Congratulations to all our members both locally and nationally who contributed to industrial action, forcing our employers to reverse pensions cuts. Your commitment has not gone unnoticed by other members of staff, who have expressed their thanks. This has been a big win for all university employees who hold USS pensions – but it would not have been achieved without our committed members, both here at Loughborough and across the sector. Go to the USS Modeller to see how much better off you’ll be following the restoration of our benefits. 😊
Without a committed membership, we have no strength! Our next push is to build on this win by increasing our numbers. So, let’s make a noise about our success! Members talking to colleagues not yet unionised is the most effective way we can recruit. We’d appreciate it if every member would speak to at least three colleagues to encourage them to join us, using this link: join.ucu.org.uk. You can also help spread word of our win and encourage membership by liking and sharing/retweeting these social media posts: Twitter/X and Facebook. The more members we have, the more we can achieve!
Kevin Biderman, a UCU rep at Brighton University, joined us on Friday 15 September to talk about the threat of redundancy at his institution and about the actions his members are taking in support both of their jobs and of high-quality student provision at Brighton. A summary of Kevin’s talk is below:
In May, Brighton University proposed 130 redundancies, saying it wanted to save £7.3m – but while also spending £50m on building projects. The University is planning to grow student numbers, potentially causing massive workload issues for the remaining staff. Hundreds of students have been marching, calling for the VC’s resignation, and they have staged a sit in in the VC’s office. Students at Brighton are joining UCU in asking for zero redundancies, sharing the belief that the planned job cuts are a choice, not a necessity. The VC lost a vote of no confidence, with 94% of staff and students voting against them. The UCU branch held a ballot over 2 weeks, resulting in a 61% turnout and a 90% vote for local strike action in October. UCU has grey-listed Brighton – encouraging members not to apply for jobs there or engage in any collaborative projects. Brighton has deducted 100% of pay for involvement in the MAB and has said it will do the same during the upcoming strike. Brighton UCU has a strike fund which so far has received close to £100k in donations, but it needs more.
What can you do to help colleagues at Brighton UCU?
You can sign the petition in support of zero redundancies at Brighton University, here.
You are encouraged to make supportive posts on social media.
Brighton UCU would really appreciate further donations to their strike fund, here.
Lboro UCU members, please join us to discuss #ucuRISING and plan our September strike action. We are meeting on Teams on Friday 15th September from 12:30pm, please check your email for more details and a link to join.
The results of the LUCU branch UCU Rising consultation survey are listed below:
Do you support moving forward in negotiations with UCEA based on the terms of reference agreed at ACAS?
Do you support UCU members being formally consulted over the commitments that have been agreed with UUK to restore benefits and lower pension contributions?
Do you support UCU members being formally consulted on the proposals that have been agreed with UCEA on pay, ending zero-hour contracts, workloads, casualisation and closing equality pay gaps?
If members vote for industrial action in the re-ballot, do you support beginning a Marking & Assessment Boycott over the pay and conditions dispute from w/b 17 April?
If members vote for industrial action in the re-ballot, do you support beginning a Marking & Assessment Boycott over the USS cuts imposed in April 2022 from w/b 17 April?
Overall, it’s clear that there is strong support among LUCU members for further consultation and action, though there are some differing opinions on specific tactics. Please note abstentions are not listed above.
Branch Delegates Meeting (BDM) held on 29th March
The results of the national survey were the main topic of discussion. Mary Brewer, LUCU’s branch delegate, voted in line with your views as expressed in the local survey. Mary was given opportunity to speak and reported the main themes captured through your discursive feedback:
Members’ have felt confused and uninformed
Members feel that their voices were not heard by the Higher Education Committee (HEC)
Central communications have been poor
Members found the questions asked in the national surveys to be unclear and difficult to respond to
Our feedback was in line with that of many other branches and assurances were given that the feedback raised will be taken into account as the union moves forward in its efforts to represent its members effectively.
Results of UCU Rising Re-ballots
In the re-ballots for UCU’s pay and conditions and USS pensions disputes, our union has achieved resounding YES votes to continuing action, surpassing the anti-union turnout threshold in both disputes. The ballot results are:
Yes to Strike Action
Yes to ASOS
Pay & Conditions
UCU has made history as the first education union in the UK to win multiple national ballots. Full results of the ballots can be found here. Negotiations will continue and notice of a national marking and assessment boycott will be served to employers later this month. Well done to everyone who voted in this ballot, helping UCU get over the line and empowering our negotiators. Very special thanks to our Get The Vote Out volunteers for their hard work.
The LUCU committee will call a branch General Meeting as soon as we know more from the HEC about further action.
Loughborough University, Loughborough UCU and Loughborough Students’ Union have been meeting regularly during the current industrial disputes to explore what is at issue and to consider how progress might be made.
While our perspectives are diverse, the collaborative way of working that we have developed has enabled us to address effectively and constructively those issues which have a local dimension. We have also discussed what is at stake nationally.
Our position on the several strands of the disputes is summarised here:
Pensions. We believe that an evidence-based valuation of the Universities Superannuation Scheme (USS) should be completed as soon as possible. This assessment of the scheme’s assets and liabilities, and its future performance, should be ‘moderately prudent’. Any positive adjustments resulting from this new valuation should prioritise the improvement of members’ benefits over reductions to employer /employee contribution rates from their current levels. We welcome the recent developments in relation to this.
