Dear UCU London Region colleague
UCU has announced eight days of strike action in Higher Education starting on 25 November. See the official UCU strike date annoucement.
There are two legally distinct disputes, with two different employer groups involved in negotiating issues. This makes things a little complicated! But our members have given UCU a very strong mandate to negotiate and a strong mandate to lead action.
We now know the dates and can start planning.
There are many lessons of the USS dispute in 2018. But a key one concerned the importance of preparation and collective organisation across the region. London Region was very effective in linking up branches, and in taking London-wide initiatives (including two major demos and rallies, but also other protests).
London Region UCU has called a strike coordinating meeting this Thursday, 7 November, from 6.30-9pm in the Ricardo Lecture Theatre, B03, Drayton House, Gordon Street UCL.
- This meeting is open to branch reps and UCU members alike.
- Drayton House is behind Friends Meeting House (opposite Euston Station) on Gordon Street. » Map
With some branches taking strike action, and others unable to take it, there are some questions of basic solidarity we should consider. HE branches that are not being called out will still be part of one or both of these disputes.
- Where reballoting is going to take place, we should discuss how striking branches might also be able to facilitate that reballot.
- Striking branches should ideally have daily strike committee meetings. We might facilitate non-striking branches to book venues and host strike meetings, teach outs, etc.
We should also start thinking about what initiatives we can take regionally.
The dates will coincide with some key dates. 29 November is the next climate strike date and 4 December is UCU’s Day of Action on Disability. One thing that worked well in 2016 was themed strike days – we could start making plans for those.
We should also consider regional rallies etc.
These are just a few ideas. Please discuss with colleagues and bring your own ideas to the meeting this Thursday.
Building a democratic, activist-led UCU
2 November 2019, 11-5pm
(doors open for registration at 10.30)
UCL Roberts Engineering Building
University College London
Joint session with Campaign Against Climate Change conference 1.00pm-2.00pm
Opposite Waterstones, Torrington Place
Nearest tubes: Goodge St/Warren St, Euston Sq/Euston, Russell Sq
What a difference a year makes!
One year on from the great USS HE Pension strikes of 2018 and the wave of Further Education strikes that have continued, UCU is gearing up for another strike wave in Higher Education. Nottingham College strikers are in a mammoth fight to stop pay cuts and skyrocketing workload.
Meanwhile the Tory government is in deep crisis, and climate strikes are spreading across the globe.
New struggles bring new questions. What role should UCU activists play? What type of union do we need? How do we encourage and organise a new generation of activists in our union? UCU has had major democratic debates, culminating in a new General Secretary and a commission on Democracy. But how do we organise our branches and Regions to be more effective – and more democratic?
Most of all, how do we organise a bigger, stronger union movement, one that demands people before profit, unites staff and students, and is capable of stopping the market madness in education once and for all?
Come to this one-day conference to debate the future of UCU. It is time to organise the future of our union.
Hosted by UCL UCU. Called by London Region UCU, supported by Branch Solidarity Network, UCU Left and others – To add your organisation’s name click here.
|Welcome – After the Ballots: GTVO and building the strikes – James Richards (Herriot Watt)
- Work till you drop? Pensions, cuts and USS Round Two – Deepa Driver (Reading, NDC chair) and Carlo Morelli (Dundee, UCU Scottish President)
- Organising a united pay fight in Higher Education – Bruce Baker (Newcastle), Mark Abel (Brighton) and Linda Cronin (Roehampton)
- One hundred years of Adult education: the fight for a hundred more – Jan Koene (Sutton College) and Naina Kent (Hackney ACE)
|Climate strikes, UCU and fighting for the future. Can we win free education and socially-responsible science? – Sean Vernell (CCCG, UCU VP FE), James Price (UCL) and the Campaign Against Climate Change TU group
|Resisting casualisation and uniting the union. How do we use the unity of strikes to win members to secure contracts? – Liz Lawrence (Sheffield Hallam retd), Lesley Kane (Open) and Feyzi Ismail (SOAS)
|Equality, from resistance to liberation. How do we win members to defend equality rights? Can we defend migrant students and staff? – Dima Chami (Leeds), and others
|Organising to win: how to turn the tide of marketisation in post 16 education – Vicky Blake (Leeds, UCU Vice President), Nottingham College Strikers and more
Organising the USS Campaign in London
An open regional organising meeting for all reps and activists
Thursday 27 June, 6.30pm
Garwood Lecture Theatre
1st Floor, South Wing, Wilkins Building
University College London
(adjacent to the Quad)
All members welcome
Deepa Govindarajan Driver, Co-Chair, UCU National Dispute Committee
Carlo Morelli, UCU Scotland President and ex-UCU USS Negotiator
Marion Hersh, UCU USS Negotiator
Called by London Region UCU.
