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HE national disputes 2021

Negotiations with employers and important decisions about industrial action

9 November 2021

Last week I announced the results of our Four Fights and USS ballots.

Firstly, I want to congratulate all those who voted and helped to deliver such strong results in just a three-week ballot period. 

Letters to employer representatives 

Yesterday I wrote to both UCEA (the employer body we negotiate with in the Four Fights dispute) and UUK (who we negotiate with over USS pensions) to outline the scale of the mandate for industrial action which we now possess after both ballots and the disruption that will take place if they do not consult employers immediately to seek their mandate for a better offer in each dispute. 

You can find the letter to UCEA (regarding Four Fights) here.
And the letter to UUK (regarding USS) here. 

Both UCEA and UUK base their negotiating positions on what employers individually say they would be willing to offer. To move the needle overall, we need individual employers who are now feeling the pressure of likely disruption to tell UCEA/UUK they are ready to offer more. You will be updated as soon as we have a response. 

What's next? 

This week, your UCU branch will be consulting its members on what we do next. It's incredibly important that you make your voice heard. If there is a meeting, please try to attend. If you can email the branch, or respond to any surveys, please do. 

These branch meetings will be followed this Friday morning by branch delegate meetings where a representative from your branch will pass on your views. 

On Friday afternoon there will then be a meeting of the union's higher education committee (HEC) who will consider the results of the branch delegate meetings and formally decide the next steps. There will be some important questions to decide. 

There will almost certainly be industrial action (strikes and/or ASOS) this term, but we need to collectively approve that via these meetings and also decide how much should be called in each dispute and when. 

There will also almost certainly be a round of reballots to increase our leverage by giving branches that missed the 50% turnout threshold a mandate for action, but again we need to collectively decide when and how many. We also need to decide whether to reballot on a disaggregated basis (meaning only branches with a majority YES vote and turnout over 50% can join the action) or aggregated basis (meaning all branches in the dispute can take action, as long as turnout across all branches exceeds 50% again). 

Last week I told members what I believe our union should do next, and you can hear my thoughts here or read them here. But ultimately this is up to you, the members. And whatever you decide, we all have to throw our weight behind it and do everything possible to make sure we emerge with victories from these disputes. That is what I will do and I know every single branch will do the same. 

Jo Grady 
UCU general secretary

Last updated: 6 May 2022