Pay. We acknowledge that this is the most challenging of the current issues. The regulated undergraduate student fee that is universities’ most significant income stream has barely changed in a decade – and it remains frozen during this period of high inflation when institutions’ costs, such as energy, have increased sharply. The income of university staff has lagged similarly in this time, with a series of below-inflation pay awards – and current high prices are undoubtedly having a significant impact on staff, too. While the 2023 pay award has been implemented, we remain mindful of staff’s situation. We also join other voices in encouraging a longer-term review of the university funding model (a review that should be creative and not focus only on raising students’ fees).
Working conditions (pay inequality, casualisation, workload). We recognise that addressing these questions is crucial to the well-being and sustainability of the sector. Universities must offer a fair, decent and healthy working environment to all. At Loughborough, while further work remains to be done, good progress is being made on these fronts – and we encourage employers and unions at all HE institutions to tackle pay gaps, casualised contracts and high workloads in a similar spirit of partnership.
We do not underestimate the complexities of these multiple issues and the challenges involved in finding fair outcomes. However, it is crucial that lasting resolutions are achieved, so as to prevent further disruption to the lives of both staff and students.
We strongly encourage all those involved in the disputes to continue working toward our shared goal: student and staff satisfaction in a Higher Education sector fit for everyone.
Loughborough University Loughborough UCU Loughborough Students’ Union
We have just received word from National UCU that they will be sending all members a survey this afternoon to ask for views on the proposals to settle the disputes with UCEA and UUK. We are told that the survey will close in approximately 48 hours, on Friday 17th March. We recommend completing the survey before Friday as no end time was stated.
As you have probably already heard, due to the pressure created through your collective action and presence on picket lines, UCU have announced significant progress in negotiations with the employers in our HE pay and pension disputes. To allow ongoing negotiations to continue in a constructive environment UCU has agreed to pause strike action for the next two weeks. This means our scheduled pickets on the 22nd February and 1st March are suspended, as is all strike action until we recommence the pressure with our picket on the 16th March. For this period, during the pause in strike action, ASOS remains in place and the branch will focus on the re-ballot. We are looking to reschedule teach-outs which were planned for the 22nd Feb and the 1st March, and will update you with more details on these when we have finalised the new plans. The planned Creative Writing Social/Teach-out on the 28th February will still be taking place as it is outside of normal working hours.
Take a look at some of the creative works our members have produced with students in support of the dispute, on our YouTube channel.
It is now more important than ever that we deliver a massive yes vote in our upcoming re-ballot of members for both our pay and conditions, and USS disputes. This will allow our negotiators to keep the pressure on and will leave the option for a Marking and Assessment Boycott and/or further strike action if the dispute is not resolved. Ballot papers will start arriving from Wednesday 22nd February. Please complete and return your ballot, and encourage others to do the same.
We’d really appreciate help with the get the vote out effort. If you volunteer you will be given a list of names and will be asked to call members on their list encouraging them to vote. Please let the branch know if you can help by responding to this email.
UCU will be hosting our union’s biggest ever UCU Live event on the eve of ballots dropping. Please join our general secretary Jo Grady at 19:30 on Tuesday 21st February on YouTube, Facebook and Twitter.
For next week the branch has organised a picket on Lboro campus taking place on Wednesday 22nd February. The picket will be at the Holywell Gate on Holywell Way (exact location) from 11:30am to 2pm. It will be followed by “Unions and the Media” an online teach-out from 2:30-5pm (Teams link). See the section on teach-outs at the end of this article for full details.
As always, we hope to see as many of you on the picket as possible. The longer the picket line, the shorter the dispute.
Future Picket Dates, Times & Locations
Wed 1st March
Thurs 16th March
Mon 20th March
Future London picket details will be communicated as and when they are arranged.
Although we are only picketing on the above dates, please remember that the following dates are also strike days.
Please regularly check our website for updated versions of strike resources for staff such as out of office messages, email templates you can send to students or use on learn and slides for students.
We’re delighted to announce a fourth teach-out on our schedule:
Mightier than the Sword? – a creative writing social at The Organ Grinder (4 Woodgate, Loughborough, LE11 2TY) on Tuesday February 28th, 6-8pm. Upstairs in The Hayloft, Barbara Cooke and Kerry Featherstone will be serving up creative exercises that will amuse and entertain. All are welcome. The room has limited capacity so come early to avoid having to sit downstairs playing board games and wondering what everyone is up to!
Full details of the teach-out this coming Wednesday:
Unions and the Media, an online teach-out: Wednesday February 22nd, 2:30-5pm (Teams link) We will start with a Trade Unions 101 by Anthony Kevins: Is a trade union like a student union? Are strikes just protests? And why are strikes even a thing? In this brief introduction to trade unions, we’ll cover everything you ever wanted to know about collective bargaining but were too afraid to ask. Bring your questions! Then John Downey will present a talk entitled ‘What about the workers? How do news media frame unions and what we can do about it’ discussing unions, inequality, and media representation, including reflections on how UCU does self-mediation and how it is being represented in the current dispute.
A reminder of the rest of our scheduled teach-outs:
Organising and Power, an online teach-out: Wednesday 1st March, 2:30-5pm (Teams link)
Memories of anti-racism, a hybrid teach-out:Thursday 16th March, 11am-12 noon in-person and online (Teams link) Charnwood Arts (address: 27 Rectory Pl, Loughborough LE11 1UW)