Day 1: Torrential Rain and a Torrent of Support

What an inspiring start to 8 days of strike action. The weather was torrential but so were our spirits!

The opening day of the national UCU strike saw hundreds of staff, students and local supporters turn out in the rain to demand reforms to unsustainable practices in the university sector. The day started with a morning coffee session with 20+ members of our professional services staff (this isn’t just a lecturer’s strike after all!) who then marched together down to the main picket line.

Over the course of the day, over 300 people came through as did numerous  handsome 


There was a rally with speakers from local UCU, Warwick Anticasualisation, the Student’s Union, local Parliamentary Candidates Zarah Sultana and Taiwo Owatemi, and Warwick Occupy. All speakers made connections between staff and student concerns in the sector, and some linked the degradation of Higher Education to the pervasive wider impacts of funding cuts and austerity policies across UK societies.


It was deeply encouraging to see so much support on this first day, with the action comparing favourably to the first day of the pickets in 2018. The pickets were followed by a full afternoon of teach-out events organised by staff and students, including workshops on the Ecology of the Campus and on Digital Labour.

Statement of Solidarity with Warwick Occupy

Warwick UCU is writing to express our solidarity with students currently occupying the SU building, which follows a protest on Tuesday regarding the Jewish Israeli Society’s hosting a speaker from the IDF. We share their concern with the issues that they have brought to the attention of the campus. 
We have seen rising incidents of racism and islamophobia in our country and in our institutions. For years, staff and students at University of Warwick have engaged in anti-racist organising together. We have fought against the PREVENT agenda because it is discriminatory and encourages disproportionate surveillance of Muslim and BME students. We’ve fought side by side to ensure that the survivors of the racist, anti-Semitic, and sexist group chat received the justice they deserved. We’ve fought to prevent deeply racist and reactionary speakers from coming onto our campus. And now students have voted to support staff as we strike to end the racial pay gap at Warwick and nationally. 
But this racist and islamophobic culture is pernicious and it has permeated our society, our University, and the institutions therein.
This occupation is important as are occupiers’ demands that we as a University community finally begin to take serious, coordinated, and concerted action to tackle these problems.
We call on our members to stay up to date with the demands of the occupiers: and, if able, to consider supporting the occupiers.
We ask that the SU ensure the rights of the occupiers and their safety.
And we call on the University to launch an official and widespread investigation into racism on campus, and particularly the ways that it is embedded in processes ranging from pay gaps to the external speaker policy.

Picket Line Plans, Teach Outs and Solidarity Events

Picket Line Events and Teachouts*
All events on the picket line unless otherwise marked

Week Three

Monday 2 March Meet at the Bus Loop 10am-1pm
Adopted by Sociology

11-12pm “Decolonisation/Decarbonisation” panel, hosted by Rebecca Brown (SU Environment and Ethics Officer) and the Warwick Decolonise Project

12pm “‘Once You’ve Listened, Then What?’: Democratising Political Education” (Naomi Waltham-Smith, CIM)

1pm History of Women’s Oppression (Warwick Marxists)

Tuesday 3 March / Meet at Bus Loop at 8am to go picketing and return to Bus Loop at 10
Day of Action on Precarity / Adopted by Philosophy

10:15  “Governing through Precarity: A Foucauldian Approach”

11am Warwick Anticasualisation Event: On the Day of Action on Precarity, WAC will run a teach-out to discuss the challenges faced by casualised colleagues at Warwick and organize together.

We look forward to seeing you there!

1pm-3pm “Prison Abolition” (Warsoc)

Wednesday 4 March / Meet at the Bus Loop 10am-1pm
Adopted by French & Hispanic Studies and Law

11am  “Dealing with Climate Denial and Discombobulation (Climate Strike Warm Up)” (Alastair Smith and Todd Oliver)

11am-2pm International Women’s Day Banner Making(MR2 in the SU, Warsoc)

1pm (The Graduate) “The Unexpected Subject: Identity in Contemporary Italian Feminism” (Carlotta Cassuta, Akwugo Emejulu and Laura Schwartz)

Thursday 5 March / Meet at Bus Loop at 8am to go picketing and return to Bus Loop at 10
Adopted by English & Comp Lit

