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Message from UCU General Secretary Sally Hunt about strike action

Dear colleague,

I am writing to set out in further detail the union’s plan of action for the campaign for fair pay in higher education.

As you will know 65% of members voted for strike action and 77% of members voted for action short of a strike. It is clear that without disruptive industrial action, sustained for as long as it takes, there will be little movement from the employers on either the final pay offer of 1.1% or on the gender pay gap and the issue of casual contracts.

First, the union will be asking you to take two days of strike action on 25 and 26 May. Many of you have contacted me to say you support UCU but to ask if the union provides exemptions from strike action for staff who were due to attend exam boards, vivas, or other student assessment on those two days. With regret the answer is no. It is very important that all members support the action and that we show we are prepared to fight for fair pay in HE.

Second, the union will be asking branches to choose a further day of strike action in June or July aimed at creating the maximum local disruption. The could be an open day, a popular day for exam boards or even in some cases a graduation day.

Thirdly, the union is asking you to step down from any external examiner positions you currently hold and not to apply for or accept offers for new external examiner posts. This is a big step but I hope it will demonstrate to the employers that there will be no ‘business as usual’ until they seriously address our claim for fair pay in HE.

The union’s lawyers have drawn up some advice for current post holders here. To protect your own contractual position, I would strongly recommend you follow the advice and provide the correct notice as specified in your contract with the employing institution. Please email me to let me know when you do resign any examiner posts.

Fourth, with effect from 25 May 2016 the union will be asking you to ‘work to contract’ and – in any case – to work no longer than 37 hours a week every week until further notice. I have gathered together a series of frequently asked questions about what working to contract means and about the 37 hour weekly maximum. You can read them here.

Fifth, the union is making detailed preparations to call for strike action on 18 August, the day when A Level results are released in England. Similar alternative days will be called for Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland aimed at hitting university admissions.

Sixth, the union is making detailed preparations for a full setting and marking boycott to begin at an agreed point during the autumn term.

Of course I hope that none of this action is necessary because the employers finally decide to see sense. Since 2009 your salaries have reduced in value by 14.5% against inflation, yet there is a surplus of £1.8bn across UK higher education and those in charge of our institutions have awarded themselves pay rises three to four times higher than those achieved by rank and file academics.

I would like to thank you for all your support since the ballot finished. We are determined to take the first steps towards fair pay in HE.

Sally Hunt
UCU general secretary

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