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The Friday email: 22 September 2023

22 September 2023

UCU Rising: strike action and ballot update

Strike action has been called off at dozens of universities and many employers have agreed to end punitive pay deductions. Action will now be targeted at the very worst employers with members at 42 universities striking for five consecutive days from Monday 25 to Friday 29 September and members at a further 10 universities will be striking on at least one day next week. The list of striking institutions and dates is here.

Meanwhile another industrial action ballot opened in higher education to renew our mandate for action and members are urged to vote YES now and to support the drive to 'get the vote out' and once again beat the anti-union turnout threshold:

Respect FE: vote now!

As the massive effort to 'get the vote out' continues in the Respect FE ballot for action on pay, workload and national bargaining we are able to update members on negotiations with employers. At a meeting between FE unions and the employers, the Association of Colleges (AoC) made a conditional recommendation on pay of 6.5%. You can read our full statement here and UCU general secretary Jo Grady has addressed members via a video which you can view here.

The AoC pay recommendation is a step in the right direction. However, there is one important difference between the 6.5% pay offer accepted by teachers and the recommendation put forward by the AoC on FE pay: the recommendation isn't binding on all colleges. But each and every one of you is owed a pay rise. This is why we are demanding a new national bargaining framework for the sector with binding outcomes, so all staff get a pay increase.

We need to keep the pressure on employers with the strongest turnout and YES vote in the ballot:

Novus: 9% pay win for prison educators

UCU members at Novus prison education branch have overwhelmingly voted to accept the employer's offer of a 9% pay increase to all salaries. The offer is testament to the strength and unity of the branch and sets out firm foundations for the future of prison education. Well done to members and branch negotiators for their work on getting a strong pay deal.

Tyne Coast College: two days of strike action

Over 100 staff at Tyne Coast College will take two days of strike action next month on Tuesday 3 and Monday 23 October in a long-running dispute over low pay.

The latest action comes after management imposed a paltry pay award of just 3%, which staff had overwhelmingly rejected. Staff have already taken two days of strike action in the dispute.

Strike at all further education colleges in Northern Ireland

Staff at all six further education colleges across Northern Ireland took part in five days of strike action from Monday 18 to Friday 22 September. Plans are in place for the industrial action to continue for the next three months in a long-running dispute over pay and working conditions. UCU said it has been forced to take action after a decade of their members being subject to pay freeze, followed by pay restraint, which has seen lecturer pay awards limited to between 1% and 2% per year. 

University of East Anglia: no compulsory redundancies

Members at University of East Anglia (UEA) voted to end the dispute with the employer following a guarantee from management that there would be no compulsory redundancies made as a result of the current savings proposals. It has taken nearly nine months to arrive at this position in a bitter dispute that resulted in the departure of the previous vice-chancellor, strike action, and the threat of significant further action at the start of term. This is a magnificent victory for UEA UCU members, although one tempered by the number of fantastic colleagues who have left UEA on a voluntary basis over the past few months. UEA UCU wishes to thank all members and branches that have offered support this year and would welcome requests for support from any branch suffering similar threats of redundancy. If they come for one of us, they come for all of us.

Northeastern University London: win on pay

Northeastern University London (formerly New College of the Humanities) UCU branch secured a number of significant wins in this year's pay negotiations, with the support of UCU London region office. Chief among them is the introduction of an academic pay spine, based on the national spine, bringing NU London's pay into alignment with other UK and London universities, as well as securing annual pay progression for staff throughout the full range of the grades. The agreed procedure for transferring staff to the new pay structure provides for assimilation upward into the new grades, resulting in large pay increases for lower-paid staff, together with additional spine point increments awarded for past years of service, so as to address and, as much as possible, remedy historical pay inequalities. In addition, union negotiators secured a 9% increase to spine point values for 2023-24, resulting in, on average a nearly 15% increase to salaries for the current academic year. Members of the branch-- already large and growing--voted overwhelmingly to accept the offer.

University of the Highlands and Islands: industrial action ballot results

Staff at the University of the Highlands and Islands (UHI) have this week backed strikes in a dispute over plans to slash £3million from the university's staffing budget and cut up to 44 roles. The union said losing so many staff in such a short timescale was bound to impact on both the student experience, the university's reputation ,and the future of tertiary education in the  Scottish highlands and islands. In the ballot of UHI UCU members, 77% of those who voted backed strike action on a turnout of 86%.

King's College London: settlement of local dispute

King's College London UCU have now agreed terms to settle the local dispute on London weighting, parental leave, childcare support, recognition and other terms and conditions which will allow them to end their local marking and assessment boycott. In more detail, the agreement is as follows:

  • a rise to £5,000 in London Weighting from December 2023, up from £3,500 in 2021
  • a rise of eighteen up to twenty weeks paid maternity leave, and two up to six weeks paid paternity leave
  • 20% childcare cost subsidies at Ofsted recognised providers for under three year olds
  • a new recognition agreement covering the processes of negotiation, consultation, information and dispute resolution
  • joint union-management working groups to address pay gaps, excessive workloads, and career progression including casualisation.

KCL UCU members have agreed to accept this package, with KCL UNISON and KCL Unite currently in the process of consulting their members.

Build the Union month national briefing

October is recruitment month and the union is holding a national briefing on Monday 2 October (17:00-18:00) to discuss how you can build your branches. Click here for more information and click here to register.

Call out for new FE members for UCU's anti-casualisation committee

Due to a recent resignation, we are seeking new members to UCU's anti-casualisation committee from the further education sector--including prisons and adult education. The position is until the annual meeting next February and anyone interested or who would like more information should email committee secretary Jane Thompson.

Count me in: LGBT+ data now

Click here to register for this UCU LGBT+ webinar where we look at issues related to LGBT+ data collection including the lack of it and how it is done, if at all! The webinar will take place on Tuesday 24 October 16:00-17:30.

Annual equality groups conference 2023

This conference is an opportunity to discuss and agree strategies to progress UCU's equality work for Black, disabled, LGBT+, migrant and women members. The conference will be held from Thursday 16 to Saturday 18 November, in person in Manchester with the option to join plenary sessions online. You can find more information and register here by Tuesday 17 October.

Sudan Solidarity conference

Along with a host of organisations, UCU is supporting a Sudan Solidarity Conference 2023 on Saturday 30 September. Speakers include UCU president Dr Justine Mercer. Please click here for further information.

Last updated: 18 October 2023