Response to Consultative Ballot Results

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Today we received the results of the consultative ballot on higher education pay. The results show that 65% of members who voted are willing to settle this year rather than taking industrial action this pay round and accept the pay offer of 1.7%. This does not mean that members have taken this decision lightly, nor that they do not understand that the offer is a real-terms pay cut.

The turn out for this ballot was surprisingly high, the best since 2006 with no recommendation, despite taking place in the summer, at 48.6%. This is close to the new threshold of 50% set by the Trade Union Act, and so undermines arguments that this is not an accurate representation of members’ views.

Clearly, activists across UCU had enough time to ‘get the vote out’, and we believe that this electronic ballot is a valid representation of what members want. Some will say leadership should have been shown, however leadership is also about listening carefully to what members want.

We interpret this result as saying members are more concerned with issues arising out of marketisation such as restructure, deprofessionalisation, redundancy, casualisation, as well as long standing concerns with equality (gender, disability, LGBT+, BME) and pensions.

We do not think this indicates the end of industrial action – far from it, the fact that almost half members voting indicated they would take action if the membership voted to reject suggests that there is still support for a pay campaign in the future. We think that members are tired of striking nationally year on year with diminishing results.

At a local level, branches have successfully cleared the 50% threshold and pushed back on redundancies. There have been inspirational campaigns across the UK around the gender pay gap, casualisation, outsourcing and governance.

While we develop this strategy we can still engage in regionally and nationally coordinated local actions that will unsettle the management lobby and give us greater national bargaining power in the next pay round. It’s time to think differently, creatively about industrial action and strategy, and this decision gives us the breathing space to be able to do this.

We look forward to discussing next steps with colleagues at local, regional and national executive levels and we hope that not too much time will be spent wrongly lamenting the lack of militancy or leadership which we think would be not just a distraction but also a misinterpretation of what members are saying.

Members of the UCU Independent Broad Left network (NEC/HEC)

Strengthening not retreating

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Talking truth to power. But what are the next steps to win the battle?

The HEC at its last meeting took a decision to pause industrial action and conduct an indicative ballot of HE members on the way forward. Here are some points from the Independent Broad Left Network regarding the next stage in the battle to achieve better pay, close the gender pay gap and end casualisation.

It would be easy but mistaken to see the decision taken by HEC on 14 October to pause industrial action on the 2016 pay offer while conducting an indicative ballot of HE members as a retreat. Looking at the achievements and difficulties of our pay dispute, and at the political and economic situation in which we have to go forward, HEC has chosen to move to decisions about next steps which will be informed by the judgement of the people who will actually have to implement them about what will achieve the most for us all.

Making tough choices
We are proud of what members have already put into the dispute, and confident that they will give serious and intelligent consideration to the risks and possibilities of seriously sustained industrial action this autumn. There is wide agreement that we have had an unsatisfactory offer from the employers, and that there is considerable appetite for continued campaigning on the gender pay gap and on casualisation issues, but real uncertainty as to whether industrial action at this particular moment will produce positive results. The HEC recognised that in considering the direction of the current dispute, members needed to be clear that any future pay campaign would be conducted under the new ballot threshold imposed by the Trade Union Act. Tackling pay erosion in future may be much more challenging, with early career colleagues especially likely to suffer the consequences in the medium to long term

Working together
As experienced activists we all understand that industrial action is a means to achieve change, not an end in itself, and that we owe it to ourselves to assess its possible dangers as well as its possible opportunities. Successful action is based on strong support and participation, and on confidence that there are reasonable prospects for the action. Since ‘the union’ is no more or less than all of us, it makes sense to involve all of us in building that support and confidence

Fighting smart and fighting strong
In taking the decision to hold a consultative ballot HEC is working constructively with members by asking them to make an informed judgement about how best we can all work together to make progress in very difficult circumstances. We are not retreating, but strengthening the trust, good sense, and ability to deal with tough situations, on which the effectiveness of union campaigns always depends.

 

Colleagues who have comments on this can get in touch and let us know your views by contacting: unionadmin@ucuagenda.com

Help our colleagues at Hull College!

 

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Jenny Prideaux who works at Sheffield College and is a member of the NEC, the Chair of the Recruitment, Organising and Campaigns Committee and FEC Vice-Chair, writes about a crucial campaign for the UCU in the FE sector.

 

 

This is a call to all members to support Hull College UCU in its battle to save the college, save members’ jobs and defend the union. It’s  time to stop Hull College bosses in their tracks!

On 25th August 2016 Hull College issued a notice that threatened over 140 posts at the College with redundancy  – including 60 lecturing staff
This is the sixth year in a row that job losses have been announced resulting in just short of 400 job losses

Staff at the College believe that

  • these job losses are short sighted
  • profit is being put first.
  • significant financial shortfalls are a result of years of mismanagement
  • what was once a great college is being run into the ground.

It’s also an attack on the union itself. 

The branch officers who orchestrated last year’s successful pay and lesson observation dispute have been threatened with redundancy. This includes the branch secretary, the vice-chair and our president Rob Goodfellow.

