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Southampton UCU General meeting – 1pm Weds 26 March, room 27/2003

The next UCU General meeting is taking place on Wednesday 26 March from 1.00pm – 2.30pm in room 27/2003.  The main topic of the meeting will be the upcoming marking boycott and we shall be joined by Terry Hoad, UCU HE committee member.  We would encourage you to come along and share your views with us.

IMPORTANT: Information on strike action Thursday 6 Feb and feedback from 28 Jan

Colleagues

Firstly a big thank you to all of you who supported the second 2-hour walk-out on Tuesday afternoon.  It was a great day of action with around 50 members occupying the Arlott Bar for a teach-in.  Members joined in lively discussions on various important issues in higher education, including recruitment and retention at the University and concerns for the future of HE, and we rounded the strike off with a tribute to folk singer and activist Pete Seegar with a rendition of “Union Maid”.   Many of you who weren’t able to attend the teach-in withdrew your labour by cancelling classes and meetings and just absenting yourselves from your workplaces – we would ask that you help us show what impact the action is having by completing this very short survey: https://www.surveymonkey.com/s/ucustrike28thJanuary2014

A reminder that the next 2-hour walk-out is planned for Monday 10 February from 9.00 – 11.00 am.  Further details on this to follow.

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Secondly you will all be aware of the next full day of strike action planned for Thursday 6 February.  This involves all three campus trade unions – UCU, UNISON and Unite – as well as the Scottish union EIS.  We are currently planning our joint local strategy and will be meeting with sister unions later this week.  Once we have firm plans in place we will send these out to you.  In the meantime we would ask you to:

Publicise the Pay Campaign as widely as possible within your department/academic unit by printing out and displaying the attached posters/leaflets.  These are intended to get students and non-members thinking about the action, so the more people that see these, the better.

*Poster 1 http://www.ucu.org.uk/media/pdf/k/8/ucu_hepay_a4stacksposter.pdf

*Poster 2 http://www.ucu.org.uk/media/pdf/l/6/ucu_hepay_a4bulgeposter.pdf

*Leaflet 1: http://www.ucu.org.uk/media/pdf/2/t/ucu_hepay_stacksflyer.pdf

*Leaflet 2: http://www.ucu.org.uk/media/pdf/m/g/ucu_hepay_bulgeflyer.pdf

Talk to students and colleagues about the action and explain why you are taking part.

Sign the online petition calling for University management to urge UCEA to return to the negotiating table  http://www.fairpayinhe.org.uk/

We are aware that University management are continuing to send out Faculty-wide emails asking that “union members who intend to take strike action inform their line manager by email or writing as soon as possible”.  We would reiterate that you do NOT have to alert your line manager about your decision to take strike action in advance.  When asked afterwards, however, you MUST answer truthfully.  See UCU strike FAQs here:  http://fairpay.web.ucu.org.uk/strike-questions/

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 Thirdly, as part of the ongoing dispute, we would like to remind members that we are still working to contract – further information on what this means and how you can support this action can be found here: http://fairpay.web.ucu.org.uk/working-to-contract-what-action-is-the-union-asking-me-to-take/

Thanks for your continued support

Southampton UCU

Two-hour strike on 23 January

Southampton UCU members participated in the first of three two-hour strikes in support of fair pay in higher education.  We saw strong turnout and media interest, with stories appearing in the Daily Echo, BBC South Today, and the Morning Star, along with local websites like portswood.info and others.

Members picketed Building 37, the home of University senior management, to express our discontent at the increasing wage gap between top earners at the University and academic staff.  Vice-Chancellor Don Nutbeam spoke to strikers about the pay issue, and members challenged him very robustly on issues ranging from zero-hours contracts and the living wage campaign, to the broader national issue of the 2013 pay claim.

The next two-hour strike will take place from 2-4PM on 28 January, with another to follow on 10 February.  A day of joint union strike action on 6 February will incorporate all three on-campus trade unions (UCU, UNISON and Unite).

Some pictures of the events yesterday:

Southampton UCU gathering in the Piazza

Southampton UCU gathering in the Piazza

Preparing to move to Building 37

Preparing to move to Building 37

 

Picketing Building 37

Picketing Building 37

Coverage on BBC South Today

Coverage on BBC South Today

 

Members debating the issues with Vice-Chancellor Don Nutbeam

Members debating the issues with Vice-Chancellor Don Nutbeam

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Eric Silverma

Southampton UCU President

Information for Thursday’s action

Dear members,

A reminder that we are taking industrial action on Thursday 23 January between 11am and 1pm in support of the campaign for Fair Pay in HE.  ALL MEMBERS should withdraw their labour between these hours.

We will be gathering at the UCU office at 47 University Road promptly at 11AM.  Please join us to show your support for the campaign.  We have placards, flyers and other materials for distribution on the day.  

As this is a new form of action for us, UCU has prepared a useful FAQ on the website.  The document summarises various useful points about this type of action, so please have a read: http://fairpay.web.ucu.org.uk/your-questions-answered/taking-2-hour-strike-action/

We’ve also produced a series of posters and information sheets and would ask that you print these out and display in your department/academic unit.

