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October, 2018:

Local response to the pay dispute

Dear colleagues,

As you may be aware, we narrowly failed to reach the 50% turnout threshold in the pay & equalities ballot nationally and were 33 votes short at a local level. I’d like to thank Reps and members for all their hard work over the past few weeks.  As well as working to increase democracy in our union, these discussions have raised important local issues that will shape our priorities over the coming year.  In particular, we as a branch will continue to pursue local issues around pay and working conditions to ensure that all colleagues, but especially those on temporary and casual contracts, feel represented by their Branch and their Union.

Pay ballot – wider context and where next

UEA: turnout 47.5%

Strike: 64.6% YES (210); 35.4% NO (115)

ASOS: 74.2% YES (241); 25.8% NO (84)

To put these results in a wider context, only seven institutions achieved over 50% turnout, with UEA placing in the top 25 in terms of turnout.  As you can see from the results above, of those members who did vote, the majority supported strike action and the vast majority supported action short of strike.  Unfortunately, the Branch and the wider Union has fallen foul of a combination of unprecedented growth in membership and stringent anti-union laws enacted by the current government.

We recognise, as well, that there are obvious differences between this pay dispute and the massive degradations to the pension scheme being proposed last year.  For many members, that action, since justified by a range of financial experts, signified resistance to concerning trends in higher education that went beyond a single issue.  We believe that the strong support for ASOS signifies that this concern about our sector remains beyond the establishment of the JEP and we will be talking with members to identify areas of local concern that we can work to improve.

We are particularly concerned that some of our Early Career and casualised colleagues have understandably interpreted this result as a sign that their Union and their colleagues do not support them in their fight for fairer contracts and pay.  As a branch, we are committed to ensuring fairer conditions and work practices for all of our members and recognise that colleagues on precarious contracts are often hit hardest by the continuing erosion of our pay and conditions.  While this ballot may have precluded industrial action on the current pay proposal, there is still a range of positive steps we can take at a local level to improve the working lives of members.

The recent staff survey highlighted significant dissatisfaction in terms of pay and benefits, excessive workloads, and persistent gender inequalities.  As a Branch we have set up working groups to spearhead campaigns on the following issues:

  • Anti-casualization
  • Gender inequality
  • Workload

To ensure that these groups represent the membership and have the capacity to enact real change, it is vital that their membership reaches beyond the current committee.  Please get in touch with the UCU office (ucu.office@uea.ac.uk) if you would like to get involved in these campaigns locally.

What can we do now?

  • For those missing the solidarity of the picket line, our first common room event takes place this Thursday 25 October 5pm in Scholars bar.  This is your chance as members to guide branch priorities and suggest topics that you would like to discuss in a collegial forum.  If you have any suggestions for future events, themes, and venues and are unable to make the meeting, please contact the UCU office (office@uea.ac.uk).
  • Our Ordinary General Meeting will take place on Wednesday 31 October, 1pm in LT3.  If you would like to propose a motion to the branch, please email the text to office@uea.ac.uk by the 30th October so that it can be added to the agenda.
  • The next branch committee is Tuesday 13th November.  If you would like to raise an issue to be discussed by the committee, then please email it to office@uea.ac.uk by Monday 5th November.
  • While the JEP has reported and supports the arguments made during or industrial action, we would still strongly encourage members to influence the USS consultation (which closes 2nd November) to ensure that our views continue to be represented.  You will find a template letter and more information on our website shortly.  If you have any resources that you have found useful on the USS campaign, please do send these to office@uea.ac.uk and we can make these available on the website for other members to read.
  • If you are interested in helping fellow members by becoming a caseworker, then please contact office@uea.ac.uk as we are currently in the process of organising some additional training with officials from regional headquarters.

The committee wishes to ensure that UCU@UEA continues to meet the needs of its members and focuses its efforts on issues that have a material impact on the lives of colleagues.  We hope that you are able to contribute to the events above and encourage you to participate in whatever way you are able.

Yours,

Ben Jones (Chair, UEA UCU)