10:00am Picket line line dancing, featuring hits from Saturday Night Fever and Chorus Line

1pm Workers and Labour Movements in History (The Graduate)

4pm-6pm Radical Reading Club: Things Fall Apart (Organised by Warwick Anti-Sexism Society (WASS) and Warwick Anti-Racism Society (WARSOC), in SU Building,Room MR2)

Week Four

Monday 9 March / Meet at the Bus Loop 10am-1pm
International Women’s Day on the picketline  / Adopted by Professional Service Staff and Sociology

11am Pay Gap Game (Version 2)

12pm “The Gendered Politics of Austerity” (Muireann O’Dwyer)

1:30pm Women’s march 

3pm-4:30pm Radical Reading Club: Text TBD (Organised by Warwick Anti-Sexism Society (WASS) and Warwick Anti-Racism Society (WARSOC), in SU Building,Room MR2)

Tuesday 10 March / Meet at Bus Loop at 8am to go picketing and return to Bus Loop at 10
Adopted by Law

1pm-4pm Blackademia (Warsoc)

Wednesday 11 March / Meet at the Bus Loop 10am-1pm
Preventing Prevent Day of Action / Adopted by French & Hispanic Studies 

10:30 Why We Need to Abolish Prevent and How: A Primer What is Prevent? Why should it be important to us as workers and students in the University? What does it have to do with the larger contexts of hostile environment and the rise of the far right? And how can we fight it? This interactive teach out will give us all the tools we need to understand Prevent and start collectively organising for how to fight it.

12pm “Stop HS2/ Climate Breakdown Poetry”
Members of local resistance to HS2, from the Crackley and Cubbington Wood camps, will visit the picket line to update us on their campaigns. There will be a reading of climate breakdown poetry up and down the line – bring poetry and/or songs. For suggestions, email

Thursday 12 March /Meet at Bus Loop at 8am to go picketing and return to Bus Loop at 10

10am Confidence to Stand up for Your Beliefs

1pm “Beyond Greece and Rome: Classics from a Global Perspective” (the Graduate)

3:30-6pm Institute of Advanced Protest: An Interdisciplinary Showcase on the Theme of Protest (Graduate)

Email to sign up for a slot and/or lend items to the ‘gallery of protest’

Friday 13 March / Meet at the Bus Loop 10am-1pm
International Climate Strike / Adopted by English & Comp Lit

10:30am Climate Focus Group (Sarah Lever)

11:30am Furniture Upcycling Demo and Q&A (Sarah Lever)

                1pm “Climate Justice and a Post-Growth Society” (Tomi Amole)

1:30Social Activism on Screen”* (James C. Taylor, in The Graduate)

*The events listed here that do not take place on the picket line and are not during picketing hours are not official UCU events; they are organised independently by staff and students who are supportive of the strike and respect our picket line.



Warwick UCU Recommendations on Lecture Capture

We are thrilled to announce that at our All Member Meeting on Wednesday 16 October 2019, we passed our a motion endorsing our new Recommendations on Lecture Capture. This policy, which is the result of months of research and consultation with our members, lays out the problems in the University’s current lecture capture policy and the changes we think are necessary to create a fair, equitable and working policy. Huge thanks to our research committee for their work on this important issue.

Elements of current lecture capture policy to keep:

  • Opt-in policy

Elements to improve:

Acknowledgement of pros and cons of lecture capture

An objective presentation of lecture capture to students that outlines both the pros and the cons of Lecture Capture to students and staff. Currently the policy presentation on the website is biased to articulating positive aspects. UCU recognises, however, that the decision of many academic staff not to opt in is based on reasonable concerns about learning and inclusion. Furthermore, academic research supports both pros and cons when it comes to utilising Lecture Capture; presenting Lecture Capture as an unproblematic benefit ignores these findings, and moreover has direct implications for the relationship between students and academic staff.

Trumpeting the advantages of Lecture Capture has stirred dissatisfaction among students, who have not been informed about the reasons why many lecturers choose not to use it. We therefore recommend that the policy outlines both pros and cons in “Key Points about Lecture Capture”(, in the “Lecture Capture Policy” ( and in the “”.