*Poster 1 http://www.ucu.org.uk/media/pdf/k/8/ucu_hepay_a4stacksposter.pdf
*Poster 2 http://www.ucu.org.uk/media/pdf/l/6/ucu_hepay_a4bulgeposter.pdf
*Leaflet 1: http://www.ucu.org.uk/media/pdf/2/t/ucu_hepay_stacksflyer.pdf
*Leaflet 2: http://www.ucu.org.uk/media/pdf/m/g/ucu_hepay_bulgeflyer.pdf

On Thursday please do the following:

  • Set up an out of office message during the 2 hour strike.  Something like this  – “I am currently taking industrial action in support ofUCU’s campaign for Fair Pay in HE and not able to deal with your email.  I will be back at my desk after the action concludes.”
  • Print out the  “On strike desk poster” (sent to you by email) and pin on your door/computer/workstation which states that you are currently on strike.
  • Come along to the picket lines.

 Throughout the upcoming period of action please do the following:

  •  Talk to students and colleagues about the action and explain why you are taking part.
  •  If you have ideas for future actions or would like to get more involved, tell us!
  • Please distribute our new joint trade union newsletter, Southampton Solidarity (sent to you via email), to your students and colleagues

Further points of clarification:

  • Members at Avenue, NOCS and other University sites, please come join us at Highfield!  This action should be a good opportunity for us to convene in one place, discuss issues facing staff at the University and plan for our next action.
  • Contrary to what you may have heard elsewhere, remember that you are NOT under any obligation to tell your line manager about your decision to participate in the strike action prior to the action itself.  You must respond truthfully if and only if you are asked afterward.

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Eric Silverman
Southampton UCU President

Strike action feedback

Dear members,

Yesterday’s strike action was a rousing success!  We had great support on the picket lines, covering all the most important and visible locations both at Highfield and Avenue Campuses, and our colleagues at UNISON and Unite greatly increased our visibility and impact.

At Highfield, the campus was extremely quiet, with very few students or staff coming in; notably, the car parks had many empty spaces and the bus interchange was largely empty.  At Avenue, the entire campus was largely vacant, and all entrances were covered by pickets.  At both campuses we distributed leaflets about the pay campaign and issues affecting members of staff across the whole University community, and we also distributed our own take on Vice-Chancellor Nutbeam’s Personal Performance and Development Review.  We had supportive responses from many passers-by, both students and staff, and many signatures were added to our petition for fair pay in higher education.

Following the pickets in the morning, we held a rally outside the Piazza, where we estimate more than 200 people turned up to hear our speakers.  We started off with our own UCU choir leading the crowd in our Fair Pay in HE remix of The Twelve Days of Christmas.  For those of who you missed out, we’ve posted the lyrics on our blog here: http://southampton.web.ucu.org.uk/2013/12/04/a-little-something-to-boost-your-christmas-spirit/

Barry Lovejoy, Head of Regional Organisations and Nations for UCU, came to speak to attendees about the pay issue, along with regional officials from UNISON and Unite, and colleagues from both Southampton Solent and Winchester University.  We also had significant press interest, with three separate camera crews filming the rally, and interviewers from various local and national press outlets circulating throughout the day.

All in all we were very pleased with the level of support and activity on the day.  To all of you who supported our action, THANK YOU!  

To keep the pressure on our employers, UCU is gathering information nationwide about activities which were canceled due to the strike action.  With that in mind, please let us know how YOU supported the action – cancelling lectures or seminars, avoiding meetings or other commitments on the day, joining the picket lines, etc.  We will take this information and send it to the national campaigns team to help counter the claims from UCEA that this day of action was not well-supported!

Also, please remember that we are still working to contract in support of the pay campaign.  Please take a look at the very detailed guidance on the main UCU website here: http://www.ucu.org.uk/workingtocontract

We will keep in touch with you about future developments on the fair pay campaign, including updates on related issues both local and national.

In solidarity,

Eric Silverman

Southampton UCU President

On the health of our USS pensions

Dear members,
We are aware that you may have been following the stories about USS pension on Radio 4 and Newsnight last week and on the BBC website.

Colleagues at Sheffield UCU branch have circulated the following helpful information:

The USS annual members report on which the story was based (issued two weeks ago) shows that the deficit has in fact sharply fallen over the previous year. It is difficult to avoid the conclusion that the fake ‘revelations’ are timed to undermine support for our strike on 31st October.

So what is the reality?

*   The scheme was officially 92% funded in March 2011, 77% funded in March 2012, 77% in March 2013, and 83% funded June 2013. This corresponds to an official deficit of £2.9bn in 2011 rocketing up to £11.5 billion by March 2013 but dropping to £7.9 billion just three months later.

*   This incredible volatility gives a clue to the underlying problem with the official figures. Pension schemes are very long term investments and should be judged on that basis whilst the law requires that they are judged on short term criteria.  The huge pension fund deficits across the country reported in the 2000’s, including the USS one, are as phoney as the huge surpluses in the 1980’s. USS is in good health based on real world criteria: its income exceeds expenditure on a long term sustainable basis.

*   Pensions are simply deferred pay. And the proportion of University sector spending which goes on staff, including pensions, has in fact been in continual decline.  It was roughly 65% when fees paid by home students were zero and has gone down to about 55% (54% in Sheffield) now fees are £9,000.  If Newsnight really wanted to locate the reason for rocketing student fees they would need to look elsewhere than staff pay and pensions.

*   Britain has one of the worst records in Europe in pensioner poverty, corresponding to our lead in inequality. There are 20,000 to 30,000 ‘excess deaths’ of elderly people in winter every year in Britain – dying of cold, hunger and diseases contingent on them.  This is the real pensions scandal.

For a cogent explanation of the USS ‘deficits’ please see a letter to the THE from this same scare-story season last year, ‘Accounting tricks and pension deficits’.

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Professor Catherine Pope

Southampton UCU Honorary Treasurer