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Day 14 Strike for Pensions

And we’ve made it – undiminished in strength and more unified than at the start, we are now at Day 14 of the strikes.

To celebrate this, we held an awards ceremony with some fabulous (or at least appropriate) prizes!

Here is our fabulous compere, Leon, announcing the winners.

Arianna was presented with her ‘halls throat sweets’ in honour of her sterling work on the microphone leading chants for the last few weeks!

And of course, the winner of ‘Best picket dog’, the fabulous Quince.

Some fantastic renditions of some old favourites:

‘See you on the picket line’ (to the tune of ‘Hit me baby (one more time)’ by Britney Spears

‘We need a pension’ (to the tune of ‘I need a hero’ by Bonnie Tyler)

A stirring speech from a retired UCU member warning of the risks and exhorting members to keep up the fight for everyones future.

And Claire, as picket supervisor, summed up what we were all thinking.

Thank you to all our members who stuck it out throughout the 14 days, in wind, rain and snow.

#solidarity #NoCapitulation #USSStrikes

Day 13 Strike for Pensions

We started small and determined on a cold morning, spread out across Gibbett Hill, Westwood, and University House and grew large and mighty with a concluding rally at the bus interchange in the much needed sun!

University House

Westwood

Bus Interchange

The turning point was most certainly the amazing cheese and cheese and ham pancakes that a member brought at 9am, which revitalised us all!
We’ve long been saying this strike isn’t just about what happens on the picket line, but all of the other sites of organising that have occurred: from the free University which has carried out 4 weeks of stellar events, to the departments who have been organising play lists, events, and themed days together, to the unprecedented mass all-members meetings we’ve had throughout.
Today was an especially good example of that. Following the demo, one members led a walking tour called “Mapping Corporate Walk: A Walking Tour.”
Meanwhile , UCU regional led a well-attended caseworker training session we had a departmental contact meeting, and we had an amazing departmental contact meeting.
Not bad for day 13.

Open letter to our students – what happens next?

Dear Students,

You may have heard that on Monday 12th March an ‘agreement’ was reached between UCU and UUK to end ongoing dispute over the USS pensions reforms and this was then rejected by thousands of university staff, including many here at Warwick.

These staff, having already taken strike action all over the UK during the last four weeks, voted in large numbers, and almost unanimously, to reject the offer and we imagine this is both confusing and raises many concerns and questions for students, and are writing to address them here.

There are many reasons that we rejected the UUK’s offer, but the bottom-line is that it didn’t address the reason we went on strike: to secure a long-term future for a defined benefits pension scheme. The offer amounted to a substantial reduction in our pensions income; it was predicated on inappropriate assumptions (which even Warwick’s own Vice Chancellor has criticised) that cuts are necessary to fix a ‘deficit’ in pension funds; and it was a three year deal, at the end of which we would likely be facing another round of attempted cuts.

It is for these and other reasons that UCU members all across the country rejected this ‘offer’ and pushed for a better outcome. As a result of this democratic action, the UCU rejected the offer at the national level in favour of continued strike action, possibly including 14 further days of strike action in Term 3, during which we will continue to go unpaid in a fight for what we believe is fair and in the best interests of UK Higher Education.

It is not with a light heart that we have taken the decision to say no to this offer leaving us with the prospect of continuing with strike action. We know that not only does this means a continued negative impact on the learning of our students but it also puts many of us at great financial risk and, in some cases, risk of deportation. But we also know how high the stakes of this struggle are. This is a national test case. If we capitulate, we don’t just lose our pensions, but possibly guaranteed pensions across the UK. And, more importantly, if we capitulate on our pensions, we are also capitulating to the financialised and privatised university of soaring tuition fees, casualised staff, and intensified marketisation; and, we are capitulating to the idea that workers are not entitled to economic security, or indeed to a life after work.

We are doing everything we can to ensure this dispute doesn’t go into term 3 and it is already working. UUK have called for a new round of negotiations and we believe if we keep the pressure up, this dispute can be resolved. Thank you for your continued support. We believe that if students join their voices to ours, we will be able to defend our pensions and end this dispute quickly, to everyone’s best interest, before Term 3 commences.