An important issue of lecture capture concerns inclusion: students may not participate in interactive activities knowing that they are being recorded, particularly those students with anxiety (the detrimental effects of recording on individual’s ability to debate challenging ideas and to participate has been documented by several psychological studies).

At the moment the policy states: “If there is an interactive element to your lecture, individuals may not wish to be recorded and can therefore choose to refrain from participating,” which normalises the idea that some students will be deterred from participating. This isn’t acceptable, and we believe that staff worries about student participation raise reasonable concerns that should be acknowledged in the way we communicate to students on the university website.

Recommendation: To re-open a consultation between the university and the UCU representing academic staff to produce a ‘pros’ and ‘cons’ list to be assimilated on the Lecture Capture presentation online.


Intellectual Property Issues

The current provisions in the Consent Form are:

“In order to enhance the student learning experience, the University of Warwick (the “University”) wishes to make available to its current students digital recordings of University lectures, presentations and seminars (“Recordings”) for learning and teaching purposes.

Recordings will not be used for any other purpose, and will be stored securely within the EU for a period of four years, after which time they will be deleted/destroyed.”


  1. Intellectual property provision should define ‘current students’ as the student cohort for that particular module that the lecturer chooses to use lecture capture recordings for in that particular moment in time.
  2. The university policy should include clear guidelines as to what constitutes ‘fair educational use’ of lecture capture material.
  3. Lecture capture recordings should be deleted/destroyed if a member of staff is no longer an employee of the university. The lecturer may have the choice of explicitly agreeing not to destroy the recordings after employment ends but in this case the Intellectual Property should be shared between the university and the lecturer, such that the lecturer has the right to rescind permission for the use of the material at any point.
  4. If the lecturer continues to be an employee at the university but decides to no longer use lecture capture, the previous lecture capture materials should be deleted/destroyed as soon as the students from the taught cohort that were provided with lecture recordings graduate (the cohort graduation date applies). The lecturer may have the choice of explicitly agreeing not to destroy the recordings after the graduation of the taught cohort that benefited from their recordings but in this case the Intellectual Property should be shared between the university and the lecturer.
  5. In the context of strike action, lecture capture materials should not be made available to students.

Overall Recommendation: To re-open a consultation between the university and the UCU representing academic staff to expand the current Lecture Capture policy accordingly.

Warwick UCU Response to Warwick’s Climate Emergency Declaration 

On Friday 20 September, following the lead of numerous organisations and local governments, the University declared a climate emergency. To meet this challenge, Warwick “aims to reach net zero carbon from our direct emissions and the energy we buy by 2030,” with the further goal of net zero emissions by 2050. The first goal refers to so-called scope 1-2 carbon neutrality, which encompasses direct emissions produced by Warwick, as well as indirect emissions generated by energy we purchase. The second goal (‘scope 3’ neutrality, or zero total emissions) only puts the University in line with the binding legal target of the whole of the UK.

While we welcome the University’s recognition of climate breakdown, it is clear that its proposed goals are simply not ambitious enough, given the scale of the crisis we face. Far larger organisations have committed to scope 1-2 carbon neutrality by 2025. And reducing emissions by 2050 is too late to avoid potentially catastrophic levels of global heating. Furthermore, the University’s own position –as both a regional hub and an international educational institution – requires it to take a much more robust role in leading the fight against climate injustice.

This spring our branch brought a motion to UCU Congress to commit all our institutions to achieving “‘scope 3’ carbon neutrality by 2030.” This means a commitment to eliminating all indirect emissions that occur in an institution’s value chain, including emissions associated with business travel, procurement, waste and water. Such emissions make up the greatest share of Warwick’s footprint. We must undertake a wholesale review of the University’s processes, plans and relationships in order to begin decarbonising at the scale and speed required by this emergency.

We have other concerns as well. The University’s commitment to net neutrality means that it doesn’t necessarily need to reduce its emissions in total, but can instead just offset them through various schemes. It’s worrying too that the University has hedged its bets by announcing that it will meet its commitments only if “national governments (and our partners in local and regional policy making) deliver on their commitments.” We want to see the University play a role in actively leading, not simply following, a just-transition campaign to a cleaner, fairer society.

