UCU back at it again. New February and March strikes explained.

The Universities and College Union (UCU) has called another 14 days of strikes. 

74 UK universities are striking this time after more UCU branches crossed the 50% voter turnout rate required by the Trade Union Act 2016. Up from the 60 universities that walked out in November and December.

In order to strike a UCU branch needs at least 50% of their members to vote in favour of the strike. The strike vote is only valid for 6 months and runs out after April. UCU have said they will call another vote if these disputes are not resolved to allow for further striking to cover the rest of the academic year.

Staff that choose to strike lose their pay. They can however get strike pay. For UCU members earning over £30,000 they can claim £50 a day from the third day ownwards. Those under £30,000 can get £75 from the second day. This is both up to a maxium of £500.

This support is available in part thanks to donations of more than £100k given to the UCU after the 2019 strikes.

The University of Brighton are one of 22 universities across the country striking over pay and conditions. They say “During the strike period we expect teaching in most of our schools to be unaffected and university services will operate as normal.” According to the 2019 ballot, UCU has 635 members at the University. Of that, just 283 voted in favour of striking over pay and conditions. The university currently employees 2,600 staff members. 

The Four Fights Explained

UCU says:Problem AreaUni of Brighton says:
The gender pay gap stands at 15%. Black memners of staff earn 12-13% less than others. Disabled members of staff earn 8.7% less. We demand national action by the employers to address this inequality.EqualityOur gender pay gap is already below the sector average and we are committed to closing it further. For teaching staff, the gap last year was less than two percent. We are one of only 14 institutions with a Race Equality Charter Bronze Award, became a Stonewall Top 100 employer in 2019 and have launched leadership development programmes targeting female and Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) colleagues. The University is also a Disability Confident Employer, supporting people with disabilities to apply to work at the University and progress through the University.
Workers in higher education have seen their pay fall behind inflation every year for the past ten years. Our pay is now worth 20% less than it was in 2009.PayWe are one of 147 Higher Education Institutions (HEIs) which take part in national pay bargaining and, as such, this dispute can only be resolved nationally.Whilst the discussions about pay have been going on for some months at a national level, we took the decision locally to pay the award offered through these negotiations, worth 3.5% to those staff in the lowest grades, last year so that colleagues did not lose out financially.
The sector relies on huge numbers of staff on precarious, temporary contracts. In many universities, the majority of teaching is done by staff who have no job security. 170,000 staff are on fixed-term or other insecure contracts.Casualisation (Job Security)Over the last three years we have seen the number of colleagues who are on indefinite contracts increase to around 90% of staff at this University and Hourly Paid Lecturer contracts now account for 1.3% of our total pay bill. Some of the remaining colleagues on fixed-term contracts will be staff who may, for example, be providing maternity cover or who may be on secondment. We have a clear code that sets out the limits of use of Hourly Paid Lecturers and we carefully manage the number of staff on fixed term contracts via the Recruitment Authorisation process. We are currently negotiating a new framework for the use of fixed-term contracts with our Trades’ Unions.
To combat spiralling workloads, the union wants a 35-hour week with matching reductions in teaching and administrative hours.WorkloadsWe actively seek to regulate and manage the workload of our academic staff. We have established both an Implementation Oversight Group and a separate joint monitoring group with our Trades’ Unions. This has been overseeing the implementation of our university-wide Workload Allocation Model (WAMS), which has been developed over the past three years to improve the transparency and consistency of academic workload allocations across the University. As a result we are seeing year-on-year improvements.

If you have been affected by the strike the university will only deal with complaints individually. You can contact the Students Union Support Team bsusupport@brighton.ac.uk for further information.

News Editor

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