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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 ( 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 (
  • 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 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 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 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 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.


Ben Jones (Chair, UEA UCU)

War of Words – Progressive Media Conference Norwich Feb 20 2016

Had an excellent day at this conference.  Jotting down some notes:

@chrisjarvisdiy in opening speech “…skewered perceptions of reality become received wisdom”  – in a Trade Union context makes me think of the so-called union barons.

@natalieben talked about the importance of journalism starting at the local level.  Importance of local journalism is crucial in holding those in power to account.


Diversity of ownership for healthy press & society – uncovering corruption

Levison – NUJ had to appeal to take part.  They were the only means for anonymised, confidential voices from journalists to be heard

Drastic cuts in newspaper industry – union opposition not about wanting to preserve old ways of doing things, it’s about the value of good journalism – providing the analysis on stories, not just pumping out press releases.  Media owners used austerity as excuse to cut jobs.

Women in media

@Soph_vanderHam, @KCBobCut @_canndo

Bit depressing in the lack of progress, but the vibrant voices of the panel bear testament to the value women’s contributions can make in all areas.  Reflecting on trade unions, there are a lot of female voices.  Politics more widely – interesting point from Young green activist that men will often offer to do the outside facing roles such as being a candidate.   And observation that politics requires a lot of confidence – private schools instil that in their pupils.  Greens actively approach women to encourage them to stand – also aware of middle class domination & lack of BME women in the party.

Also noted the lack of working class women’s voices in media.


There were other sessions, it was a very rich day, in ideas and inspiration, thanks @NorwichRadical






ASOS Diary

Amanda Williams, acting President of UEA UCU is keeping a diary while taking part in the marking boycott.


A very busy day today, one of the modules I look after teaches 500 students and has a teaching team of 7 people and I had some bits and bobs to sort out for that. I was meant to be chairing a teaching practices forum but we had a speaker in for a GM today from the UCU national negotiating team so a colleague stepped in to chair instead.

Off to meet the national speaker for the UCU GM (who had had to tangle with the London to Norwich trains which were running late/cancelled. Sometimes it’s has felt quite lonely being a branch committee out on a limb on the pointy end of a national industrial dispute and the feeling that Norwich is out on a limb was exacerbated by the trains.   The meeting was the first general meeting I have chaired and was a bit of a baptism of fire. Feelings were running understandably high. We will soon need to have some elections for the committee as we have a lot of casual vacancies at the moment (which I forgot to mention in the meeting). Hopefully the level of engagement we saw in the meeting yesterday will be reflected in getting lots of people to put themselves forward for nomination into committee and officer roles. We need to harness all that energy for the good of the members of UCU at UEA. And we need to put in all the legwork to get a EGM for next week.

After that back to normal so a couple of meetings about UCU casework, a meeting with a colleague about their teaching practice and a meeting with my head of group about one of my big modules.



So in work today, not getting paid – well probably, maybe? I don’t have any assessment activities scheduled until the end of the week. Busy day today. I took a seminar about leases and financial instruments, had a couple of hours of “office hour”. I’ve taught 700 students this semester so office hours can get quite busy. I also took a couple of lectures today and attended a university committee as the UCU representative.


The actions started officially last Thursday and all last week was quite busy behind the scenes, with a lot of letter writing and email drafting going on. I worked about 60 hours (including the weekend) and expect to get paid for just Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday; since I got dropped into the post of Acting President for the local UCU branch at the start of October, 50-60 hour weeks have been pretty typical. Other people have been busy writing letters or Facebook postings. I was sent a link to a Facebook page which a UEA student had written and the support of the student body and individual students is brilliant.

Joint union strike 2nd day of action – Dec 3rd

UCU, Unison & Unite members will be striking on Tuesday Dec 3rd in the campaign for fair pay.

There will be pickets at the main entrances to UEA from 7.00-13.00.

Here’s some text for an out of office message:

‘I am taking part in UCU’s strike action on 3rd December  in support of fair pay in HE. For more info go here

The joint unions have also launched an online petition – please sign this today.’


And follow the action via Twitter #fairpayinhe @uea_UCU & online here





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