Strike FAQ for Warwick students

This is information for all Warwick students who would like to know more about why lecturers, librarians, IT and other professional service staff at Warwick are taking industrial action.

For a PDF version click here.


What is the strike about
What is it we want? What would constitute a win?
Why should students care?
How does industrial action affect you?
How can Warwick students help?


What is the strike about? 

There are two reasons why we are striking:  
  • First, to protect staff pensions, which are under renewed attack after last year’s dispute.
  • Second, to fight for the rights of casualised, female and BAME staff. Growing numbers of staff are working on short-term or precarious contracts that don’t pay them enough to make ends meet. There is also a persistent gender and racial pay gap. This means that at Warwick, for instance, women earn 74p for every £1 earned by men and BAME staff are paid an average of 25% less than their white colleagues. This action is about stopping the downgrading of pensions, ending casualisation and closing the gender and racial pay gap.

UCU Strikes Summary (PDF slides)

What is it we want? What would constitute a win? 

Our demands are simple:
  • Protect staff pensions so that we can retire without facing poverty;
  • Pay a £10/hour minimum rate for directly employed staff, and commit to the Living Wage Foundation’s pay rates for the lowest paid on campus;
  • Agree to develop a programme to close the gender and BAME pay gap; 
  • Agree to create a framework to eliminate precarious employment and to tackle rising workloads;
  • Ensure that staff pay keeps up with inflation (salaries have fallen 20% on average over the past decade)

These demands are easy to meet. We’re asking UUK (Universities UK, the association of university employers) to work with us to end the rampant levels of inequality in our workplaces and to make sure that people can actually afford to live on the pay for the jobs they do.

Why should students care? 

We know that you have incurred a large debt to attend university. Many of us fought hard against the meteoric rise of tuition fees. But the high fees you pay are not used to pay more to those who teach you. Gaps in gender and BAME pay, casualisation of staff and erosion of staff pensions are part of a decade-long assault on the integrity of universities as public institutions. As a result, we’ve seen the tripling of student fees, a trend toward short-term or sessional contracts at the expense of secure employment, the greater use of outsourcing models  and the ballooning of managerial pay – and with these developments, the persistence of racist and sexist cultures at our university.  

If we want an environment committed to fairness and transparency, where teaching, learning and research – not profit – are at the heart of what we do, then we must collectively take a stand.

How does industrial action affect you? 

We love teaching and working with students, and we do not take strike action lightly, any more than nurses or doctors do. The UCU has called for eight days of strike action from November 25th to December 4th. On these days:

  • UCU members won’t be teaching, holding office hours, marking or answering emails
  • Any work missed, including teaching, will not be rescheduled
  • After December 4th, UCU members will be observing action short of a strike (ASOS): this means working to contract, or working only the 36.5 hours per week stipulated in our contracts (most academics work 60+ hours, including weekends)

How can Warwick students help? 

In partnership with Warwick’s Student-Staff Solidarity Network, we will be holding a series of themed events on the picket lines, giving you a chance to join discussions about fees, debt, the future of work and radical alternatives to the status quo. We want you to be part of these activities. Join us! As Emma Goldman almost says, “If I can’t dance, I don’t want to be in your demonstration.”

Warwick Students Union voted to support the strikes – as individuals you can too.

If you want to help us stop hugely damaging changes to higher education, here are some ideas:

Remember: the more people support the strike, and the more unified that support, the sooner it’s likely to end.

With that in mind, please:

  • Boycott lectures and seminars on strike days – do not cross the picket line!
  • Join us as sympathetic onlookers/active supporters
  • Help organise alternative student-led events
  • Get in touch with any questions

Solidarity for all – together we can win this!

Annual General Meeting 2019

All members are invited to the branch Annual General Meeting on Wednesday 6th February 13:00 to 14:30 in S0.13 Social Sciences Building.

The provisional agenda includes:

  • Update on USS dispute – update on the work of the JEP and the current status of the dispute
  • Delegates to UCU Congress – nominations are invited for members to attend UCU congress as one of our three branch representatives.
  • Motions from members – please email motions to administrator@warwickucu.org.uk
  • Solidarity with the SU – discussion on creation and adoption of a joint Warwick UCU / SU statement on shared goals
  • Donations to FE strike fund – we would like to make a donation to the FE strike fund and ask members to support this
  • Local subscriptions – discussion and vote on adopting a more progressive and fairer local subscription rate.

Response to the early re-instatement of ‘group chat’ students

We wish to express our dismay at the recent University of Warwick decision to reduce the suspension period of two of the students responsible for a ‘group chat’ that included racist, sexist and homophobic language and threats, directed toward their peers.

