2018-19 Pay Campaign Strike Ballot Result

Members may already have seen the result of our national postal ballot over pay.

The national website has details here.

61.9% of members who voted, voted to reject the 2.0% pay offer and were prepared to take strike action, but the turnout of 31.0% falls short of what is required to take the campaign further.
We are very pleased that a clear majority of members voted in accordance with the national recommendation, endorsed by our branch, that we should firmly reject a below-inflation increase, since it represents a real-terms pay cut.

Normally, we would now be preparing for action and coordinating with UCU and other unions to make the action as effective as possible.

Unfortunately, the viciously anti-democratic Trade Union Act says that a 50% turnout in a strike ballot is required for the legal strike action to take place. All other democratic votes stipulate no such restrictions, but combined with 20th century rules on postal-only balloting, these regulations are specifically designed to make it as difficult as possible for trade-unionists to organise, particularly in relation to effective strike action.

Many of our members and activists will, quite correctly, be angry and frustrated at this outcome. For years we have seen our wages fall back in real terms and every year, we aim to campaign for a real-terms increase with an element of catch-up to bring us back to where we should be. Even at universities where employers have agreed to pay the real living wage, many of our members are struggling to afford even the essentials.

For many of us, it felt like this year would be different. With ballots timed to match those of UCU and campaigning material produced and distributed to branches, it looked like we were better prepared to deliver a significant result which could have breached the 50% turnout threshold.

Whilst many activists thought that a 50% turnout represented a significant challenge, that didn’t stop the most active branches and activists from campaigning to reach it. At Brighton we visited most workplaces with leaflets and emphasised over and over again how members need to make sure their vote is returned, by post, before the deadline. We produced one regional newsletter and a guide to voting. We also contacted many of our members by phone, at work, to check that they had voted and guide them to do so if they hadn’t.

Since we don’t have a regional or institutional breakdown of votes (we’re trying to establish if we can get that), we don’t know how successful our campaign at Brighton has been. What’s clear is that there is an enormous amount of work to do on a national basis if we are to attempt the same project next year. Whilst Labour have promised to repeal the Trade Union Act, it would seem that if the Act is still in place next year, we would be best advised to ballot on the basis of a disaggregate ballot, which would mean that if we achieved 50% at an individual university (as opposed to nationally) then this would allow local strike action to take place, which could still be coordinated with UCU and other unions.

Whilst moving away from national action, albeit as a result of adopting a pragmatic approach, may not be ideal (and debates over different tactics to use will continue), it would at least give us some options if we are to do what trade unions should be doing, and deliver meaningful increases to pay and pensions for our members from the autumn of 2019.

We’d like to thank all our members who played a part in this campaign, even if their only contribution was to make sure that they voted! We know that many of our members went further than that and encouraged others to do so. Many activists gave up their time and energy for the benefit of all, in the best traditions of trade-unionism.

We talked to many people over the last six weeks. Our branch has clearly been strengthened as a result of the campaign, even if the outcome is not what we would have liked.

The result represents a setback which the higher education service group of UNISON and the trade union movement has to learn from. It will be necessary to discuss and debate the way forward and draw up plans for delivering the best possible outcome for our members in the future.

Despite our disappointment, we will continue to campaign for the best possible working conditions for all our members, whilst laying the groundwork for the pay campaign of 2019.

UNISON GUIDE ON RESPONDING TO THE CONSULTATION ON REFORM OF THE GENDER RECOGNITION ACT

UNISON GUIDE ON RESPONDING TO THE CONSULTATION ON REFORM OF THE GENDER RECOGNITION ACT

 

Introduction

The Gender Recognition Act 2004 (GRA) governs how trans people can have their identity legally recognised. This was groundbreaking in its time, but it is now seriously out of date and needs reform.

