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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

The Vice-Chancellor’s Pay Rise

The University quietly announced yesterday that Vice-Chancellor Don Nutbeam has accepted a £17,000 pay rise, taking his salary up to £294,000. He has also had £39,000 paid into his pension pot by the University.

Following the strike action, the Vice-Chancellor told us that there was no chance of any movement on the 1% pay offer, as the University is not in a sustainable financial position.  As we can see from this 6% pay rise, and the jump from 64 people on £100k+ in 2011 to 299 people in 2012, there is certainly money around — but apparently only for those on the top of the scale.

Meanwhile, staff are expected to cope with yet another real-terms pay cut, 140 staff at the university earn less than the living wage, and 198 of our lecturers are on zero-hours contracts. For our many colleagues who earn less than £17,000 in an entire year, seeing the Vice-Chancellor accepting this pay rise is simply insulting.

Our union’s demands are reasonable and proportionate — as outlined in the initial pay claim, we want our pay to go up in line with prices, action to address the gender pay gap, progress on disability leave and living wages on campus. Doing these things would make our universities more supportive and equitable places to work.  We suggest that if the University can afford to pay the VC twice the salary of the Prime Minister, it can afford to pay a decent wage to the staff that actually keep the university running every day.

Your support so far has been brilliant, with over 200 of us at the rally on the 3rd, and many more taking part in the strike. It’s vital that we continue to work together, and with our colleagues in UNISON and Unite to demand fair pay on campus.

If you think pay rises shouldn’t just be for Don Nutbeam, then please do the following:

Email the Southampton UCU office letting us know why you think this is unacceptable

Speak to your colleagues, inform them of this and encourage them to join the union if they haven’t already done so

Email University senior management and ask them to justify this pay increase, when they are telling staff they can’t afford fair pay on campus.

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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

Strike action is on at the University of Southampton

UNIVERSITY AND COLLEGE UNION (UCU)

PRESS RELEASE

date: Monday 2 December 2013

for immediate release

Strike on at University of Southampton tomorrow

Staff at the University of Southampton will be on strike tomorrow (Tuesday 3 December) as members of the University and College Union (UCU) take action in a row over pay.

Staff will be on picket lines at University Road and Highfield Road in Southampton and will then make their way to a rally at 12.30pm at the Students Union Piazza, Highfield Campus. See map here – http://tinyurl.com/nlgvzsb

At the University of Southampton, staff are particularly angry that the Vice Chancellor, Professor Don Nutbeam, has seen his salary increase by £66,000 in the past four years*.

In the financial year that ended on 31 July 2012, the Vice-Chancellor’s salary was £277,000, of which £40,000 was a one-off non-pensionable performance payment. Lecturers have highlighted that as stand-alone payments, both Professor Nutbeam’s annual bonus and pension contribution are greater than the annual salary of many lecturers and academics working at the university. A member of the cleaning staff on Grade 1 would have to work nearly three years to earn the equivalent of Professor Nutbeam’s annual bonus or pension contribution.

Lectures will be cancelled across England as lecturers walk out. Following on from a pay offer of just 1% this year from the employer’s representatives Universities and Colleges Employers Association (UCEA), staff are angry that as the cost of living has risen, lecturers’ pay has been slashed by more than 13% in real terms since 2009.   

The union’s negotiators have offered to clear their diaries in an effort to resolve the dispute before Tuesday’s strike and the union says it hopes strike action can be avoided. However, UCU added that lecturers were making it clear enough was enough when it came to keeping down their pay.

Eric Silverman, UCU President and Full Time Research Fellow at the University of Southampton, said: “Staff at the University of Southampton have seen their pay slashed in real terms since 2009. This year’s miserly pay offer, at a time of rising bills and increased pension contributions, was the straw that broke the camel’s back. And as we can see, those at the top have enjoyed more than generous pay increases.

“Staff love their jobs, but their goodwill cannot continue to be taken for granted. We hope the employers’ representatives will meet with us in an effort to resolve this dispute before Tuesday. Nobody wants to take strike action and lose a day’s pay, but lecturers need to take a stand about year on year real terms pay cuts.”

UCU members in colleges will join their colleagues and members of Unison, Unite and the EIS who are on strike in universities across the UK on strike on 3 December. Staff in universities are taking a second day of strike action over a ‘derisory’ 1% pay offer from their employers, which represents a 13% drop in real-terms pay for university staff over five years. More on that dispute here

Ends

*Professor Don Nutbeam was appointed vice-chancellor at the University of Southampton in 2008. He took up his post the following year in 2009.

UPDATE: Statement on contracts forthcoming

Some members have been in touch regarding the recent discussions between UCU and the University on new academic contracts.  A statement on this will be issued jointly with the University shortly.

Both UCU and the University are committed to working on this constructively in the future.  Following discussions at recent formal negotiation meetings, we can confirm that the clauses mentioned in our previous email regarding fixed working hours and international working will not be included in any new contracts.

