Most UCU members at the place that I work voted for strike action.
I assume that non-teaching/administrative staff are also entitled to walk out(?) If so, would it be better if I temporarily join UCU? Or should I just call-in sick?
Thanks in advance.
I don't work in the
I don't work in the university sector, however my understanding is that non-teaching staff are in a different bargaining unit to teaching staff, and so legally are not entitled to walk out as such. However I would check with UCU in your workplace.
If you are in the same bargaining unit, and would be eligible for UCU membership, then you can strike and are legally protected, whether or not you are a member (although probably you would be best off being a member anyway).
Definitely I would advise against calling in sick, as you can be sacked for dishonesty. Whereas even if you were not in the same bargaining unit, and so have no legal protection for striking, you can just say it is against your principles to cross a picket line. Then if you were disciplined or sacked you could argue it was discrimination on the basis of religion or belief, which is a protected characteristic under the equality act.
I think the relevant union
I think the relevant union for your grade will most likely be Unison, I would say ask for advice from your local branch. I do know at least one uni admin worker who's felt pressured to cross picket lines because her Unison branch explicitly told her she'd be in breach of contract if she didn't, but I have also seen a post from someone saying that their HR department had advised that Unison members refusing to cross will not be subject to disciplinary action, so I think it's going to vary from uni to uni and quite possibly department to department.
Idk what libcom's policy is on cross-board linking, but there is a pretty active (5 pages so far) U75 thread on the dispute with contributions from various UCU members and non-teaching uni workers, so it might be worth asking for advice there... but ultimately I think it's going to come down to the situation at your own workplace. Good luck!
Yeah we have no problem with
Yeah we have no problem with cross-board linking (as long as it is not to fascist websites etc)
that admin worker you know technically received correct advice from her union branch. However that doesn't really mean much: any strike action is technically a "breach of contract" (because your contract requires that you work). The normal employer response to this breach of contract is that they then do not pay you for the times you are not there working for them.
That's helpful that HR have specifically said other union members refusing to cross will not be disciplined. Craftwork I would check if that is the case where you are. Also more generally I would have thought that this would be the case for most public sector employers in the UK, that they would not penalise people for refusing to cross picket lines, other than by not paying them
Thanks for the information.
Thanks for the information. This is not a university, but a FE college, and is led by complete reactionaries, HR are extremely hostile to the action. They are forcing teaching staff to sign a register of attendance on the two days of the strike, and if any teaching staff don't turn up, they have to provide written proof for illness, etc. otherwise they'll be assumed to have been participating in the strike. You're right, I think Unison, not UCU is for workers of my "field".
Nevertheless, I am committed to not working on the strike days and will find a way!
There's also an ongoing
There's also an ongoing teachers' strike in West Virginia (https://www.nytimes.com/2018/02/23/us/west-virginia-teachers-strike.html), all public schools were shut down on Thursday/Friday in an 'illegal', wildcat strike by teachers.
The kind of proposed "pay rise" for teachers in West Virginia is similar to where I work - around the 1 percent mark - another indication that the problem of capitalist attacks on workers' living standards transcends any local, national or sectoral boundaries.
Craftwork wrote: Thanks for
FWIW, UK law stipulates that illness is to be self-certified for the first 7 days. They can't require a doctor's note until day 7. Again FWIW:
Yeah but chilli sauce this
Yeah but chilli sauce this action is taking place over 3 weeks
If it's in FE it's only two
If it's in FE it's only two days next week as far as I know? But it may escalate if there's no settlement. I have heard of workers being told they need a doctor's note if they call in sick on a strike day, whether that is legal is another matter.
The FE strike is two days, I
The FE strike is two days, I have one off, I just need to bag the other one. At my place, they say they'll ask teaching staff to register, but I don't know, they might ask all staff to do so, and teaching staff that are absent on that day will need to provide written evidence.
I think this is the standard Unison position that applies across the board (http://unisonuos.co.uk/2018/02/uss-pension-update/):
Craftwork wrote: There's also
Not sure it matters but while it's unlawful it's not a wildcat as such since the union is organising it.
