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The Friday email: 3 November 2023

3 November 2023

UCU Rising: ballot closes, consultation continues

Today at 5PM our industrial action ballot over pay and conditions in higher education comes to a close. Members, reps, branch officers and staff in head office and our regional offices have once again pulled out all the stops in our 'get the vote out' campaign to try and beat the Conservative anti-union threshold.

We hope to receive the full results on Monday, and these will be shared with all members who are part of the dispute as soon as possible via email.

Whatever the result, we need to continue to build an effective, member-led strategy for winning this dispute which is why all members have been sent an email consultation to seek your views on industrial strategy. Search 'have your say' in your inbox to find your email with your unique voting link. The next steps will be decided by you, make sure that your voice is heard.

Rally for Respect, 14 November: solidarity with striking college staff

As we prepare for the biggest wave of strike action to hit further education (FE) in years, you're invited to join striking college staff and supporters for a mass rally on Tuesday 14 November in the centre of London, right next to Parliament. Full details can be found on our event webpage here: 12.00 noon - 2.00pm, Emmanuel Centre, 9-23 Marsham Street, London, SW1P 3DW. The rally coincides with the first of three days of strike action (14, 15 and 16 November) in participating FE colleges and will bring us together in solidarity to demand a new settlement for FE.

For too long employers and politicians have neglected FE and allowed pay to fall well behind teaching roles in schools while workloads have become unmanageable and the system of negotiating with employers fails to deliver the improvements our FE members need.

Call for resignations from UKRI positions

UCU is today calling on all UCU members that have voluntary positions with UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) to resign.

This followed our letter to UKRI calling on it to reverse its decision to suspend its advisory board on Equality, Diversity and Inclusion by the end of today, which UKRI has refused to do.

In the letter, UCU conveyed its anger and disappointment at UKRI's capitulation to Secretary of State for Science, Innovation and Skills Michelle Donelan, after her intervention over the weekend. The letter also criticises the Secretary of State for seriously misrepresenting the views expressed by two members of the advisory board in a transparently political attack. 

Next week UCU will be launching a union-wide campaign to defend equality, diversity and inclusion from government attack.

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.

Another step towards restoration of our USS pension

Last Monday the Universities Superannuation Scheme (USS) joint negotiating committee voted to restore member benefits to pre-2022 levels, augment losses suffered during 2022 - 2024 through a £215 pension payment and reduce contribution rates to 6.1% in line with decisions taken by UCU members. USS has now contacted all scheme members to inform them of these decisions. 

The union has produced this video to help you understand the developments. as well as this tool to calculate the impact on your improved USS retirement income. 

As these changes need USS rules to be amended, we will be working with UUK and USS on these amendments over the coming weeks to ensure changes to contribution rates are delivered for 1 January 2024 and the new member benefits and recovery payment is in place for 1 April 2024. 

The consultation on USS is open until 24 November 2023 and we encourage all members to provide a response to this. There is UCU guidance on responding to the consultation here.

If you have any questions please contact your local pensions officer, any member of UCU superannuation working group (SWG) or email here.

Milton Keynes College prison education: pay win

Prison education UCU members at Milton Keynes College have overwhelmingly voted to accept a pay increase of 8.5% for staff earning under £43,000 per annum and 6.5% for staff earning above that.

This is a great achievement and will go some way towards addressing the impact that years of pay stagnation and high inflation have had on salaries. The pay agreement also includes a commitment to award a one-off lump sum to staff by March 2024, and a commitment to reviewing pay scales by working towards a more equitable and consistent pay framework.

UCU prison education rep Brian Hamilton was recently interviewed by Post-16 Educator about the crisis in prison education and you can read it here.

University of Oxford UCU anti-casualisation network report

This week University of Oxford UCU's anti-casualisation network released a damning new report, which shines a harsh light on the serious issues casualised staff face across the institution. The network intends to use this report as a launchpad for local campaigning, and would appreciate UCU members expressing their solidarity by sharing their report online.

UCU response to Justice Committee inquiry

UCU has submitted a response to the Justice Committee's inquiry into prison population and the ageing infrastructure of the estate. Our response focuses on the impact that prison officer and prison education staff shortages have on education provision. Chief Inspector for Prisons Charlie Taylor's recent statement said that one in ten prisons are not fit for purpose, with 'too few staff and inadequate facilities for retraining and education'.

Claiming tax relief on your UCU subscription

Following approval from HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC), UCU members can claim tax relief on up to 67% of their total annual subscription, at the tax rate applicable to their earnings. You can claim this tax relief online, by post or via telephone. Click here for more information.

Sign the petition in support of the pension triple lock

Please sign this petition, launched by the trade union Prospect, in support of the pension triple lock. This increases state pension by the highest of inflation, wage growth or 2.5%. Headline wage growth was 8.5% in May to July 2023, but there is speculation that the Conservative government may use a lower figure. The full increase should apply. Please share with any relevant networks.

Rail ticket office closures in England scrapped in government U-turn

An important victory was achieved this week as the government announced that it would withdraw all plans to close ticket offices in England. RMT general secretary Mick Lynch said, 'today's announcement shows the power that we have when we come together and make our voices heard'. An unprecedented 750,000 people responded to the public consultation. The plans, if they had gone through, would have seen an enormous impact and greater marginalisation for elderly and disabled transport users. Thank you to all UCU members who responded to RMT, TSSA, disability campaigners and others' call to fill out the public consultation.

Trans awareness week webinar

Trans and non-binary awareness: experiences and issues. Click here to register for this UCU LGBT+ webinar where we look at raising awareness of experiences and issues for Trans and non-binary people. The webinar will take place at 4.00pm-5.30pm on Tuesday 14 November.

Guidance on the rights of migrants involved in protests

We recognise that participation in protests can present additional risks and anxieties for migrant members, due to the government's hostile environment and the authoritarian crackdowns on protest. The Joint Council for the Welfare of Migrants (JCWI) has produced some useful guidance on the rights of migrants involved in protests which can be found here.

Last updated: 6 November 2023