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Message re strike action at UEA

As you will no doubt have seen, the UCU Higher Education Committee has announced strike action for 25-26 May, as part of the current pay campaign.  It also marks the start of working to contract.


This is after negotiations with the University and College Employers’ Association stalled, and members were balloted on both strike action and action short of a strike. Strike action was passed with 65.4% of the vote.


Strike action is always a last resort, and never taken lightly. Unfortunately, the Employers’ increased pay offer, from 1% to 1.1%, fell well short of the claim UCU had submitted, of 5%. It also falls short of the reported 3% pay increase that vice-chancellors and principals have enjoyed this year.

The headline figure of 5% may well seem rather high; however, it is part of a broader strategy to recoup some of the 14.5% real terms pay decrease the sector has experienced since 2009, due to sub-inflationary pay settlements since then. At a time when the HE sector is running a £1.85bn surplus, it seems only fair to recompense employees for their restraint on pay claims going seven years.


We should also recognise that whilst living costs in Norwich are comparatively low, UCU is bargaining at a national level, and people elsewhere in the country have been hit by a housing crisis that increases the cost of living well beyond the headline figures for inflation (CPI or RPI). Furthermore, any additional money we earn will go back into the local economy: if UEA, as a major employer in the region, takes leadership on this issue, the economic benefits will be felt throughout the community.


In his letter to staff, the Vice-Chancellor flags up individual points on the salary spine where staff will obtain pay increases over 1.1%. What UCU is attempting to secure is a good deal for all colleagues. Similarly, the VC notes incremental pay scales and discretionary awards, but incremental pay rises are not received by a substantial proportion of staff, whilst discretionary awards are, of course, discretionary, and as such hardly the basis for a national pay settlement. The VC also addresses the question of global competition and the student experience. We agree that this pay campaign is about Britain’s competitiveness in a global market: how can British Universities continue to attract the best academics from across the globe, and therefore provide the best education for our students, and the best reputation for our institutions, if continually eroding the pay and conditions of the profession nationally?

We strongly encourage all colleagues to participate in the action, and to stand in solidarity with those colleagues across the country for whom a 1.1% pay increase would simply exacerbate the cost of living crisis they have been subjected to since 2009. We will be organising picket lines, and will be delighted to have you join us.

We should also like to remind you that you are not obliged to tell your line manager that you are participating in strike action until after the action has started, and only if asked.

We too regret the fact that this strike action is going ahead, but if this is what is needed to obtain an adequate pay offer for our members, then we will have no choice but to take part in it, and hope that it brings about an equitable settlement as soon as possible.

You can find out more at the national website , contact the branch office at or follow us on Twitter @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






Supporting the pension action

Here are some ways you can still support those colleagues who are in a position to carry out the marking boycott:

  • Encourage colleagues who are not already members to join UCU.
  • Encourage colleagues to write to the VC to complain about both the pension proposals and the 100% pay deduction.
  • Display the posters about the pension dispute in your offices and departments.
  • Pledge your services to help your local officers, committee and reps run the pension campaign.
  • Talk to students about the dispute.
  • Make a donation to the fighting fund. You could consider giving one or two days salary to support colleagues who are able to participate in the action for longer periods.
  • Send a message of support, via the UCU office, to your colleagues who are taking an active part in the boycott.
  • Tell people how you are supporting the campaign.
  • Email the UCU office and tell us how you are supporting the campaign.
  • Add a message to your email signature in support of your colleagues.
  • I will be wearing something pink or purple each day during the action to show my support and involvement in the action.
  • If you have any suggestions of other ways to support the campaign please let us know in the local UCU office.



Defend USS pensions

Tuesday 4th November UEA staff were told that the university will deduct 100% pay from anyone participating in the Marking boycott.


UCU Acting President Amanda Williams & the local committee sent the following open letter:

Open letter to the VC from UCU local branch committee


Dear Professor Richardson


I have today learnt that UEA intends to deduct 100% pay from staff taking part in industrial action.  As you know colleagues who are members of the University and College Union (UCU) were recently balloted over strike action and action short of a strike, and on the basis of that democratic mandate UCU has asked its members to support a marking boycott starting on 6 November.


I am disappointed by the unnecessarily adversarial attitude adopted by the Executive Team at UEA.  All staff taking part in the marking boycott are doing so reluctantly, but we believe there is little else we can do to protect not just our own pensions, but those of our future colleagues.


While we are involved in the marking boycott we will, nonetheless, be diligently undertaking the rest of our professional duties.  This is despite the fact that the university intends to withhold our full salaries.  The university is acting disproportionately.


The proposals from the employers are eroding the implicit covenant between universities and their staff by undermining the principle that USS is a defined benefit scheme.  In the private sector defined contribution schemes are common; however having recently moved from employment at a for-profit HEI I can personally testify that in the commercial sector the provision of less valuable pension schemes is compensated by substantially larger salaries.


As I am sure you are aware academics from a number of universities have challenged the assumptions on which the pension deficit, the burning bridge being used to attempt to push through these proposals, has been calculated.


Warwick, Essex and Cambridge Universities have all broken ranks to criticise UUK.  The universities in UUK are therefore by no means unanimous in either accepting the need for the pension scheme to change nor in the way in which they are responding to industrial action at a local level.


One reason often given to justify a hard line in industrial disputes is that universities need to be more business-like.  This might have been true in the 1970’s however modern businesses know that the goodwill of their workforce is not something to be frittered.  The unprecedented threat to our remuneration and the aggressive stance being adopted towards those demonstrating against that threat has undermined the morale of many staff, irrespective of whether they are members of the union or not.


I am bewildered by the attitude of the university.  I might be able to understand this confrontational approach from organisations that exist solely for the economic benefit of their shareholders, but I find it hard to understand it in an organisation whose purpose is not primarily economic.  We should be on the same side, working to protect Higher Education in the UK.


I write in hope that the university will change its stance and start to adopt a more enlightened approach.



31st October strike action at UEA

UCU members will be taking part in national strike action alongside colleagues from Unison & Unite to call for fair pay in HE.


There will be picket lines at the entrances from Earlham Road & Bluebell Road between 7.00 & 13.00.


Show support on Twitter #fairpayinhe


& follow the live blog herefairpay