Last Friday (March 20th), UCU circulated a call for a special HE Sector Conference on the 29th April to decide policy on our pay claim, see .
Apart from the fact that the call was buried towards the bottom of a circular to branch officers, the timing of 29th April could hardly be worse. Whereas the decision to have a HESC to discuss the pay claim was made by Conference last year in a bid to ensure full participation by the membership, the decision to make the call so late (and over Easter) seems almost deliberately designed to minimise the involvement of the membership!
Even if this date were immovable, branches could have been forewarned about this call by UCU HQ to allow them to arrange general meetings before the break. As a result, there is a very small time-window for most branches to arrange meetings (allowing for constitutional pre-notification to members, of course). See “Motions and Delegates” below.
Nonetheless, it is imperative that branches do all they can to meet, pass motions and send full delegations to the SHESC. UCU Left will circulate suggested motions later in the week. In the meantime members should organise branch meetings to pass motions before the deadline of noon on 16th April. They should also do all they can to ensure full delegations to the Manchester SHESC on Wednesday 29th April.
WHAT IS AT STAKE?
It is worth reminding ourselves of three key points about next year’s claim:
- After settling for 2% for 2014-15, anything less than 2% for 2015-16 will be seen as a defeat. However, we are going to need considerably more than 2% to make up for the pay cuts members have suffered since 2008.
- The 2015-16 pay settlement will also be the last opportunity for USS Final Salary members to increase the FS part of their pension (i.e. ‘Final Salary’ = pay as of April 2016, uprated by capped CPI thereafter).
- Alongside the pay demand, the unions are also demanding progress be made on Equal Pay and zero-hours contracts.
Many employers have been pocketing large increases in income from hiked student tuition fees. The money is there to pay for a significant uplift in salaries. However, given the ending of the last two national disputes by e-ballot, it is imperative that members start to take ownership of the dispute.
NATIONAL NEGOTIATION TIMELINE
This is a joint union claim. The pay claims are to be lodged with the employers on 26th March. The union hopes there will be some initial response. The joint union side is putting in a pay claim and a pay equality claim, as they did last year. There is likely to be another negotiating meeting or two before 29th April. There is a scheduled JNCHES meeting on 24th April.
By 29th April the union side may have a final offer, or close to a final offer, from the employers. Branch motions should therefore be worded on the basis of “if the employers have not made a satisfactory offer by 29th April, the union side will start a ballot for industrial action, etc.”
MOTIONS AND DELEGATES
Branches are permitted to submit two motions to HESC, and these motions must be from properly constituted and quorate branch meetings.
Branch meetings must be organised to take place before 16 April. If a properly constituted but inquorate branch meeting has discussed the motions, then and only then, can these motions be submitted from a branch committee (again, before Noon on the 16th April, on condition that the motions are subsequently ratified at a second branch meeting held before the 29th April).
It will be difficult to organise quorate branch meetings before the 16th April, but we need to try to do so, to allow members to consider both the substance of the claim and the campaign.
This is a deeply unsatisfactory situation. Nevertheless, members, activists and branch officers must seek to do everything they can to ensure that members are in control of the pay campaign. Pay is an urgent demand for many of our members, and we have a small window of opportunity to try to get next year’s pay campaign off to a proper start.
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