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markcampbellucu

University lecturer and UCU activist.
markcampbellucu has written 50 posts for Mark Campbell UCU

UCU HE Sector Conference 2014 – Fighting on Pay – The Way Forward

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UCU LEFT STATEMENT – FIGHTING ON PAY – WHERE DO WE GO FROM HERE?

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The following is the text of a UCU Left statement on the recent HE Pay ballot result that I fully endorse.

PDF version here


FIGHTING ON PAY – WHERE DO WE GO FROM HERE?


UCU members have put up a brilliant fight on pay. This was in the face of the ineptitude of the current majority of the Higher Education Committee (HEC) in not following through on the decisions of our annual conference and the hostile and aggressive tactics of employers. The 2 per cent offer for next year would not have been achieved without industrial action this year – and it does break through the 1 per cent public sector pay freeze. This is a significant achievement. However, the 1 per cent imposed this year represents another 2 per cent cut in real incomes, and the 2 per cent for next year is also below the current RPI at 2.5 per cent. We are still a long way from achieving the catch-up we fought for. Therefore we must learn the lessons of this year’s campaign and develop a strategy to fight on pay for next year.


The ballot result

Members voted by 83.7 percent to 16.3 percent to accept the 2 percent pay offer. Some activists may be disappointed by such a large vote for acceptance, but this outcome is not surprising under the circumstances:

  • The decision by the majority on the Higher Education Committee (HEC) to postpone the marking boycott in January when it could have been a sharp and effective tool;
  • The complete absence of an industrial action strategy, and a reliance on the courts, to counteract the intImidatory threats made by many employers to deduct 100 per cent of pay for partial performance;
  • The failure of the HEC to recommend rejection, despite all recognising the offer fell far short of our demands.

All combined to undermine the confidence of members to reject the offer. Members were left in an invidious position in deciding whether to vote for continuing with a poorly led dispute or accepting a poor deal. However, in spite of this, it was right that branch activists argued for rejection and 4,902 members were prepared to face down the employers’ draconian threats even in the absence of a national lead.


The price for backing off in January

The ballot outcome is the price paid for the disastrous decision by the same majority group on the HEC to postpone the marking boycott in January and the escalation from single day strikes to a programme of regional multi-day strikes. Many members and activists were confused, angry and frustrated that the momentum of the Autumn strikes was lost and our carefully considered strategy of escalation to our most powerful weapon was dumped in favour of three two-hour strikes. These had a very mixed and uneven success. In some places, they mobilised some members who had previously not been involved in picketing, but as a whole they represented a significant retreat for UCU. This hesitation and retreat gave the employers confidence that the dispute could be seen off. It enabled them to regroup and prepare their counter moves. It allowed a number of employers to test their strategy of 100 per cent pay deductions for ‘partial performance’ and to note the failure of the union nationally to adequately respond to this.


A lack of leadership

After six sets of strike action, with some institutions deducting a full day’s pay for each of the two-hour stoppages, members expected some leadership from the people that they elected to the HEC. However, in April, the majority of the HEC voted against recommending rejection of the pay offer and agreed that the argument should be put in a ‘neutral’ way. When trade union leaderships and national committees have, in the past, given a clear lead to members they have received overwhelming support. In addition, the failure of the UCU to give a national response to the employers’ threat of 100 percent pay dockings for partial performance left many members hesitant and fearful of entering the marking boycott – significantly at a time when many had completed teaching for the academic year.  A robust response and a strategy for countering the employers’ offensive would have given members much more confidence that we could face down that threat. Such a robust response would have included national industrial action and solidarity actions between institutions.


Where do we go from here?

Wage cuts and falling living standards remain a real issue for our members – some lower paid members are facing real hardship. The dispute has strengthened many local branches, in terms of numbers and activity.  New and younger activists have got involved.  Many of our members are angry and smarting from the threats from employers, which have exposed the iron fist in the velvet glove.

This is a starting point for organising to win real catch-up. Branch meetings need to be held to discuss how we build a campaign for fair pay and the sort of action that will be effective. We need to argue that future campaigns are kept under the democratic control of members and not derailed by the HEC. We need to ensure that all aspects of our claim – such as an end to casualisation, zero-hour contracts, and the gender pay-gap, are adequately highlighted and vigorously pursued (note the UCU Anti-Casualisation Day of Action on 7th May). Ballots and recommendations in national campaigns must be decided by special Higher Education Sector conferences.


