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The Friday email: 21 July 2023

21 July 2023

UCU Rising: pensions on track for restoration as talks continue on pay and conditions

UCU members in USS have this week hailed a significant moment in the dispute to reverse cuts made to the scheme in 2022. A consultation launched by the USS Trustee has confirmed that the scheme is on track to significantly reduce member's monthly contribution and restore pension benefits by April 2024. This has been achieved through years of sheer determination from UCU members who have been fully vindicated in their argument that the scheme was healthy and that cuts were unnecessary. 

Negotiations continued today with UCEA to try and deliver similar progress in the pay and conditions dispute. Unfortunately, employers refused to agree to any redress for members who have been subjected to grossly unfair and punitive pay deductions for backing the boycott.

It is now more important than ever for members to keep supporting the MAB. We need to send employers the message loud and clear that Thursday's next negotiation is their last chance to avoid escalation of this dispute. If you are not in an HE institution or not involved in marking and assessment activities, please support your colleagues by donating to the fighting fund.

Next week University of Exeter will be taking part in strike action to fight back against punitive salary deductions, please show your solidarity to them.

Respect FE: support our campaign, build for the ballot

Our Respect FE campaign is calling for a new settlement in further education (FE) to address pay erosion, unmanageable workloads and a broken model of negotiating with college employers. The additional funding for FE promised by the government last week is an opportunity for employers to work with us to make the changes the sector needs, but too often it is only when we organise action that they listen. We are balloting members in these FE England colleges from early September.

If you are at one of the colleges being balloted:

Supporters can help:

Defend jobs: boycott the University of Brighton! 

Staff at the University of Brighton will hold a rally against cruel redundancies being imposed by the institution's management. On Monday 24 July at 12:30, Brighton UCU will be joined by general secretary Jo Grady and trade union branches bringing solidarity from across the region.

Twenty-three academic staff at University of Brighton were issued with compulsory redundancy notices earlier this week. This comes on top of eighty staff having reluctantly accepted voluntary redundancy rather than face being sacked. UCU members at Brighton are on indefinite strike, fighting to stop the cuts. UCU has also announced an academic boycott of the University of Brighton.

Strike ballots at Education Training Collective and Stanmore College

A strike ballot opened this week at five colleges across North East England over low pay. The colleges being balloted include Bede Sixth Form College, NETA Training Group, Stockton Riverside College, The Skills Academy, and Redcar and Cleveland College. They are all part of employer group Education Training Collective (ETC).

UCU members at Stanmore College in the London Borough of Harrow were balloted over taking industrial action in relation to pay and working conditions. The ballot closed earlier this week with 100% voting 'Yes' to strike action on a 76.7% turnout.

FE and adult and community education funding and accountability consultation

The Department for Education (DfE) has recently responded to their second consultation into 'Skills for jobs: implementing a new further education funding and accountability system'. You can also read UCU's submissions to the consultation below:

Prison educators call for government clarity on contracts, pay and pensions

UCU has this week written to Ministry of Justice (MoJ) officials and the government to call for clarity on issues like pensions, pay, contracts and the introduction of a Fair New Deal.

Under the Prison Education Framework contract terms, prison education providers are due a payment uplift of 10.4%, and prison education staff and providers expected this to be automatically applied from 1 April 2023. However, this indexation has still not been applied, and the MoJ have not explained the three-month delay to relevant stakeholders including UCU. The failure to confirm the uplift means pay negotiations cannot start.

Survey on Ofsted and mock-Ofsted inspections

We have launched a survey to understand more about members' experiences of Ofsted and mock-Ofsted inspections in FE colleges. The survey takes less than 10 minutes to complete and your responses will inform our ongoing campaigns. The deadline for responses is Friday 8 September 2023. Click here to begin the survey.

Online training for the workload campaign

Online training for workload reps continues over the summer. For more information on the workload campaign and the role of the workload rep please contact Alex Lancaster. To register on workload reps 1 or 2 training sessions please follow the links below:

New Researcher Task and Finish group

In accordance with UCU Congress 2023 motion HE21 we are setting up a Researcher Task and Finish group to look at the issues faced by casualised research staff. The group will help with a league table of employers that we are building based on recent freedom of information (FOI) requests, as well as contributing to a UCU researcher manifesto/concordat and highlighting any examples of good practice. You will need to be available up to the end of the year for occasional (online) meetings and to contribute to ongoing discussions. If you are interested in taking part, please contact Jane Thompson by Friday 4 August.

UCU condemns plans to raise immigration costs to fund public sector pay rises

Last week, general secretary Jo Grady wrote to the Prime Minister criticising plans to raise immigration costs to fund public sector pay rises. The letter said it was wrong to place additional costs on one group of workers who already pay exorbitant fees just to work in the UK. UCU's migrant members' standing committee (MMSC) also issued a statement on the proposals, and the union joined others across the movement in condemning attempts to divide workers in this way.

Responding to concerns about international students losing their right to work and study in the UK as a result of delayed marks linked to the ongoing industrial action, UCU wrote to the Home Secretary Suella Braverman calling for discretion to be used where students had been affected by the marking and assessment boycott (MAB).

TUC LGBT+ seats

TUC will be co-opting individuals into unfilled seats. UCU LGBT+ committee will decide who to nominate for co-option. The available positions are in the bi and young (up to 27 years of age as defined by the TUC) seats on the TUC LGBT+ committee. UCU LGBT+ members are invited to make expression of interest by completing this form

Support RMT's campaign to save our ticket offices 

The government and train operating companies have now revealed their plans to close almost 1,000 ticket offices across the UK, putting 2,300 jobs at risk. Closing ticket offices will be catastrophic for passengers in general, but particularly for disabled people, the elderly, people with learning difficulties, non-English speakers, and many more people who rely on being able to speak to someone at a station in order to get around.

Public consultations have opened for each train company and they will close on Wednesday 26 July. It is imperative that we get the biggest possible public opposition registered to these plans; you can respond to the public consultations online via RMT's website.

Last updated: 22 July 2023