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Strike action Friday 17th June

close the gap 2UCU members are called on to support further strike action on Friday 17th June in support of our claim for fair pay, and an end to the gender pay gap and rampant casualization of the HE sector.

17th June is a University open day, so we will have a chance to talk with members of the public about what is happening inside universities.

Pickets will operate at all three entrances to the University from 0730, and all members are invited to join colleagues there.

Industrial Action at University of Bath in June 2016: FAQs (Updated)

What Is Happening?

Members of UCU are taking industrial action as a result of a dispute with our employers over declining pay, worsening inequality and increasing casualization for staff in Higher Education.

Following a two day strike in May, and with an ongoing ‘work to contract’, the action is now being escalated with a series of rolling strikes at universities across the country. At the University of Bath, members of UCU will be taking a day of strike action on Friday 17th June. This is a university Open Day.

On strike days, all UCU members should observe a full withdrawal of labour. This labour includes sending work emails, working from home, presenting at external conferences, doing research, preparing teaching and involvement with open day activities.

When working to contract, all UCU members should not work beyond their contracted hours (or a maximum of 37 hours if they do not have contracted hours) and should not perform any additional voluntary duties that they are not contracted for.

UCU members who are External Examiners are also asked to resign from their positions. Over a thousand External Examiners have already resigned.

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Why Is This Happening?

Inequality in UK higher education is shameful with a gender pay gap of 12.6% (a difference of £6,103 per year) amongst academic staff in 2013/14.

Put simply, this is a dispute about pay, inequality and casualisation.

Pay in higher education has fallen in value by 14.5% since 2009. At the same time, senior managers have taken substantial and unjustified pay rises – 6.1% on average last year (and 10% for the Vice Chancellor at the University of Bath)!

As staff pay has fallen, universities have also forced many onto casualised contracts that undermine job security and often deny basic employee rights. More than 75,000 staff are on casualised academic contracts in the UK, in addition to over 20,000 on zero hour contracts!

There is also shameful inequality between men and women, with a substantial gender pay gap in many institutions meaning that academics who are women earn £6,100 less each year on average than their colleagues who are men.

 

In response to these issues, university employers have made an offer to increase salaries for 2016/17 by just 1.1%, and refused to commit to any meaningful action to address gender inequality or casualisation.

For most staff in Higher Education, the current offer would mean yet another real-terms pay cut because of increases to our pension and national insurance contributions this year, as well as the eroding impact of inflation. This is in a sector that is currently turning a £1.8 billion surplus and in which senior management pay continues to sky rocket. The truth is that university employers can easily afford to ensure that their staff are paid and treated fairly and equally. They are choosing not to.

hepaydeflationAs a result of this refusal by senior managers to address the serious and worsening problems within Higher Education, UCU have declared a dispute with our employers and members then voted overwhelmingly in support of both strike action and ‘action short of a strike’. UNISON and Unite are currently consulting with their members on whether to join the industrial action.

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Who Should Take Part in the Action?

All UCU members employed by institutions involved in the dispute are expected to participate in the industrial action. This includes all UCU members at the University of Bath.

Colleagues who are not currently UCU members are invited to support the campaign for fair pay and action on inequality and casualization by joining the strike and subsequent ‘work to contract’. You can do this in two ways:

      1. Join UCU. You can join now, on the picket line or at any time after the action has begun. You can join here: https://www.ucu.org.uk/join.
      2. If you cannot join UCU, but do want to support your colleagues, the guidance from the UK government is that “If non-union members go on strike, they are protected from dismissal and have the same rights as union members, as long as the industrial action is lawful.” This industrial action is lawful.

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Why are we Striking on an Open Day?

The decision to strike on an open day was taken at a branch meeting open to all Bath UCU members.

We will be running pickets at all three of the main entrances to the campus, and this will be an opportunity to talk to members of the public, including prospective students and their families, who know little about the problems facing staff in Higher Education. Staff at other universities will be striking on their open days as well, and together we can introduce students and their families to the reality that “the conditions that students learn under are as good as they conditions that staff work under”. This may seem obvious, but it is a fact that seems to have escaped the attention of university employers, blinded by their own bulging pay packets, in recent years.

No one who works in education wants to negatively affect student learning. While we are prepared to continue this action into the next academic year and beyond, many members value the fact that striking on an open day will be powerful while also minimising impact on our students.

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Why should I Join the Action?

Unless we take action, the problems facing staff in Higher Education will only get worse. The more of us who take a stand, the quicker the dispute will be over and the more likely it will be that we will all get a fair deal. As the saying goes, ‘the longer the picket line, the shorter the strike’. Conversely, doing anything to undermine our colleagues’ action, including crossing picket lines when they are on strike, makes it less likely that we will get a fair deal.

Strikes are an action of last resort, but they work. The last time staff in Higher Education got a pay offer above inflation was when we forced employers to negotiate by taking strike action. We can also take inspiration from recent strikes by other workers, including junior doctors who have forced the government back into negotiations over their contracts and recycling workers in Bath who took strike action earlier this year and won an 18% pay rise as a result.

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What About Postgraduates?

Postgraduate students can join UCU and postgraduate members of UCU are expected to take part in the action. Many of our members at the University of Bath are postgraduate students and they are represented on Bath UCU Committee by an elected Postgraduate Rep. Postgraduates who work at the University have a legal right to both join a trade union and to take part in industrial action.

If you are a postgraduate, this dispute is about both your current pay and conditions (including the refusal of the University of Bath to afford you sick pay, maternity/paternity/adoption leave and protections against unfair dismissal) and also your future pay and conditions as a Post-Doctoral Researcher, Lecturer, Teaching Fellow, etc.

