UCU General Secretary Sally Hunt has written to members to confirm that a date has been set for members to begin an assessment boycott in the current pay dispute.
She wrote: ‘The Higher Education Committee met to review the current dispute and agree next steps. It was noted that members had already taken substantial industrial action in the campaign for fair pay and that in the continued absence of any movement from the employers, further escalated action would be necessary.
‘Having examined assessment timetables, HEC therefore confirmed the implementation of a marking boycott with effect from Monday 28 April.
‘This is a serious but unavoidable step for which the union will need to fully prepare members.
‘HEC therefore agreed that between now and 28 April the union should prioritise working with branches to maximise the impact of a marking boycott, including in the minority of institutions where most assessment has already been done.
‘This will include branch meetings to discuss the marking sanction, joint union meetings, early discussions with local students’ unions and continued campaigning activity including a focus on VC/Principals’ pay and perks.’
She added that UCU will also begin ‘detailed discussions with our colleagues in the National Union of Students (NUS) on the impact and practicalities of a marking boycott.
‘It was therefore agreed,’ she said, ‘that our current claims which set out the case for fair pay and equality in HE be continued in any new negotiations until its terms are met. This is the position we will suggest to the other HE unions. No member I have spoken to wishes to see this dispute escalate, but in the continued absence of meaningful negotiations this is our only alternative. Even now the timetable HEC has set provides a window of opportunity for the employers to address our just demands, which I hope they take’.
Helium filled balloons supplied by UCU and bacon filled rolls supplied by Unison helped make the joint picket by university unions UCU, EIS, Unison and Unite on 6th February the most successful yet in the series of actions in favour of Fair Pay at Glasgow Caledonian.
In some ways this was the best organised of the actions so far, with posters informing the students of impending action having been put up on previous days, and a specially prepared leaflet featuring an appeal from each union given out to students on the day.
United for Fair Pay
Determined to win our action
Union reps indicated more reports of alterations to and cancellations of classes than had happened at previous actions.
Even the worst of the weather stayed off, although spectacularly, mid way through the picket, the wind put an end to the gazebo which had played such a helpful role in the previous disputes!
Pickets were out on all of the main entrances to the university with several delivery vans turning away after reading our leaflet, and many passing cars honking their approval of the action.
Applause for a particularly witty point
At a brief rally at 10.45 chaired by joint Union Convenor and EIS rep Nick McKerrell, Sinead Wylie brought the greetings and support of the Students Association, followed by Unison rep Davena Rankin and UCU rep Douglas Chalmers who spoke on behalf of their unions. Nick McKerrell closed the rally, pointing out that this had been a great example of the type of joint activity that the four unions at Glasgow Caledonian continued to do together very well.
Following the rally, 100 of the helium balloons were released on a count of three to cheering before we dispersed, having shown once again the depth of feeling amongst staff that GCU should pressurise UCEA to come back to the negotiating table.
Sinead from the students association nearly carried away
PS the joint unions have already been offered another 3 gazebos to take the place of the one that lost its battle with the Glasgow weather.
Unions at GCU have asked staff to turn out in strength on next strike day 6th February to show our determination that we win Fair Pay for all.
It will also be to show solidarity with UCU members who are still under the cloud of a threat to withdraw full days wages for their series of two hour strikes.
Said Douglas Chalmers, President of UCU@GCU – “Just over 30 of the 149 universities who are taking part in national bargaining have levied this threat to withdraw a days wage from staff who carried out a series of lawfully constituted two-hour strikes. If proceeded with, it would show a total disrespect for the staff who have limited their action to minimise disruption to students, and would be a totally unnecessary ramping up of the dispute at a local level. ”
The joint unions announced a rally at the University front gate at 10.45 on Thursday morning.
Striking Glasgow Caledonian staff enjoyed a warm welcome from officers of the GCU Students association, and from the students present during their two hours extended ‘Bistro break’ in the students association building.
Staff from all three Schools, central services and the Yunus institute took advantage of the two hours to discuss their respective experiences working at GCU before a short update of the situation was given by branch president Douglas Chalmers.
There was a general feeling of disappointment that unlike other universities such as Glasgow and Edinburgh, our university was suggesting that it would treat our legally constituted two hour strike as ‘partial performance’ and would dock a days pay from staff.
Pointing out that as was accepted elsewhere, our strike was not partial performance, and that staff would be back working normally after the strike as they had in the period up to 11am, Douglas Chalmers expressed surprise that our university seemed to be getting different legal advice than that obtained by others, and expressed the hope that nevertheless they would reconsider their position.