On Friday 7 June, UCU submitted a letter to every employer asking them to commit to No Detriment in contributions or benefits in the current (2017) valuation round.
The employers could agree to pick up the increased employee contribution costs that USS is imposing. Or they could agree to negotiate at the top table to jointly demand, with UCU, to implement the JEP recommendations in full. Either way they could avoid a dispute.
However, if as is almost certain, the employers decline to do so, UCU will organise a disaggregated ballot of members in each employer from September to October.
We need to get organised. We will need to ensure that in every branch more than 50% of members eligible to vote do so. The stakes are extraordinarily high.
Please come to this meeting, and encourage others to do so.
Lobby the Joint Negotiating Committee of USS
Friday 17 May, 9:30 for 10am
60 Threadneedle Street, EC2 8RP » Map
Nearest tube: Bank
Called by London Region UCU.
Our pension scheme is under attack from those who run it.
In 2018, members took 14 days of strike action in overwhelming numbers to defend our USS pension. We demonstrated that there was no deficit in the pension scheme. And the Joint Expert Panel (JEP), set up in the wake of the dispute, agreed.
There is no need to make cuts in pensions. There is no need for employees to pay more in to the scheme. The scheme is in surplus and is growing. The arguments that have been used to impose changes are specious. The JEP’s recommendations in their First Report are minor increases that the employers could afford to pick up in their entirety.
This is why UCU’s position is #NoDetriment.
However, the USS Board are refusing to implement the recommendations of the JEP. Consequently they are imposing large increases in contributions on both employees and employers. In March they pre-announced a 42.5% increase in contributions from employees — even though their own consultation of members overwhelmingly demanded no increase.
Those who run USS are undermining JEP by refusing to implement the first report. They intend to undermine the Second Report of JEP.
If they get away with this, we will pay more, and then the employers will demand 100% Defined Contribution at the next valuation round.
We have to restart the fight to defend USS.
- Come to the Lobby of the USS Joint Negotiating Committee on Friday.
- Prepare members to ballot for strike action to defend their pension.
UCU Congress, at the end of the month, will then vote on the next steps.
London Region UCU Open Activist Meeting
Pensions and Pay – What next after the JEP and how can we build the pay fight?
Monday 17 September, 6.30pm
Room 1.20, Engineering Building, University College London
Entrance opposite Waterstones/ULU on Torrington Place. Nearest tube Goodge St.
Map and directions
All members welcome
This meeting is for members in Further and Higher Education to hear about the USS dispute and to discuss how we unite the union to fight over pay.
The report of the USS Joint Expert Panel has been published at www.ussjep.org.uk
USS branches are strongly encouraged to organise local meetings next week to discuss the report and next steps in the campaign.
UCU London Region has called a meeting for Monday 17 September for colleagues from all parts of the HE sector to discuss what the report means and to debate next steps in the campaign.
With ballots taking place over pay in both Higher and Further Education, one logical conclusion is that any cost increase imposed over pension costs should be billed to the employers in the pay campaign.
A UCU Activist’s Guide to the Next Few Months
- The terms of reference for the Joint Expert Panel (JEP) were pushed through the Higher Education Committee (HEC) with no amendments permitted by the chair on 27 April. The terms are highly problematic, providing no accountability or transparency.
- The last chance to influence the JEP’s terms will be the National Executive Committee, which meets on 4 May. They may consider an emergency motion so long as it affects the whole union, not merely the HE sector. Activists should lobby NEC members to revise the JEP’s terms to ensure UCU nominees are elected, have to account regularly to the membership throughout the JEP process, and are fully transparent. See JEP Manifesto below.
- On 16 May, the UCU Superannuation Working Group (SWG) will appoint JEP members based on applications from interested parties. Activists should lobby the SWG to ensure they appoint (a) people who are not just technical expert but who are prepared to challenge the actuarial and regulatory orthodoxy that has led us to this point, i.e. who understand that the choice of assumptions behind a valuation is political, not neutral; (b) someone from UCU’s own actuaries, First Actuarial, who have done good work in the past.
- Branches can also still usefully:
- Submit amendments to motions for UCU Sector Conference (or Congress) – deadline 4 May. One on a pay dispute would be useful (see below).
- Submit late motions to Sector Conference / Congress (deadline is eve of Congress).
- Submit motions of no confidence in Sally Hunt’s leadership (as at Kent, Exeter and Queen Mary).
- Submit motions for an emergency special sector conference under rule 16.11 (as passed at over 15 institutions now – required threshold is 20).
UCU Congress and the HE Sector Conference will be held from 30 May to 1 June in Manchester. Branches need to send their full complement of delegates and support important motions submitted by other branches, including calls to:
- Establish a review of democratic mechanisms in the union to strengthen internal democracy and the accountability of the leadership;
- Hold a special HE Sector Conference in September to review the JEP’s report and, if necessary, initiate industrial action in response;
- Create a national strike committee to ensure democratic control of industrial action.
