This is no time to end our disputes


This is a letter to UCU branches from a group of members of HEC ahead of Wednesday’s branch delegate meeting.
Re.: Message to UCU members in HE from some elected members of the HEC
We are writing to you via your branch committee to alert you to some issues relevant to the members’ consultation on the two current UCU disputes in HE. These are issues that have not yet been drawn to your attention. We are inviting you, in the light of this information, to ensure that your branch delegates are fully aware of the implications of the questions that are being posed, and that they know the attitude of your branch to these questions.
On the Four Fights, a ‘yes’ vote will END the dispute
The questions to be put imply that members’ acceptance of the employers positions as stated by UCEA will not end the disputes. That is not the case. A ‘yes’ vote in a ballot on the offer would mean that the dispute would be over on the terms that the employers’ side have laid down. The employers have made it clear that their offer to engage in discussions on casualisation, pay gaps and workloads is conditional on the unions calling no industrial action – strikes or ASOS – for the next 12 months. UCEA’s statement is here, the joint union response is here and a report from the UCU elected negotiators is here.
The USS offer is not a settlement
The offer from UUK on USS contains no firm commitment to restore benefits, or to compensate for losses since April 2022. The only agreement is to prioritise restoration in the light of a new valuation of the scheme, and on condition that restoration can be achieved ‘sustainably’. There can certainly be discussion about whether these commitments are sufficient, but they are not conditional on any decision by UCU. Hence there is no need to put the USS offer to members, unless the intention is to end the dispute, and to put our trust in the promises made, and in the stability of future valuations. 
The Four Fights ‘offer’ on the table 
The UCEA position is now no better than when it was first considered, or when members voted by over 80% to reject the offer. On pay, the employers have already imposed their two-year pay award, and are refusing to reopen negotiations to improve it. The award represents a 15% real-terms pay cut over two years unless inflation falls by August. The rate of inflation is still rising. On the other key elements of the claim there is no ‘offer’ or undertaking by UCEA, other than the parameters for future talks. Moreover, nothing agreed in talks would be binding on individual HE institutions, and even the below-inflation pay award could be postponed by particular institutions as financial circumstances dictate.
The reballot 
Reports from branches suggest that the reballot is going well. If we pass the 50% threshold again, and vote to continue the action, then the next stage of the campaign is to build the marking and assessment boycott. If we vote not to continue, or we fail to pass the threshold, then the disputes will be over whether there is an acceptance of the employers’ position or not. This is not the time, therefore, to vote on accepting deals that fall far short of our objectives.
The HEC position
It is for these reasons that the last meeting of the HE Committee decided not to put the employers’ position out to members’ ballot. That situation has not altered.
We the undersigned members of the HE Committee urge you to do three things: Encourage a No vote in the e-survey. Mandate your delegates to the branch delegate meeting on Wednesday to vote No to putting the offers out to members for formal consultation. Continue to work to get the vote out in the reballot. Signed by the following HE Committee members
Peta Bulmer UK-elected 
Saira Weiner North West
Ann Swinney Scotland
Matt Perry North East
Linda Moore Northern Ireland
Sean Wallis London and SE
Bee Hughes LGBT+ Members Representative
Marian Mayer Disabled Members Representative
Lesley McGorrigan UK-elected
Mark Abel South
Deepa Driver South
Marion Hersh UK-elected


Pre-BDM open meeting: Don’t let them end our disputes
Monday 27 March 7.30pm
graphic for open meeting, with pink background, meeting details in white text, overlaid on photo of many people wearing pink UCU hats marching


The following motion is being proposed at some branches. It may be a useful supplement to the BDM questions for determining the views of branches.

This branch notes:
That the ‘offers’ on the Four Fights & USS do not amount to substantive agreements but are simply a series of promises of good will. 

That signing up to the ‘terms of reference’ in the Four Fights dispute would mean a 12 month suspension of industrial action – in other words the dispute would be over.   

This branch believes: 
A successful reballot and a marking and assessment boycott can win improvements in the offers.  

This branch resolves:
To encourage members to vote no in the current e-ballot on consultation – as not enough progress has been made on USS or the Four Fights to justify a full members’ consultation.

To oppose any attempt to suspend, pause, or end our industrial action in return for what is on offer in the USS and Four Fights disputes at present. 

To mandate our Branch Delegates to vote No regarding both disputes.

To call on members of the HEC not to allow our disputes to be derailed by such a premature consultation.

To call on UCU to implement the MAB and launch a series of whole union, regional and branch based events, initiatives and training to maximise its effectiveness.

To urge HEC to add a recommendation to reject if it decides to put the offers out to formal consultation.

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