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The Friday email: 10 June 2022

10 June 2022

UCU Congress and sector conferences

The union's supreme policy-making body is its annual Congress, which took place online from Wednesday 1 to Friday 3 June. Congress includes separate annual meetings of UCU's further and higher education sector conferences, where policies particular to those areas are decided. You can click this page to find out more about the motions that have passed this year, read general secretary Jo Grady's Congress speech, and watch a video message from Janet Farrar, the new UCU president.

Respect FE: industrial action ballot opens on Tuesday 14 June

An industrial action ballot over pay, workload and professional respect opens in 33 FE college branches in England on Tuesday 14 June (closing on Friday 15 July). A parallel ballot will also open at New City College and Barnet and Southgate College in London.

All FE members can support the Respect FE campaign by completing our new survey exploring the impact of low pay and the cost of living crisis on college staff. The survey will close on Thursday 16 June.

To mark the start of the Respect FE industrial action ballot, UCU's Exeter office will be holding a mass online rally for the thirteen FE colleges in South West England on Thursday 16 June, 18:00-19:00. Look out for an email invitation sent earlier this week, if you are a UCU member in: Abingdon and Witney College; Bath College; Bournemouth and Poole College; Bridgwater and Taunton College; City College Plymouth; City of Bristol College; Exeter College; New College Swindon; Strode College; Truro and Penwith College; Weston College; Wiltshire College; Yeovil College.

Four Fights and USS pensions disputes: marking and assessment boycott

Action short of a strike (ASOS) continued at UCU branches for the Four Fights and/or USS pensions disputes--with many branches taking part in a marking and assessment boycott (MAB). All UCU HE members are encouraged to donate to the fighting fund in support of branches taking industrial action.

Earlier this week, UCU officials wrote to all HE members to report some of the outcomes from Congress and higher education sector conference (HESC) pertaining to the Four Fights and USS pensions disputes. The higher education committee (HEC) will meet on Friday 1 July and agree a new strategy. To inform the HEC, we will hold a branch delegate meeting (BDM) on Monday 27 June. Members are encouraged to participate in any branch meetings and/or consultations that may take place between now and the BDM.

Resisting the latest wave of university redundancies

UCU has declared a dispute with the University of Wolverhampton and said that it would be left with no choice but to ballot staff for strike action if the university pushes ahead with plans to suspend student recruitment onto 146 courses. The majority of the courses under threat are in performing arts, fashion, social sciences, interior design and fine art. In May, UCU wrote to the university's interim vice chancellor Professor Ian Campbell explaining that, as well as industrial action the university could face legal action as the course closures are likely to result in more than 20 redundancies. This means the university has a statutory duty to consult with UCU as the recognised trade union, but despite our letter, and a meeting with the VC on Tuesday 7 June, the university has still not provided UCU with the necessary information.

Earlier this week, students and staff at Roehampton University protested agonist management's plan to cull the number of courses on offer and sack 226 academics--half of Roehampton's academic staff. Management intends to make those who want to stay compete for far fewer new jobs, many of which will be short term contracts to teach out the courses that are being shut down. The schools of arts, humanities and social sciences, education, psychology and life and health sciences have all been targeted. You can sign the petition for Roehampton here.

For the latest developments at De Montfort University, you can read De Montfort UCU's bulletin here and sign the petition for DMU.

Hopwood Hall College win and North West England FE march

Strike action due to take place on Tuesday 7 and Friday 10 June at Hopwood Hall College in Rochdale and Middleton, Greater Manchester, has been called off after Hopwood Hall staff overwhelmingly voted to accept a pay offer worth up to 7.5%. The deal comes as another four colleges in North West England--Burnley College, City of Liverpool College, The Manchester College and Oldham College--walked out this week. UCU has urged the other employers to make improved pay offers and avoid any further disruption.

Earlier today, UCU members took part in the UCU North West England FE strike rally in Manchester. You can check out some of the action on UCU's Twitter account and share this clip featuring Maxine Looby, UCU's new vice president.

Meanwhile, an industrial action ballot opened at Hugh Baird College in Merseyside after management insisted it would only offer staff a 1% pay increase and a one off payment of just £500.

Richmond upon Thames College: no 'fire and rehire'

Staff at Richmond upon Thames College (RUTC) will warn prospective students and parents about the behaviour of college management as two more strike days (Tuesday 21 June and Tuesday 28 June) were called to coincide with college open days in a bitter dispute over plans to fire and rehire 127 teachers.