The union branch understands that postgraduate students and other hourly-paid workers can come under particular pressure during periods of industrial action due in part to the insecurity of their employment contracts. If you are a postgraduate student, or indeed any other member of staff, experiencing pressure to break this industrial action, please email ucu-sec@bath.ac.uk and the branch will offer its full support.

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What About the Effect on Taught Students?

The National Union of Students and local Students' Union have announced full support for our action

The National Union of Students and local Students’ Union have announced full support for our action

The strike on Friday 17th June will have a minimal affect on our students. This was one of the reasons our members gave in choosing to take action on this day.

Inevitably, if our employers continue refusing to address the serious problems facing staff in Higher Education, those staff will be forced to take further industrial action, and this will affect students. It is important to consider the context, as many of our students have. Both the NUS and University of Bath Students’ Union support this industrial action. The Students’ Union have contacted all of the trade unions to express their support and have released this statement. The NUS have released this statement. An extract:

We believe the most important assets to a university are the people who work and study there. In order to continue to deliver high quality education, the sector must invest in staff and address the inequality and insecurity that blights our universities. This is especially important in the context of the incoming HE Bill and the further marketization of the HE sector. Solidarity between educators and students is particularly important in combatting threats to the sector, thus we should oppose attempts to undermine educators, or divide students from educators. No education worker wants to strike but both ourselves and UCU cannot sit back and watch university staff pay continue to be eroded, inequality grow unchallenged and employment become more and more insecure every year.

Students have also contacted the branch independently to express their support, and have even put up supportive banners and posters around campus.

It is clear that students understand the principle that “the conditions that staff work under are the conditions that students learn under”.

It is not in the interest of students for this dispute to end with a further erosion of wages, perpetuation of inequality and decrease in job security for staff. Fair pay, security and an end to discrimination are in the interests of all students and staff. That is what this action is seeking to achieve – a return to meaningful negotiations and a fair settlement for everyone.

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I’ve been asked to do something to break the action. What should/can I do?

We would ask that all staff, including postgraduate workers, make every effort to refrain from undermining the action of colleagues who are doing so to defend pay and conditions for all of us. As part of the ‘work to contract’, UCU members in particular should not take on any work outside of their contract to cover for colleagues from 25th May.

If you have been asked to do something to break the action, such as taking on the work of a colleague or organising replacement workers, please let the Bath UCU Secretary know so that we can ensure that this is lawful and within University Rules and Regulations.

Colleagues who are not currently UCU members are invited to support the campaign for fair pay and action on inequality and casualization by joining the strike and subsequent ‘work to contract’. You can do this in two ways:

      1. Join UCU. You can join now, on the picket line or at any time after the action has begun. You can join here: https://www.ucu.org.uk/join.
      2. If you cannot join UCU, but do want to support your colleagues, the guidance from the UK government is that “If non-union members go on strike, they are protected from dismissal and have the same rights as union members, as long as the industrial action is lawful.” This industrial action is lawful.

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I’ve been asked whether I’m going to take part. What should I say?

You may be asked by Human Resources, your line manager or another colleague whether you intend to take part in the industrial action. You are under absolutely no obligation to respond to this or any other requests for information about your intentions to take part in industrial action. UCU is advising members to not respond to these requests. If you are asked after a strike whether you have taken action, you must respond truthfully, but only if asked.

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I Want to Support the Action for Fair Pay, Gender Equality and Job Security – What Now?

If you are a UCU member:
On strike days, all UCU members should join colleagues in a full withdrawal of labour. This includes sending work emails, working from home, presenting at external conferences, doing research, preparing teaching and contributing to open day activities. Please join us on the picket lines in operation at every entrance to the university from 07:30-14:00.

We are holding a branch meeting for all members on Tuesday 14th June at 15:00 in 1E2.4. Please make every effort to attend.

We are also be holding daily Action Planning Meetings. If you are interested in getting more involved with organising this campaign (no experience necessary!), please email ucu-sec@bath.ac.uk.

When working to contract, all UCU members should not work beyond their contracted hours (or a maximum of 37 hours if they do not have contracted hours) and should not perform any additional voluntary duties that they are not contracted for.

UCU members who are External Examiners are also asked to resign from their positions.

If you are not a trade union member:
Colleagues who are not currently UCU members are invited to support the action in two ways:

      1. Join UCU. You can join now, on the picket line or at any time after the action has begun. You can join here: https://www.ucu.org.uk/join.
      2. If you cannot join UCU, but do want to support your colleagues, the guidance from the UK government is that “If non-union members go on strike, they are protected from dismissal and have the same rights as union members, as long as the industrial action is lawful.” This industrial action is lawful. Alternatively, you may choose to take annual leave on these days.

If you are a member of a trade union other than UCU:
Please contact your trade union branch to ask for advice. Some suggestions to show your support:

      1. Vote for industrial action when you are balloted by your union.
      2. Take annual leave and take some time to visit our picket lines between 07:30 and 14:00 on Friday 17th June.
      3. Change your email signature to show support, e.g. “I support my colleagues in UCU taking action for fair pay, gender equality and job security”.
      4. Where possible, refuse to take on any tasks that would undermine your colleague’s action.
      5. Take some refreshments to your colleagues on the picket lines!

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Where are the Picket Lines?

On Friday 17th June there will be picket lines in operation at all three of the entrances to University of Bath from 07:30-14:00. Picketing is lawful when conducted in connection with a lawful dispute (which this is).   Anyone joining the pickets can read more about this in  the Picketing Code of Practice.  We will also be running a stall in town to talk to prospective students and those accompanying them.

University of Bath Open Day Strike

University of Bath Open Day Strike

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More Questions…

If you have any further questions, please take a look at the UCU HE action FAQs or email the branch Secretary.

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