As a branch, Warwick UCU is committed to defending the right of students, our members, and other staff to study and work without fear of harassment, bullying, or discrimination on the grounds of age, disability, gender reassignment, marriage and civil partnership, pregnancy and maternity, race, religion or belief, sex, or sexual orientation, in line with the Equality Act 2010. As when the incident first occurred, we believe this to be both a student issue and a workplace issue. The prospect of sharing a classroom and other university spaces with individuals who would so unabashedly express such violent views about their peers is deeply troubling for students and staff alike.

While we appreciate the confidential nature of disciplinary proceedings and that there may be factors in this decision that are beyond our knowledge, we nonetheless believe this outcome seriously compromises the University’s commitment to ensuring a safe learning and working environment that values equality and diversity. It undermines the Dignity at Warwick policy. It also profoundly diminishes our faith in the University to appropriately deal with incidents of this nature and to put the best interests of those being targeted first. More specifically, we believe it is unacceptable that the students in question will be allowed to return to campus before those who were harmed by this incident have finished their studies.

Furthermore, the University’s response to the widespread concern with this decision has so far been inadequate. While we appreciate that the University has made it abundantly clear that it does not condone the actions of these students, we believe more must be done to create transparency and restore confidence in the University. The suggestion that those who are concerned seek support from Wellbeing Services does nothing to acknowledge the systemic nature of this and related issues, while also transferring responsibility for this injustice onto individuals.  

We believe the University must respond not only with public statements but with actions by appointing an inclusive commission to review the University’s policies on harassment, bullying and discrimination, as well as on the disciplinary procedure itself. We feel that an open conversation on the defects in a university culture which allows for such situations to arise is urgently necessary.

Finally, we wish to extend our continued support to the students who were immediately affected by this incident and who continue to experience its impact in their lives. We admire the strength and courage of those who have come forward to make the outcome of this appeal public knowledge.

Warwick UCU

 

Extraordinary General Meeting – April 19

The USS consultation closed last Friday and 64% of those returning ballots (in a turnout of 63%) voted to accept the UUK’s offer.

We will be holding a post-ballot Extraordinary General Meeting on Thursday 19th April, 12:00 – 13:30, in P5.21A/B Physics in order to discuss future developments and how we should respond as a branch.

As such the agenda is open but based around some of these questions (and structured as below) – how can we build on the strength of action showed during the USS strikes? How best to pursue the defence of our pensions? What are our other priorities for the coming period and how can we address these?

  1. What next? Following the ‘yes’ vote – timelines for UCU, UCU negotiators, the proposed joint expert panel etc.
  2. Developing the branch – Departmental Contacts, Caseworkers, Communications Strategy (for more information please see the all member email).
  3. Strike debrief, and preparation for potential future strike action.
  4. Pay deductions, incidences of pressure from HoD’s to reschedule and other strike breaking activities.

This is also an opportunity to bring forward Branch motions.

Update: We have received a member-led motion that we will circulate to all members asap.

Day 4 Strike for Pensions

Great to have support from Coventry TUC on this bitterly cold morning. Staff student solidarity continues on a day when we find out if UUK are serious about reopening negotiations.Despite the lack of snow, we had to resort to keeping moving to stay warm.

We were joined by some lovely furry friends, Percy and QuinceDuncan Adam, vice president commented “UUK should realise that meaningful negotiation needs to resume or these strike days will continue. We’ve had a 4th well attended day and we know that, as well as giving their support in person, members are staying away. “

Gone but Not Forgotten: Absent Friends in Life Science and Warwick Medical Schools

Nearly two years ago, management announced that there was to be a whole-scale review of the School of Life Sciences, followed by a whole-scale review of Warwick Medical School. Allegedly, these two departments had failed to generate enough income and staffing costs were to be dramatically reduced. The most shocking aspect of the proposal from UCU’s point of view was the university’s insistence that academic staff should be sacked on the basis of a single financial metric (research grant income) and that this measure should be applied retrospectively for the previous four-year period.

Over 2,000 people signed an online petition[1] calling on the Vice-Chancellor to abandon this “very radical approach” because it was “profoundly damaging to academic life and the quality of research at the University of Warwick”. Did management listen to any of form of dissent or counter-argument? Seemingly not. The review went ahead exactly as intended, and nearly 40 members of staff left the university, including a number of highly-skilled professional staff.

