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The Friday email: 27 October 2023

27 October 2023

UCU Rising: this is your last chance to vote

UCU members in higher education are now in the final countdown in their dispute over pay, casualisation, workloads and equality pay gaps, with only four days until the last safe date to post. 

Between now and Tuesday 31 October is the final opportunity for all of us to do our part to win this ballot and win another industrial action mandate. If you have not already voted, please do so right away. 

Winning this ballot does not necessitate that we take strike action. But it does mean that we have leverage. The past year has shown us that it is only the threat of industrial action which will bring our employers back to the table and move them. 

We know that alongside a mandate we need an effective strategy to turn our ballot victory into a dispute victory. That is why after voting every member should also have their say in our strategy consultation which has been emailed to every member in the dispute. We are putting members in control of the union's next steps. 

On the other hand, it would be a tragedy if we lost this ballot. It would embolden our employers and delay our victory in this dispute.

Please watch here our general secretary Jo Grady's video interview with RMT general secretary Mick Lynch where they discuss how important it is to have a live industrial action mandate and how we can continue to get the vote out in these last four days. 

None of us should get to the close of this ballot believing that we have left anything to chance. Let's make sure that we have given this our all. There is still time to build our ballot by:

Respect FE: strike to hit 30 colleges next month

UCU members in further education have shown what the impact of an industrial action mandate can be, with 15 colleges having now settled their disputes following our successful Respect FE ballots in English further education colleges. 

For the 30 remaining branches in the dispute with a live mandate where employers have refused to table an acceptable offer, UCU has this week announced strike action: the biggest strike action to hit the FE sector since the Trade Union Act 2016.

Members at these colleges will now prepare to take strike action on Tuesday 14, Wednesday 15, and Thursday 16 November.

Taking strike action remains a last resort and we remain ready to call it off if the employers return with a serious offer which addresses low pay, unmanageable workloads and a failed model of negotiating.

The fighting fund is available for any member forced to take strike action by our employer's intransigence and any branch which does go on strike will have the full support of the union behind them.

Support our campaign by:

Staff to strike at five North East further education colleges over low pay

Staff at Bede Sixth Form College, NETA Training Group, Stockton Riverside College, The Skills Academy and Redcar and Cleveland College--all of which are part of employer group Education Training Collective (ETC)--will begin strike action next month as part of an ongoing dispute over low pay. The strike dates include Tuesday 7 November, Monday 13 November and Tuesday 14 November. Click here for full details.

Novus: 9% pay win for prison educators

UCU members at Novus prison education branch 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.

University of Brighton: indefinite strike action

University of Brighton UCU has been engaging in indefinite strike action in a long and bitter dispute over compulsory redundancies. The last of the 22 members made compulsory redundant leaves the university today. University of Brighton UCU branch, working with the UCU South East regional office, will use everything in their power to get their jobs back. Meanwhile branch officers are still threatened with disciplinary action. To support Brighton UCU please donate to their local strike fund.

University of the Highlands and Islands strike action

UCU members at the University of the Highlands and Islands (UHI) are taking six days of strike action over £4 million cuts the university is making, including £3 million from the staffing budget. The next strike days are Tuesday 31 October, Wednesday 1 November and Thursday 2 November.

You can support UHI colleagues by donating to their fighting fund (details below), and by sending messages of support to the branch. Officers from UHI UCU branch are available to speak at branch meetings, please email the UCU Scotland office to be put in touch. You can also follow the branch latest updates here, and sign their petition here

For donations to UHI fighting fund:

  • account name: UCU UHI Millennium Inst SC019
  • account number: 20240808
  • sort code: 60-83-01

USS consultation on restoration of member benefits

Last week, we reported the outcome of the electronic ballot and members voted overwhelmingly to accept proposals to recovery losses suffered following cuts to member benefits on 1 April 2022. 

USS members are however reminded that the statutory USS consultation on restoring member benefits from 1 April 2024 continues and we are asking that all USS members complete the consultation here. We need a large turnout of members so that we can continue to put pressure on USS and the employers and better protect your pensions, not just for now but in the future also.

The consultation may seem complex but there are just five questions and we have provided support on how to complete the consultation here. Members have a real opportunity to not only respond to the questions on restoring benefits but also other matters that will influence your USS pensions for years to come. This might include how we improve member benefits, better protect current benefits, or comment on the proposal for Universities UK (UUK) to hand over negotiating on USS to Universities and Colleges Employers Association (UCEA). Please contact your local branch pension officer or write to the UCU pensions mailbox if you need to discuss anything. 

Resources for Build the Union month

October is Build the Union month at UCU. Local workplace organising is at the heart of what the union does, and we know that colleagues having conversations with each other about the union, current industrial disputes, and the education sectors in general have an enormous impact. 

To that end, UCU has produced guidance on 'Me + 10': the premise is that, if each of our members were to contact 10 of their colleagues to join the union, then we would build our membership and increase our leverage with employers. You can also find resources on workplace mapping, initiating recruitment conversations, and a branch newsletter template.

In solidarity

Simon Foster
UCU head of campaigns

Last updated: 30 October 2023