Strike Day 5th July

Tuesday 5th July) witnessed a magnificent demonstration of teachers and lecturers in Brighton. Striking teachers, members of the NUT from this part of Sussex, joined striking  lecturers from the University of Brighton in a 1,500-strong demonstration through Brighton. The march snaked through the city from Palmeira Square in Hove to The Level.

On the demonstration were both teachers and parents with children from schools across the schools in the area, and lecturers and some students from the University. This was pattern replicated across the country, with 30 university UCU branches choosing yesterday as their June/July strike day in order to join the teachers from the NUT to put the issue of education on the political map. It was a key opportunity to demonstrate that the problems in the HE sector were not just of sectional interest but concerned the whole community.

After short pickets on the entrances to University buildings in the morning, the UCU had a sizeable and vocal presence on the demonstration. It was gathered behind the UCU banner, and armed with placards.

While UCU members were taking action over the pay claim, the gender pay gap and casualisation in HE, the teachers were striking over cuts to education funding and forced ‘academisation’ in schools. The unifying theme was the defence of public education ‘from the cradle to the grave’.

At the rally on The Level, there were speeches from the NUT, the UCU, from Defend the NHS, and from local political parties.

Speaking for the UCU, Mark Abel explained that the concern in the HE sector was not only about pay and conditions, gender equality and contracts. It was also about the Government’s HE Bill currently going through Parliament. This legislation, he explained, is designed progressively to privatise the HE sector, and to differentiate within it between elite institutions for the children of the rich, and cut-price institutions delivering sub-standard ‘degrees’ for the rest.

This was a matter to unite lecturers with teachers, many of whose pupils would be seeking university places in the future. It should unite both lecturers and teachers with parents, many of whose children would be denied access to proper degree-level education in the future.

Arrangements were initiated to hold joint meetings across Brighton and Hove in the future.

External Examiners

Part of the package of industrial action is for external examiners to give up their post and not take on new external examiner posts.  If you do this, it is important to you abide by any notice period associated with your external examiner’s contract (see UCU Guidance re external examiners

The following model resignation statement is suggested:

Dear [Course Leader],

As I am sure you are aware the lecturer’s union the UCU is in dispute with the employers over the current claim for fair pay in HE.  I am a member of UCU and believe strongly in the importance of fair pay in our sector and will be following my union’s request to step down from my external examiner role.

I take note of your regulations concerning notice period and this email serves as my resignation to take effect from [date]

I am sorry that the employer’s intransigence is forcing me to take this step and wish you and the course team well.

Picture of march for 2016 action

Picture of march for 2016 action

Picture of march for 2016 action

Picture of march for 2016 action

Picture of march for 2016 action

Picture of march for 2016 action

Strike Days 25th and 26th May

Successful two days of strike – great support for the pickets and fantastic to see so many students joining in the demonstration and rally on the 25th in support of fair pay for their lecturers.  Photos will be uploaded shortly!

Work to Contract from the 25th of May

With effect from 25 May 2016 the union will be asking you to ‘work to contract’ and – in any case – to work no longer than 37 hours a week every week until further notice. There are a series of frequently asked questions about what working to contract means and about the 37 hour weekly maximum. You can read them here.

You should not be rescheduling teaching and you should not compromise standards of marking.  Taking strike action during a marking period and working to contract are likely to mean that  deadlines for returning work to students and submitting marks will be delayed.

It’s About Fair Pay

While lecturers have seen their pay devalued by 14.5% since 2009 the latest annual increase in pay and benefits (excluding pensions) of 6.1% for VCs.  One in five universities gave their leaders a rise of 10% or more. The Times Higher Education compares that to an average increase of 1.3% for staff over the same period.

You can read about the Times Higher Education VC pay survey here.

You can read UCU’s response here. 

The Gender Pay Gap

In HE, the average shortfall faced by female academics is £6,103 a year and closing the gender pay gap by 2020 is a core demand of our pay claim this year.  For more information see here and here.

The scandal of casualisation

There are 75,000 staff on highly casualised ‘atypical’ academic contracts. There are at least 21,636 university teaching staff with zero-hours contracts. 67% of research staff are still on fixed-term contracts – more than 10 years since the fixed-term regulations came into force, around a third of these are contracts of 12 months or less.UCU believes that the sector’s reliance on casualised labour represents a scandalous failure.  Widespread casualisation in the sector impacts on all staff terms and conditions and the rate of pay.

But what about the students

The National Union of Students supports the Fair Pay in HE campaign and it is important that all students understand the basis of the dispute and the reason they are being affected by the industrial action. Please use and circulate the UCU information leaflet for students. Paper copies are available from your branch chair or secretary.

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