For sure, the university needs to exercise proper financial oversight. We’d be the first to complain if our salaries weren’t paid. BUT, it is unethical and counter-productive to value an academic’s contribution solely in terms of grant income, without reference to any other aspect of their job description. And it is doubly heinous to do so retrospectively. We would like to think that Warwick will never repeat what can only be described as a new low in its treatment of staff.

The picture shows Warwick UCU President, Dr. Justine Mercer, presenting the petition to the Deputy Registrar. We were denied permission to present it directly to the Vice-Chancellor, though we understand it will be reported to Steering and Council.

[1]  The full text of the online petition read:

The University of Warwick is currently undertaking a series of redundancy exercises predicated on the notion that successful grant applications are the key measure of performance and value for research staff.  This is a very radical approach, not widely adopted in the sector, and we believe it is profoundly damaging to academic life and the quality of research at the University of Warwick.  We, the undersigned, call on the Vice-Chancellor to end this damaging and dangerous practice.

UCU Petition
Warwick UCU President, Dr. Justine Mercer, presenting the petition to the Deputy Registrar.

Supporting the Junior Doctors Strike on Wednesday 27 April

Warwick UCU branch sends solidarity to the junior doctors today and tomorrow.

We will be coming along to the picket line at Warwick Hospital ( Warwick Hospital, Lakin Road, Warwick CV34 5BW ) at 08:30 tomorrow morning to show our support in person. As university workers busy resisting the destructive measures proposed by the government Higher Education Green Paper, we are inspired by your actions.

In both education and the NHS we know that protecting working conditions is also about protecting the rights of students and patients and defending our public services for everybody.

Press Release – Friday 11th March 2016 Warwick Assembly

University of Warwick assembly passes motions to condemn Higher Education Green Paper and to do no more than the absolute ‘minimum legal obligation’ to satisfy Prevent

Today a democratic Assembly called by staff at the University of Warwick passed two motions, one condemning Jo Johnson’s Higher Education Green Paper and the second requiring the University do no more than the absolute legal minimum to satisfy the Home Office’s Prevent program.

Green Paper

Speaking for the first motion, Dr. Laura Schwartz, Assistant Professor in Modern British History, stated that “this Green Paper is potentially the death knell of public higher education in this country”, directly threatening the University’s core educational mission.

The ‘Teaching Excellence Framework’ (TEF), colloquially described as the ‘Tuition Escalation Framework’, had been torn apart by Warwick’s own consultation submission as being potentially “damaging to the international reputation of our universities”.

Complaints included the possibility of academic rigor being sacrificed in order to promote higher student satisfaction and the burdening of students with unsustainable levels of debt thanks to rising tuition. Dr. Schwartz highlighted that opposition to the Green Paper has been widespread, including the Vice Chancellors at Cambridge, Oxford and other Russell Group institutions.

Prevent

The second motion targeted the Government’s Prevent program which requires University staff to report students they believed to be at risk of ‘radicalisation’, an instruction that has already led to the disproportionate and discriminatory targeting of Muslim and Black and Minority staff and students.

The motion under vote called on the Vice Chancellor to conduct meaningful consultation on prevent, in advance of its April 2016 submission to HEFCE. Experts on counter-terror legislation, policy and practice, voiced their discontent at the insidious nature of the confused prevent policy which had the potential to stifle academic freedom, while contradicting requirements under both the Human Rights and Education Acts.

The Assembly noted the widespread opposition to the policy on campus, with hundreds of University staff and students having signed an open letter to the Vice Chancellor in just over three weeks. The Assembly resolved to make sure that the University did no more than the absolute minimum to satisfy the requirements of Prevent.

As Dr. Jusine Mercer, Associate Professor in the Centre for Education Studies, noted: “The Prevent strategy… damages our community by fostering an environment of surveillance, paranoia and racism. It encourages the continual monitoring of both staff and students. It destroys the trust needed for a safe and supportive learning environment.”

The mood in the Assembly was overwhelmingly supportive of both motions with members of staff from across the university noting the ways in which the changes threaten the University’s public mission, and undermine academic freedom.

The Assembly at Warwick fits into a larger pattern of mobilization against the Green Paper and Prevent occurring at higher education institutions around the country.

Staff coming leaving the assembly were greeted by students who had gathered in solidarity. Both claim that the successful assembly is an important step in support for further action locally and nationally. Warwick for Free Education spokesperson, Hope Worsdale commented that “students are delighted by the outcome of the Assembly, and will continue in their actions alongside staff, to campaign for a free and progressive education system.”

Further information and background on the Green Paper:

Further information and background on Prevent