What does this look like? To us, it requires a genuine transformation in the way the University runs and operates. Among other things, it requires an acknowledgement of Warwick’s complicity in the climate crisis – local as well as global – and its avoidance of real consultation with the people who make the University what it is: staff, students, and the local community. The recognition of an ‘emergency’ clearly demands a different approach from business as usual.

In addition to achieving scope 3 neutrality by 2030, we call for the creation of an ongoing shared governance platform with UCU, Unite, Unison, the SU, and other representative bodies on campus to create a genuine leadership role for the university on climate breakdown. This will involve more than just technical targets; it will require, as any campaign to renovate Warwick’s partnerships must, a commitment to ethical investment, workers’ rights and lasting collaborations with the surrounding community. A good place to start would see the University lobbying the Home Office to end its hostile environment policy and to open the doors to climate migrants. And there is much more to be done – locally, nationally and internationally.

For these reasons, we remain fully committed to Friday’s climate strike and urge our members to attend the protest, on Friday 27 September at noon outside of Senate House. We reiterate our demand that the University step up and show leadership in the fight for a just transition to a genuinely sustainable society.

What is this strike about?: A Q&A primer for talking to students and colleagues

*A PDF version is available here for printing and distribution.

This is a two-ballot campaign, but the issues are united: it is a strike about dignity and equality. It is a strike about casualisation; about the pay gap for women, BMEs, and gay, lesbian, and queer staff; and it is a strike about whether we will be able to grow old with dignity. These issues are all connected, but we are going to talk a bit about the two ballots separately.


We were just on strike about pensions just less than two years ago? Why are we doing out again?
When we agreed to end the strike of 2018, it was because of a commitment from UUK and USS that they were willing to disregard their previous valuation and set up a Joint Expert Panel (JEP) to carry out a new valuation. The problem with the old valuation process is that it led to conflict every three years in line with the valuation cycle; UCU argued and continues to argue that a fairer process, based on more reasonable assumptions will allow us to defend our pension benefits and move us away from these cyclical clashes.

The JEP’s report largely validated UCU’s position and made a number of recommendations. However, the USS has refused to accept the recommendations and valuations of the Joint Expert Panel (JEP), and instead scheduled massive contribution increases clearly violating our own ‘no detriment’ position. Our contributions will rise to 9.6% of salary from October 2019, and 11% of salary from October 2021.

Ok, but it’s only a couple percentage points. Won’t we lose that money anyways in the strike?
It’s true that it’s only a couple of percentage points now (though a couple of percentage points that will, over your career, take a big bite out of your salary), but this strike is really about defending the valuation process we were promised during the last strike in order to secure the future of our pension fund.

The last year has shown that the USS cannot be trusted and that when push comes to shove, our employers, UUK, aren’t willing to fight them. We were told that USS would accept the JEP’s valuation and this hasn’t happened. USS have shown that they will only accept valuations that work for them. If we don’t pressure UUK to stand up to UUK and if we don’t force USS to make good on their word, they will demand more increases every year until our pension is no longer sustainable.

Moreover, we have already lost so much. UCU commissioned a study that compared the situation members are in now to if the Scheme had continued in its pre-2011 state and found that for the average UCU member, your pension will cost 40k more, and will give you 200k less. We need to draw a line in the sand now.

I thought we struck to save our defined benefit pensions. Are they safe now?
Not really. Whilst they aren’t explicitly coming for our DB pensions this time, this is another way to destroy our pension. By making our pensions unaffordable, more and more people will drop out and then defined benefit  could then be at risk. Pensions need to be affordable for members to be sustainable.

Moreover, without valuation methodology which we can support, the chances of VCs pushing for de-risking (i.e. moving to defined contributions) at future valuation cycles are necessarily higher.

But if USS says our pensions aren’t sustainable, don’t we risk losing our pensions anyways?
Our pensions are sustainable. The myth of unsustainable pensions comes from USS treating our pensions as if the HE sector is a company like Carillion. But the HE sector is nothing like Carillion. It is far larger and far more stable.

