Two Ballots 2019 Frequently Asked Questions

For the attention of ALL Cardiff UCU members!

Why are we being balloted?

We are voting on whether or not to take strike action and action short of strike (ASOS) on:

  • Pay & Equality(UK ballot, 15thJan-22ndFeb): Negotiations made no progress on the issues of wages, tackling the gender pay gap, reducing casualization, and impossible workloads. UCU nationally, and the Cardiff UCU Executive Committee recommend that you vote ‘YES’ in favour of strike action and ASOS.
  • Protect jobs(local ballot, 1st-22ndFeb): There is a threat of compulsory redundancies at Cardiff University. Our VC has refused to provide assurance there will be no compulsory redundancies as part of the Transforming Cardiffcampus redevelopment scheme. Cardiff UCU Executive Committee recommend that you vote ‘YES’ in this local ballot favour of strike action and ASOS to protect our jobs.

Why should I vote?

In short, if we win both of these campaigns, we can:

  • Get a pay increase of 7.5% (or £1,500, whichever is greater)
  • Close gender pay gap by 2020
  • Fight precarious contracts
  • Recognise & reduce excessive workloads
  • Protect our jobs at Cardiff University (local ballot)

While we hope that as many union members as possible do take part in industrial action it is also worth noting that voting “yes” now does not oblige you to strike later. If you are on the fence about this ballot please consider voting “yes” now anyway.

  • Voting ‘yes’ to strike does not oblige you to go on strike later
  • Voting ‘yes’ to strike now makes it more likely employers will listen to us
  • Voting ‘yes’ to strike now helps UCU to strengthen our bargaining position
  • Voting ‘yes’ to strike now means we have a better chance of winning quickly without needing to strike – the threat of strike action might help us win dispute beforestriking
  • Even if we are exhausted/demoralised/pessimistic, we should still use our vote – otherwise things will definitely never change – we have a chance to make a positive change!
  • Intentionally notvoting undermines the democracy of our union and is much worse than voting ‘no’ to strike action – we should all use our vote!

Signalling that a high percentage of union members are willing to strike strengthens our negotiators’ position and will help to resolve the dispute soon and quickly without strikes becoming necessary.

Why are our jobs threatened?

There is a threat of compulsory redundanciesfor university staff at Cardiff University. Our Vice Chancellor and his University Executive Board say university staff costs are rising too quickly, when they have actually fallen in real terms. They think staff are too expensive, and that staff costs must be cut by getting rid of more staff. Their hastily initiated Voluntary Severance Scheme – the 3rdVSS scheme at Cardiff in 6 years – which aims to get rid of staff, means we will be losing even more valued colleagues and those who remain will be even more overworked.

Our VC has refused to provide assurance there will be no compulsory redundancies. Yet in 2016 our employers borrowed the largest public bond in the history of UK higher education: £300 million and have embarked on a £600 million campus redevelopment scheme called Transforming Cardiff. Each year they need to pay over £9 million interest on the bond and the bond will need to be repaid at over £550 million by 2055. Does prioritising investment in buildings instead of peoplesound like sensible, prudent and responsible financial management to you?

We demand our VC guarantees there will be no compulsory redundanciesresulting from any university restructuring over the next twelve months.

For more information on the Transforming Cardiff scheme, see our letter the the Vice Chancellor.

What is the current pay offer?

The current pay increase offer for 2018-19 from the University and College Employers Association (UCEA) is 2%.

This is a real-terms pay cut, because it isn’t in line with inflation – so the everyday cost of living is getting more expensive and our wages aren’t keeping up. In 2018 alone inflation has been over 3%, but this isn’t the first year that our pay has fallen short.

The cumulative loss in the value of our pay since 2009 is 21%.Staff pay growth has risen 1% per year since 2009 which in real-terms equates to a 17% pay cut. You can check how much you’d be earning if your pay had kept up with inflation with the UCU online calculator.

For example, a ‘mid-career’ male academic would be earning around £8,000 more per yearif salaries had kept pace with inflation since 2010.

UCU is demanding a pay rise of 7.5%(or £1,500, whichever is greater).

What if Universities don’t have enough money to pay us more?