Our members at Hull, as you would expect from this branch, are determined to fight back.

They have a successful ballot for strike action and are taking strike action on Thursday 13th October

Actions you can take immediately:

Keep yourself updated by visiting the branch’s facebook page

https://www.facebook.com/ucuhull

Retweet its tweets

https://twitter.com/ucuhull?lang=en&lang=en

Sign the petition

https://www.gopetition.com/petitions/save-hull-college-for-the-people-of-hull.html#.V_KNzKRiGFg.twitter

send messages of support to the branch secretary Dave Langcaster at

dlangcaster@gmail.com

Watch this space for details of where to visit picket lines

In full solidarity with our members at Hull

Jenny Prideaux

Build the Fight against the HE Bill and an effective fightback in FE

Fight vs HE Bill

Download Thursday’s copy of HE Sector Broadcast here and Thursday’s copy of FE sector Broadcast here

The determination of our union to fight against the Green Paper/ White Paper/Bill has already been shown at several fringes during congress, and 13 of our motions today in the HE Sector conference will look at how best to oppose this, and ultimately defeat it.

There are clearly some good motions here which will take the fight forward by developing the understanding of our members, students and the wider communities, and clearly there is everything to play for. However we suggest that there are a couple of points that conference should be wary of endorsing as they lack the specific details needed for a successful fightback – we give our suggestions in Broadcast.

It is to be expected that not everyone will agree on the strategy and tactics necessary to successfully win a substantial pay increase, and this disagreement shows in the resolutions tabled.

Members need to be congratulated however for what they have done so far, and given every encouragement to engage in tougher and sustained activity and sanctions, should they prove necessary.

However, what is most important is that Conference comes out of this debate with a united policy to take to both the employers and members. Statements which demean in members’ eyes the leadership of the HEC and the negotiators, and the action that members are already taking, actually undermine the union’s ability to pursue the dispute successfully. 

Today’s opinion piece in HE Sector Broadcast – on Health Educators is by Paul Errington a Health Educator himself at Teeside and an incoming member of the NEC.

Turning to the FE conference it is clear that the high quality motions on many of the issues from the 2015/16 pay claim, through the blight of the gender pay gap –  and the absence of equality monitoring on to the devastating effect of the area reviews, the cuts to ESOL, the Prevent agenda, and the de-professionalisation of the lecturer’s role, all show that our members are active and concerned on these key issues affecting the sector. It promises to be a high quality debate on these questions. The pay issue is one where differing opinions on the way forward exist. We suggest that calling for ‘national’ strike action on the question of ‘pay’ over and over again is however, the wrong strategy – it’s misleading and counterproductive. There is a way to organise, build and support confident, campaigning and unified branches and FE Sector Broadcast suggests some ways we can achieve this.

Elsewhere in each Sector Broadcast you’ll find the Independent Broad Left Network’s general take on some of the other key issues Congress looks at today. As a network, we don’t have a ‘party line’ on policy, and unlike Monty Python neither are we looking for the Holy Grail. So let us know what you think – e-mail unionadmin@ucuagenda.com

 

Stop the Open University Regional Closures!

Save the OU

A ballot for strike action at the Open University (OU) has opened over the closure of regional offices and potential loss of over 500 jobs. The OU Senate has voted to advise against the plans despite the university’s attempts to prevent UCU lobbying the meeting.

Quoted in the Guardian, Philip O’Sullivan, lecturer in the faculty of social sciences, and a UCU rep. pointed out that this was the most fundamental change in the way the university had operated since its creation. Tony Coughlan, a tutor at the OU’s Bristol office also pointed out that closure of these centres means students do not get a person who can personalise the learning experience – this is something that the regions had always done.

Coughlan points out that its only through meeting other students that the sense of being in a learning community is created – something that’s vital if you’re having a difficult time as a student. Continue reading

Winning the pay campaign needs to start now

How our union can be effective in winning better conditions including pay is a crucial question involving strategy, tactics and effective use of our resources based on an active membership. Here, Martin Levy, NEC member puts a point of view in favour of building a campaign that will be powerful enough to force management to concede. 

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Martin Levy, NEC and HEC member

Activists will be pleased to know, that at the Higher Education Committee (HEC) meeting last Friday, decisions were taken to enable UCU to pursue an active campaign about the HE pay situation.  The official report is in the attached HE News, which you may already have seen.

Having heard from over 100 branches up and down the UK, it was clear that, while there was a widespread antipathy towards taking industrial action on pay at present, there was also a strong view that UCU needs to keep the pay issue active and that this requires a campaigning strategy from the centre.

Several options were considered, and the one which was supported by the majority on HEC, tasks HEC with:

  • starting now and campaigning forward into 2016;
  • early submission of our 2016 pay claim;
  • the maintenance of a continuing campaign in parallel with next year’s negotiations.

UCU box text on pay

This was an important decision – pledging us as a fighting union to develop the type of campaigning strategy that could realistically lead to a result rather than empty posturing. Continue reading