues of pay, casualization, and equality.

The Cardiff UCU local Dispute Committee will aim to co-ordinate our own strategies as much as possible with those of this on-going national dispute.