All out for the Four Fights!
We now know the strike dates for our Four Fight battle. They are 1st, 2nd and 3rd December. If you missed the communication from the UCU General Secretary, you won’t have missed the mailing from the Vice Chancellor expressing her disappointment and promising to work constructively with the trade unions.
What the Vice Chancellor fails to acknowledge is that Brighton University is a paid-up member of the national universities employers’ body, UCEA, which is not working constructively with the trade unions.
UCU is not the only HE trade union in dispute nationally, and our colleagues in Unison also have a mandate to take industrial action at Brighton.
Our Four Fights are more necessary than ever:
Pay: Inflation has now risen to 4.2% by the government’s and employers’ preferred CPI measure. On the more meaningful RPI measure it is now 5.2%. Our pay award this year of 1.5% represents a greater erosion of our pay’s real-term value than even the 0% imposed on us last year. Over the last 12 years, the real value of our pay has fallen by 20%. Check what you would be earning today if HE salaries had kept pace with inflation using this calculator.
Workloads: Every HE worker knows that their workload is increasing beyond manageable levels. At Brighton, administrative demands on course and module leaders have increased markedly this year in particular. Lecturers routinely work more than 10 hours a week more than their contracted hours, exacerbated by shrinkage in the workforce. This brings stress and a loss of work-life balance. Considered in terms of pay, it means a cut in our hourly rate.
Pay inequality: The employers’ body UCEA continues to refuse to countenance binding national action to reduce the gender pay gap in higher education which remains an indefensible 15% on average. The ethnicity pay gap is even higher and there is also a persistent disability pay gap. This structural inequality is bad for staff and sends a terrible message to our students.
Casualisation: UCEA refuses to commit to binding agreements banning the use of zero hour contracts by HE institutions or reducing the staggering 41% of lecturers on fixed term and temporary contracts. Their excuse is that university managements need the flexibility that these contracts provide. But every single one of these contracts represents a colleague facing unacceptable insecurity in their daily lives.
None of this deterioration in our pay and conditions is of benefit to our students. Staff morale at Brighton, as at other institutions, is at an all-time low. High quality higher education requires a workforce that is valued and treated with respect. Read the National Union of Student’s statement supporting us.
Now we have the chance to strike back. As we start industrial action, those UCU branches which missed the threshold required by the anti-union legislation, some of them by just 1 vote, will begin a reballot to enable them to join action in the New Year.
What you should do
All UCU members, whichever way you voted in the ballot, should respect the result of the ballot and join the strike on 1-3 December. That’s what democracy is about.
In the meantime, you are not obliged to inform a manager, or anyone acting on behalf of a manager, of your intentions regarding industrial action. An employer who attempts to elicit this information from its staff, even obliquely by asking what classes might be affected, is likely to be breaking the law. Please inform a UCU rep if this happens.
Advising your students, on the basis of your relationship as their lecturer, about the likely impact of the strike is a sensible thing to do. We want our students to understand the issues that are forcing us to take this action. Use these handy graphics and tell them about the Student-Staff Solidarity meeting below.
Making action effective
Although we would not wish to disrupt our students’ education, the point of the strike is that all activity stops on strike days. Members should not cooperate with management attempts to provide cover for classes threatened by the strike action and you should refuse any requests to make up lost classes once you are back at work. When not on strike we will be on a lawful work-to-contract which precludes taking on extra work. Please report any management attempts to break this.
Do not post slides, recordings or lecture notes for classes that will be affected by the strike. This material is not a substitute for teaching and should only be available as a supplement to classes, not as an alternative. Again if you find yourself coming under pressure to do this, please contact a UCU rep.
We want to involve as many members as possible in the coordination and decision-making of the action. Please get involved. You may find it a liberating experience!
UCU members meeting
How we can win the Four Fights
With speakers from Goldsmiths and RCA UCU
1-2pm, Wednesday 24th November
MS Team Group-UCU Brighton [see email for link]
UCU Action Committee
for all members who want to help coordinate the action
3-4pm, Wednesday 24th November
MS Team Group-UCU Brighton [see email for link]
Student-Staff Solidarity meeting
Why the Four Fights is important for HE
4-5pm Monday 29th November