In the news: 20 April 2017

USS strikes suspended as UCU members vote in record turnout to accept new proposals

In a record turnout for a national ballot, UCU members at 65 institutions in dispute over changes to the USS pension scheme voted by two to one to accept proposals aimed at resolving the dispute. The ballot closed on Friday and the result meant a second wave of strikes due to begin on Monday was suspended, as was the action short of a strike.

UCU general secretary Sally Hunt said: 'Members have participated in record numbers in the consultation, with a clear majority voting to accept the proposals. The union has come a very long way since January when it seemed that the employers' proposals for a defined contribution pension were to be imposed.'

UCU representatives are meeting with Universities UK to discuss the joint expert panel and will report back to the union's higher education committee next Friday (27 April). Sally Hunt wrote to members with the latest on the dispute earlier this week. Times Higher Education reported on calls for universities to usher in a "new era of partnership and respect" with staff to restore trust and goodwill lost in the strikes.

 

Open University vice-chancellor resigns and cuts are put on hold

A bad couple of weeks for the vice-chancellor of the Open University Peter Horrocks ended with his resignation on Friday. He left just a week after UCU members at the Open University demanded he resign. He had announced plans to cut staff and courses and was recorded insulting staff.

UCU regional official Lydia Richards said: 'Staff made it quite clear that the vice-chancellor had to go and we are pleased he has finally got that message. The Open University is a fantastic institution and Horrocks's replacement must defend the unique role it plays in our education system and the work of its staff.'

Times Higher Education reported today that the Open University is to pause its controversial restructuring programme for two months after its senate agreed to defer a vote of no confidence in the proposed reforms. Peter Horrocks' interim successor Professor Mary Kellet said the suspension of the transformation programme would allow management and staff to take stock of the reform plan.

 

UCU members back strikes and call for Hull College chief executive to resign

Staff at the Hull College Group this week backed strike action, passed a motion of no confidence in their chief executive officer and joined protests outside the college. The college responded by wrongly warning staff the protest was illegal and then offering them discounted ice creams.

The college wants to axe around a third of the workforce through restructure proposals which would see the loss of 231 posts. UCU expects to announce strike dates early next week. The BBC said that staff wanted CEO Michelle Swithenbank to go immediately and FE Week said attempts to bribe staff with ice creams had strengthened their calls for her to resign.

UCU regional official, Julie Kelley, said: 'Staff have made it quite clear that they have no confidence in Michelle Swithenbank's leadership and want her to resign immediately. To go from bullying to bribery in less than 24 hours highlights the chaotic shambles at the heart of Hull College leadership.'

 

Protest at Coventry University over sham union

Staff at the Coventry University Group took part in protests on graduation day this week. UCU vice-president Douglas Chalmers was among the speakers at a rally opposing the use of a sham union to deny employees proper representation on Wednesday.

The row centres on attempts by staff at the Coventry University Group - a subsidiary company of Coventry University - to win trade union recognition. The company has set up a sham trade union - the Staff Consultative Group - and signed a recognition agreement with it. A loophole in trade union law means that UCU cannot apply to represent the staff affected. Sally Hunt said: 'Staff have made it quite clear that they want to be represented by UCU. The management needs to respect the wishes of staff, scrap the sham union and recognise UCU.'

 

UCU tells universities to come back with better pay offer

Times Higher Education reported on Monday that the employers had made a below inflation pay offer of 1.7% at Friday's negotiations. The unions have asked for a 7.5% pay increase or £1,500, whichever is greater, as well as a £10 minimum wage that would see all higher education institutions become "living wage" employers.

UCU head of higher education Paul Bridge said the sub-inflation opening offer did nothing to maintain the value of staff pay and that the employers needed to come back with a higher offer.

 

Labour leader to speak at TUC rally

The TUC announced yesterday that Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn will be speaking at the TUC-organised protests in London on Saturday 12 May. Thousands will march through the capital to demand a better deal for workers and for a growing economy with decent jobs. More details on the march and rally, where Sally Hunt will also be among the speakers, can be found here.

Last updated: 20 April 2018

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