UCL-UCU: Strikes PAUSED - Advice & EGM on Monday

19 February 2023

We are writing to you about the pausing of the strike action, scheduled for Tuesday-Thursday this week and Monday-Thursday the following week, by the General Secretary of UCU.

Below we set out advice on ASOS, resuming teaching this week, information on how this decision was reached, and what the General Secretary agreed with the employers.

This is also a reminder that we have an Emergency General Meeting this Monday, 20th February, 1-2pm,where we can discuss this and other strike-related matters:

  • Emergency General Meeting 
  • Monday, 20 February 13.00-14.00 

Motions for this meeting are welcome and any submitted will be circulated on Monday.

Resuming work this week

In the meantime, colleagues will no doubt be confused about what all this means for our work over the next few weeks. 

In summary:

  1. Action Short of a Strike (ASOS) has not been paused - we expect colleagues to keep working to contract. Colleagues are not obliged to work extra hours to catch up with work backlogs due to the strike. As the pause is to facilitate negotiations, we will not incur further detriments in addition to the pay that we have lost through striking. Employers and managers are responsible for supporting rescheduling work that has not been done within the time which is now available, and the necessary prioritisation of tasks that this requires.

  2. There will be teaching this week - so students can be informed that teaching will go ahead. However, please do not work out of hours, whether over the weekends or during evenings, to catch up and prepare for teaching. If you feel that the time available is not enough for you to prepare, it might be wise to instead consider what teaching can be practically done at short notice. 

Democratic decision-making in the UCU - sidelined

  1. The Higher Education Committee (HEC) of the UCU is the body charged (by democratic decision) with making decisions relating to our industrial dispute and strike action, but it did not meet to agree this pause to the strike. Strike dates should be agreed formally by the HE officers (Immediate Past-President, Chair of HEC, and the two Vice Chairs of the HEC), but they have not met or been consulted in this case either. The HE officers or the full HEC have the constitutional right to stop a strike, but neither group has had an opportunity to discuss, let alone decide, on this matter. The HEC will be meeting this Friday at Carlow Street to discuss these actions. 

  2. A demonstration has been called for outside this HEC meeting on Friday for those members who feel that pausing the strikes on the promise of more talks about future talks (see below), before any concrete agreement has been reached, is a mistake, or members who are concerned with breaches of the democratic structures of our union. At our EGM on Monday, along with discussing other actions, we will also discuss whether the branch should support such a protest.

The agreement announced on Friday evening

The agreement between the General Secretary and the employers is available here [https://www.ucl.ac.uk/ucu/sites/ucu/files/tradeunionucea-joint-statement-.pdf ]’ so that all members can judge how much progress it represents.

We would note the following about the GS’s agreement with the employers:

  1. There is no agreement on pay (other than removing the lowest scale point (point 3, which does not exist at UCL), and a commitment to review the pay spine in the future. 

  2. The employers have not improved their pay offer, and the real-terms pay cut of 15% over two years that they wish to impose remains in place. This will be a crushing blow for many members, especially our lowest-paid colleagues.

  3. The issues of workload, “contract types”, and pay gaps are addressed only in terms of agreements to discuss them in future talks (which was the employers’ position prior to going into the negotiating round, so has not changed).

  4. On casualisation, and on zero hour contracts, UCEA (the employers’ organisation) says it ‘would expect’ certain types of contract to be typical, but the “contractual arrangements offered to employees will be for individual institutions to determine”. UCL has agreed not to use zero hours contracts, but they remain widespread in our sector. UCL calls contracts with end dates subject to funding “open-ended”, and denies that they are fixed-term, but clearly such contracts do not operate as permanent, and people on them do not experience them as such.

  5. The talks that are planned to happen now - and for which we have been asked to pause our strike - are not to reach concrete outcomes for these points, but rather to “agree more detailed terms of reference and timescales for these substantive negotiations”, i.e., future talks.

  6. A separate announcement was made by Universities UK (UUK) on discussions on the USS pensions. This seems, on the surface, promising, as it talks about prioritising restoring member benefits that were cut and reducing member contribution costs. The scheme is in a substantial surplus and this should be possible. However, this statement is also subject to considerable caveats, such as that these changes have to be shown to be sustainable in the long term, which the employers have consistently used as an argument for refusing to restore our benefits or halt further cuts). 

UCL UCU Executive Committee



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