RUTC members already took five days of strike action (Monday 23 to Friday 27 May) as they tried to stop plans by management to sack all 127 teachers and force them to reapply for their jobs on worse terms and conditions. UCU offered to pause any further action if management lifted the threat of compulsory dismissals for staff who would not sign new contracts. However, management repeatedly refused and insisted staff would have to reapply for their jobs on new contracts that would see them lose 10 days holiday. You can:

  • show your support on Twitter using the hashtag #RichmondFireAndRehire tagging the main UCU account @ucu, the local branch @UCU_RuTC and the college @RuT_College
  • send messages of solidarity to the branch via the local UCU officers Lucy Corr and Caroline King.

University of Winchester: workload dispute

Winchester UCU won the support of members in a ballot for strike action (77.1% 'Yes') and action short of a strike (91.6% 'Yes') with a 54.4% turnout. Branch negotiators have been meeting with university management to seek a negotiated resolution that meets the demands of UCU members, and these talks are ongoing. UCU will be calling on Winchester UCU members to take ongoing action short of a strike from Tuesday 14 June. This includes working to contract and withholding of cooperation from implementation of the Workload Allocation Model (WAM).

Equal pay and the gender pay gap in education

The Equality Trust is hosting a webinar on equal pay and the gender pay gap in the education sector from Tuesday 14 June, 17:00-18:00. Women remain under-represented in leadership and senior positions in education, which not only conveys a terrible message to students, but also creates sometimes significant gender pay gaps. The webinar will hear from speakers in the education sector, including Jo Edge (UCU national executive committee member and incoming chair of the equality committee), and look at the Equal Pay Toolkit that the Equality Trust has developed with trade unions. Please click here to register for the event.

Important message regarding Milton Keynes College and prison education

Do you work for Milton Keynes College as either a prison education or college lecturer/tutor? Do you work as a prison education lecturer/tutor for NOVUS or PeoplePlus now but have worked for Milton Keynes College in the past and so currently work under a TUPE MKC contract at one of these providers? Have you worked as a prison education lecturer/tutor for MKC or under a MKC contract any time between May 2016 and May 2022 and have since left their employ?

If your answer is 'Yes' to any of the above questions, you may have a claim for unpaid incremental pay awards going back for up to six years--it does not matter if you no longer work in the sector; you may still have a claim.

UCU is currently investigating a breach of contract claim for non-payment of performance related increments. We would love to hear from you.

If you would like to take part in this investigation please email UCU's bargaining and negotiations department requesting a case enquiry form and return it no later than Friday 17 June 2022. All information received will be treated in the strictest of confidence.

Fobzu's Truth to Power appeal: supporting Palestinian journalism and access to education

On 11 May 2022, veteran Palestinian journalist Shireen Abu Akleh was shot dead while reporting on an Israeli military incursion into Jenin refugee camp. To honour Shireen Abu Akleh's legacy and defend the voice of Palestinians under attack, Fobzu--a UK-based charity which UCU has worked closely with for many years--is establishing a scholarship for students in financial need to study media and journalism at Birzeit University. Click here to see how you can support the new scholarship appeal. 

PhD disability experience survey

We have launched a survey to explore the experiences of PhD students and recent PhD graduates who are disabled, neurodivergent, living with a chronic illness, or experience mental health conditions and/or issues. Please fill in our survey to contribute your experiences. The survey will be open until Sunday 12 June. For alternative survey formats, please see the link for further information. 

Getting a better deal for PGRs: a new report

UCU's PGRs as staff campaign has published the report sent to UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) on what needs to happen to ensure all postgraduate researchers (PGRs) get a better deal during their PhD. This is based on what PGRs and others told UCU through our survey and focus groups earlier this year.

We have highlighted ways in which the current system fails to support PGRs to live well, do meaningful research and build careers. The report includes a list of urgent needs that must be addressed, and some potential new models for the PhD. 

Join the education bloc at the TUC march, Saturday 18 June

Join us on Saturday 18 June for the TUC march in London calling for action over the cost of living crisis and a pay rise for all. UCU will march alongside our sister education unions as an 'Educators united' bloc. Please see here for details about organising a coach from your area. Assemble: 11:00 at Portland Place W1 for the march at 12 noon, to the rally at 13:00 in Parliament Square.

Rule 13 decision on conduct of members

Following the application of the union's procedure for the regulation of the conduct of members, the following sanction has been imposed.

With best wishes

Ed Bailey
UCU acting head of campaigns

Last updated: 17 June 2022