Medium term (but can start now)
See also Re-mobilising for industrial action, below.
- Need to re-start strike committees and re-engage branch members, understand why people voted in the ballot as they did, and rebuild the mobilisation seen through March, around the #WeAreTheUniversity slogan, which captures a broad range of issues stemming from marketization. UCU needs to be positioned as the main defender of education against destructive neoliberal policies.
- A dispute on pay can address many of these issues in a way the pensions dispute could not. We can claim for cost-of-living increases and the impact of any imposed cost-sharing in USS, but we can also tackle equalities, workload, precarity, casualisation, etc. An activist network needs to ensure the dispute is framed in this broad way. A pay campaign can also unite the pre- and post-92 sectors, and also build solidarity with FE, where 21 branches are already in dispute with another 150 claims underway (1/3 of institutions).
- Branches need to gear up for possible renewed strike action in the autumn after the JEP reports, if this is seriously detrimental to members’ interests.
- Branches also need to:
- Lobby employers to commit to “No Detriment” in pensions, as Oxford has.
- Lobby employers to commit to not reporting strikes as unauthorised absences to the Home Office for staff on Tier 4 visas, as this imperils their right to take action.
- Keep an eye on serious disputes emerging around redundancies at local FE colleges, the Open University, Liverpool, etc. This is linked to union-busting at London South Bank, a problem also faced at Coventry University College. Pre-92 branches are asked to “twin” with local post-92s, and HE branches with FE ones. Messages of solidarity are highly valued. Coventry also asks members to support their march on 17 May and write to MPs to support Early Day Motion 1178.
- Membership – who to include/ exclude (e.g. consultants w/ pecuniary conflict of interest (not simply having previously expressed a view)) [current criteria: no commitment to equalities (will be added)] Should be elected. Lobby for particular candidates?
- Guided by whose interests? Beneficiaries not UUK/ UCU
- Issues to tackle? Methodology AND data
- Transparency/ Procedure?
- Who will chair? Who will take minutes?
- How will deliberations be recorded?
- How will inputs and outputs be recorded? (e.g. UUK may channel consultants who have driven DC) Transparency on external advisors; governance; decision-making if disagreement exists [“expected to reach consensus” – what happens if they don’t?]
- Should be regular reports to elected bodies.
- USS must commit to accepting JEP recommendations and stop defending its flawed valuation.
- Can they get extra time if they need added data/time?
- First Actuarial must be included and not suppressed by UCU leadership
- Emergency motion to NEC next Friday
- Lobby USS Working Group (meets 16 May) which will appoint JEP by 21 May
- Amendments and late motions to Congress/Sector Conference in May: amendment deadline = 4 May
See also Ten points for the USS valuation
Re-mobilising for industrial action
- #WeAreTheUniversity: keep the focus on transforming HE and addressing broad issues raised during strike: reversing marketization as the root of all evils we face; UCU needs to become the defender of education in Britain
- Need to transcend the yes/no divide arising from controversial ballot. Emphasise dispute is still live, more fighting required in future around shared agenda of defending our pensions (and other issues!)
- Re-energise strike committees around new activity: discuss how to build pay+ campaign & start doing it.
- Need to broaden to/ bring in post-92s (TPS will follow USS) & keep people engage – through campaign over pay (to meet cost-sharing challenge + address casualization + equalities + workload issues specifically)
- form network to ensure dispute gets framed in this way
- emergency motion to Congress on this
- Prepare for dispute!
- Try to get individual universities to commit to No Detriment, as Oxford has. Employers are on back-foot now because of risk of imposition of cost-sharing by USS.
- Demand detailed breakdown of consultative ballot results by branch to help activists understand where members are at local scale.
- Alternative: survey your own branch members about how they feel about the ballot, UCU democracy, future disputes etc. But need to bear in mind that “yes” and “no” contain many overlapping views.
Notes by Lee Jones, QMUL, 28 April 2018
What next after the e-ballot?
- Date: Monday 16 April, 6pm
- Location: UCL Cruciform Lecture Theatre 2
London Region UCU is organising an open meeting to discuss what next after the e-ballot, where reps and activists can come to discuss the next stage in the dispute.
The USS ballot will close on Friday 13th and some branches are due to strike on Monday 16th. The result will be public, one way or another, by Saturday, and most likely by mid Friday afternoon.
If the vote is NO, several London branches will take a week of strike action from 23 April. We will need solidarity from branches that are not striking!
The larger the turnout and the greater the vote NO the easier it will be to put the action on.
Outside of London, some branches are set to strike from Monday 16th.
If the vote is YES, then industrial action will be stood down, and reps will want to discuss what we do next!