Strike Action Tuesday 3rd December

Dear Unite Member

Thank you to all those who supported us during the day of strike action on 31st October and particularly those who were able to volunteer time on the picket lines and/or at the rally afterwards.  It was a really enjoyable day of action for those of us on the picket lines and we managed to have some great discussions with colleagues and students about what we were doing.  We managed to get some good coverage in the local press.

This has had an impact at national level and having refused to talk for months, UCEA decided to sit down again with the unions yesterday to talk further.  Unfortunately, at this stage UCEA have not improved their pay offer (see email sent earlier today, also attached below) and so it is important that we keep up the pressure.

As such, a second day of strike action has been called for TUESDAY 3RD DECEMBER.

Please consider how best you can support this strike action.  We will shortly be inviting you to volunteer to be on a picket line, but please also consider:

  • talking to colleagues about why we will be on strike on 3rd December and why they should support us;
  • talking to colleagues about the benefits of being in Unite and encouraging them to join at Join Unite
  • printing off a poster United_4_Ed_poster and displaying it in a prominent location;
  • telling me b.crane@exeter.ac.uk if you would be prepared to distribute leaflets about the forthcoming strike.

We want to turn the picket lines on TUESDAY 3RD DECEMBER into a fun and festive party so please offer your support and come along – details to follow.

With many thanks for all your hard work and dedication,

Brett Crane
Unite Branch Secretary /Unite Equality & Diversity Officer

University staff announce 3 December for second date of strike action

Please sign the joint Union petition asking for Fair Pay in HE:- Fair pay in higher education

There are the possibility of talks with the Employer around the 20th November. When I hear the outcome, I will let you know straight away.

If we do need to strike on the 3rd, I urge you all to support it. The 3 campus Trade Unions will be having a Xmas themed picket, so if you’d like to get involved, please let me know?
In relation to the strike, please see below the joint Union statement:-

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University staff across the UK will walk out for a second day of strike action on Tuesday 3 December, announced trade unions representing university staff today (Tuesday).

The three unions, UNISON, Unite and the University and College Union (UCU), that took strike action on Thursday 31 October confirmed their members would walk out again in three weeks’ time and be joined by Scottish education union, the EIS, unless the dispute over pay could be resolved.

Union members are angry at a 1% pay offer, which has seen their pay fall in real-terms by 13%. The squeeze on staff pay comes at a time when pay and benefits for university leaders increased, on average, by more than £5,000 in 2011-12, with the average pay and pensions package for vice-chancellors hitting almost £250,000. More on that here http://tinyurl.com/o43bss2

UNISON head of higher education, Jon Richards, said: “Members have had enough. It is a disgrace that universities are sitting on billions of pounds, but are not ready to reward those who make UK universities the best in the world. The 1% pay rise on offer is an insult to the services they deliver especially those staff who are currently paid below the Living Wage. We have the ridiculous situation where a university vice-chancellor can spend £1.5 million on a work of art, but not give decent pay to his own staff. We are calling on employers to get back into talks as a matter of urgency.”

UCU head of higher education, Michael MacNeil, said: “Staff have suffered year-on-year cuts in the value of their pay and have made it clear that enough is enough. We remain committed to trying to resolve this dispute and the employers now have until 3 December to sit down and positively engage with the unions. If they don’t, then our members and those from our sister unions will be out on strike again, as well as continuing to work to contract.”

Unite national officer for education, Mike McCartney, said: “We had a very successful joint union action on 31 October to highlight the five year pay drought that our members have endured which has meant a 13 per cent drop in their incomes since 2008. However, the employers have refused to budge from their hard line in refusing to recognise the contribution that the workforce makes to the excellent global reputation that Britain’s universities currently enjoy. We hope that this latest strike will drive home the determination of our members to achieve a fair pay deal and focus the minds of the employers that they need to get around the table promptly to negotiate in a constructive and positive manner.”

General secretary of the EIS, Larry Flanagan, said: ”Staff in our higher education establishments have simply had enough after years of real-terms decline in salaries and are determined to make a stand in defence of their pay.  EIS-ULA lecturer members will stand united with colleagues from our sister academic and support staff unions in the ongoing campaign for fair pay for all workers in our HE institutions.  Our members never choose to take industrial action lightly, but now feel that they have no other option in light of the current stance of their employers.”

