| ||University and Colleges Union|
(See also the AUT HQ information on the strike)
Introduction | Strike FAQ | Messages of support | Reply to Provost | See also
Action short of a strike, including a boycott of examinations and assessment, started on March 8th.
Employers offer 3% while raking in cash
After promising "substantial" increases this year - but not yet - the employers organisation UCEA met on March 24 with the other unions (but not AUT and NATFHE) and offered...
... 6% over two years - i.e. 3% pa, exactly the same as in previous years!
They have the money
Universities will gain an extra £3.5bn in the next three years from tuition fees and other government support. But College bosses want to keep it for themselves.
University VCs gave themselves an average increase of 25% over the
three years 2001-04.
Over the last 30 years, university staff have delivered huge increases in productivity. Lecturers used to teach an average of 9 students. Now we teach an average of 21.
As befits a research-intensive institution, UCL staff carry out long hours of research on top of their teaching to maintain departmental RAE ratings. The programme of 15% cuts launched by the Provost will make matters worse for students and staff. Workloads are going through the roof.
Meanwhile, pay has been effectively frozen. Real costs of living have gone up, especially in London and the South East, but pay has risen at about 3% a year for a decade.
With new money coming into the sector, staff know they have to fight for their share.
Can this dispute be resolved?
Yes. Industrial action is always the last resort for any union. AUT and NATFHE are no exception. We are committed to a negotiated settlement.
Our members are very angry. They voted 4:1 for the exams and assessment boycott, knowing it would be difficult. We have spent our careers delivering education to students.
The college employers provoked this dispute by refusing to talk while grabbing the money for themselves.
The dispute is about staff pay.
But we know that the stakes are extremely high.
Time and again, university staff and their trade unions have united with students to defend Higher Education from cuts. We are the first line of defence.
All we ask is that you support us over our pay.
AUT members across the country voted 64% for strike action and 81% for action short of a strike.
Beginning on 8 March 2006, in the following areas:
Detailed guidance about the involvement of members in each type of action is given here.
Staff are asked to observe the hours for which they are paid and not to take on duties arising from the action. This includes respecting colleagues' participation in the action (e.g., not marking a colleague's examination) and limiting our usual excessive workloads.
UCL Students Union recently passed a resolution in support of the Action Short of a Strike.
Latest leaflet for students (PDF)
A pro-forma letter to students that you might wish to use is here.
“Our decision to take industrial action has
not been taken lightly. The employers have had months to stop this happening
and even after our resounding mandate from members they still haven’t
made us a pay offer. I am extremely saddened that it has got this far
and can fully understand the fears and frustration of students and their
parents. How the employers can claim their staff and their students are
so important to them and then treat both so shabbily is beyond me. The
universities are gambling disgracefully with students’ futures and
I would ask them to think again and at last offer serious negotiations
Over the last two decades, salaries in Higher Education have fallen in real terms and even more significantly, relative to other professional staff groups. Compared to other groups such as GPs, university pay has declined by as much as 40% over 20 years. Even Tony Blair said in 2003 that "the shortfall in teaching funding has badly hit the salaries of academic staff, which have shown practically no increase over two decades."
article: what they said about our pay
This is also a fight to defend Higher Education provision.
Staff do not merely face derisory and diminishing pay. We have seen workloads go through the roof over the same two decades.
Now at UCL, we face a purge of 15% of all centrally-funded staff, from professors to technicians. UCL is one of the wealthiest institutions in the country, yet the Provost says staff should pay for government underfunding and the mistakes of his Senior Management Team.
But substantial new money is coming into the HE sector. Some of this comes from top-up fees. Some of it comes from the Full Economic Costing of research grants. Some of it comes from other government support. All in all, over the next three years, universities will receive some £3.5 billion.
There is enough money to stop the cuts, to pay decent salaries to staff, and provide bursaries to students. But we have to fight for our priorities - a properly funded Higher Education sector from which all can benefit.
Higher Education staff are very angry. This is why the ballot result was so solid. Now we have to turn that anger into action.
Strike action is a breach of contact. However, the AUT has carried out statutory ballots and the action has been formally called. The law now protects workers from dismissal for taking part in lawful industrial action at any time within eight weeks within the start of the action. Dismissal for taking part in such action is automatically unfair.
In the past staff lost 1/365ths of their annual salary for each day on strike. The arrangement is that monies deducted from salaries through strike action go to the Student Hardship Fund, once the costs of any additional resources required to run essential services have been deducted.
Yes, but not until after the action. You do not need to tell your manager beforehand, and the question could be construed as intimidation.
In the past heads of departments have asked staff after the strike day. You should inform your line manager or Head of Department afterwards if they forget to ask. The date given by HR for heads of department to supply information is simply to allow Payroll to deduct the days' pay from salaries.
For action short of a strike, have a meeting in the department to collectively agree what you will do and then inform your Head of Department. Let us know what you do decide.
In these circumstances you will not be deemed to have taken part in the strike and will not lose the 1 day’s pay.
The law does not allow AUT to discipline members who refuse to participate in the industrial action. Moreover we recognise that our members' conviction in the importance of our own action is one of our central strengths. The union will expect that members will abide by the decision of the majority given that AUT has carried out a legal and democratic ballot of its members. AUT members voted an overwhelming 64% in favour of the strike, with a turnout of over 50% of eligible members. Naturally all members of staff will benefit from any improvements negotiated as a result of the strike, whether they take part in it or not.
