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The Friday email: 22 March 2024

22 March 2024

Education Training Collective and New College Durham update

Staff at five colleges in Cleveland, Redcar and Stockton-on-Tees in the Education Training Collective (ETC) have been on strike on Wednesday 20 and Thursday 21 March. A new ballot will run until Monday 15 April so that UCU members can continue to take industrial action if ETC refuses to settle the dispute.

Over at New College Durham, a strike ballot opened in a dispute over low pay. The ballot will close on Monday 15 April and a successful result paves the way for strike action if the employer refuses to make a realistic offer. The ballot comes after staff voted to reject a paltry pay offer of 4% (from August 2023).

Northern Ireland FE pay update

UCU members at all six of Northern Ireland's further education colleges have been consulted via an electronic ballot on the offer made by the Department for the Economy (DfE), which is 5% plus a non-consolidated payment of £1,500 pro rata.  

The electronic ballot closed earlier this week and almost 96% of those who voted rejected the offer. The union will be meeting college employers again next week; click here for coverage on BBC News Northern Ireland.

England further education pay campaign 2024/25 update

Following the decisions of the further education committee (FEC) to call an aggregate ballot of all England FE branches starting this June, branches have been discussing what this means for them and how the FEC strategy will work in practice.

Over the past weeks FE branches have sent in requisition requests to call a special FE sector conference (FESC). We have now received 20 requisitions from branches in the FE sector, and in accordance with UCU rule 16.11, a special further education sector conference will be held (online) on Saturday 13 April 2024.

You can find here some FAQs that have been developed from the questions asked by branch reps at the recent FE branch briefings on 29 February and 5 March 2024.

Teachers' Pension Scheme urgent update

Employer contributions to the Teachers' Pensions Scheme (TPS) are due to rise but despite covering this cost for schools and colleges, the Department for Education is not covering the cost for universities.

This will increase the financial pressure on higher education institutions that are already struggling.

We are encouraging our members in England and Wales to ask their MP to sign a parliamentary motion calling on the government to intervene and cover the cost. You can use UCU's tool to contact your MP here.

Higher education pay and working conditions negotiations

Please click here to read the latest update from UCU general secretary Jo Grady on the ongoing higher education pay and working conditions negotiations between the joint unions (UCU, Unison, Unite, GMB and EIS) and Universities and Colleges Employers Association (UCEA). 

Specifically, the elected negotiators have been working on revising terms of reference to form working groups on the pay-related elements of our 'Four Fights' claim: workload, casualisation, pay spine reform, and equality pay gaps, which have now been agreed by the joint unions and submitted to UCEA.

The negotiators have also been working with the joint unions on the 2024/25 pay claim. The claim has been submitted to UCEA ahead of the first meeting of the New JNCHES (the formal negotiations between the employers and joint unions), which will take place next week, and you can see the heads of claim here.

Higher education: defend jobs and education

Please support the following university branches where UCU members are defending jobs and education:

  • Aston University: around 60 academics in the college of engineering and physical sciences have been told they are at risk of redundancy due to a proposal to close some chemistry programmes and rearrange many departments. As part of the fight against redundancies, Aston UCU has forced the university into extending the consultation period and will continue to campaign to remove all threats of compulsory redundancy
  • Goldsmiths, University of Londonan industrial action ballot opened on Friday 1 March in a dispute over large scale redundancies associated with the so-called 'transformation programme'; the ballot will close on Thursday 28 March
  • University of Kent: an industrial action ballot opened on Friday 23 February in a dispute over 58 academic redundancies. UCU are determined to fight this academic vandalism and defend the university; the ballot will close on Friday 5 April
  • Northumbria Universitya strike ballot opened at Northumbria University on Monday 18 March after management refused to rule out compulsory redundancies as part of plans to make £12.5m of staffing cuts. The ballot closes on Friday 26 April
  • Open University: 35 professional services and support staff have been placed at risk of redundancy, with frontline student-facing roles particularly affected. A further voluntary severance scheme has been opened to all teaching-only staff, affecting around 50% of OU employees. UCU demands the removal of the threat that compulsory redundancies will be issued if voluntary schemes do not meet management's targets
  • University of WinchesterWinchester has recently announced large scale redundancies due to, it claims, a £6m structural deficit. Winchester UCU has declared a trade dispute with the university and will be consulting with members over plans for collective action.

Current industrial disputes and wins

UCU is determined to resist the waves of job cuts and attacks on working conditions taking place in post-16 education throughout the UK. You can click here for a list of current industrial disputes and find out how you can support them and extend your solidarity, and you can click here for a list of wins that UCU members have achieved over the last two years. Both lists are updated continually so please check back regularly.

UCU videos on prison education and adult and community education

UCU has released a new series of short videos in which members share their stories. Please watch and forward to your colleagues:

UCU continuing professional development workshops

Join us next week for the following 90-minute online interactive workshops that are free and open to all UCU members:

Please look out for our Monday CPD email with details of all the online workshops running next term.

Equality research conference, 17 May

UCU's equality research conference 2024 is a one-day hybrid event for academics and activists conducting research in equality. The conference will explore how people across (and within) equality groups have experienced or are experiencing actions and discourse around discrimination and equality. The conference is free of charge and open to members and non-members.

It will take place on Friday 17 May (10:30-16:30) at the University of Manchester and online. Click here to register; registration deadline is Monday 29 April.

There is a short period for submission of late papers--the submission form will be open until Tuesday 2 April (18:00); we would particularly welcome presentations about migrant lives and experiences.

Webinar on changes to immigration rules

On Monday 25 March (12:30-13:30) UCU will host a webinar covering recent changes to immigration rules and their impact on members. The session will be chaired by migrant members' standing committee (MMSC) chair Laura Loyola-Hernandez and will feature input from immigration lawyers Bindmans. To register please email the Equality mailbox. Zoom joining details will be emailed directly to those who have registered.

Better Buses campaign

The Better Buses campaign calls on the government to deliver high quality bus services, safe and accessible for everyone. Due to austerity measures services have been severely degraded across England, with some places having no buses at all. This disproportionally affects women, disabled people, those on low incomes and other minority groups. Please sign and circulate the petition.

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. We have a webpage that collates in one place all of our information, resources and events for UCU members and branches.

Organising for Power's core fundamentals

Organising For Power's core fundamentals is a skills-based training course open to organisers worldwide from 17:00 to 19:30 each Tuesday from 7 May to 11 June. The course covers: workplace leader identification; semantics; structured organising conversations; charting; and structure tests. Hear from lead trainer Jane McAlevey about why you should sign up.

Participating UCU members will be placed into groups and meet up weekly to work through the course. Please click here to register; the registration deadline is Friday 26 April at 14:00.

Stop the attacks on academics: Donelan must go

Secretary of State for Science, Innovation and Technology Michelle Donelan MP recently attacked academics on social media and, having lost the confidence of those working in higher education, must now resign. Sign the petition and call on her to formally apologise and resign her position.

Friday email will return

The Friday email will return on 12 April. If there are any urgent updates, however, we will continue to inform any affected members. We wish everyone a restful break.

Last updated: 22 March 2024