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Nobody wants to have to ballot every year

17 September 2019 | last updated: 23 September 2019

Vote yes so that we can put pressure on the employers to enter into meaningful negotiations to find a long-term solution to the sector's ongoing issues.

By now, members in pre- and post-92 universities should have received ballot papers for industrial action on pay and a range of pay-related issues, including equality, casualisation, and workload. From today, it is possible to order a replacement ballot if you have either not received or lost your original one. 

In September and October, I am touring as many branches as I can throughout UCU's regions and nations, to discuss this ballot and the pre-92 USS ballot. Please click here to find details of the nearest event to you. I want to reach and speak to as many members as possible.

It's time for a long-term, nationwide solution to the problems we face

Nobody wants to have to ballot every year over issues that never seem to get better. We know that in recent years, our pay has been cut by about 20% in real terms. We know that over half of academic staff in our universities are employed on fixed term and variable or zero hours contracts. We know that there are severe pay gaps for women and other colleagues with protected characteristics, with the gender pay gap as high as 20% in several institutions. We know that staff spend hours every week effectively working for free.

Senior managers are equally aware of this, but they are not interested in working with us to find long-term answers that will apply across all institutions. Each year UCU lodges a detailed, multi-faceted claim with employers that seeks to address the fundamental issues. What we are asking for is realistic, and it can be implemented with gradual, manageable changes to employers' business models. This year, our demands include:

  • a pay increase of 3% plus RPI or £3,349 (whichever is greater)
  • a plan of action to close the gender and ethnicity pay gaps
  • a reduction in the use of zero-hours and hourly paid contracts
  • proper enforcement of a 35-hour working week
  • recognition and management of the stress and health and safety issues caused by excessive workloads.

National agreements covering these areas will go much further than piecemeal gains on a local level. If you move institution, you don't want to have to worry about whether your new employer observes the same standards for workload or gender equality as your old one. We don't want employers undercutting each other with ever more precarious employment practices.

The bigger the mandate for strike action, the better the outcome

Employers have refused to enter meaningful negotiations with us on these issues, but a nationwide strike mandate will bring them to the table, just as it did when we went on strike over USS last year. The more members vote, the sooner employers will make concessions, the better the deal we will get, and the lower the likelihood we will have to ballot again in future.

Please make every effort to vote and to tell your colleagues, whether or not they are members, about our campaign. In the meantime, I look forward to meeting as many of you as possible on my tour. If your branch is not covered and you can't make it to any of the events, you can email Christine Bernabe to request for another speaker to visit your branch. Please email me any questions you may have about the ballot.

Jo Grady
UCU general secretary

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