A Letter To Our Members
In support of our Union’s efforts to reverse brutal pension cuts and to improve pay and working conditions in the sector, we have been called out on strike for a further week (beginning next Monday, 21 March). No-one, to put it mildly, is rejoicing at the prospect. On the contrary, we know that many of you feel bruised by the action already taken and that you are dismayed at the request to strike again.
You may be in two minds about whether you participate in this latest action. We understand this deep unease: indeed, we share it. Notwithstanding this, it is vital that every member of Loughborough UCU answers this call to strike.
‘Going on strike again is unaffordable’
The idea of losing another week’s money is dispiriting. Few of us, despite our opponents’ spin, are wealthy enough to keep foregoing significant chunks of income. But while we appreciate that the thought of further salary loss will be giving you pause, we hope that it will not, in the end, prevent your involvement in the strike. And this for several reasons:
- Presently, we are facing the loss of, at most, several thousand pounds for participating in strike action. This is hardly a trivial matter. However, if the horrifying pension cuts are not reversed, we face the loss of many tens, if not hundreds of thousands. The withdrawal of our labour will cost us plenty – but the failure of our campaign will cost us so much more.
- You may not be aware of the scale of financial support made available by UCU’s Fighting Fund – or you may be reluctant, given the level of your salary, to make a claim on it. However, the fund is there for all members who are experiencing significant financial pressures, and we encourage you to make use of it.
- Details of the strike pay scheme and how to apply can be found here. Basically, you can claim £50 a day if you earn more than £30k p.a., and £75 a day if your salary is lower. This is not fully compensatory, of course, but it represents not insignificant mitigation for financial loss.
‘Going on strike again is too disruptive to students’
All of us in student-facing roles – whether as lecturers or administrators, librarians or IT specialists – relish this work. All of us are dismayed at the thought of causing further disruption to students.
It is an unavoidable fact, however, that only by causing this disruption will the strike be successful (by prompting students in large enough numbers to contact the University’s managers and urge them to do so much more to help secure a fair hearing for the Union’s case, especially on pensions). A mass refusal to complete our PDRs will not jog the Vice-Chancellor’s elbow; failure to update Co-Tutor on time, or to submit that new bid for research funding, will not exert any pressure either.
We completely understand why, reluctant to cause further gaps in the education of students you like and value, some of you may be feeling that you cannot strike on the 21st. However, we ask you to pause and consider how a decision to work seriously diminishes the effectiveness of UCU’s action and brings our defeat that little bit closer. An alternative course of action, we propose, is to let your students know what you are planning to do (and why) and how they can help – and then to strike.
‘Going on strike again serves no strategic purpose’
There is certainly no expectation that your support for the Union should be uncritical. Questions can fairly be asked about the conduct of the ongoing industrial action, including about the latest plan to stagger strikes by institution across two weeks. However, without a rapid follow-up to the recent series of strike days, impetus for the struggle would be lost. University managers nationwide would relax. Effective strike action, by contrast, will ensure their continued attention. The Joint Negotiating Committee of USS meets on 29 March – and it is vital that its management representatives have very clear evidence, from a well-supported strike, of our determination and stamina in this fight.
The Union is acting on the basis of a clear mandate supplied by members across the country (including – and by a significant majority – members at Loughborough). The campaign it is presently waging in our interests is crucial, perhaps even epochal. It requires – and deserves – our full participation.
To repeat: we understand and empathise with you if you feel disinclined to strike again. We acknowledge that what’s said above may not have changed your mind. For us on the Branch Committee, however, the situation is clear: to go on strike on the 21st will be difficult, but it is necessary. The campaign in defence of our pensions, in particular, cannot be allowed to fail – but it only has a chance of success if it is fully supported by all UCU members, including on this campus.
Thank you very much for your time.