“These things are never set in stone” said Douglas “It’s the students that will be hit the most if industrial action is escalated here due to what is perceived as an un-necessary ramping up of this dispute. After all – the dispute is about the concept of fair pay in universities – something that all members of the university community should feel strongly about and work together to achieve. Other universities have made a different decision in terms of their handling of the dispute. Surely it is not too late for Glasgow Caledonian to do this – something that staff would see positively.”
Messages of support were received from Unison, EIS and Unite – all of whom are joining with UCU in the next full day of industrial action on February 6th.
Following the misleading announcement by HR that current pay negotiations are ‘concluded’ the Combined Unions at Glasgow Caledonian issued the following statement to members today:
You will have seen the email from the head of HR regarding the ongoing industrial dispute which four trade unions (EIS, UCU, UNISON and UNITE) and the decision of management at GCU to impose 1%.
This gives a misleading picture of the situation by stating “the 2013-14 pay round is concluded”. This is NOT the case – even UCEA (the employers organisation) have stated this week “The UCEA Board is naturally disappointed that we have not been able to secure a New JNCHES settlement or conclusion in 2013-14” (Letter of 18th December 2013)
GCU along with many other HE institutions have decided to impose the meagre 1% rather than negotiate with the trade unions over fair pay in HE. Our pay has faced a 13% cut over the last 5 years whereas University management have had a jet set lifestyle with inflation busting increases to their already hefty salaries.
At our own institution the recently published accounts show that our Principal’s salary increased from £239,000 to £264,000 (page 24) and the number of staff employed by GCU earning over £70,000 grew from 44-52 (p25) – In 2005 only 13 people earned over £70,000 at GCU.
You can see details in the annual financial report here.
Also, comparable institutions to GCU like University of the West of Scotland and Robert Gordon’s have given a one-off bonus alongside the imposition of 1% – unfortunately our employers have not shared any Christmas cheer with us.
So our dispute goes on after two successful strike days in 2013 which garnered support from our own Students’ Association at GCU. It has been a long hard working year and we all deserve a break but we also deserve fair pay and engaging with this dispute will ensure we get it.
Have a relaxing break and a successful 2014!
Dr Nick McKerrell Convenor of Glasgow Caledonian Combined Union Committee.
This dispute certainly isn’t concluded yet, in anyone’s terms
In an extremely surprising e-mail today university management at Glasgow Caledonian seem to have accepted the suggestion of the university employers representatives UCEA that the pay round has been ‘concluded’ and following this have decided to impose the sub inflation ‘rise’ of 1 percent on staff salaries.
An email to all GCU staff reads that: “The university employers’ representative, UCEA (University and College Employers Association), negotiate the national pay settlement with the staff unions on behalf of employers. UCEA have now advised universities that the 2013-14 pay round is concluded and that participating institutions should implement the 1 % pay award.”
Even a brief on-line search (which we have provided above for the benefit of HR) would indicate that the use of the word ‘conclude’ is not merited here.
Very recently the Principal of UWS who authorised a one-off Christmas bonus to staff (as did the Principal of Robert Gordon university) approached the same issue by saying:
“I have, ….. asked that the University proceed with payment of the 1% uplift offered through those negotiations in December’s salaries, inclusive of back pay. This step should not be seen as undermining the national approach but as an action which seeks to balance the University’s commitment to the joint negotiating arrangements with a genuine concern for all staff You will appreciate that in putting these measures in place the University is seeking to do all that it can to acknowledge the dedication of colleagues and your evident commitment to the future development of the University.”
The staff unions at Glasgow Caledonian together with the Students Association believe that university staff continue to have a valid case. Industrial action is still continuing and will increase in the coming months of the New Year.
The library, along with other departments and classes were affected
Representatives of Glasgow Caledonian trade unions UCU, Unison, EIS and Unite expressed themselves as extremely heartened by the support they received from staff on 3rd December following the failure of the UK university managements to seriously negotiate a realistic wages offer with university staff.
Having leafleted GCU students the previous day asking for support for the staff action, which was then translated into a clear drop in student attendance on the 3rd, they also received a message of support from the GCU Students Association, which was backing up a earlier on-line survey of students which had also come out in favour of the planned action. Two of the Student Association officers also attended the Edinburgh rally held on the day of the strike.
A leaflet was issued the day before the action, asking for student support
Representing UCU Scotland at the lunchtime rally in Adelaide’s in Bath Street, local GCU president Douglas Chalmers called for the university management side to take their responsibility seriously and help create a properly resourced Higher Education sector where staff were treated in a professional manner, and students could be secure in knowing that they would be receiving a proper, well funded education.
Also speaking at the rally were Nick McKerrall President of EIS (also incidentally from GCU), and Unison Executive representative Davena Rankin – making up a triumvirate from Glasgow Caledonian, amongst the 5 strong speakers, with Gordon Casey from Unite and Ian Trushell bringing support from the Scottish Trades Union Congress.