I was in a similar position
I was in a similar position to you, classed as admin staff at a university and a member of Unison which represents my pay grade. I found out that I could be a member of the UCU - which quietly recruits any HE/FE staff outside of cleaners and security - and that being a member of the UCU was enough to join the strike*. That's what I've done and I've been on the picket from the start. I'll find out how my manager reacts next week.
* Though, employers can't ask you what union you're in, right?
I was working in a casual
I was working in a casual non-union job at a place where one of the unions was going on strike. Management said no one could have leave, sick, work from home etc. There was a small picket line on the day that wasn't actually engaging with anyone going into workplace. I asked if they were wanted people like me not to go in; they said yes so I turned around and went home. Management just assumed I was 'intimidated'. I wasn't paid that day but didn't face any comeback. Don't know if that's any help.
Thinking about it, that
Thinking about it, that Unison advice is really unhelpful (I know, Unison being unhelpful, who'd've thought it?) in how it just says "liable to disciplinary action including deduction of salary". Like, surely any person, UCU member or not, refusing to cross a picket is liable to deduction of salary, the important question is whether employees who haven't been involved in the ballot are liable for extra disciplinary actions on top of that, which it's kind of frustratingly unclear about. Have you spoken to many of your colleagues, do you know if many of them are consdering not crossing or the like?
Good post from R. Totale.
Good post from R. Totale.
For those who don't know me,
For those who don't know me, I'm in the International Communist Current. We're against the union form of struggle. You can have fun reading our position on this here.
I include those details solely for background. My aim here is not to make a political argument around the union question, but to share my research on this question of protection in strikes.
This is because I'm in a similar situation to many people here: admin worker, not regrouped by UCU, nor in the pension scheme in dispute. Nor am I in any of the other unions. Regardless, I've been out on strike this week, and have participated in similar previous actions.
Technically, as long as the strike is a protected action i.e. all the right hoops have been jumped through, non-union members have exactly the same protection against dismissal as union members. This is explicitly stated here.
Members of other unions do not have this protection. If members of another union take action, then their action is unofficial and unprotected and you can be dismissed without recourse.
Even if you are in UCU, and you join the action not having been balloted, there is a potential question about whether the ballot itself is valid and the strike could become unprotected.
I've been unable to find a definitive answer to the question of where a non-union member who is not a party to the dispute would stand.
It's important to realise that even if a strike action is protected in law your employer may still dismiss you. Nothing stops them doing this - to get any kind of redress you would then have to take them to a tribunal.
No non-participating union will support you. I doubt even the UCU would support you if weren't party to the dispute and not included in the call to action. So you could quite easily be on your own. Even if you win at tribunal, it's unlikely you'd get your job back - orders for reinstatement are very rare.
Practical Law, part of Thomson Reuters, has an excellent section on strike law, but it's behind a paywall. Ironically, your university may have a subscription and allow you access!
You may find this article useful.
There's no question it's a potentially big risk for people in our position to respect the picket. I am fortunate to have the support of my family, but I'd be lying if I said I'm not nervous about the consequences.
Thanks for that - so when
Thanks for that - so when you've been in this position before, have there been any consequences? And have you managed to get any of your fellow workers in the same position to do the same thing?
The gov.uk advice is kind of ambiguous:
So I guess it all comes down to whether they define you as part of the dispute or taking secondary action. Also I guess your own contract is kind of relevant, because it's a lot easier to get rid of a temp than it is to get someone who's on a permanent contract and has passed their probation.
There's also this, but it's very long and kind of makes one's eyes glaze over: https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/245596/10-922-industrial-action-employee-guide.pdf
The local government lawyer site also looks kind of reassuring, I think:
But then that's all assuming they play by the rules, and I guess that there's not much to stop them suddenly deciding that they've noticed massive issues with your work being unsatisfactory or something similar the day after the strike and having a go at you for that.
doug is right, they aren't
doug is right, they aren't allowed to ask you questions about union membership or discriminate against you based on union membership. So as long you don't say that you are in a different union officially in regard to this strike, you should be ok. Or at least no worse off than those striking. But as has been said by quite a few others, employers don't necessarily respect the law, tribunals are har dto win, and winning one is unlikely to get you your job back but could easily get you blacklisted and could take a very long time, during which you are not paid etc.