Over the last seven years UK Universities’ income has increased by £8.9 billion(33.1%). Student numbers are growing far more quickly than staff numbers. Investment in buildings (‘capital expenditure’) has increased by 33% in 5 years, surpluses have increased by 176.8%, and reserves are up by 259.0%. Yet staff costs have fallen by 1.9%. The money isthere. Our employers need to start investing in peoplemore than shiny new buildings.

The money is clearly there for VCs and senior managers, who enjoy very high pay. While university staff got a real-terms pay cut of 17% since 2009, University Vice Chancellor salaries have risenby 13% since the same year. According to a THES Survey in 2016/17, VC pay increased an average of 3.2% (while most staff got 1.7%); 29 universities increased their VC’s pay by more than 10%. In 2017, just a few months before University Council discovered the University is financially unsustainable, our own VC at Cardiff University who earns over £250,000 per year got a bonus of £37,000 for meeting performance targets plus an annual bonus of £9,000. In 2017/2018 our VC got a 14% pay rise worth £42,000 pounds. VC salaries average £250,000 with the highest being over £808,000. 22 universities each have more than 100 members of staff earning over £100,000 per annum. Read more on the national UCU website.

What’s being disputed about equality?

UCU and other HE unions are demanding that in addition to a better pay offer, universities commit to making a nationally agreed framework for actionto:

  • Close the gender pay gap by 2020. In 2016/17 the average university staff gender pay gap was 11.8% – £5,936 a year. Average academic staff salaries at Cardiff are £56,000 for men and £46,000 for women. If you work a 35-hour week that’s equivalent to not being paid for more than 4 hours of work a week.
  • Fight precarious contracts Nationally, over 50% of academics teaching or doing research at British universities are on casual contracts. 66% of research staff are on fixed-term contracts and a third of these are for a year or less. There are thousands of administrative and professional services university staff on short-term, insecure, hourly-paid and even ‘zero-hour’ contracts. Postgraduates who teach and Graduate Teaching Assistants (GTAs) who do so much of our frontline undergraduate seminar tutoring and marking are not even recognised by our university as employees!
  • Recognise & reduce excessive workloads: Excessive workloads are a well-documented problem in Higher Education – a recent survey reported that we’re working an average of two days unpaid every week. Over 80% of university staff say the pace of their work has increased over the past three in years. In the 2017 Cardiff staff survey, only 19% of Teaching and Research academics say they can ‘meet the requirements of their job without working unreasonable hours’. 500 university staff and students wrote to our VC to demand urgentaction is taken to recognise and reduce excessive workloads and its potentially catastrophic impact on us. In 2016/2017 stress accounted for 40% of all work-related ill health cases and almost 50% of all working days lost due to ill health – these figures are higher in the education sector (Labour Force Survey).

The Universities and Colleges Employers Association (UCEA) has refused to engage on these issues.

What is action short of strike (ASOS)?

Action short of strike (ASOS) is non-strike action including working to contract, not doing voluntary work, not covering for absent colleagues and not rescheduling classes or lectures cancelled due to the strikes. ASOS can highlight how much extra work we do for the University and can help maximise the impact of strike action. ASOS may also include taking part in an assessment boycott.

How do these ballots relate to the pensions strike last year?

The fight over pay, equality, precarity, workload and protecting jobs is part of the wider struggle to improve our Universities and make them better places to work and study.

Last year UCU members took part in 14 days of strike action that successfully defended Defined Benefit pensions. Negotiations are still ongoing to try and resolve this, but we’ve shown that when we stand together, we can win!

More universities (147 in all), and more campus unions (Unison and Unite) are in the mix this time, because the issues concern us all. UCU members are better organised following the pension strike, so this strike could be bigger & more effective than the last.

Why should I strike if the union leadership is going to sell us out?

If we followed this logic we’d never take any action! The pensions dispute showed us that ‘rank-and-file’ action can push the leadership to be more responsive to members, and it’s brought us to the verge of a significant victory. It also led to a growing membership working to democratise UCU and exercise more control. There have never been so many different opportunities to help strengthen and unite the Union than now. There are no guarantees of success, but we won’t win anything if we cave in now.

Won’t striking hurt students?

