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Message on the EU referendum from the UCU general secretary

Members will have differing views on the result of last Thursday’s referendum on EU membership.

However what is not in doubt is that the UK now faces a period of considerable economic and political uncertainty. That uncertainty extends into the places where UCU members work in three main ways.

First, in practical concerns about the loss of funding for projects within or related to universities and colleges supported by the European Union.

Second, in the impact of the referendum result upon government policy. For example, there is now speculation that the apprenticeship levy from which many colleges hoped to benefit may be postponed or scrapped.

Third, in a sector with a highly international workforce which itself teaches a diverse student body, the impact upon staff and students themselves.

I have therefore this morning written to the UK secretary of state with responsibility for further and higher education and UCU will be making contact too with the devolved administrations seeking some clarity in these three areas on behalf of members.

The referendum campaign has produced a rising tide of racism and hostility to migrant communities, as well as a worrying trend of anti-intellectualism (‘who needs experts?’ and so on). In the face of this universities and colleges have a vital role to play in fighting racism and intolerance and in continuing to promote the benefits of education to both the individual and society as a whole. In short we must stand up for our staff and students and celebrate education for all rather than hide away until the storm passes.

UCU for its part will continue to pursue these values in line with a statement agreed by the National Executive Committee last Friday which you can read here.

Best regards

Sally Hunt
UCU general secretary

 

You can also see details of a letter sent to Sajid Javid re the fallout from Brexit

University of Warwick staff will strike to hit open day

Members of the University and College Union (UCU) at the University of Warwick will be on strike on Friday (24 June) as part of a wave of nationwide strikes in a row over pay and conditions.

Staff at the university have timed their action to coincide with an open day for prospective students and their parents. Union members will lobby students and parents as they arrive to explain more about their campaign for fair pay and better conditions.

Striking staff will be on picket lines outside the Bus Interchange on Gibbet Hill Road between 11.30am-2pm.

The dispute has arisen following a pay offer of just 1.1% from the universities’ employers, the Universities and Colleges Employers Association. UCU said universities can afford to pay more and the offer did little to address the real-terms pay cut of 14.5% that members have suffered since 2009.

The squeeze on staff salaries comes despite vice-chancellors enjoying a 6.1% pay hike. The union has also called for universities to commit to closing the gender pay gap and reducing the proportion of staff on casual and zero-hours contracts. On average, female academics are paid £6,103 less a year than their male counterparts, while 49% of university teachers are on insecure contracts. At Warwick, in 2013/14, the gender pay gap for academic staff was £11,331.

Since 2010 the amount spent on staff by universities as a percentage of total income has dropped by 3%. However, the total of cash reserves has rocketed by 72% to stand at over £21bn. The nationwide strikes over pay began with two national strike days in May and now UCU members at separate institutions are striking to disrupt local events such as open days and graduation ceremonies. More details are available here and via the Twitter hashtag #FairpayinHE.

Warwick UCU branch president, Justine Mercer, said: ‘We want to use this opportunity to tell prospective students and their parents more about the changing nature of higher education, emphasising that our working conditions are students’ learning conditions.

‘Our targeted strike action is a result of the employers’ failure to deal with the declining real-terms pay of university staff or tackle the problems of growing numbers of zero-hours contracts and the persistent gender pay gap. Members have been left with no alternative but to take this action.’

Unions urge members to vote ‘Remain’

General secretaries of Unite, Unison, GMB and Usdaw warn leaving the EU would allow a Tory government to dismantle workers’ rights.

You can read the full wording of the letter at:

http://www.theguardian.com/politics/2016/jun/05/trade-union-members-should-vote-to-stay-in-the-eu

“Throughout the 1980s and early 1990s the British trade union movement worked in solidarity with our European partners and fought hard to secure valuable working rights legislation at EU level. To this day these rights – including maternity and paternity rights, equal treatment for full-time, part-time and agency workers, and the right to paid leave – continue to underpin and protect working rights for British people.

If Britain leaves the EU, we are in no doubt these protections would be under great threat. Despite words to the contrary from figures like Iain Duncan Smith and Michael Gove, the Tories would negotiate our exit and, we believe, would negotiate away our rights. We simply do not trust this government if they are presented with an unrestricted, unchecked opportunity to attack our current working rights.”

Senior Academics resign as External Examiners

A letter has been published in the Guardian from a group of senior academics explaining why they are supporting UCU’s call to resign as external examiners and not take up new posts in order to support fair pay in higher education.

You can read the full letter and see the signatories here.

“We write as external examiners whose role is to assure the quality of higher education courses at universities and colleges across the UK, but who have decided to resign in order to support the campaign for fair pay in our sector. We have resigned because, while as senior academics we believe our role in underpinning the quality of education provided to students is vital, we are all too aware of the unfairness of the current pay policies of our universities and their impact on staff and their students.

We have watched with sadness the pay of academic and professional staff fall in real terms by 14.5% since 2009; we have seen the numbers of casual staff proliferate; and seen universities do little or nothing to reduce the shocking gender pay gap despite having a collective surplus of £1.85bn. Yet the final straw for many of us is the contention by our employers that the latest final pay offer of 1.1% is “at the limits of what can be afforded” when at the same time we discover that university leaders have themselves received an average pay increase of 6.1%. The blatant hypocrisy of this position is breathtaking.”