Do you still have to pay a punitive fee for tribunals or did they get rid of them?
jef costello wrote: Do you
The government got smacked down in the Supreme Court on that one last summer: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-40727400 That was probably one of the highpoints of 2017 actually, at least from a UK workers' rights perspective.
Tribunal fees are gone
Tribunal fees are gone (yay!), but like much of labour legislation: the guidance around participating in industrial action in your workplace if you're not in the union/not directly affected by the dispute is vague at best and contradictory at worse. It's no huge surprise that most trade unions choose to take the more conservative understanding of the law - but individual unions and union branches sometimes take a more militant line.
I got brought up on a disciplinary one time - not for refusing to cross and NUT picket line (I was a teaching assistant in UNISON and it was an NUT teacher's strike) - but for participating in a picket line on a dispute I was not party to. For UNISON to help me, I had to acknowledge I'd ignored UNISON's guidance on the NUT strike. It was the only way they'd offer me representation. On a side note, we kicked the crap of management on that disciplinary.
In any case, I think R Totale's advice is key: are there other folks in your workplace also planning on respecting the picket line? While I get there's an important point of principle, we don't need individual martyrs - that doesn't do anything to encourage people to respect each others' strikes in the future. If you can get a few other workmates on board, it goes a long way to protecting yourselves and building up wider confidence for future disputes.
If you can get people together, I'd suggest trying to find some way to act collectively in not showing up to work - all coming to work together and then refusing to cross the line collectively or all meeting up the night before to send off a similar email, etc, etc.
In the UK in the past decade
In the UK in the past decade or two I haven't heard about anyone being sacked for refusing to cross a picket line, and I'm aware of many cases where people have done exactly this, including agency workers. As others have said, your best defence is strength in numbers, so if you can get other people to refuse to cross with you this is the best option!
Also like people have said, union membership is confidential. Never tell your employer what union you're a member of.
Not 100% related to the OP,
Not 100% related to the OP, but since this is the closest thing we have to a general UCU strike thread, I've just spotted that Notes From Below (autonomist/operaist-type academic folks) have started doing a rank-and-file strike bulletin, might be worth printing a few copies for anyone planning to visit this week's pickets: http://notesfrombelow.org/article/university-worker-week-2
Over on the U75 thread,
Over on the U75 thread, there's a poster saying their Unison branch has voted in favour of strike action - has anyone else heard anything about this?
3rd issue up now:
3rd issue up now: http://notesfrombelow.org/article/university-worker-week-3
Steven. wrote: Never tell
I've never heard this before. Are there reasons beyond the one described by jef costello?
As a general rule, I'd think
As a general rule, I'd think it's usually sensible to try and give your employer as little information as possible, and doubly so when it comes to information that could be used to identify and single out workplace militants. Obviously that's not always possible (it's hard to stay anonymous when you're on a picket line), but I would have thought it's a good rule of thumb, no?
Also, just seen this University of London IWGB blog post, which has more on the question of non-UCU members respecting picket lines:
Obviously if you don't work at UoL, there's no guarantee that conditions there will be reflected in your workplace, but it's good to hear.
The SPGB comment on the UCU
The SPGB comment on the UCU strike
Flier on the strike oriented
Flier on the strike oriented to international students from Unis Resist Border Controls, plus Chinese version, see this thread: https://mobile.twitter.com/acupuncturepics/status/970312474460385281
pi wrote: Steven.
You have the right to join a strike organised by your union and the employer is not allowed to discriminate based on union membership. So if you are in the union striking, or not in a union then they can't punish you unless they punish all strikers identically. They are also not allowed to ask you if you are in a union that is striking or not. But If you tell them that you are in a union that is not striking then they have that information legitimately and can use it against you. I would simply never tell the bosses what, if any, union I was a member of. That said I missed the strikes at my work because I didn't realise until they day before and it was on my day off. Should have picketed all the same but I am in my first year and I think that counts as a trial period.