It’s true that striking will affect students who will be missing out on teaching or will be affected by an assessment boycott. Going on strike wouldn’t make any sense if it didn’t disrupt the workings of the university. We all care about our students and do not make the decision to disrupt their education lightly. But the better working conditions we’re fighting for now will also benefit students. After all, our working conditions are students’ learning conditions! Our financial security and wellbeing in work will impact the quality of teaching we can deliver. Some students, of course, also go on to be academics or professional services staff working in universities. We’re directly fighting for their future, as well as for a system that does not depend on precarious, exploitative labour.

Getting a university degree is about more than passing exams to get a job. It’s also about learning citizenship and discovering the world. Striking does not mean we don’t teach students any more. Many students and staff have found that the last round of strikes has shown that “another University is possible!”.

For some students, industrial action is a unique learning experience and some of our brightest and most talented undergraduate and postgraduate students joined picket lines and took part in ‘teach-outs’.

What if our employers don’t listen?

The pensions dispute showed that taking strike action can be successful. We took strong, unified action that forced our employers to pay attention and back down and we’ve still got our pension.

This is our chance to let our employers know that we’re willing to fight for fair pay, better working conditions, and to protect our jobs.

I’m a researcher and don’t teach, what’s the point of me going on strike?

66% of research staff are on fixed-term contracts and a third of these are for a year or less. There are also thousands of staff on hourly-paid and even zero-hour contracts. By striking, you will be fighting to defend fair pay for researchers, now and in the future.

When we went on strike earlier this year we didn’t stop working, we carried on doing what we do best – teach & research; just not in the service of University.

Striking frees up your time to campaign and work together with colleagues and students to fight for a fairer future for universities.

Everyone’s unique talents can help to support a strike, strengthen our Union’s bargaining power, and win our disputes!

I’m a postgraduate employed by the university, can I vote?

If you are a postgraduate member of the UCU and you indicated to UCU that you are employed by the University, you are eligible to vote. Whether or not the University recognises you as an employee is not important. If you did not receive your ballot, you might have to change your status with UCU from ‘postgraduate’ (student) member to ‘standard free’ (or ‘full free’) via my UCU.

I can’t afford to go on strike – will be Union help me?

The UCU nationally has a strike fund to help those most in need of assistance, and we do at local level too. At Cardiff, we’re better prepared than ever to support striking members with a healthy solidarity fund which we’re building all the time.

During the last strike UCU took extra care to support precariously employed members such as PhD students and Postdocs and we aim to do so again. Accessing the strike fund is easy and straightforward. We realise that hourly paid workers may have difficulty evidencing loss of pay and will take that into account.

Which UCU members are eligible to vote?

All UCU members who are employed by the University and who joined online up to 14th September 2018 are able to vote.

Postgrad members who indicate to UCU they are employed by the University are eligible to vote.

Why does it have to be a postal vote?

All industrial action ballots are required to be postal by law. This is one of several ‘anti-trade union’ laws that try to make it harder for employees to strike. Another one is that for strike action to be legal, 50% of members must have participated in the vote. So it’s really important that you use your vote!

If you haven’t received your ballot paper for the national pay & equality ballot, or you’ve lost it, please request a replacement online.

If you haven’t received your ballot paper for the local ballot to protect jobs, or you’ve lost it, please contact the UCU Wales office and provide your membership number or date of birth (so they can locate your membership record to issue the replacement).

It is vital that you keep your membership details up to date! If we notify the University of strike action and this information is wrong, they can take action against the UCU to stop it. Once you have joined UCU, neither head office nor the branch office has any way of finding out if you change departments – or even leave Cardiff University – unless you tell us. You can update your details via my UCU.

If you have any other questions about the ballot, please contact the Cardiff UCU branch office on 02920 874443.

I’ve already voted in both ballots – what can I do to help?

If you’ve already voted, there’s more you can do:

  • Talk to colleagues/fellow UCU postgrad members and remind them to vote– in person, on Twitter, and on Facebook; people are busy and appreciate a reminder!
  • Print out the local and national UCU leaflets and posters, and plaster the University with them;
  • Go to local branch/departmental UCU meetings and get involved; and
  • Get in touch with your department’s UCU repor the Cardiff UCU Executive Committeeand volunteer to do some phone banking or door-knocking – it’s fun and easy to do and people are really grateful for your help! Let’s get out the vote!