The first day’s strike, on 31 October, left some campuses deserted. Around the country, lectures were cancelled, libraries shut and deliveries turned away. Services such as cleaning, catering and security were also affected.

The cumulative operating surplus in the higher education sector is now over £1 billion and many higher education institutions have built up cash reserves. Overall staff costs in higher education, as a proportion of income, have fallen from 58% in 2001/02, to 55.5% in 2011/12.

Strike Pay

Apologies that I’ve not been able to provide this information sooner. I’ve been attempting to find the easiest possible way for members to claim strike pay. I’ve just had it confirmed that the way to claim strike pay for those who wish to is via the attached claim form.  The Union understandably has to keep accurate records for accounting purposes.

strike_pay_application

If you need a hard copy of the claim form or have any questions please email or telephone me. Basically, once you receive your payslip with the deduction, photocopy or print it direct from Trent, attach to claim form and send it off to the FREEPOST address at the bottom of the claim form. Once approved the Strike Pay will be BACS transferred direct into your account.
Please make colleagues aware who may not have regular access to emails and print them off a copy.

Details of a second day of action on the 3rd December will follow soon. Hopefully, being 3 weeks away, this will prompt the Employers Association to re-enter negotiations.
I am actively exploring ways in which the Branch can provide additional support to those who want to take part in any future action, but feel financially unable to, even allowing for the existing strike pay arrangements.

If the dispute is not resolved before the day of action on the 3rd December, then we encourage all members to support it. The 3 Trade Unions are working on ensuring that the pickets will be a positive, Xmas themed affair, with Tea, Coffee, music and mince pies etc.

Brett Crane

Strike update

Dear members

May I firstly thank all those who supported the day of action on the 31st October.

This item is currently on the Express and Echo website and is well worth a look:-
http://www.exeterexpressandecho.co.uk/Video-University-Exeter-staff-join-nationwide/story-20016901-detail/story.html

There were also positive reports on regional BBC and ITV television on the day. Local radio also reported on the strike. Those that participated on the picket lines or came to the rally have said what a positive and rewarding experience it was. The vast majority of comments from students and staff alike, where supportive and positive. We certainly made our presence felt and heard! We have also added new members in the run up to, and since the day of action.

Exeter University management have sent out various emails trying to belittle the strike, its impact and the amount of members who took part. Let your Branch be clear, the figures quoted by  management cannot be substantiated. Between 80 and 100 people took part in the picket lines alone. Add to that, the many members from all 3 unions who just stayed away from work and it’s easy to see the management figures do not add up.

The day of action had far more impact than they will acknowledge. Don’t be fooled, we made a real impact and hopefully the Employers Association will now come back to the negotiating table.
As soon as your Branch hears from our National Negotiators, we will be in touch.

It is possible that this one day of action may not be enough to move the Employer. If this is unfortunately the case, it shows how little regard they have for the hard working staff at Universities. It makes it even more important, that if we have to do it again, that people show solidarity with their Union and that every member if at all possible, joins any further action.

We know that at times like these, it could be easy for members who went on strike to disagree with those that on this occasion came to work. Strike action is always the last resort, and for many of us, it was the first time we had been called to strike.  It was of concern to some that management might treat strikers differently. All the strikers are still here and no detriment or discrimination has been reported to the Branch, so hopefully this allays any fears. Therefore we urge members to respect those that chose not to strike on the 31st. But, we appeal to all of our members to engage in positive discussions amongst themselves and with non members to support any further action if required.

The branch will soon email out to all members, on how to go about claiming strike pay.

Best wishes on behalf of your Unite Branch Committee

Brett Crane
Unite Branch Secretary /Unite Equality & Diversity Officer
Stores Assistant, Biosciences Stores

Strike FAQs

On Thursday 31 October members of Unite, UCU and UNISON working in higher education will take strike action at universities across the UK.

The action follows an industrial ballot over the employer’s refusal to improve the one per cent pay offer for 2014. Since 2008, below inflation pay rises have led to a 13 per cent real terms pay cut for staff working in higher education.