Bulletin for week 4 out now:
Bulletin for week 4 out now: http://www.notesfrombelow.org/article/university-worker-week-4
Also, from the UW bulletin, 3
Also, from the UW bulletin, 3 demos planned this week:
Cambridge on Tuesday: https://m.facebook.com/events/171768213617431
London on Weds: https://m.facebook.com/events/1447160352079431
Brighton/Sussex/NCAFC national thing on Thurs: https://m.facebook.com/events/1797017697265896/
Potential agreement between
Potential agreement between UCU and UUK:
Anyone who understands pensions better than me (ie anyone), how is this as a deal? The UCU tweet announcing this has resulted in quite a few pretty negative responses from people, so i can assume it falls a little short of the desired outcome, right?
EDIT: The responses have grow from a few negative ones to a lot of quite angry, hostile ones within a few minutes, so yeah. Perhaps not the finest bit of negotiating work.
EDIT2: Is this one of those things where you go to the membership with a crap deal you know they'll reject, as part of some negotiating tactic? Does that ever actually happen in reality? Or is it more than likely just a sell-out, as every opinion I've seen on it so far has it?
Various student types calling
Various student types calling for a last-minute "don't sell our staff out" presence at the UCU leadership meeting tomorrow: https://www.facebook.com/events/1909679789344904/
Oh, and open letter calling on the UCU leadership to tell UUK to fuck off: https://docs.google.com/forms/d/e/1FAIpQLSdjBYB9uvEU86u0mAu03cl7sXwwWtwjjysV5VbOk7_QnNBmfQ/viewform?usp=send_form
Rejection from Warwick
Rejection from Warwick UCU:
Ditto Liverpool UCU:
FAO @UCU HQ: Over 100 members
News article on libcom Notes
News article on libcom
Notes From Below special sell-out issue
Probably redundant to add
Probably redundant to add this, but all the pickets I spoke to this morning were fucking angry.
ETA: one person had made a big "OXI" sign - interesting choice of reference, but I suppose one that might turn out to be horribly appropriate...
Motion unanimously passed
Obviously the question now is: if UCU leadership do accept the deal, can/will these various branches mobilise independently of them?
Angery crowd outside UCU
**UPDATE** 45 branches vote
Students have gone into
Students have gone into occupation in Edinburgh.
Lots of people saying they'd resign union membership if deal goes through, but at an impromptu assembly several people said that maybe union was forced to present offer to members... Sounded unlikely to me, anyone know if it's plausible? Either way, mood at this meeting was unanimously against the offer but cautious of slagging off ucu.. it does seem hard to believe, even being very sceptical of the unions, that ucu would push a deal that would effectively amount to its self dissolution as an organisation?
Dannny wrote: at an impromptu
I've seen this floated about as well but from what I can gather it seems like complete bollocks. Here's a video of Sally Hunt (UCU general secretary) talking to protesters outside UCU HQ this morning where you can see she really thinks this is a deal staff should accept.
There's also talk of a second ballot to accept/reject the deal, which UCU members fear is just a ploy to kill momentum. In the video there are people shouting "we've already had a vote" for this reason.
One exciting development is that this Friday, regardless of what happens today, there will be a national UCU activists' meeting at Goldsmiths University. Will be interesting to see if that results in building the infrastructure to coordinate action without official union backing.
There's also a new blog for student/staff solidarity here.
EDITED TO ADD: It seems the UCU has backtracked and now officially rejected the proposal!
You've got to feel sorry for
You've got to feel sorry for the people doing the UW bulletin right now, in the time it takes to write something, lay it out and get it printed it's pretty much guaranteed to be completely out of date.
R Totale wrote: Probably
The deal is officially
The deal is officially rejected. Strikes are on for the whole of this week, 14 more days are planned in the summer term.