Warwick UCU

Day 12 Strike for Pensions

Another cold morning, but with another strong turnout at the picket lines. Lots of questions today following the extraordinary events of yesterday and luckily we had just the people to answer them!

However, first we were joined by the Chair of the South Warwickshire Keep our NHS Public who spoke extensively on the challenges they face on protecting our local NHS services and the risks that are currently in play.  Please support them as much as you can, these service are essential.

And then the big hitters arrived!

Myka, Branch Secretary, and Justine Mercer, Branch President and Midlands HEC representative, spoke about the HEC meeting yesterday – an event that was described as ‘electified’ by Myka who talked about how the voting across the country had supported the branch reps, and HEC members to  to reject the current offer.

And what was more amazing, is that we were joined by members new to the picket who had been to the meetings, felt the #solidarity and were now more engaged than ever before.  So the message we want to send is that we are still here, we are still engaged and enraged, and we will not stop until proper deal is ‘on the table’.

Day 11 Strike for Pensions

Plans never survive contact with the project manager, or however the saying goes. Full disclaimer, the writer has a Prince 2 qualification.

Yesterday afternoon we were stunned to receive a message that indicated whilst UCU and UUK had reached an agreement, it was one that had profoundly negative implications for members and for future industrial action.

Late night discussions, both in branch, and nationally, showed a deep disquiet, and disbelief, in what was on offer. Essentially, UCU and UUK were proposing a pension deal similar to, but arguably worse, than the ‘offer’ rejected 3 years ago. In addition, the UCU leadership caused consternation for teaching staff members by promising they would reschedule lectures, that they would then be doing for free having already had pay deducted.

Instead of meeting at 7:30, picketing was postponed, and an emergency all Member meeting was called for 10:00 with less than 12 hours notice.

Nevertheless, over 120 members attended and gave excellent feedback, speaking forcefully and eloquently to the proposed deal.

A presentation featuring some (by necessity, with only 18 hours between the offer being presented and the HEC vote taking place, hastily overnight researched and created) slides to illustrate the offer was presented by a member of the UCU committe (and uploaded here as per requests from members). Slide 3 of the presentation contains a useful comparison of the existing and proposed deal.

It was the opinion of many speakers that each and every line indicated a drop in pension value and were all similarly unacceptable red lines.

At the end a vote was taken, and 115 voted to reject the offer, with only 5 abstentions and this was communicated to our union rep and HEC rep in London.

Scenes in London were astonishing, with 800 UCU members crammed into the street outside UCUs offices calling for the deal to be rejected.

Meanwhile, at Warwick, we continued our picket in solidarity and wondering what the outcome of the HEC meeting would be.

Reports were coming in of other branches voting to reject the offer, many unanimously. Their representatives voted accordingly.

The HEC then voted and the deal on the table was rejected. 

Feedback from people present at the meeting clearly indicates how the vote was moved by the action of the members, and the very clear rejection that was sent from more than 40 emergency member meetings across the country.

Sally Hunt emailed all members to say that:

“The overwhelming view of branches was that while the proposal retained defined benefit it did so at too low a level (only the first £42,000 of salary) and that the proposed reduction in accrual rate was also unacceptable. Branches were also clear that the refusal of the employers to shift their position on taking more risk was disappointing.

Today’s decision means that:

  • the union will not now attend the USS JNC tomorrow to endorse the ACAS proposal,
  • the strike action called for this week will continue and the union will now make detailed preparations for fourteen days of strikes in the assessment and exam season,
  • members who are external examiners at USS institutions will be asked to consider their position with a view to putting pressure upon the assessment season,
  • the action short of a strike (ASOS) including the refusal to reschedule lectures or classes will remain in place.”