What am I expected to do during a strike?
Strike action is never taken lightly. It is a measure of the last resort when every other avenue of influence and negotiation has been exhausted. Unite has decided to progress to strike action following an industrial ballot which showed that the majority of members rejected the employers’ final one per cent pay offer.

All eligible Unite members are expected to take part in lawful industrial action called following a ballot of members. Strike action is a very serious sanction which is why we ask that every member observe the strike. Members who do not observe the strike are directly undermining the union’s bargaining power and making it harder for Unite to protect all its members.

When Unite calls a strike we ask that members do not come into work, but instead contact your rep or branch officers and volunteer to take part on the picket line. Show your employers that you are serious and united in taking action.

Do I have to tell my employer that I am taking strike action?
No, your employer may write to you asking that you declare whether you will be taking industrial action. You are under no obligation to inform your employer in advance that you are taking part in industrial action.
Unite is legally required to give employers some statistical information about Unite members taking industrial action, but we do not give individual names.

I have outside work commitments on the day(s) of the strike(s) should I cancel?
If your commitments are part of your normal work for the university or college you should NOT attend them.

What if I am not a member of the union, is it too late to join and take part in the action?
No, people can join a union at any point up to and including on the day of the action and lawfully join the strike.

How much money will I lose?
You should expect to have a day’s salary deducted for taking part in the strike.

I don’t think I can afford to take strike action?
Unite understands the financial pressures you are facing as the cost of living soars. Taking strike action is never an easy option, but the below inflation pay rises we have received over the past few years has cost you more.

Unite will support members who are called to take part in strike action. Members taking part in strike action for at least one day are entitled to claim and receive dispute benefit of £30 per day if you are a full time member and you meet the union’s eligibility rules for payment. Dispute benefit for members on other rates of subscription vary.

Will taking action affect my pension?
There is a possibility that your employer could withhold pension contributions, but past experience suggests that taking part in one-day strike action generally does not affect pensions. Also institutions that do choose to withhold contributions usually make provision for members to make up pensions and AVC deficits from their pay.

Am I breaking my contract by taking strike action?

All effective industrial action is likely to be a breach of your contract of employment. But there is a legal entitlement for workers to take part in lawful industrial action. Unite has ensured that its industrial action instructions meet the provisions of the legislation. The law protects workers from dismissal while taking part in lawful industrial action or at any time within 12 weeks of the start of the action and, depending on the circumstances, dismissal may also be unfair if it takes place later.

If your employer makes hostile comments or seeks to put pressure on you as a result of the ballot being called then you should advise your employer that:
•    you have a legal and democratic right to ballot and take action;
•    the action is national and is nothing personal to them as an employer but is the only vehicle by which the         trade dispute with the UCEA can be addressed and resolved.

Unite will strongly defend any members who are threatened as a result of participating in the ballot and subsequent action.

What is the law on picketing?
Peaceful picketing is entirely legal. It is perfectly lawful for pickets to approach members to communicate information to them on the merits of their dispute and to peacefully persuade them to honour the picket by abstaining from working.

Picketing should be carried out at or near an entrance or exit from a site at which the pickets work. When others, who are not in dispute, come into work or use these entrances or exits, pickets must not interfere with them. Please wear a high vis vest to show you are on duty. Placards and posters should be displayed, stating ‘OFFICIAL PICKET’.

What if I am part time?

Unite believes that any deduction must be pro-rata for part time staff. The deduction must only be for your contracted hours. Please contact your local Unite rep if your employer attempts to deduct more than they should.

Letter to University staff from campus Unions

Dear Colleague,

I hope you will not mind us contacting you. As we do not have access to the all-staff emailing, we have asked union members in each department/section to forward this to non-members, so that we can explain what is happening on 31 October and thereafter. As you will probably be aware, all three unions at Exeter will be on strike on 31 October, and UCU members will also be participating in ‘action short of a strike’ from 1 November; further strikes will be planned if these actions do not bring the employers back to the negotiating table. On the 31st there will be picket lines on the main entrances to the various campuses during the morning; non-members are not allowed to participate in the strike, but we do hope that you will stop and talk with us about the action and your views. There will also be a public meeting at 12.30 in the Phoenix Arts Centre on Gandy Street, to discuss the implications for higher education of the employers’ unwillingness to offer fair pay to all; non-members are welcome to attend.

