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UCU Rising: address to picket lines and update on negotiations

15 February 2023

The following is the script for UCU general secretary Jo Grady's live broadcast to UCU Rising picket lines, 15 February 2023:

Morning everyone! What's better for a general secretary than speaking to a picket line? Well speaking to 150 of them!

We've put together this broadcast because first and foremost it's important sometimes to simply acknowledge the levels of support, sacrifice and solidarity we are seeing from you.

Last week we let everyone know we were entering discussions with the employer [Universities and Colleges Employers Association, UCEA, with regard to the pay and working conditions dispute] at Acas and we asked you to deliver huge picket lines. And you have delivered in style.

I can categorically tell you that we have felt your support in the room. And if we have felt it then so have the employers too.

For those of you who are familiar with the way which Acas operates, you will know that it is especially in the early exchanges, a confidential process--before moving on to substantive talks--establishes structures and processes. I can't say much just yet, but I do want you to know I believe these talks are worthwhile and that they continue.

Obviously, given the number of unions involved in the talks (we are one of five) this again adds some time but ultimately we want to change the sector for everyone who works in it.

So a summary of this week would be that as a union we are making progress. Alongside this we are also making progress on [USS] pension negotiations. I said last week that employers [Universities UK, UUK] had acknowledged pensions could be restored. We believe they can be restored to the level we had in April 2022 before they were cut, and we believe we will soon have financial figures that demonstrate this. Everything is very finely balanced at the moment but we very much hope to be in a place to bring you a significant update in soon.

Onto the strike action, I want to say something: the purpose of this dispute is not strike action. It is to reach an agreement. We will not keep you on strike for a minute longer than we have to. At the moment though, your action is providing the pressure we need to get the deal across the line.

Your job is to do exactly what you have been doing--withdrawing your labour and delivering massive picket lines.

Our job is to use that backing to get the deal done and get you back to work.

Finally, the re-ballot: papers will start to land from Wednesday [22 February]. However the talks go, it is vital we win that re-ballot.

If we are able to deliver an extended mandate for a further six months of action, then we are confident that the prospect of that mandate, this threat, combined with the action you are taking now, will get us the sector defining deal you deserve.

It may also be that we establish some principles with the employers in the coming weeks; the ballot will hold their feet to the fire to ensure every promise is kept.

Everything we are doing here is part of a strategy: the talks, the strikes, the re-ballot. We have to deliver on all three if we are to win the dispute.

I'll finish where I started: well done for standing up for yourselves, your students, your union and education.

I am so proud to represent you.

Today we are nearer than ever to reaching agreement. That is because of you.

My final request is a simple one: if you are watching this broadcast on a picket line then when it ends can I ask that you all get together, take a photo with your hands raised to indicate you will be voting 'Yes' in the re-ballot and tag UCU and myself [@DrJoGrady] in it on social media.

We created a wave of Valentine's love yesterday. Let's create a sea of solidarity today.

Go and get warm, stick together.

UCU and proud.

Last updated: 15 February 2023