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240110 TUC protect the right to strike march and rally large

The Friday email: 26 January 2024

26 January 2024

Protect the right to strike march and rally, 27 January

On Saturday 27 January, thousands of trade unionists from across the UK will descend on Cheltenham to protest against the government's undemocratic and unworkable plans for minimum service levels during strike action.

UCU and education workers in general are on the frontline of this fight. It is vital that UCU members and representatives deliver a signification turnout on Saturday, and help the whole movement send the strongest possible message to this government. Branches are arranging travel plans from across the UK, including a coach from London.

The timings of the days are as follows:

  • 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.

Ravensbourne University London: union recognition now!

UCU members at Ravensbourne University London are campaigning for trade union recognition following management proposals to establish an alternative 'representative staff forum'. Staff are to be balloted on the two options by the university with provisional ballot dates of 4-17 March. UCU is arguing for formal recognition which would provide an agreed negotiating framework and give staff a voice to influence key decisions at Ravensbourne whereas the proposed management-controlled forum does not come with the same rights and obligations.

Find out more about this important campaign by clicking here and support our demand for a seat at the decision-making table by following the branch on Instagram here.

Strike ballot at University of Aberdeen 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 16,000 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 elections 2024 and hustings

Ballots to elect a trustee, general secretary and vice-president (becoming president in 2026-27), and national executive committee members opened on Thursday 25 January 2024. Your ballot packs will start arriving in the next week, and you can find more information on the website.

Centrally organised online hustings will be held for the general secretary and vice-president candidates and you can sign up using the links below:

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.

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.

Humanitarian aid requested for hospital in Ukraine

A branch of the Free Trade Union of Medical Workers of Ukraine in a mining region of western Ukraine is appealing for humanitarian aid for its hospital, to help it cope with the extensive consequences of the war it is having to deal with--at the same time as campaigning vigorously to defend the health system against cutting, neoliberal reforms. Click here for the donation site and here for more details on the appeal and other ways to help.

UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD): what's at stake?

Register for this webinar on Thursday 8 February (18:00-19:00) to hear more about the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD), and the role it can play in promoting the rights of workers with disabilities.

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).

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.

University of Leicester redundancies to be tested in court

An employment tribunal will open on Monday 29 January over job losses pushed through by University of Leicester bosses as part of a restructuring that saw 145 staff targeted and an eventual exodus from the university that likely exceeded 200.   

The tribunal will test the dismissals of three UCU members. David Harvie (in 2021 Leicester UCU's communications officer) and Simon Lilley (in 2021 one of Leicester UCU's professorial representatives) are claiming the University of Leicester failed to apply a rigorous selection procedure and failed to consult properly before applying that procedure. Geoff Lightfoot is additionally claiming the university executed an egregious instance of fire and rehire.

Sixteen staff were originally targeted in the University of Leicester school of business, on the grounds that their scholarship, in the areas of critical management studies and political economy, did not 'align with strategic priorities'. Bosses denied that there was any financial motivation for the mass redundancies, despite the university having recently breached covenants with creditors amid doubts regarding its status as a 'going concern'. Nine of the sixteen were subsequently dismissed.

Update on marking and assessment boycott deductions

UCU's legal department are continuing to develop legal cases around unreasonable salary deductions arising from participation in the 2023 marking and assessment boycott. As previously reported, we are constrained to developing individual (rather than collective) legal cases.

We have asked all members who have suffered an unreasonable deduction from their salary as a result of taking part in the marking and assessment boycott to complete a questionnaire (UCU membership login required). The questionnaire has been produced in conjunction with a barrister who has been consulted, and remains instructed by UCU, on the issues around the deductions.

The questionnaire is to assist members in guiding them to provide us with the necessary information and evidence to assess their potential breach of contract claim. We will use the information given to us to assess whether we have enough information and can contact members about pursuing the breach of contract claim, or whether we need to know more before we are able to reach that point. Once we are at a point with any member's individual claim where we can assess that there are reasonable prospects of success, we will discuss with them what will be involved, and we will assign legal representation for them to pursue that claim. This will be through the court system as these claims are not ones that are pursued in the employment tribunal.

We have identified specific cases, at the first institution to make deductions, with reasonable prospects of success and are moving forward on these. Other institutions are now being looked at by counsel to go through the same process and assess the strongest cases to pursue first. We are happy to continue to receive more questionnaires from members who want their potential cases examined.

Last updated: 30 January 2024