I sincerely can't remember the last time something like this happened, it's quite amazing.
Photo from today's March for
Photo from today's March for Education 2. Seems a decent turnout.
Yeah, I was thinking this. Can't remember the last time rank-and-file action saw off an attempt at demobilisation from the leadership, not in a national strike anyway (Durham TAs for a local strike, probably).
Be really interesting to see what comes out of the meeting at Goldsmiths this Friday.
Yes, I've seen this happen in
Yes, I've seen this happen in local disputes, can't remember the last one in a national dispute though.
The strike is now 480,000 worker strike days, which is more than 2016 and 2017 put together (worker strike days- number of people on strike x number of days duration)
I was thinking about the 2007
I was thinking about the 2007 postal strikes, but what happened (if I'm remembering right, can't believe that's over a decade ago) was demobilisation nationally over the official strike, with wildcats breaking out over 'local issues' afterwards. Then a similar situation on a smaller scale in 2009.
However this is only the first offer, so without wanting to be overly pessimistic it could still take a lot to keep the status quo rather than some kind of compromise.
One for the Big Book of
One for the Big Book of Unison Being Completely Fucking Useless: a uni admin worker I know reports that *today* their Unison branch got around to sending out an email of "ways you can support your striking colleagues", with a note saying "sorry for the delay in sending this"
Meanwhile, in FE:
Further strikes at 12 colleges confirmed for late March
Staff at 11 London colleges and Sandwell College in the West Midlands will walk out on either 27 or 28 March for two or three days of strikes. This follows earlier action when members walked out over pay on Wednesday 28 February and Thursday 1 March. Staff at Sunderland College also joined the walkout on 28 February".
This is very interesting
This is very interesting stuff, solidarity and best of luck to those of you on strike.
One thing which I think is interesting is that now that tuition fees are so high, I can imagine that there would be more political pressure on the government to end the strike. As when university was free, more students probably wouldn't have been bothered by them being shut for a bit. But if students are paying huge amounts, then they are probably much more keen to have their education back on. So actually while a terrible thing, tuition fees could have increased the bargaining power of university workers…
There's been moves to get
There's been moves to get universities to refund tuition fees for the strike days, which is on the one hand very consumerist but on the other would evaporate the savings made from not paying people on strike. Not sure if anywhere is actually doing that yet. The student occupations cropping up a good sign that tuition fees haven't completely destroyed solidarity from students to staff yet anyway.
King's College have said that
King's College have said that they will refund students once they know what the full impact of the strike will be.
Also, today's national activist meeting at Goldsmiths Uni had a good turnout:
Oh, and the UW bulletin
Oh, and the UW bulletin mentions this:
"Student-Worker Solidarity Summit, Sunday, UCL Institute of Education, 11-6pm." - that's all the info I have, but might be worth attending if you're in the area.
Mike Harman wrote: There's
yeah you would think that the union should encourage students to demand refunds from the universities. What would also be good would be for a request to go to strike supporters to donate refunds to the strike fund
In related news, Open
In related news, Open University plans major cuts to number of staff and courses:
#USSstrike At a packed strike
UCU members have voted to
UCU members have voted to accept the most recent UUK deal, 64%-36%, on a turnout of 65% (a record, apparently).
Grassroots militants are understandably unhappy as new deal is essentially just kicking negotiations further down the line (when workers won't be as solid as they are now). Sad times.
UVW Cleaners dispute at the
UVW Cleaners dispute at the university of London is still on, 25th and 26th April
Ed wrote: UCU members have
What is the new deal, do you know? Is it just "everything stays the same as it was before and more negotations will happen"?
article looking back on the
article looking back on the strike, written by a comrade of the ICC who works at a UK university and took part in the recent UCU strikes. Although not in the UCU or even eligible to join the pension scheme at the centre of the dispute, the comrade joined the strike in solidarity.
