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240118 Northern Ireland FE strike picket line

The Friday email: 19 January 2024

19 January 2024

Further education strike action in Northern Ireland

Staff at all six of Northern Ireland's further education colleges took part in strike action on Thursday 18 January. UCU is striking alongside workers across Northern Ireland in a generalised day of action called by the Irish Congress of Trade Unions (ICTU).

UCU general secretary Jo Grady visited the picket line at Southern Regional College in Newry and spoke at the ICTU strike rally at Belfast City Hall. The walkout is the latest escalation in a long-running pay dispute that has seen staff take action repeatedly since September 2023. Further education lecturers have seen a real-terms pay cut of 25% since 2015. The ICTU is demanding the restoration of Stormont, and for the UK government to release the monies it has available to settle NI public sector pay disputes.

Eight days of strike action began at London's biggest college

Staff at Capital City College Group (CCCG), London's largest further education college group, began eight days of strike action on Tuesday 16 January in a long-running pay dispute. Click here for the full strike dates.

CCCG has campuses across London, including in Westminster, Camden and Enfield. Staff at CCCG have already taken three days of strike action in what began as a national dispute over low pay and poor working conditions. UCU has now settled disputes at 60 colleges with pay awards of up to 10%. The union said CCCG is an isolated employer and must look to other colleges and settle the dispute by making an acceptable offer.

Protect the right to strike march and rally, 27 January

On Saturday 27 January the entire trade union movement will descend on Cheltenham to rally and protest against the government's outrageous minimum service level legislation.  

The union opposes this government's attempts to implement minimum service levels in education and will stand behind workers in any other sector also facing these attacks. This is a UK-wide event and we need UCU members from every region in the union to be there to send a clear message to this government. 

The TUC is collating information on available coaches departing from across the country and have provided useful information on travelling by train. Book your space and plan your journey now to make sure that you will be there.  

UCU is putting on a coach from London, picking up and dropping off at TUC Congress House, 23-28 Great Russell Street, London WC1B 3LS on Saturday 27 January (08:15). Fill in this form to book space now for you and your colleagues, friends or family. As a reminder, the key timings on the day are: 

  • 12 noon: gather at Montpellier Gardens, Cheltenham GL50 1UL
  • 12:30: march departs through town centre to Pittville Park (approximately 1 hour walk)
  • 13:30: rally in the Tolpuddle Tent at Pittville Park
  • 15:00: event closes.

Over 50 staff threatened with job losses at Tyne Coast College

Tyne Coast College management announced this week that 54 staff were at risk of losing their jobs before the end of February. The union has written to the college demanding it stops all individual consultation meetings with impacted staff and starts meaningfully consulting with UCU as required by law. Staff at Tyne Coast College took strike action over low pay earlier in the academic year in a dispute that has still not been resolved. Messages of solidarity via email and Twitter/X are welcome.

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.

UCU general secretary and vice-president hustings

Registration is now open for UCU's online hustings for our 2024 elections. Separate events will be held for the general secretary and vice-president candidates and you can sign up using the links below:

UCU members can submit questions before Wednesday 24 January (12 noon) using this form.

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.

Ceasefire NOW!

UCU joins with many others in Palestine, the UK, and beyond to reiterate the demands for an immediate ceasefire, the immediate and unconditional release of all hostages, unrestricted access to humanitarian aid, and the lifting of the siege of Gaza. You can read the union's latest statement on education in Gaza here.

This week we have launched a new page on our website to collate in one place all of our information, resources and events for UCU members and branches to continue to campaign locally around these issues. 

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.

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.

Last updated: 19 January 2024