Ok, I get why we’d want to take action  against USS. But that’s not the way which industrial action works. We’re striking against Warwick and Warwick’s position on pensions has been pretty good.
We need a ballot, paradoxically, to support Warwick’s position. Employers across the country are losing faith in the USS, and some (like our own) are starting to raise their voice, but neither their voice nor ours is being listened to. If we don’t push back now, USS will tighten their grip, and will almost assuredly ignore the second report of the JEP, employers will start planning to mitigate against the USS valuation, and this will pose enormous problems and instabilities for our pension.

If we didn’t win last time, how are we going to win this time?
We won the battle last time: we stopped them from eliminating our defined benefit pensions. Now we need to finish what we started by ensuring that USS does what they promised they’d do and listen to the JEP’s valuation.

Pay & Equality

In a time of rising unemployment, should we be grateful to be receiving a pay rise of 1.8%?
The employer’s 2% pay offer is below inflation and that means that it is a pay cut. Since 2009 average pay in HE has dropped in real terms by 17.8% (Retail Price Index) or 11.8% (Consumer Price Index). This in a context in which Warwick currently makes a surplus of £40-50 million a year. The University, and the sector can afford our demands.

But aren’t there more pressing concerns, such as the gender and race pay gap and casualisation?
Absolutely, but these concerns are intimately connected. This Pay Cut Disproportionately Affects Women, Ethnic Minorities, and Casualised Staff. At the same time as Universities are promoting diversity and equality programs to increase the number of women and BME staff, in real terms they are cutting our salaries, and increasingly casualising our workforce.

Gendered Pay Gap: According to The Boar, Warwick had the second worst Gender Pay gap of the Russell Group as of 2016 and more recent figures from the government are just as damning. Women’s mean hourly rate is 26.5% lower than men’s, which means that women earn 74p for every £1 that men earn. And women’s mean bonus pay is 58.4% lower than men’s.

BME Pay Gap: The situation is no better when it comes to race. According to the BBC, ethnic minority academics at Warwick are paid an average 25% less than their white colleagues. And there are only 26 black women professors in the UK and  a persistent culture of racism and bullying.

LGBTQ+: Pay Gap: Staff identifying as LGBTQ+ have long experienced marginalising treatment within UK HE (UCU 2009GEO 2016; UCU 2018). This has included inequalities as manifest in the pay gap within Universities (AUT 2001) as is the case elsewhere (People Management 2019). Sadly, the failure of institutions to collect the necessary data for this analysis has itself remained an issue (EHRC 2019; UNISON 2018).

If the university sector is serious about closing the gender and racial pay gap and changing its culture, it needs to stop degrading the conditions of the very staff its ostensibly attracting.

How does casualisation fit into a ballot about pay? And what is casualisation?
‘Casualisation’ is the process through which employers whittle away the protections, rights, and security of their employees, by moving away from employing people on a full-time and permanent basis to using hourly-paid work, zero-hours contracts, temporary workers contracts, and other similar kinds of contracts. Casualised contracts mean that all staff – both permanent and casualised – feel more precarious and less able to stand up for their rights. And this means our employers can erode our pay and working conditions. A fair wage is only possible if we stamp out casualised contracts. 

But is casualisation that widespread?
The use of casualised contracts is soaring. According to HESA, as of 2016-7, 50.9% of academic staff are on insecure contracts. At Warwick it’s even worse, with two thirds, or 66.5%, of staff on fixed-term or hourly-paid contracts. Moreover, Warwick made national news in 2015 when they tried to innovate a whole new system for “in-sourcing” called Teach Higher in which the university tried to create a wholly-owned subsidiary to hire and manage hourly paid staff, thus denying those staff any employee rights. It was only a mass mobilisation by students and staff that stopped this from happening. It was also this resistance that led to the creation of the current payroll system, Sessional Teaching Payroll or STP.

But hasn’t Warwick committed to ending casualised contracts?Sort of. Because of the great work of our anti-casualisation reps and Warwick Anti-Casualisation, the University has agreed to try and introduce employmentcontracts for PhD students currently engaged via STP for the coming year . The details have yet to be finalised and the broad direction of travel has yet to be finalised.