The wider fight against pay cuts and austerity

It is unfortunate that our dispute has ended just as other groups of workers are preparing to fight over pay. We know that these fights can be won. Crown Post Office staff in the CWU have been offered 7.9 per cent over three years, 3.9 per cent for this year (after 14 days of strike). Unison local government have announced a strike ballot after members voted 70 percent  to reject their pay offer in a consultation and the NUT conference voted to strike in the week of 23rd May and plan more action in the autumn. The TUC are organising a demonstration demanding fair pay in October. This is the context in which we should begin a new campaign for catch-up for 2015/2016. We must make sure that our branches link up with and offer solidarity to unions taking action. Where possible, we must argue for linking up and joint activity with other groups of workers in education and across the public sector. We can start by mobilising our members for the People’s Assembly protests on 21st June.


Building networks of UCU activists

It is doubtful that there would even have been a pay campaign without UCU Left activists elected as negotiators or to the HEC. UCU Left activists threw themselves into delivering the strike action and work-to-contract in the branches. Liz Lawrence, current President Elect played a key role in arguing that conference policy was carried through. This demonstrates the importance of electing national officers committed to the democratic processes of the union. We currently have an opportunity to elect Lesley Kane in the Vice-President election. She is standing on a platform of accountability and carrying out the actions and strategies determined by the members. The election is open until the 21 May and her blog can be found at lesleykane4vp.wordpress.com.

However, electing candidates sympathetic to the policies that the UCU Left argues for, is not enough in itself. To prevent a repeat of the debacle this time around we must build strong and vibrant branches linked to networks of activists in branches, cities and regions.

The current pay dispute may be over, but it is clear that employers are on the offensive – the need to be organised and fight back has never been greater. The current dispute by further education lecturers at Lambeth College who voted for indefinite strike action shows that there is a willingness to fight. The UCU has called a national solidarity demonstration in support of Lambeth on 17th May and we should ensure that we build support for it in our own branches.

 

When we fight we can win.

Lessons in Leadership – Vote NO to Pay Cuts!

Apparently, some in our union believe it’s ‘hard core’ for an elected union leadership to have a public position with regards to a consultative ballot on whether to accept a massive real terms pay cut this year and a further pay cut next – see: today’s Times Higher article

Well, from the union members I’ve been talking to in my branch it would appear we really are a union made up of hard core members. The kind that understand an acquiescence to the imposition of 1% – after 6 full days of strike deductions for many of our colleagues and this month’s 0.7%-0.9% increase in employee TPS pension contributions for many more, really would be a massive failure of leadership. The kind of leadership failure that unbelievably will have managed to compound a bad result for last year’s pay claim with a disastrous surrender over this year’s claim before seeking any views from our members with specific regards to it (not bundled as a ‘rock and a hard place Hobson’s choice).

However, to then further compound such ineptitude with a refusal to state categorically that we will take escalating national strike action to protect our members in the event of 100% local deductions for so-called ‘partial-performance’ (the correct action the majority on the HEC refused to countenance with regards to the 100% deductions for the 2-hour strikes), is quite frankly staggering even to an old cynic like me.

Real leadership looks like that given by our sisters and brothers at Lambeth College whose members have just voted for all out strike action. See below for a recent post from Mandy Brown, Lambeth College UCU Branch Secretary.

Also, a quick point to Gregor Gall, 200% of nothing is still nothing.

In solidarity

Mark…

Mark Campbell
London Metropolitan UCU (Chair)
UCU National Executive Committee (London and the East)

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Dear all

At yesterday’s packed branch meeting, UCU members voted unanimously to take indefinite strike action from Thursday May 1st against new contracts which have been imposed.

On Thursday 1st May, in addition to picket lines at the Brixton and Vauxhall Centres, there will be a Mass Picket at 7am outside the Clapham Centre, 45 Clapham Common Southside (Clapham Common tube station, Northern Line) to which we invite all trade unions.

There will be a solidarity strike rally at 6pm in the evening, at the Karibu Centre, Gresham Road, Brixton, called by Lambeth College UCU, Lambeth College Unison and London Region UCU. We’ll be serving hot food, and there’ll be placard-painting activities for children. All donations welcome! A flyer and collection sheet will be sent round shortly.

Lambeth College Unison are currently balloting for strike action and hope to be joining us when their ballot closes.

The new contracts affect new staff, current staff who are promoted or wish to change their fraction and will also affect current hourly-paid staff. In addition management documents state that “the new contract of employment may be rolled out across the board for all existing staff”.

