Archive for University and College Union

Solidarity with the UCU Strike!

Posted in Education, Politics with tags , , on February 20, 2020 by telescoper

So the latest round of strikes by members of the University and College Union (UCU) began today. There will be fourteen days of strikes spread over four weeks between now and 13th March. The cause of the long-running dispute is twofold: (1) the long-running saga of the Universities pension scheme (about which there were strikes in 2018); and (2) over pay, equality, workloads and the ever-increasing casualization of lecturing and other work.

Among the UK institutions to be involved in the industrial action are Cardiff, Sussex and Nottingham where I have worked at various times in the past. Nobody likes going on strike but the UK higher education system is a very poor state right now, and many of my former colleagues feel that they have no alternative. It will be tough out there on the picket lines in the cold weather, and losing 14 days’ pay is no fun either, but that’s what it means to go on strike.

I’m no longer involved in the UK university system so can’t do much directly to support those taking industrial action but thought the least I could do is wear my union badge* for the duration of the strike. The Irish Federation of University Teachers (IFUT) will no doubt be expressing their support for comrades on strike. It’s not as if higher education in Ireland is immune from casualisation and workload issues.

*On reflection, I should have taken the picture a different way…

Solidarity with the UCU Strikers!

Posted in Education with tags , , on November 25, 2019 by telescoper

The anticipated strikes of staff from UK universities have begun: they will last from today (November 25th 2019) until December 4th. The cause of the dispute is twofold: (1) the long-running saga of the Universities pension scheme (about which there were strikes in 2018); and (2) over pay, equality, workloads and the ever-increasing casualisation of lecturing and other work.

Among the institutions to have voted for strike action are my previous employers in the UK Cardiff, Sussex and Nottingham. It remains to be seen what the impact of these strikes will be, but they could affect a very large number of students. Nobody likes going on strike but the UK higher education system is a very poor state right now, and many of my former colleagues feel that they have no alternative. It will be tough out there on the picket lines in the cold weather, and losing eight days’ pay before Christmas is no fun either, but that’s what it means to go on strike.

I’m no longer involved in the UK university system so can’t do much directly to support those taking industrial action but my own union, the Irish Federation of University Teachers (IFUT) has expressed solidarity with UCU members so I thought the least I could do is wear my IFUT badge for the duration of the strike. It’s not as if Ireland is immune from casualisation and workload issues.

The University Strikes are Back!

Posted in Education, The Universe and Stuff with tags , , , , on November 6, 2019 by telescoper

I noticed that a recent ballot of members of the University and College Union (UCU) has delivered a mandate for industrial action across 60 UK universities. Eight days of strikes will start later this month: they will last from November 25th until December 4th. The cause of the dispute is twofold: (1) the long-running saga of the Universities pension scheme (about which there were strikes in 2018); and (2) over pay, equality, workloads and the ever-increasing casualisation of lecturing and other work.

Among the institutions to have voted for strike action are my previous employers Cardiff, Sussex and Nottingham.
It seems to have taken a long time to count the votes in the case of Sussex UCU, but the result was a large majority in favour of action. It remains to be seen what the impact of these strikes will be, but they could affect a very large number of students. Nobody likes going on strike but the UK higher education system is a very poor state right now, and many of my former colleagues feel that they have no alternative.

Anyway, the real purpose of this short post is simply to express solidarity with those taking industrial action. It it set to be a big struggle, but I wish everyone taking part all the best on the picket lines!

Why I’m taking part in the UCU Strike Action

Posted in Education, Politics with tags , , , , , , on February 21, 2018 by telescoper

In case you weren’t aware, from tomorrow (22nd February) the University and College Union (UCU) is taking industrial action over proposed drastic cuts to staff pensions funded by the Universities Superannuation Scheme (USS). You can find some background to the pensions dispute here (and in related articles). A clear explanation of why the employers’ justification for these cuts is little more than fraudulent is given here and here you can find an example of the effect of the proposed changes on a real person’s pension (ie a cut of almost 50%). I also blogged about this a few weeks ago. There’s no doubt whose side the Financial Times is on, either.

I am not a member of UCU – I left its forerunner organisation the Association of University Teachers (AUT) as a result of its behaviour when I was at the University of Nottingham – but I will be participating in the industrial action, which takes place over four weeks as follows:

  • Week one – Thursday 22 and Friday 23 February (two days)
  • Week two – Monday 26, Tuesday 27 and Wednesday 28 February (three days)
  • Week three – Monday 5, Tuesday 6, Wednesday 7 and Thursday 8 March (four days)
  • Week four – Monday 12, Tuesday 13, Wednesday 14, Thursday 15 and Friday 16 March (five days)

This is a bit complicated for me because I only work half-time at Cardiff University (usually Mondays, Tuesdays and half of Wednesdays) and at Maynooth University the rest of the time. The USS only covers UK universities, and the dispute does not apply in the Republic of Ireland (though it does affect higher education institutions in Northern Ireland) so I won’t be on strike when I’m working for Maynooth University, which includes the first two strike days (tomorrow and Friday). I will be participating in industrial action next week, however, and have today sent an announcement to my students they hear from me that the strike has been called off there will be no lectures on 27th February, 6th March or 13th March.

All staff will be docked pay for days not worked owing to strike action, of course, but that will be far less than the amount to be lost in these pension cuts. In my case I will be docked the equivalent of three weeks’ pay as 2.5 days a week I work are all strike days in Weeks 2-4. Moreover, I shall be leaving the UK for Ireland this summer and the pension cuts will not affect my pension anyway – any changes will not be made until after I’ve left the USS scheme. Nevertheless, this is an important issue and I feel it is right to take a stand.

One final comment. Last week Cardiff University sent an email to staff including a link to a website that stated:

If staff refuse to cross a picket line and they are not a member of UCU they will be in breach of their contract of employment with the University.

In fact, any strike action (even by a union member) is a breach of contract. The law however prevents employers dismissing staff who participate in industrial action, provided that it is lawful (i.e. following a ballot, and with due notice given to the employer, etc). The government website makes it clear that non-union members have exactly the same protection as union members in this regard. The Cardiff website has now been changed, but I’m very unhappy that this extremely misleading communication was sent out in the first place.

I sincerely hope that there is a negotiated settlement to this issue. Nobody wants to go on strike, especially when it has the potential to damage students’ learning. But there comes a point where you have to draw a line in the sand, and we have reached that point. I hope I’m proved wrong, but I think this could be a very prolonged and very unpleasant dispute.