Sounds good, right?
In principle. However, the devil is in details. While the University claims to be ending casualised work, it’s practices suggest that it is committed to upholding a two-tiered workforce. The University has refused to look at the current STP framework as part of the process of contractual change, including the issues of workload and pay, a matter of negotiation, instead offering only “consultation.” preferring to simply ‘consult’ with the union and with STP employed staff with no promises of taking their suggestions into account.

Moreover, the University has also refused to address the key issues of workload and pay for casualised staff. According to the UCU’s recent report on casualisation, 60% of casualised staff work well beyond their hours, but the University has refused to open up the STP framework for discussion and thus to address the problem of unpaid labour. The formal change to permanent contracts is welcome, but without a commitment to ending workload increases and unpaid labour, it doesn’t actually address the problem of casualisation.

Get the Vote Out Events

As part of our GTVO campaign, Warwick UCU is hosting a number of exciting public events. Come join us!

Wednesday 25 September
Door Knocking and Organising Training Session, 16:00-17:00, Humanities Studio

Want to help but not sure how to talk to people about the strike? We’re here to help. We’ll be providing a debriefing and training on both the key issues in this ballot as well as how to talk to members and potential members.

Followed by our……
Wednesday 9 October,

An evening with our new GS, Jo Grady, and social, 17:00-19:00, Room TBA. 

This event is open to the public so feel free to bring comrades, friends and family. Please register here.

* Wednesday 16 October
All Members Meeting, 13:00-15:00, Humanities Studio

This is our fall semester meeting. In addition to answering questions about the ballot, we will also be discussing important issues around lecture capture, casualisation, and the recognition agreement.

Pension Ballots are Coming: Why We’re Balloting and What You Can Do

In just over three weeks, you will be receiving ballots on pension and pay. There are more details on the ballot below, but the quick version is this:

Watch your mailbox. Ballots are coming. UCU Warwick’s position is vote YES for action short of a strike, vote YES for a strike.

Want to contribute to the ongoing UCU campaign over USS, but don’t have very much time? Here is a short to do list:

1. Make sure you can vote by checking that your employment details and postal address are up to date. You can do so here.

2. Watch this talk given by Sheffield UCU’s branch president Sam Marsh yesterday at the Open University.

3. (A slightly larger time commitment item): We are going to need people to door knock, poster, email, tweet, and generally help us Get the Vote Out in September and October. If you’ll have a few moments to spare over the next couple of months, please email us at

4. (A larger time commitment item): We are in need of a new Treasurer. Please email us if you are interested at

In September, vote YES for pensions, pay, and equality.

Background Information

A new USS ballot

At the end of May, UCU’s Higher Education conference (which was held on the second day of Congress 2019) voted overwhelmingly to ramp up preparations for an industrial action ballot over USS to begin in September. And as of 7 June, employers including our own were served a letter inviting them to take steps to avoid a re-ignition of the dispute.

Why has UCU decided to ballot? When the Joint Expert Panel’s first report dropped in September, there was hope from all sides that it had the potential to end the dispute. Adopting its recommendations would mean a shift in philosophy from USS and rate increases low enough to negotiate over. Both UCU and Universities UK backed the JEP report, the latter with the strikes still fresh in the mind and eager to put the dispute to bed. The issue, as was always likely to be the case, has been with USS’ response.

A USS timeline from September 2018-now

The first side-step by USS was their proposal for a new, 2018 valuation as a way to incorporate the issues raised by the JEP. This would not replace the 2017 one, but instead follow close on its heels and intercept the large contribution increases that were a consequence of the original valuation. Support for this approach was secured from the employers, and the Joint Negotiating Committee were shown information that if the JEP’s recommendations were applied in full to the 2018 valuation, it would mean that the deficit would vanish and that contributions would fall (although no guarantees were made as to what the final figures would be).

As soon as agreement to proceed with a 2018 valuation was sealed, the USS executive team contacted the board and recommended dropping two of the three key proposals from the JEP report, while the only one that remained would be inextricably tied to ‘contingent contributions’ from employers. The justification for USS’s rejection of the JEP’s recommendations was that adopting them would send the ‘discount rate’ above the internal benchmarks the regulator uses to judge a valuation’s prudence. Yet these internal benchmarks don’t exist! The regulator has made this explicit via a cryptic stab at USS in its annual DB funding report. It is possible – indeed likely – that this was not the first that USS had heard of this issue from TPR. If true, USS’ public statements to the contrary are all the more disingenuous.

