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240110 Education Training Collective Stockton strike

The Friday email: 12 January 2024

12 January 2024

Education Training Collective strike over low pay

UCU members at five further education colleges in Cleveland, Redcar and Stockton-on-Tees have been on strike on Wednesday 9 and Thursday 10 January in a long-running dispute over low pay, which was covered by ITVBBC and The Morning Star.

UCU members at the colleges overwhelmingly rejected an offer of 3% for 2022/23, and have also voted to reject a further offer of an additional 1%--which was only to be paid for three months of that financial year. Staff have already taken four days of strike action since November 2023, but the employer has responded by offering two 'well-being days' and nothing on pay. Chris Robinson, UCU regional support official (Northern region), said: 'Thank you to everyone who has shown support for our action this week, which was well supported by members. Our resolve is still strong, and is buoyed by your solidarity'. You can send the branch a message of support and share our posts on X/Twitter.

Northern Ireland further education strike

UCU's further education committee (FEC) took the decision to call all FE lecturers in Northern Ireland out on a one-day strike on Thursday 18 January. The Irish Congress of Trade Unions (ICTU) has called this action to coincide with the now abandoned deadline for the Northern Ireland Assembly election and the date issued by the Secretary of State for the restoration of Stormont with £3.3bn funding package. Money has been earmarked to settle the outstanding pay disputes in the public sector should the Executive return. 

UCU general secretary Jo Grady will be coming to Northern Ireland next Thursday, and will visit picket lines and speak at the ICTU rally in Belfast. Click here for a statement from Gerry Murphy, ICTU's assistant general secretary, on the importance of public sector unions taking action.

Strike ballot opened at University of Aberdeen in dispute over job cuts

A ballot for strike action opened at University of Aberdeen in a dispute over job cuts in the  modern languages department. The postal ballot will run until Wednesday 7 February 2024 and could pave the way for strike action at the university.

There has been widespread support for retaining modern languages, with the University of Aberdeen receiving letters from the consulates of the French, German, Spanish and Italian governments. Click here to sign the petition which has already received over 15,000 signatures, and click here for more information from Aberdeen UCU branch.

Oxford Brookes University: defend jobs and education

Oxford Brookes University has announced plans to reduce academic staff numbers in arts, humanities, social sciences and maths, leaving 48 jobs at risk of compulsory redundancy. Please read and share UCU's open letter here and sign our petition to save jobs at Oxford Brookes University.

USS pension contribution rates fell on 1 January

The Universities Superannuation Scheme (USS) cut contribution rates on Monday 1 January. The announcement came after UCU and employer representatives voted through changes at the USS joint negotiating committee that saw employee contributions fall to 6.1%, down from 9.8%. For a member earning £45,000 this would mean a monthly saving of £111 after tax

Attack on trade unions at Ravensbourne University London

Following over twelve months of discussion between UCU and the employer, in November last year, UCU applied (with UNISON) for voluntary recognition at Ravensbourne University London. Ravensbourne responded by offering to negotiate, an offer which was accepted, and an initial negotiation meeting was scheduled for 10 January 2024. On 5 January, vice-chancellor Andy Cook pre-empted that negotiation and announced an independent ballot of all staff 'to gauge the level of support for formal trade union recognition' and 'to gauge the level of support to establish a Representative Staff Forum as an alternative to formal trade union recognition'.

Deborah Driscoll, UCU regional support official (London HE), said: 'after months of stalling and telling us that they wanted to work with UCU, it seems that Ravensbourne's management have finally shown their true colours. It has now become apparent that the VC does not want to recognise independent trade unions and would prefer a toothless and ineffective "Representative Staff Forum" instead. Two petitions have shown overwhelming support for the application for recognition of UCU at Ravensbourne and we are ready to continue to make the case to the staff if there is a ballot. We are currently waiting for the university's proposals in writing before agreeing anything as we need to ensure that any vote would be genuinely free and fair. UCU are very alert to any hint of unfair practices by the university and would urge staff to get in contact with their local UCU branch if they have any concerns. The university has agreed not to put out any further communications to staff about firm ballot arrangements for the time being.'

UCU general secretary and vice president elections

In February 2024, members will vote in UCU general secretary and vice president elections. UCU will hold two online hustings events for these positions, and you are invited to submit questions you'd like candidates to answer at their respective hustings. Submit your questions here.