New contracts include:

o increased working hours
o extended working week
o annual leave cut by 2 weeks
o increased contact hour time by 1 hour
o additional duties for no remuneration
o a link between pay increments and capability
o reduced notice of redundancy
o drastically reduced sick pay

Please send messages of support to Branch Secretary, Mandy Brown, at mandybrowncow@yahoo.com.

Best wishes
Mandy Brown
Branch Sec
Lambeth College UCU

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Trade Unions – Fighting to Win!

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Today the Guardian published my letter, or rather half the letter, that I sent them on Friday after reading Polly Tonybee’s article: ‘Welfare dependency isn’t Britain’s gravest economic problem. Pitiful pay is’. Here’s the letter in full:

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Dear Editor,

On first reading her article (‘Welfare dependency isn’t Britain’s gravest economic problem. Pitiful pay is’, 31 Oct 2013) it appeared that Polly Toynbee had simply failed to appreciate that the whole of Higher Education across the UK was in the grip of an unprecedented co-ordinated strike by the three largest unions in the sector: UCU, Unison, and Unite, over the issue of pay cuts generally and the demand for a Living Wage for the 4,000+ university staff currently earning below it in particular. But then again, the notion of unions taking strident industrial action in defence of their members pay, terms and conditions, and the services they provide doesn’t tend to sit well with so many of the ‘we live in new times’ commentators.

However, Polly is right on one thing in particular. We do need to learn the real lessons of Grangemouth. We have ruthless employers prepared to sacrifice the livelihoods of their entire workforce to maximise their already obscene profits, and we have politicians who will support them in doing so all the way to the bank. In such a situation, our union leaders need to do a lot better than capitulate under such intense media and political pressure. They need to lead from the front and call upon their members nationally to stand up in solidarity with their targeted colleagues, they need to go beyond the rhetoric of resistance and actually resist. In the specific case of Grangemouth they should have learnt the lessons of the Upper Clyde Shipbuilders (UCS) and occupied the plant against closure and put real political pressure on the SNP, as the independence referendum looms closer, to do the genuinely popular thing and nationalise the plant! The lesson for the union movement is simple: When the going gets tough we have to get tougher!

Mark Campbell
UCU National Executive Committee
London Metropolitan University

In Support of the Sussex University Occupiers

Dear Sussex University Occupiers,

I wish to send you our complete solidarity and sincere thanks for the solidarity occupation you have taken in support of university staff fighting for fair pay in Higher Education.

Your actions are an inspiration and once again underline the vital links that unite university students and staff in our collective endeavours to defend the public university.

Staff industrial action that commences tomorrow (Thu Oct 31st) is formulated specifically as a pay claim that demands fair pay for all university staff (a pay rise that starts to tackle the 13% real-terms loss in salaries we have already suffered).

However, this is ultimately about an awful lot more than just a fair pay rise. It’s also about ending the disgusting use of zero-hour contracts – rife at London Met and many other universities. It’s about ensuring a national Living Wage for all (in-house or sub-contracted), it’s about challenging the gender pay gap. It’s about fighting excessive workloads and bullying. And it’s about stoping the increasing privatisation and commodification of UK higher education.

It’s essentially about saying universities are a public good and that students shouldn’t be hit with huge fees and pitted against overworked and underpaid staff.

UCU believe education should be free from the cradle to the grave and education staff need to be paid a decent wage – it’s not an either/or! We insist that Higher Education can easily be paid for in full by simply increasing corporation tax to at least the European average for large corporations (see here for detailed analysis)

It’s about saying it is outrageous that the average pay packet of a vice-chancellor is some £250,000 per year plus benefits whilst many higher education staff struggle on less than a basic living wage of £8.55 per hour in London or £7.45 per hour outside of London.

It’s about demanding that students have classes that are properly resourced with adequately paid, qualified, and motivated staff.

It’s about ensuring students have enough fully resourced dedicated in-house support staff to sort out their needs in as timely and hassle-free manner as possible.

It’s about students and education workers uniting together – as you are magnificently doing via your solidarity occupation, and saying it’s time the bosses that benefit so much from a highly educated workforce are made to pay for it.

It’s about saying these are public universities that belong to the staff that work in them, the students that study in them, and the community within which they are based. They don’t belong to the vice-chancellors and executive groups that manage them.