 

Urgent Update re Pensions Dispute

Dear Members,
We have just received word from UCU National of a proposed agreement reached between UCU and UUK as a result of ACAS talks. Details are available here. It is important to note that this has not been accepted by UCU yet, but it will be the subject of discussion at the UCU HEC meeting and all branches briefing tomorrow morning.
However, as Warwick UCU, we feel it is important to outline our position about this clearly. Although it needs to be further scrutinised, the content of this agreement,
which would only tenuously maintain a defined benefit pension, under very unfavourable conditions, would appear to be a massive concession to UUK that
contravenes the the position that we as a branch set out clearly in the motion passed in our all members meeting almost unanimously just earlier today (see below):
1. Warwick UCU congratulates UCU national officers, staff and the thousands
of reps and members who made our first 10 days of strikes such a success.
2. Warwick UCU believes the union’s campaign has fundamentally undermined
the employers arguments for the attack on USS.
3. Warwick UCU therefore resolves to continue the present strike programme
and supports the announcement of plans to escalate our industrial action if no settlement is reached.
4. Warwick UCU confirms that there is no deficit. With the employers’
arguments collapsing, our negotiators must demand that the status quo prevails.
5. Warwick UCU supports the UCU proposal to seek consensus for the government to underwrite the USS pension scheme.
We will be sending a delegate to the national meeting tomorrow to feed back the position of our branch on the basis of the motion that was passed at the all-members meeting earlier today. In the meantime, for the avoidance of doubt:
the strike tomorrow is still on,
and it is as important as ever that we keep up our action to show our strength of feelings around not giving up on this dispute yet. to feed back the position of our branch on the basis of the motion that was passed at the all-members meeting earlier today. In the meantime, for the avoidance of doubt:
the strike tomorrow is still on,
and it is as important as ever that we keep up our action to show our strength of feelings around not giving up on this dispute yet. is still on,
and it is as important as ever that we keep up our action to show our strength of feelings around not giving up on this dispute yet.
to feed back the position of our branch on the basis of the motion that was passed at the all-members meeting earlier today. In the meantime, for the avoidance of doubt:
the strike tomorrow is still on,
and it is as important as ever that we keep up our action to show our strength of feelings around not giving up on this dispute yet.

to feed back the position of our branch on the basis of the motion that was passed at the all-members meeting earlier today. In the meantime, for the avoidance of doubt:

the strike tomorrow is still on,

and it is as important as ever that we keep up our action to show our strength of feelings around not giving up on this dispute yet.

In order to respond to members’ desires to discuss together the implications of this possible agreement, we have taken the decision to change the plans for tomorrow morning.

We will not be picketing from 7.30am at the car parks. Instead, we are calling for an **emergency all members meeting at 10am in the Arts Centre Cinema.

This will then be followed by picketing at the bus interchange from11.30am-1pm.

Please come along. After the meeting, we are going to maintain our picket line as strong as ever to show the strength of feeling that exists amongst our membership to continue defending our defined benefit pension scheme and to not give in to the proposed deal. We cannot stress enough how important it is to have a strong showing tomorrow

 