Thanks very much for that
Thanks very much for that very useful article from the ICC member. I linked a few 'post strike' articles to this other discussion thread here: https://libcom.org/library/university-worker-strike-bulletin-2018-lecturers-dispute but they didn't generate much response so this is very welcome.
fingers malone wrote: UVW
And June 6th as well. Also continuing pay disputes at various FE colleges, for what it's worth.
Our dispute in FE so far is
Our dispute in FE so far is actually the most militant dispute we've ever had at my workplace.
Do you reckon all the stuff
Do you reckon all the stuff in HE has had any effect on that?
Yes, there are lots of more
Yes, there are lots of more 'local' factors about our specific conditions but I think seeing a really big militant strike with loads of new workers involved definitely gave us heart
This feels like it could use
This feels like it could use a big bump. Not seen anything new from Notes from Below/University Worker for this new round of strikes yet, but there's this from the IWW (the attached leaflets look really weird in my browser, but display fine if you actually download them and open in Adobe or whatever): https://iww.org.uk/news/all-out-in-support-of-striking-university-staff/
And some nicely-designed posters here: https://twitter.com/we_are_adg/status/1195780074198503425
Anything else so far?
...Aaand the University
...Aaand the University Worker is back: https://notesfrombelow.org/article/university-worker-2019
doug wrote: I was in a
Hah, I just came back to this thread to ask about this very issue, because this time round I'd met some IT staff who were striking as part of UCU, and was kind of confused by it because I'd always thought of UCU as being pretty much just academics, but there you go, turns out my question was answered in this thread a year and a bit ago. Does anyone know of much other non-academic participation in UCU/these strikes? I know there's the IWGB thing tomorrow, but that's a bit different. And more generally, any observations from this time round?
There's a confusion as UCU
There's a confusion as UCU and Unison have 'no poaching agreements' and in HE these assign iirc Grade 6 and above to UCU and Grade 5 and below to Unison. However no poaching agreements are not the same as a ban on Grade 5 and below workers joining UCU. However this is often either misunderstood as a rule that Grade 5 and below workers cannot join, or is deliberately presented as a ban by academics who believe that the union should only be for academics.
In FE there is something about 'student facing' staff.
I'm an FE rep and don’t work in HE, and shortly before the strike started (just a few days before in some cases) I had non academic staff in HE contacting me asking if they could join UCU to join the strike, and they did do that.
Thanks for that. So, trying
Thanks for that. So, trying to get my head around things, would a UCU member in a Grade 5 or below role have the same protections as a UCU member in Grade 6 or above? And would a non-union member have the same rights as a UCU member in that situation? Industrial relations law is kind of confusing.
Protections, do you mean
Protections, do you mean protection from retaliation by the employer because you went on strike?
There could be an issue if you are not directly affected by the issue the strike is about, eg if you are not eligible for the pension scheme, then I think you could be accused of secondary action (not 100% sure on this point) I think in the case of the ongoing UCU strike there are several issues (pay gap, pensions, workload, casualisation) which helps.
In practice one of the deciding factors is if your branch will defend you, which is very variable.
New bulletin for the new
New bulletin for the new strike up now at: http://libcom.org/library/university-worker-strike-bulletin-2018-lecturers-dispute
fwiw, a bit of debate about
fwiw, a bit of debate about the strikes has now appeared at:
This bit from the first article seems impressively daft:
So, disaggregating the ballot was a mistake because only a minority of branches passed the threshold and so most employers didn't face any industrial action. In an aggregated ballot, if the same result had come in and the overall turnout hadn't passed the threshold, which seems likely, no-one would have taken any action at all. Is that supposed to be somehow better?
There's actually a really direct comparison that it's easy to make here, because both Unite and Unison ran a strike ballot over the same pay claim that this strike involved, in the same period of time, but they both ran on an aggregated basis meaning that none of their members took any action anywhere. Think the same's true for the GMB. Whatever criticisms you can make of the UCU, do the article's authors really think that Unite, Unison and the GMB have done a better job of putting pressure on HE employers recently? Fwiw, I'm sure I've heard a rumour that Unison was going to be discussing the idea of moving to disaggregated ballots for precisely that reason.