Earlier this year, national negotiations over pay and working conditions for staff in Higher Education broke up with a failure to reach agreement for the academic year 2012-13. Our employers are now refusing to negotiate further. Staff at the University of Exeter (as elsewhere) are increasingly unhappy as, year on year; we have been given below inflation pay rises when most aspects of our workloads and responsibilities have steadily increased. The harsh reality is that our pay has been eroded by 13% over the last 4 years. Is this a reflection of the value university management places on its employees? By comparison, over the last four years for which data is available, the Vice Chancellor’s remuneration rose by 15% above inflation.

Following a national democratic ballot of our members, UCU, Unison and Unite have decided to demonstrate our collective anger and frustration and to bring employers back to the negotiating table by peaceful protest in the form of a strike. Staff at the University of Exeter are not known for their militancy (as far as Unison and the predecessors of Unite are concerned, the last action was 15 years ago) and it is with great regret that we are forced to take this action now. For the first time, all campus unions are agreed in a common objective of securing a fair reward for all staff.

Management at Exeter may well point to their desire to move to local bargaining in 2012 with the promise of an additional 1% above the national pay offer. This was rejected by unions in a local ballot for a number of reasons. Firstly, unions were uncomfortable with the ethics of allowing others to secure a national award without contributing to the process. The promise of more money came as a ‘something-for-something’ negotiation. In order to receive the additional 1% unions would have had to agree to reduce common terms and conditions for some sectors of the workforce, such as an erosion of sick pay entitlement for new starters. We were also asked to agree to the lowest paid staff losing holiday entitlement. We were not prepared to consider these reductions for a settlement of an additional 1%!

In the ‘something-for-something‘ deal making, management claimed that it had addressed one of our major concerns regarding the failure to introduce the ‘Living Wage’. They suggested they had achieved this by simply removing the lowest pay point. The unions did not believe this gesture was a serious engagement with the problem of low pay and fell short of what is considered a living wage. Interestingly however, following the lead of some of our institutional competitors and local organisations including Exeter City Council, the University has recently announced it is to become a ‘living wage employer’. We welcome this announcement but maintain that the University could have led the way on this last year if had engaged with our arguments for implementation at that time.

You will also have heard recently that the University has decided to reinstate a £200 Christmas bonus for those on grades A-H, and that the senior management have foregone their own 10-20% bonus package scheme for this year. This welcome decision follows a long campaign by the unions ever since the university announced, in March, that merit awards had been suspended for this year and no bonus would be paid, because of what were then projected to be poor financial results for 2012-13. We pressed the University repeatedly since the spring to tell us whether the same financial logic would be applied to senior bonuses, and it was only last week, after the strike action was confirmed, that we received this response. The University has only just last week explained how it will ensure that the loss of merit awards does not affect staff’s ability to gain contribution points (which require two years’ successive merit awards) after considerable pressure from the Trade Unions.

As these examples indicate, the unions are the only bodies which can negotiate with the University to protect and improve your terms and conditions of work. If you would like to become a union member, and be able to have your say in these campaigns, which so affect your own pay, promotion and conditions, please contact the appropriate union. The email addresses of our branch secretaries are given below.

There is bound to be some impact on students during the day of action but we hope that the principles of fairness and a sense of common community, aimed at delivering the highest quality education with happy, motivated, staff in a safe and pleasant environment, are goals we all want. We are sponsoring a petition, jointly with the Students’ Guild, to urge the university management to instruct UCEA (the employers’ national negotiating body) to return to negotiations; copies of this will be available to sign (on 31st and thereafter) and we would urge you to sign this.

For and on behalf of Exeter University Branches of UCU, Unison and Unite

Barrie Cooper (EUCU) B.Cooper@exeter.ac.uk

Andy Holcombe (Unison) A.J. Holcombe@exeter.ac.uk

Brett Crane (Unite) B.Crane@exeter.ac.uk