Email to students 18 February 2020
We have confirmation that UCU will be calling on its members to take strike action between Thursday 20 February and Friday 13 March 2020 on the following dates:
- Week one - Thursday 20 and Friday 21 February
- Week two - Monday 24, Tuesday 25 and Wednesday 26 February
- Week three - Monday 2, Tuesday 3, Wednesday 4 and Thursday 5 March
- Week four - Monday 9, Tuesday 10, Wednesday 11, Thursday 12 and Friday 13 March
The industrial action is in response to disputes concerning pay and conditions, and proposed changes to the USS pension.
I am disappointed that we now face a further round of action and I am very concerned about the impact on our students in the next few weeks, especially those of you who were also affected by the action in December. I have written to all my colleagues in the University expressing my concerns and desire to see an early and effective resolution to the current dispute so that that impact on our students can be limited and mitigated. I hope that colleagues across the University will share this as a priority.
I am often asked what the University is doing to try to resolve these disputes so I wanted to take this opportunity to update you on the national picture and the approach and progress we have made to date at a local level to try to facilitate a resolution.
Pay and conditions
We commend the work that UCEA has done nationally to highlight priority areas for the sector including contractual arrangements, workload and mental health, gender and ethnicity pay gaps. This is an unprecedented offer in national industrial relations which I hope will be taken up by the UCU and the other campus unions. I am certainly committed to pushing this work on nationally, and am now convening a Russell Group working group to share and develop good practice on casual staffing.
We are also committed to taking this work further locally by creating trade union/HR joint working groups. The first has been formed with a focus on closing the gender pay gap, and we are about to create another joint working group to look at casual working.
We have already made progress with some very tangible solutions coming out of these early discussions. By working closely together with our local trade union colleagues I hope we can move forward more quickly and produce a formal agreement on the priority issues of gender and ethnicity pay gaps, casual work and workloads, and mental health as soon as is feasible.
Universities Superannuation Scheme (USS)
At a national level on the Universities Superannuation Scheme (USS) pensions dispute, the Joint Expert Panel (JEP) set up by Universities UK (UUK) and the UCU published its second report in December. The JEP2 report highlights a number of important recommendations that have been discussed over the last couple of months by the three main parties involved - UUK (representing employers/universities), UCU and USS (the pension scheme). Reports from these meetings have been very positive and a decision has been taken to continue them during February and March.
We cannot say for certain the level of industrial action that will take place in different departments, though the industrial action taken at the end of last year may be a guide. If the industrial action participation follows a similar pattern then some students will feel little or no impact and others students will unfortunately face significant disruption to their learning. Based on lessons learnt from last year we will be working very closely with the most heavily affected departments to explore any additional activities and contingencies we can put in place to minimise the impact of industrial action and deliver alternative learning opportunities or mitigations. Please keep your department informed of lost or affected teaching and learning so that they have an accurate picture of the impact on their students.
With proposals in discussion and productive conversations still happening, I believe the industrial action that starts this week is premature. This is a time when we should be continuing to have those positive conversations. Creative engagement and a will on all sides to compromise is the only way we will make progress and prevent further disruption to the learning of our students. I will certainly be encouraging the talks to continue at a national level and look forward to making further progress in partnership with our local UCU representatives.