In the meantime, you can sign this open letter calling on UCU to reject the agreement, or email directly Sally Hunt to let her know your position.
A few other important notes:
1) Warwick has now agreed to deductions at the 1/365 rate vs. its earlier 1/260 stance, for all employees. Thanks to the Law School colleagues for all their work on this. Unfortunately, as of yet, they have not committed to that deduction rate for non-employees (i.e. STP, VAM, etc..). We are currently following up to ensure that all Warwick staff are treated equally.
2) The all members meeting earlier today had great attendance. The focus of the meeting was to update members about the successes of the strikes so far and the situation at the bargaining table. Going forward, we discussed local strike issues, the national negotiation proposal, and how best to organise the 14 days of strike action that have been called for Term 3 if a settlement is not reached.
The minutes of this meeting will be circulated shortly, but in brief:
  • Locally, we decided to continue pushing the Warwick administration further to improve their position on ASOS (asking for no deductions, full
    stop), pay deductions for hourly paid tutors, and the spreading out of pay deductions. UCU Branch Committee is writing a response to the Vice Chancellor to that effect.
  • Nationally, we voted in favour of the attached motion calling for UCU negotiators to emphasise that there is no current deficit in the USSscheme, and to adopt the position of maintaining the status quo of our current pensions, rather than simply trying to maintain some sort of Defined Benefit pension.
scheme, and to adopt the position of maintaining the status quo of our current pensions, rather than simply trying to maintain some sort of Defined Benefit pension.
The discussion about the motion as well as the content of the motion will be fed back to a national branch officer meeting tomorrow. .
3) We have been hearing concerning reports about forms of pressure and intimidation that different departments have used against striking UCU members, especially with regard to ASOS and rescheduling.
Many spoke up about aggressive emails and demands from administrators and heads of department. In this light, we urge all members who have experienced any insecurities as a result of departmental pressure to report this directly to the UCU Committee
.
This is extremely important, since the UCU can only work to protect its members from harassment if there is a regular flow of information on this issue.
4) As many of you know, UCU National has called for 14 further days of strike action in term 3 if the dispute isn’t resolved beforehand. Prior to the latest news, we are currently trying to determine the most effective way to implement this should this go ahead. As a result, it would be very helpful if you could let us know your teaching and marking schedule for term 3. Please let us know as well when you think strike action would be most effective, by emailing administrator@warwickucu.org.uk. Thank you.

We look forward to seeing you all tomorrow.

We believe that we will win,
-Warwick UCU

Open letter rejecting the UCU/UUK agreement at ACAS

Warwick UCU all members meeting passed earlier today a motion calling for UCU nationally to continue demanding for a defense of the current status quo in our pensions scheme. Given the announcement earlier today of an agreement having been provisionally reached between UCU and UUK nationally, we invite our members to add their names to the open letter below

https://docs.google.com/forms/d/e/1FAIpQLSdjBYB9uvEU86u0mAu03cl7sXwwWtwjjysV5VbOk7_QnNBmfQ/viewform

Day 10 Strike for Pensions

‘There will be some light rain this morning.’

Despite this, what turned out to be a little understated, weather message, we convened again for our 10th day of pension change protests this morning.

With UUK and UCU emerging their 6th day of ACAS mediated negotiations, it is important that we keep up the pressure nationally.

But my word, it was very very wet!

We kept the tea flowing from our minimalist gazebo to keep spirits up – vitally important on a cold soggy morning, especially as someone forgot to charge the loudspeaker seriously hampering our dancing and chanting!

Despite the horrible weather, there was a pretty good turnout, although we understand completely that some people were picketing from the comfort of their living rooms.

But here are the hardy perennials being well watered:

And thankfully, we managed to charge the sound system and got off a few chants.

Day 9 Strike for Pensions

A rainy start to the morning saw us setting up under a marquee, well supplied with hot drinks and pastries, ready to celebrate all the amazing women in Universities and worldwide for the Women’s Strike and International Women’s Day.

The women’s picket choir was in fine voice, singing those classics such as ‘girls just wanna have pensions’.

There were displays reminding people of the emotional and reproductive workloads that women routinely undertake which are completely overlooked in terms of salary, promotion and workload models.

We stood in solidarity with the women of Yarlswood who are on hunger strike.

Today was about protest, about women, about rights. About fairness. And about pensions of course. The proposed pension changes will disproportionately impact women (as has the move to career average already).

#womenwhoinspire #iwd2018

Day 8 Strike for Pensions

Another early start with pickets at University House and Westwood from 7am.

It was a quieter day today as quite a few people are taking an opportunity to recharge their picketing batteries before another big day tomorrow. As always the students turned out in support and despite the lower turnout overall we still handed out over 1000 leaflets to staff and students about the pensions dispute.

In other news, over 250 new members have joined UCU at Warwick in the last 3 months comprised of permanent, fixed term and sessional teaching staff from across all faculties and many professional services departments. We are really pleased to see so many new people – the more members, the more strength we have to improve and defend our working, and the students learning, conditions. We expect this number to grow further in the coming weeks as UCU clears the backlog caused by thousands of people joining to protect their future.