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UCU Congress 2023

The Friday email: 26 May 2023

26 May 2023

UCU Congress and sector conferences

The union's supreme policy-making body is its annual Congress, which is taking place in Glasgow from Saturday 27 to Monday 29 May. 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 here to find out more about the motions that will be debated this year, and watch president Janet Farrar's introductory video on UCU Congress.

UCU Rising: marking and assessment boycott continues

This week members in higher education continued the marking and assessment boycott (MAB) in the pay and working conditions dispute. While employers have pleaded poverty and refused to negotiate, our latest analysis has shown that the sector is bringing in a record income. You can find out the specific figures for your institution here.

You can also read a letter sent on 25 May by the joint trade unions to Universities and Colleges Employers Association (UCEA) regarding negotiations.

Our escalation strategy remains in place for branches facing punitive deductions and is working to move employers. This week the University of Cambridge has called on UCEA to 'urgently' resume negotiations with UCU so that students can graduate. To find out more about what Cambridge UCU and Queen Margaret University UCU have achieved, you can listen to our special MAB podcast on Spotify or YouTube.

Strike action notices have been served on a number of employers over punitive deductions and UCU members in SOAS, University of Winchester and Sheffield Hallam University have been out on the picket lines this week.

The national executive committee (NEC) has agreed that salary sharing within and between branches should be the main method of supporting members facing deductions. Please get in touch with your local reps to find out more information about your local hardship fund. Nationally we are also supporting members through the fighting fund. In addition to the £250,000 initially ringfenced, we have also put £750,000 into the fund this month and will continue to do so for the duration of the MAB up to £3million. UK officers have also agreed from 1 May to increase the number of days that members can claim from the fighting fund for strike action or 100% deductions to 20 days. We are also working on expanding eligibility to members facing deductions of 50% or more; further details will be announced soon.

USS pensions: latest monitoring report and Capita cyber incident

The package of devastating USS pension cuts imposed on university staff in April 2022 are on track to be revoked, with benefits restored 'in full', said employers and UCU. UCU has said the comprehensive restoration of stolen benefits will see UCU members recognised as 'history makers' of the trade union movement. Click here for further details and to read the new UCU-UUK joint statement and here for a special video on how we got to this point in the USS dispute.

Capita recently reported a cyber incident involving hackers targeting some of its computer servers. Capita have identified from their investigations that personal data of USS members was  accessed and/or copied by the hackers. If you are a member of USS pensions, you should have received an email from USS Limited with this information. If you have further questions, you can contact USS at this email address. For the avoidance of doubt, this cyber incident is related to USS Limited's data, not UCU's data.

Respect FE: we need a new settlement for college staff

UCU members in further education are standing up for fair treatment in colleges including ongoing strike action at the Manchester College and UCEN Manchester over low pay, action on pay at Barnet and Southgate College, another two-day strike at Kirklees College, industrial action throughout June at the Luminate Education Group (Leeds City and Harrogate colleges) who just won their ballot with a 61% turnout and 92% in favour of striking, action at City College Norwich and a major dispute and strike action at Bradford College.

The union has now agreed plans to build our Respect FE campaign (England) over the summer in support of the joint FE unions' claim for 2023/24 and to prepare for nationally coordinated local ballots for action in the autumn. The campaign plan will be implemented in three phases:

  • phase 1: explaining and building support for our claim in the form of a pledge and encouraging college employers to sign up to the principles of improving pay, addressing unmanageable workloads, a new model of binding national bargaining and a just transition on climate
  • phase 2: putting in resources to improve branch organisation, training and support in order to prepare the infrastructure needed to win statutory ballots, build confidence and successfully campaign for a new national settlement for FE
  • phase 3: our biggest 'get the vote out' (GTVO) campaign ever in the college sector, taking the experience of UCU Rising and applying it to an FE context with high-profile social media coverage, mass member engagement and involvement, and the recruitment of more further education workers to the union to build our workplace power.

Look out for our online campaign launch event coming soon post-Congress.

Build the Union month, October 2023

We are excited to announce that in October we are launching a union-wide recruitment drive entitled Build the Union month. We want to stress to branches and members why recruitment matters and must be a priority alongside any action we are undertaking. More details will follow over the coming weeks about the plans which will involve every sector and every part of the union nationally, regionally and locally.

Apprenticeship training and T Levels at FE colleges

UCU was instrumental in securing a Westminster Hall debate recently about college funding in the Midlands, prompted by the withdrawal of apprenticeship training at Coventry College. If members are aware of any further education (FE) colleges having difficulties delivering apprenticeship training or T Levels due to staff shortages, do get in touch with our FE policy officer Rhianwen Roberts. Knowing this information is helpful to support our campaign for higher pay for the sector.

Cradle to Grave conference, 17 June

Have you registered for the Cradle to Grave conference? Our online conference 'A vision for education: the way forward for the post-16 education sector', will take place on Saturday 17 June 2023. We will discuss a shared vision for post-16 education in these challenging times. Keynote speaker: John McDonnell MP.

UCU at Pride London

UCU will have a walking group at Pride London on Saturday 1 July this year. Can you join the group? There are a limited number of wristbands. UCU will support travel within the area of the Pride London event. If you are interested please complete this form

UCU fighting disability discrimination

You can read details of UCU's recent successful legal action on behalf of a member who experienced age and disability discrimination as a member of university staff. You can read the full Employment Appeal Tribunal judgment here.

Workplace temperatures and climate action

The new video and leaflet from Trades Union Congress (TUC) show how union reps and activists can plan for heatwaves and cold snaps, save their workplace money on energy bills, and take climate action at work.

2023 is predicted to beat heat records again--if workers struggled with extreme temperatures in last summer, this year will likely be worse. Employers will be worried about the cost of keeping the workplace warm in the winter and cool in the summer as energy bills went up two- to three-fold last year and are expected to stay high. Please contact the TUC if you would like to share your experiences or receive more support for campaigning work.

Our email archives

Need to catch up on Friday Email from previous weeks? You can find all previous editions of the Friday Email here, and emails sent by the general secretary Jo Grady here.

Last updated: 27 May 2023