This leads to where we are now: USS has rejected both the JEP report and the overwhelming evidence that their methodology is flawed, and is still relying on Test 1. Nothing has changed in their mindset or approach. Based on this, they insist the correct contribution rate is 33.7% of pay, an increase of 7.7% since before the dispute.

The University of Warwick published its response in March, stating its disappointment with the USS’s failure to accept the JEP’s recommendations and calling on the USS to be reformed. This is not surprising. Employers and members alike are horrified at the mess that has developed for no clear reason. Added to this, Prof Jane Hutton, one of three UCU-nominated trustees, has recused herself from the board under “considerable pressure” after whistleblowing to the regulator on the obstruction she faced obtaining data on the valuation. This has now led to over 1,000 academics signing a petition to call for an inquiry into the scheme. Meanwhile the Academics for Pensions Justice group are also preparing a legal challenge to USS. There are serious issues here that need proper answers, and we suspect that we will continue to hear more about USS governance in the days to come.

What now?

So, to return to the initial question: why a ballot, especially given the University of Warwick’s largely supportive position? We need a ballot, paradoxically, to support Warwick’s position. Employers across the country are losing faith in the USS, and some (like our own) are starting to raise their voice, but neither their voice nor ours is being listened to. If we don’t push back now, USS will tighten their grip, and will almost assuredly ignore the second report of the JEP, employers will start planning to mitigate against the USS valuation, and this will pose enormous problems and instabilities for our pension.

In 2018, we battled to stop them from taking our defined benefit pension. Now we must fight to make sure our DB pension isn’t taken by other means. No one wants to ballot for a strike, but employers know what they need to do to avert it: work with UUK to make sure that there is a major change of direction in USS, or, failing that, pick up the tab for the contribution increases.


****(Thank you to Sheffield for sharing their materials and information with us)

Congress report back

By Myka Tucker-Abramson, Craig Gent, and Tor Krever

Congress took place this year from Saturday 25 May to Monday 27 May in Harrogate. Myka Tucker-Abramson, Tor Krever, and Craig Gent were the delegates for the University of Warwick

Our motions

  • Our climate emergency motion was composited with a similar motion from Lambeth College. Lambeth moved the motion and Tor seconded it on behalf of WUCU, using his time to explain the importance of the “scope 3” language in the motion and the need for attention not only to direct emissions but also value chain emissions. This motion passed unanimously.
  • Unfortunately there wasn’t enough time to debate our motion on creating international staff working groups, but it will be taken up by NEC in due course. However, there was some very exciting motions that were passed on migrant members. Most notably, motions were passed to include migrant representatives in the equality structure (84) and to include migrant representation on NEC (85).
  • As well, an amendment to Senate House’s motion backing academics on precarious contracts (HE16), which supported the IWGB’s boycott of Senate House also passed. While this was not a motion we moved, it was a campaign we were actively involved with.

Equality motions

We passed a range of equality related motions including those demanding better mental health support. And several addressing and urging the fight against the rise of the far-right. Of particular importance were:

  • motions supporting the Stansted 15
  • motions against the deportation of Bambile China Agnakuribe, a student at Dundee.
  • One of the first controversial motions to pass was “Sexual Harassment Has No Place in Our Union” (18), which ultimately passed with minor amendments.

There were motions passed opposing Prevent and on anti-casualisation. Indeed, anti-casualisation was a constant theme throughout the three days and it if Congress is any sign, there seems to be a promising real focus and awareness of the importance of anti-casualisation for many of our members.

HE Sector Conference

The HE Sector got off to quite the start with Congress voting down HE1 which asked congress to “note the report and approve the recommendations of the national negotiators.” The key source of disagreement here was the use of another consultative ballot over pay. Ballot fatigue remains a concern for many. There was discussion of multi-year pay negotiations (see motions HE2, which also prompted disagreement, and was remitted to NEC. There were also motions added to agenda items that sought to bind UCU to disaggregated ballots, which ultimately didn’t carry.