We are therefore hugely encouraged as you raise your own voices in solidarity with us and shout out loud and clearly – Enough is Enough, No more pay cuts, job cuts and course closures!

In solidarity

Mark Campbell
London Metropolitan University UCU (Chair)
UCU National Executive Committee

Why you should join us on the picket line – an open letter to university students

Dear student,

It’s increasingly likely that university staff (UCU, Unison, and hopefully Unite and EIS in Scotland) across the UK, will be out on strike in the next few weeks.

The headline issue of dispute between us and our employers is fair pay in HE. However, this is ultimately about an awful lot more than just a fair pay rise. It’s also about ending the disgusting use of zero-hour contracts – rife at many universities, it’s about ensuring a national Living Wage for all staff (in-house or sub-contracted), it’s about challenging the gender pay gap in higher education. It’s about fighting excessive workloads and bullying. And it’s about stoping the increasing privatisation and commodification of UK higher education.

It’s about saying it is outrageous that the average pay packet of a vice-chancellor is some £250,000 per year plus benefits whilst many workers in higher education struggle on less than a basic living wage of £8.55 per hour in London or £7.45 per hour outside of London.

It’s about demanding that students have classes that are properly resourced with adequately paid, qualified, and motivated staff.

It’s about ensuring students have enough fully resourced dedicated in-house support staff to sort out their needs in as timely and hassle-free manner as possible.

It’s about students and education workers uniting together and saying it’s time the bosses that benefit so much from a highly educated workforce are made to pay for it.

It’s about saying – enough is enough. No more pay cuts, job cuts and course closures.

It’s about saying these are public universities that belong to the staff that work in them, the students that study in them, and the community within which they are based. They don’t belong to the vice-chancellors and executive groups that manage them.

It’s about saying education should be free from the cradle to the grave and education staff need to be paid a decent wage – it’s not an either/or!

It’s about insisting that the money is there to enable Higher Education to be free for all students – paying for it by increasing Corporation Tax to at least the OECD average for large corporations.

It’s essentially about saying universities are a public good and that students shouldn’t be hit with huge fees and then pitted against overworked and underpaid staff.

We have stood with you against the increase in fees and the cutting of EMA and education provision and we will continue to do so.

We have marched with you in defence of education and against its privatisation and we will continue to do so.

We stand with you now against the threat to privatise the student loan book and we will always stand with you in solidarity when you are attacked for resisting government cutbacks.

Now we need you to stand with us in this fight for all of our futures.

Please join with us in solidarity.

You will be very much welcomed at our meetings and on our picket lines.

In solidarity,

Mark Campbell
London Metropolitan University UCU (Chair)
UCU National Executive Committee (pc)

In Support of the Women’s Library Occupiers

London Met UCU members,

Colleagues may be aware that today is International Women’s Day. Unfortunately, despite London Met’s mission for social justice you won’t see any mention of this on the front page of our website. There again, the Vice-Chancellor’s main contributions to women’s issues have been the closure of London Met’s nurseries and the disposal of the celebrated Women’s Library. We are however delighted to see that International Women’s Day has been marked by an occupation of the Women’s Library by 70 activists. You can read about their action here:

http://reclaimit2013.wordpress.com/

We hope all our members will join us, the London Met UCU Coordinating Committee, in congratulating the occupiers on taking this principled stand!

Yours,
The UCU Coordinating Committee

BREAKING NEWS: Even as the above was typed, we have heard that police/security officers have been taking action at the library. We wish the occupiers well.

London Met UCU – Defend our Jobs, Defend our Contract, Defend our Reps!

Dear colleagues,

The motion provided below is to be put to a joint London Met UCU branch meeting this Thursday. As you will see from the motion the issue of mass job cuts and an attack on the national post-92 contract is something that concerns all UCU members. As such it would be great if we could have messages of support emailed (via m.campbell@londonmet.ac.uk) in advance of the branch meeting. We will then present them to the meeting in order to help show that our members are not alone and that the whole union will support our fight to defend our jobs, conditions, and our students’ education.

