Autumn 2019 HE ballots, vote yes yes yes yes

Four reasons to vote yes in the USS and HE pay & equality ballots

  1. Fighting to arrest the decline in pay and pensions

    Since 2009, the value of pay in higher education has fallen by 20% in real terms. At the same time, members have seen their workloads rise, while employers have failed to commit to meaningful action to address the gender pay gap or tackle the job insecurity which plagues the sector. For members in USS, changes to the scheme mean the average scheme member is now £240,000 worse off because of cuts to benefits and rising contributions.

    We need to send a strong message to the employers – through strike action if necessary – that we will not tolerate a continued decline in pay, pensions and working conditions.

  2. Keeping higher education careers affordable

    With pay in high education failing to keep pace with the cost of living and pension contributions for USS set to rise, members in pre-92 institutions face a double whammy of attacks on their standard of living. Indeed, increasing USS contributions risk pricing many people – particularly early career staff – out of the scheme altogether. Not only is this bad for those individuals, who face less security in retirement, it is bad for the scheme itself as a drop in membership could lead to greater instability overall.

    Across the sector, too, we know that women are routinely paid less than men for doing the same work, while staff on insecure contracts are often struggling to make ends meet. Many staff are also putting in hours of unpaid work in an effort to stay on top of rising workloads.

    Fair and equal pay, decent pensions, and secure jobs are crucially important in ensuring that careers in higher education remain affordable for the future. We must be ready to take strike action if required to protect the interests of staff and secure these commitments from employers.

  3. A strong mandate to focus employers’ minds

    Unfortunately, experience tells us that higher education employers aren’t always fully committed to working in the interests of staff. In recent pay negotiations, they have repeatedly failed to bring forward an offer that addresses our concerns about the falling value of pay and barriers to pay progression. The have also failed to deliver any real action on workload, casualisation or gender pay.

    On USS, despite endorsing the recommendations of the JEP, the employers failed to put enough pressure on the USS board to accept the findings. This paved the way for the higher contributions now facing both employers and members.

    We need a strong mandate for strike action to ensure that employers’ minds are focused on securing the best possible outcomes for members on these important issues.

  4. Every vote is an act of solidarity

    We know that not every member faces having to make difficult decisions as a result of their pay being held down, rising pension costs or the perils of insecure employment. However, we also know that we need to work together to secure the changes we want to see in the sector.

    Every vote in the UCU ballots is an act of solidarity. We will only win real change by speaking with one voice about the need for real action from employers. Every vote sends a message that we will not tolerate staff facing unmanageable workloads, an endless cycle of fixed-term contracts, or people having to choose between paying their rent or saving for their pension.

    So whether you vote for yourself, for your friends and colleagues struggling with these issues today, or for the higher education staff of the future who deserve decent pay and pensions too, please make sure you vote.

The Gender Pay Gap – Please sign our Petition

University of York Staff and the Gender Pay Gap

Last November the University of York UCU branch submitted to the university management a detailed claim regarding the ending of the gender pay gap at York (which was 19.3% in 2017 – worse than the average in UK universities). It proposed a partnership between unions and management to tackle this serious injustice, and seeks to negotiate on appropriate and realisable actions to close that gap within a defined timeline. UCU’s claim, which is supported by the other campus unions, can be accessed here.

The only response by university management in nearly four months since the claim was submitted has been to tell us that they won’t agree to set up a joint working group on the gender gap because it is hard to separate work on that issue from other work on gender equality, although this has not been a problem at other universities where unions are pursuing similar claims. While there may be room for discussion of the exact format for joint working between unions representing staff and the management, UCU is clear that staff at York (whoever they are) can only benefit from properly focused work on gender pay inequity, and regards the management’s response as a tactic to delay or avoid such work, to which they claim to be committed.

UCU therefore asks any member of staff at York who cares about gender justice to sign our petition which will run until Monday 15 April and encourage all your colleagues to do likewise.

Please see the petition here:

Four Week Marking Turnaround – Statement from the Branch

The local UCU Executive issued the following statement to coincide with the “University mental health day” on 7 March 2019.  It has gone to the Acting VC, the Registrar, and the Director of Human Resources.

Thursday 7 March has been designated University Mental Heath Day.  

With this in mind, UCU calls on University management to meet the demand of academic and administrative staff by undertaking a formal Health and Safety Assessment of the current policy dictating a four-week marking turnaround.

Mental well being is not just an individual issue–as management has often implied–but is shaped by the managerial structures and pressures in which staff work.

We have campaigned on this issue ever since the policy was imposed, responding to the anger and concern of many departments and individual staff members–union and non-union–who have raised major professional and personal concerns about unprofessional marking practices and serious stress issues resulting from the policy. The resounding consensus is that this imposed, blanket policy creates a hostile environment, which is harmful and potentially life threatening to staff. * 

Management has responded to these concerns by citing alleged student demand, the decision of a dubiously democratic Senate top-heavy with management figures, and by telling UCU ‘we need to be aligned with our competitors’.

We have said, ‘Not at the expense of our well-being, nor of the best interests of students [who consistently tell us that they want high quality assessment done under proper professional conditions], nor of our professional ethics .’  

University Mental Health Day?   We say to our management : show us that you take it seriously. Meet your duty of care to staff by subjecting your own imposed policy to a basic level of Health and Safety scrutiny.

We want a Health and Safety assessment of this ill-considered policy, and we want it now.

University of York UCU

* if anyone wants clear, if distressing evidence of how bad this can get (content warning: potentially triggering article), follow this link –