Perhaps the most important motions that were passed here were HE4, which committed us to “initiating a concerted campaign to win industrial action ballots for a fight over pay [with a focus on equality and anti-casualisation] to commence in the autumn” and HE 6, which committed us to calling “on UUK to pick up any additional employee contributions from 1 October 2019 and not pass them on” and to “enter into dispute and prepare for an industrial action ballot if the employers do not agree.” Both of these passed, but it is not clear how those will work together.

Another key issue that arose in both the Equality Committee and HE Sector Conference was a series of motions that appeared to be “academic freedom” – one was called “Academic Freedom to Discuss Sex and Gender” (32), the other “Respectful Dialogue on Gender Diversity” (21) – but which was quickly revealed to be a motion about debating trans rights. Motion 32 thankfully fell, but 21 was motion was remitted because of lack of time.

On the USS front, congress called on employers to pay any extra contributions and for the resignation of Bill Galvin. An emergency motion brought by Cambridge condemned Trinity’s decision to withdraw from USS (L8).

Democracy Commission

The democracy commission report and rule change motions were also the site of vigorous debate. The commission was created by Congress last year and its work is ongoing; there will be a special conference in November that we will need to send delegates too. There was a good motion passed that removes the cap of Congress delegates per branch so large branches are proportionately represented. And we voted down a motion that would have reduced the number of FE delegates to Congress, further marginalising FE in the union.  A number of the motions put forward by the Democracy Commission – e.g. to set up a dispute committee (82), and to ensure that the “representational powers and duties of the General Secretary would be transferred to elected officers of the union, while powers relating to staffing and the day to day running of the union can be delegated to employees of the union” were remitted (80). In both cases this was not so much a rejection of the principle, but a result of concerns around the details of implementation.

Our New GS

Finally, the new GS, Jo Grady gave a speech which re-emphasised many of her key campaign claims: to respect the findings of the democracy commission, to be a members-led fighting union, to tackle issues of casualisation, the hostile environment, and the attacks on pensions.

One last note:

While we are entitled to three delegates, because of a bureaucratic mix up we ultimately only had two delegates.  This was in spite of the issue being raised with a UCU official.

We think that there are issues with conference registration and see this potentially as a form of disenfranchisement that can have serious consequences given the importance of Congress as a decision making body. As a branch, we would recommend either writing a letter to the UCU expressing our frustration with this process or b) submitting a motion next year that calls for a change to how Congress registration works.


Addendum: Motions we submitted to Congress

Motion E: The Climate Emergency: Zero Carbon Workplaces by 2030

Congress notes that: 

  • The IPCC Report (Oct 2018) on anthropogenic global Climate Change outlines the significantly intensified harm likely to result from a 2°C vs 1.5°C rise; but acknowledges the possibility of avoiding thisii;
  • UK universities and colleges have reduced Greenhouse Gas emissions, but most no longer comply with new scientific understanding;
  • Some UK university managements, such as Bristol, are rising to this challenge, setting clear targets for carbon neutrality by 2030; elsewhere, such as the University of Warwick, UCU branches are supporting student leadership.

Congress Resolves to:  

  • Issue a public statement on the Climate Emergency and commit to researching and developing a plan to achieve “Scope 3” Carbon Neutrality by 2030 in all the institutions where members work;
  • Encourage all UCU Branches to recognise a State of Climate Emergency and campaign, in collaboration with others, for institutional commitments to “Scope 3” Carbon Neutrality by 2030.

Motion G: Fight for the Rights of International Workers and Staff (HE Sector Conference Version)  

HESC notes that:

  • In light of heightened and rather polarised discussion of policies on immigration in the UK, rising visa fees, increased monitoring by the Home Office and uncertainty over EU colleagues as Brexit nears, there is widespread concerned as to whether the University is supporting our international staff and workers
  • UCU activism during the strike led to the Home Office to add legal strike action to the list of exceptions to the rule on absences from employment without pay for migrant workers, showing that UCU activism can improve the lot of all workers.

HESC resolves to:

  • Issue a public statement on the need to address the issues faced by international staff and workers.
  • Encourage all UCU Branches to create International Staff Working Groups to start addressing issues relating to increased monitoring, rising visa and NHS surcharge costs, and the impact of the EU Referendum.