Take action for adult and community education (ACE): template letter to your MP

The adult and community education budget has been under attack since 2010. We have drafted a template letter for members to send to your MP to raise awareness of the funding problems and to ask them to hold the government to account. Please click here to use the UCU quick template to contact your MP today. Remember to include your MP's name and your address as a constituent in order to ensure that your MP will read the letter.

FE co-option to climate and ecological emergency committee

The climate and ecological emergency committee (CEEC) is seeking to co-opt one or more FE members. They would be full voting members of the committee until the 2024 annual meeting in November/December. Key tasks include one to two meetings per year advising on the development of national joint claims, on UCU's training programmes, and on member organising. Click here to receive or submit a co-option form. Deadline: Friday 26 January 2024.

Information for members affected by changes to the immigration salary thresholds

Following the recent announcement about proposed changes to the salary threshold for Skilled Worker and Family visas, UCU has been consulting with Bindmans LLP to assess the impacts on members, and an update on this is available here. The proposed changes are not due to take effect until April 2024 and any member affected by the threshold change wishing to renew their visa before then should be supported to do so.

Holocaust Memorial Day, 27 January

UCU commemorates Holocaust Memorial Day on 27 January each year. The theme for this year is the 'Fragility of freedom', and you can find a range of resources to support activity on UCU's webpage.

Campus Voices for Palestine, petition, and national march

Supported by the British Committee for the Universities of Palestine (BRICUP) and British Society for Middle Eastern Studies (BRISMES), the Campus Voices for Palestine event is hosted by the University and College London UCU branch. It will be held in the Chemistry Lecture Theatre XLG1, 20 Gower Street, London WC1H 0AL on Thursday 25 January (18:30-20:00). Click here for more information.

UCU continues to call for an immediate ceasefire in Gaza, the return of hostages, and the urgent provision of humanitarian aid to civilians. Sign this petition to support the call for a swift and peaceful resolution to the conflict

Members are also encouraged to attend the National March for Palestine--Ceasefire NOW in London this Saturday 13 January. The trade union bloc is meeting at 11:30 at the corner of Queen Victoria Street and Bucklesbury, near Bank Station. You can book a space on a coach travelling to London here

Freedom to Run screening, 9 February

On Friday 9 February (19:00), UCU Scotland is showing 'Freedom to Run', a documentary film and cultural exchange project about the restrictions on freedom of movement in the West Bank. The screening will take place at Civic House in Glasgow. You can get your free ticket here.

Future of work in post-16 education launch event, 29 January

The Future of work in post-16 education project will consider the threats and opportunities of technology being used in the sector now and in the future, and how UCU should support members and branches to respond.

We will be establishing a working group of UCU members from across the union and with all levels of knowledge of the technology. It is crucial that technology enables our work, and isn't a barrier to doing it. Register for our online launch event on Monday 29 January (17:30-18:30).

Registration open for Cradle to Grave conference 2024, 10 February

Registration is now open for the UCU Cradle to Grave policy conference. Join us on Saturday 10 February for a day of discussion on the theme 'Building a brighter future for post-16 education', either in person at the Holiday Inn in Bloomsbury WC1N 1HT or online via Zoom. Click here for more details and to register; deadline for registration is Thursday 25 January.

Peer reviewers for equality research conference

In preparation for our biennial equality research conference which will next take place in May 2024, UCU is establishing a peer review team for papers. If you are interested in participating as a peer reviewer, please complete the form here by 15 February 2024.

Journal of Further and Higher Education editor-in-chief vacancy

The Journal of Further and Higher Education, which is published by Taylor and Francis for UCU, is currently recruiting for a new editor-in-chief. Anyone interested in being considered for the role can find more information here; applications are invited by 1 March 2024. If you would like an informal discussion about the role please contact Jenny Sherrard.

Protect the right to strike march and rally, 27 January

The UK government's draconian Strikes (Minimum Service Levels) Act 2023 was forced through parliament. The Act restricts the right to strike for over five million workers; the right to strike is a fundamental British liberty that we must defend it at all costs.

Join us at the national march and rally, organised by PCS South West and supported by the TUC, at Montpellier Gardens, Cheltenham GL50 1UL on Saturday 27 January 2024 (12:00-14:00).

Last updated: 12 January 2024