We would also welcome messages of support in our fight against the victimisation of three union activists at London Met. Max Watson (LMet Unison Chair), Jawad Botmeh (LMet Unison and recently elected LMet Staff Governor), and Steve Jefferys (UCU, and Director of London Met’s Working Lives Research Institute). Please join the 2,100+ who have already signed our petition

Also, for those of you in London this Tuesday evening please try and attend our Public Meeting in Defence of Max, Jawad, and Steve. Mark Serwotka (PCS General Secretary), Michael McNeil (UCU Head of HE), and Roger McKenzie (Unison Assistant General Secretary). More details here and Facebook event here

In Solidarity

Mark…

Mark Campbell
London Met UCU (Chair)
UCU National Executive Committee (London and the East HE)

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MOTION A (LMBS Redundancies and Contract changes)

This meeting notes:

1. Management intentions to radically restructure the university’s Business School (LMBS) such that projected student numbers will be significantly reduced from current numbers, the majority of current courses will be closed or merged with others, the number of academic staff will be dramatically reduced by over 40% with an expected loss of around 150 actual jobs – equating to an estimated 100 FTE losses.

2. That all faculty academic staff, bar the Dean, will effectively need to re-apply for a job in LMBS as part of this huge reduction in posts.

3. The pool of jobs available for LMBS academic staff to apply for effectively guarantees that large numbers of such staff if not made redundant will be re-appointed at a lower grade. For example the number of Principal Lecturer posts available are to be reduced from 26 to 12, and the number of Senior Lecturer posts from 125 to 77, whereas the number of ‘Lecturer’ posts are to increase from 5 to 27. This is effective downgrading under threat of dismissal.

4. There is an intention to remove all HPL teaching hours from LMBS and to allocate all continuing work to the significantly reduced pool of permanent teaching posts.

5. Research posts in LMBS are to be reduced by over 55%, such that there will only be 7 FTE staff left with a dedicated research contract.

6. At the last Academic Board (26/2/13) the Vice-Chancellor, Malcolm Gillies, explicitly stated the Board of Governors was supportive of his proposal to unilaterally move away from the national academic staff contract in force at this and all other Post-92 universities, that guarantees a maximum of 550 hours of FST (Formal Scheduled Teaching) in an academic year (with a maximum of 18 FST hours in any particular week), in favour of an imposed local contract that will allow for up to 850 FST hours/year.

7. Unrealistic workload expectations is already the number one issue of concern at this university for the majority of academic staff.

8. As workload pressure have increased we have witnessed a concomitant increase in stress and other related health issues amongst staff as they have struggled to cope with the increasingly unrealistic workload demands placed upon them.

This meeting resolves:

To move immediately to ballot for industrial action comprising strike action and action short of a strike (subject to official UCU sanction) unless London Metropolitan Management agree to the following;

i. To suspend the current proposals for redundancies included within the LMBS s188 pending serious discussions to achieve a viable future for the LMBS faculty on the basis of its current levels of staffing (including a formal guarantee of no compulsory redundancies), academic courses and student numbers.

ii. To issue a statement re-committing the university to the current Academic Contract and current terms and conditions, expressly in terms of no move away from the nationally agreed 550 FST/year maxima.

Proposed by: Mark Campbell,
London Met UCU (Chair)

Seconded by: Cliff Snaith,
London Met UCU (Secretary)

on behalf of the London Met UCU Co-ordinating Committee

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ENOUGH! Time to Fightback for Education!

ENOUGH! This Tory government and their management friends have systematically gone out of their way to destroy our public education system – from forcing schools to become academies to promoting free schools, from withdrawing EMA to attacking ESOL provision, from cutting by 80-100% direct university teaching funding to the introduction of £9,000/year fees, from making it easier for ‘for-profit’ private providers to access state funding via the loans system to encouraging outsourcing and shared-services so that Capita et al are lined-up to take over university and college services, from attacking education staff pensions, pay, and conditions to putting forward policies to make it easier to sack staff, casualise their jobs, and limit the legal necessity of any consultation on any of this, from fundamentally undermining widening participation and working class access to higher education to demonising and treating with total contempt our international students.

Surely now really is the time for a real and concerted fight back!

NB: See the latest threat to London Metropolitan University here

Halesowen College Dispute – Solidarity until Victory!

Halesowen College management have declared war on our union! Today they sacked three more lecturers alongside Dave Muritu!

We now have to hit back with everything we’ve got as a union movement!

That means building for next Friday’s national day of action in each of our branches, and crucially ensuring we get substantial branch delegations up to Halesowen (near Birmingham) for the national demo on Sat 26 Jan.

It means continuing to get signatures on the petition – which already has some 8,250 names on it.

But, most crucially, it also means giving full active and practical support to each and every form of industrial action the branch decides upon – be that action official or not!

Solidarity until victory!

http://justiceforhalesowenfour.wordpress.com

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