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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

General Meeting – 24 April 2013

Southampton UCU are holding their next General Meeting on Wednesday 24 April at 1pm in room 58/1007 Lecture room C, Highfield campus.

The topic of the meeting will be “Stress: The Most Important Health & Safety Issue”.  We all know that stress is a huge cause of workplace absenteeism, ill health, and shortened life spans – but what can we do about it?

Our own Denis Nicole, a UCU Health and Safety Representative, will be on hand to share with you the latest information on workplace stress, how it affects our sector, and how we can work to protect ourselves and our colleagues from its negative effects.

We will also have information for you regarding University services that can help you to manage stress, from workshops to private counselling services, as well as information from Recourse, the UCU-funded helpline for higher education professionals.

Our branch is also involved in joint work with the University on reducing levels of workplace stress, and your input and feedback will be very valuable as these discussions progress.

So please come along and join the discussion.  Workplace stress is one of the greatest challenges facing the higher education workforce today – and the more we can address the problem at its core, the healthier we will all be!

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Eric Silverman

Southampton UCU President

6 March – Anti-Casualisation Day of Action

On Wednesday 6th March UCU is holding an Anti-Casualisation Day of Action. This day will be a platform for publicizing the issues associated with the growing over-use of fixed-term contracts and the proliferation of poorly-paid and poorly-valued casualised positions in UK academia. We will be spending the day holding information stalls and running events to raise awareness of these problems, and to inspire colleagues on casualised contracts to join our union and help us in our local bargaining efforts.

What is happening at Southampton:

1. 11:00 to 14:00 – We are running two information stalls to be run at the Highfield and Avenue Campuses, at these stalls you will be able to ask about national UCU policy and current local branch priorities with respect to Fixed Term Contracts.

We will also have a large variety of campaign materials, flyers, posters, and stickers available which we encourage you to pass along to colleagues and put around your workplace to show your support. If you’d like to become involved in our anti-casualisation campaigns, we will be happy to advise you on how to join our efforts!

2. 15:00 to 17:00 – We will be running a workshop called Casualisation and Academic Careers, to be held in building 34/3001. The workshop will feature several different speakers:

Dr Joe Viana, Southampton UCU Fixed-Term Contract Representative, will explain why you should get involved in our anti-casualisation efforts and the challenges we face in this area;

Dr Eric Silverman, Southampton UCU President, will talk about our extensive local bargaining agenda on this issue and will give a summary of the national picture;

Dr Julie Reeves, from the University of Southampton Professional Development Unit, will detail how the University aims to support the career development of researchers and academics on fixed-term contracts;

Dr Jenny Rohn of the Science is Vital Campaign, our special guest speaker, will discuss the Campaign’s grassroots efforts to promote the importance of a strong science base to the UK’s economy and international reputation. For more information, please visit the Campaign’s website. In particular, we recommend reading their report titled Careering Out Of Control, which does a fantastic job of summarising the current unsustainable nature of the academic career path.

Please do come and join us for the Day of Action! The issue of casualisation affects all of us — it forces thousands of our colleagues to endure job insecurity, poor work-life balance, and high stress levels; it reduces the productivity of our academic teams and causes us to lose promising talent and valuable expertise; and it splits academia against itself, creating inequality and animosity between permanent staff and casualised staff.

The academic career structure is becoming increasingly dominated by casualised contracts, and we must act now to protect our friends and colleagues!

We will be using the attached poster (AntiCas Poster) to promote the event and encourage academics on casualised contracts to join us on the day. If you feel able, please do print out a copy and place it on your door so that your colleagues can see what we have planned.

The national UCU office has also provided a lot of excellent flyers and other materials for the Day of Action, which you can find here.

Southampton UCU will have plenty of hard copies of these materials available closer to the day, so please contact us if you require any copies to distribute in your workplace.

In solidarity,

Eric Silverman (President) & Joe Viana (Fixed Term Contract Rep)

Article about casualisation in academia from The Guardian

There’s a good article in The Guardian today about job insecurity amongst younger academics.  It provides some personal stories from young academics on insecure contracts (including myself!) and mentions the Anti-Casualisation Day of Action on 6 March, organised by Ed Bailey and the national UCU campaigns team:

The University and College Union (UCU) is holding a national day of action for casual workers next month. It says that higher education has become one of the most casualised sectors in the UK – second only to the hospitality industry. Edward Bailey, who is leading the protest for the union, says: “We are seeing an increase in people who are on successive fixed-term contracts for years on end. There is a feeling that universities are calling all the shots and they should be grateful just to have a job, but these places shouldn’t be sausage factories.”

Please give it a read and spread the word to your colleagues.  The more attention drawn to this issue, the more chances we have to enact change!

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Eric Silverman

Southampton UCU President

New issue of our newsletter — Collegiality

The link below will take you to a PDF copy of Southampton UCU’s newsletter, Collegiality.  You’ll find updates on our campaigns and useful info on how to get involved in our activities.

If you have suggestions for future issues, or have something you would like to contribute, please contact the UCU office!

Collegiality issue 3