Newsletter and Strike Bulletin

Thanks to all of you who contributed to our impressive York turnout of over 50% in the recent ballots over our pay and pensions. We have a clear mandate for action to increase our pressure on our reluctant employers to act to resolve our disputes with them, on which they have so far failed to respond constructively.

Just to remind you, we seek to an acceptable settlement over the problems caused by [1] our employers’ unhelpful approach to pension issues, and [2] their failure to make a reasonable offer on pay, including our casualisation and gender equality claims. Our vice-chancellor and senior managers may try to claim that their hands are tied because these are UK disputes rather than local ones. That is not true. UUK and UCEA are nothing other than employers’ representatives. If enough vice-chancellors and governing bodies change their positions, so will UUK and UCEA.

What’s going to happen?

Based on the mandate of our ballot results, UCU has called for 8 days of strike action to take place on 25 – 29 November and 2-4 December. This is serious action, which is the only way to get serious change from our employers. It’s a big ask, but it’s what we need to do.

What are we doing in York?

    • We ask as many members as possible to withdraw their labour and join in on our picket line on the strike days: for details you can contact John Issitt at or James Cussens at : we will provide further guidance and information nearer the start of the strike:
    • We plan to picket from 8.00am to 10.00am every strike day and to hold a short rally from 10.30 to 11.00 outside Heslington Hall on each of those days:
    • We are planning a branch general meeting on Wednesday 27 November, hopefully with a national speaker, to celebrate our action, and to review what needs doing:
    • On Friday 29 November we will be linking our industrial action to the UK day of action on the climate emergency
    • We all need to encourage members in all departments to plan in advance how they will support the strike: you may want to hold discussions with colleagues in your own department about this, and members of the branch executive will be happy to come along to those meetings:
    • If members in particular departments want to organise events such as teach-outs during the strike days, the branch will be happy to help with advice and funds
    • We are making contacts with our students via YUSU and the GSA to ensure that they understand UCU’s position
    • We ask that you encourage students to email the Vice-chancellor to put pressure on UUK and UCEA


Requests to report taking strike action in advance

UCU instructs members NOT to respond to requests to report taking strike action in advance of doing so. Here is an example of suggested wording you can use to refuse any request you may receive in the future from either HR or HoDs/line managers.

“Dear HR  [or whoever]

As you know there is no legal requirement on employees to inform employers in advance about any strike action which they may intend to take in the course of an industrial dispute.There is of course a requirement to inform an employer once strike action has been taken, and should I take such action I will inform you of that at the appropriate time.”

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.