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The Friday email: 9 February 2024

9 February 2024

University of Aberdeen staff back industrial action over modern languages cuts and job losses

This week staff at University of Aberdeen backed strikes in a dispute over plans to end single-honours degrees in modern languages and put 30 staff at risk of redundancy. In the ballot of Aberdeen UCU members, 80% of those who voted backed strike action on a turnout of 60%.

The local branch will meet to consider its next steps. Click here to read the full story and here for more information from Aberdeen UCU branch.

UCU elections 2024

We are approaching the mid-point of the ballot period for the election of UCU's general secretary, vice president, trustee, and national executive committee (NEC) positions. You can watch the recordings of the official online hustings for general secretary candidates and vice president candidates.

Please vote soon: all ballot papers must reach the scrutineer by post by Friday 1 March 2024. If you need a replacement ballot pack you can fill out the form here. You will need your UCU membership number.

UCU's oral evidence at Education Select Committee

On Tuesday 6 February, UCU general secretary Jo Grady gave oral evidence to the Education Select Committee over the impact of higher education industrial action upon students, with employer body Universities and Colleges Employers Association (UCEA) and the Office for Students (OfS) also in attendance. Thanks to all members who shared their thoughts, concerns, and views. You can watch a recording of the Education Select Committee here; UCU's segment begins at around the 11:00:00 mark.

Pay, conditions, and bargaining in England FE

UCU's further education committee (FEC) met on Friday 2 February 2024 and made several important decisions about this year's national pay campaign and claim in England further education colleges.

Last year's 2023/24 campaign was built on UCU's core demands of improving pay, manageable workloads, binding national bargaining and professional respect. This year we will be asking members to: 

  • build the strength of the union: through asking your colleagues to join the union and getting involved in your branch  
  • campaign and get the vote out during a national industrial action ballot to exert leverage to agree national bargaining with the employers.

Click here to read the full update from UCU general secretary Jo Grady.

Oxford Brookes University: defend jobs and education

In November 2023 management at Oxford Brookes University declared 48 jobs 'at risk' with 20 needing to be cut. Our campaigning, negotiating and balloting have reduced the number of compulsory redundancies to two. UCU still intend to reduce that number to zero.

Please read and share UCU's open letter here and sign our petition to save jobs at Oxford Brookes University.

Union busting at Ravensbourne University London

Ravensbourne University London's ballot of staff on whether to have a 'staff forum' instead of independent trade union recognition is being exposed for vote-rigging. The employer is refusing to have a vote purely on whether staff want UCU to be recognised, is demanding a high turnout rather than a simple majority of those voting, and is insisting that UCU will not have access to staff to talk about the ballot unless it agrees to be 'locked out' of statutory recognition rights for three years. If you work at Ravensbourne, help us fight back against this union busting by voting for trade union recognition. You can also send messages of solidarity to the Ravensbourne UCU branch.

New research staff and casualisation report

Last week UCU released a new report that exposes the lack of security of employment for research staff. Click here to download the full report, which is based on freedom of information (FOI) requests. Around two-thirds (66%) of research staff are employed on fixed-term contracts, some less than a year in length.

We have produced an accompanying branch guidance which highlights how you can use the report to seek improvement to security of employment for research staff locally.

Future of work in post-16 education working group

The Future of work in post-16 education working group 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 need members to step forward to be on the working group. We are looking for people from all sectors of the union and with all levels of knowledge on technology--those who are worried about technology through to experts and everyone in between. The deadline for expressions of interest in the group is Thursday 15 February (09:00).

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.

Equality research conference

The second UCU equality research conference, entitled 'Nothing without us: pride, diversity, respect and liberation', will be a one-day hybrid conference for academics, researchers and activists conducting research on equality issues, lives and aspirations.

The call for papers is now open with deadline Monday 4 March 2024. Proposals of no more than 500 words are now invited to be submitted online here.

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.

UCU delegation to TUC LGBT+ conference

UCU LGBT+ members are invited to express interest in joining the delegation to the Trades Union Congress (TUC) LGBT+ conference, to be held on 27-28 June 2024 in Congress House in London, by completing this online form. There are a limited number of places; deadline for completing the form is Wednesday 21 February (17:00).

Last updated: 14 February 2024