Please do not do so. We are allowing exceptions in extremis, for example, where
a department is being externally evaluated by a professional body and rearranging
Applying for a job elsewhere is not part of your normal duties, but speaking as a visiting lecturer elsewhere or doing a public lecture in your work capacity may well be part of your normal work.
We are calling on all our members to strike on the same day, 7 March. The reasons have been rehearsed a number of times, but it is worth emphasising that none of us are doing this lightly. This is an opportunity to force significant improvements in our pay and to put down a marker in the fight to defend jobs at UCL.
If the strike is solid, it will make our action short of a strike more effective.
It will also make UCL realise staff are serious about defending jobs should
the Provost go down the route of compulsory redundancies.
Our sister union Natfhe will be on strike alongside us. All members are encouraged to express their support for colleagues in other universities.
The short answer is that any collective action, including a strike, is not
done well by halves!
And if you do not come into work because you did not cross a picket line (whether a member of AUT or not) you will lose the day's pay for each day that you did not come into work.
It does boil down to straightforward democracy. We discuss the issues and we organise a ballot. In the event, over half of the union voted, and of those that voted, there was a 2:1 vote for a strike action, and a 4:1 vote for action short of a strike. If we call our members out on strike because the majority voted in favour, the democratic position is that we work together to make that strike a success. If we take collective action short of a strike we will need to ensure that this action is a success as well.
University staff are not weak. Our knowledge, expertise and hard work is what makes UCL function. If staff stand together over pay and make it clear that we will take industrial action in defence of jobs, we can stop the rot.
The answer to your questions are (a) yes and (b) yes.
Human Resources have stated in the past that they will treat every staff member the same for the purposes of the strike and workplace discipline. Ironically, the law does not allow them to discriminate against non-members of a union.
The law does allow sanction against union organisations if they call members out on strike without a ballot. In this case, the AUT ballotted its members and is calling its members out on strike.
As a result of this admirable non-discrimination position, every person who does not come into work on the day of a strike (whether a member of the union or not) will be treated as if they had heeded the strike call. Staff members who report themselves sick, or have booked annual leave, will not be deemed to be on strike.
UCL Amicus Branch fully recognises the right of AUT members to take strike action in support of their dispute with the employers over the current round of pay negotiations. We also support their claim that a significant proportion of the income from top up fees should be used to improve the pay and conditions of university staff. Higher education pay has fallen by 40% in relative terms to our comparators in other sectors of the economy, and it is right that this should start to be addressed when this additional funding stream becomes available.
UCL Amicus Branch has requested that our members do not cover for work which would normally be done by a colleague taking part in the AUT's strike action.
On Friday 20 January, UCL Provost Malcolm Grant wrote to staff in an all-staff email.
In this email he stated that UCL would not be able to afford a significant pay rise in staff salaries, particularly given UCL's supposedly parlous finances. The implication is that the current AUT ballot over pay is unreasonable and the demands cannot be funded.
What he neglected to say was that the pay claim in question addresses the historic opportunity to raise salaries presented by around £3.4bn of new money coming into the UK HE sector.
His sums are simply wrong.
As can be seen below, the Provost is not unique. His letter to staff appears to be very similar to other "letters to staff" purporting to come from VCs. The same elementary errors and misrepresentations crop up in these texts time and again.
Below our letter to members is a summary of UCEA's myths and misrepresentations. A point-for-point rebuttal of UCEA's arguments is here.
On Friday evening the Provost sent a letter to all staff regarding the current ballot for strike action. The timing of this letter, and its tone and content, are aimed at attempting to influence the current vote for national industrial action over next year's pay claim.
UCL AUT Executive Committee believes you can see through his arguments and asks you to vote Yes on both questions and return the ballot paper. Sadly it seems that only visible demonstrations of staff anger are sufficient to get through to our employers.
Sally Hunt, AUT General Secretary, will be speaking at a UCLAUT General Meeting on the pay campaign on Wednesday 1st February in the Darwin Lecture (entrance from Gower Street) at 1.00pm if you are undecided how to vote and wish to debate the issues involved.
Whereas the Provost has a free hand in emailing all staff, we can only communicate with our members. But do copy this to colleagues who are not in the AUT.
Whereas the Provost negotiates his own pay rise, the rest of us have to take collective action to do so. Our reluctance to take action in the past has seen our pay fall while Provosts and Vice Chancellors have emulated the private sector (see note 1 below).
As a result, in 2003, even Tony Blair said that "the shortfall in teaching funding has badly hit the salaries of academic staff, which have shown practically no increase over two decades."
This dispute is about addressing the long-term stagnation of our pay. New money is coming into the sector. Either university staff fight to claim their share of this money or it will disappear, to be spent at the whim of VCs and their Senior Management Teams.
The facts of the dispute are these.
The Provost has used UCL's 1.5% deficit to justify cutting 15% of staff posts. Now he wants to use it to justify not paying staff a wage rise.
UCLAUT Executive Committee
AUT guidance on action short of a strike
National AUT website (constantly updated)
UCL - No to 15% job cuts - Defend Higher Education
|Return to UCL AUT Home Page. Enquiries to Rob Jones.||Last updated 19 February, 2004|