The Government is holding a public consultation on reform of the GRA. The full details of the consultation are here https://www.gov.uk/government/consultations/reform-of-the-gender-recognition-act-2004

UNISON believes that the current procedure for legal gender recognition is humiliating, bureaucratic and expensive. It requires trans people to go through intrusive medical assessments and interviews with psychiatrists in order to ‘prove’ their gender identity. It requires trans people to have a formal diagnosis of ‘gender dysphoria’, to live in their ‘acquired gender’ for two years, and submit evidence supporting all of this to a gender recognition panel (who have never met the applicant) who have the power to approve, or deny, an application. UNISON is fundamentally opposed to the idea that a panel of ‘experts’ can sit in judgement of a person’s gender identity.

People who are non-binary (they don’t identify as either male or female) don’t have any legal recognition at all under the current GRA. You also have to be 18 to get recognition of your gender identity under the current law.

UNISON supports calls for a self-declaration process, in line with international best practice, open to under 18s, and providing legal recognition for people with a non-binary gender identity

The GRA is separate from the Equality Act 2010. The Equality Act provides trans people with protection against discrimination, but it also contains exceptions that permit the exclusion of trans people from single sex  services, facilities and occupations if this is it is a proportionate means to achieve a legitimate aim. There has been a great deal of alarmist and misleading information from some groups and in the media claiming that reforming the GRA will mean an end to these exceptions. However, the Government has made it clear that it is not reviewing the Equality Act, so these exceptions will remain.

In Scotland, gender recognition is a devolved matter. The Scottish Government has already held its own consultation, and thousands of people responded. You can see information on the responses, including the submissions from UNISON Scotland here http://www.unison-scotland.org/library/UNISON-response-to-Scottish-GRA-consultation.pdf

We can expect there will also be thousands of responses to the Government’s consultation. We need allies as well as trans people to fill in this survey so please take the time to do so. You have until October 19th at 11pm but if you would like more guidance you can find further information and guidance on the Stonewall website https://www.stonewall.org.uk/gender-recognition-act  and the LGBT Foundation website https://lgbt.foundation/gra

You can submit your response online through the government website: https://consult.education.gov.uk/government-equalities-office/reform-of-the-gender-recognition-act/

 

2018-19 Postal Pay Ballot – two weeks left to vote!

If you work for the University and haven’t yet voted, you have two weeks to do so.

It’s really important that we get a decent turnout, so please make every effort to vote by the 25th October deadline.

If you’ve not had a ballot paper, please let us know and call 0800 0857 857 for another one.

Every vote will count, but every ballot paper that doesn’t get returned could mean that we can’t take action over a below-inflation pay offer.

There’s more info in our October newsletter.

Vote YES for Strike Action!

If you work directly for the University, you should have received a ballot paper from the Electoral Reform Service.

It’s important that you vote, so please make sure you do, by posting your ballot back to them by the 25th October.

If you haven’t got one, it’s either because your home address details held by UNISON are incorrect, or you’ve joined since the ballot cut off point, roughly at the end of August.

Either way, to get a ballot form, you’ll need to contact UNISON as follows:

Call (Freephone) 0800 0857 857, Monday to Friday 6am – midnight, Saturday 9am – 4pm.

They will ask for your current address and issue you a ballot form. If you can’t get through, please keep trying. It’s really important that we get as large a turnout as we can.

Please let us know if you have any problems.

Brighton Legal Walk

The law team from the Brighton Business School has again taken part in the Brighton Legal Walk, which raises money for vital local legal advice charities.

Access to legal advice has been savaged over recent years, while need just keeps on rising.

Beneficiaries of the walk include Brighton Housing Trust, which has helped protect thousands of households from homelessness over the years, as well as being the last remaining provider of legal aid asylum and immigration advice in the whole of Sussex and Surrey. There’s also Money Advice Plus, which is ever more desperately needed since debt and welfare law were taken out of the scope of legal aid. Likewise Citizens Advice, which provides a vital service, has lost out hugely as a result of most of its work no longer being funded by legal aid.

Obviously, it could be argued that the government should be properly funding all of this, but the fact is that it’s not and people are denied not only their rights but even the means of survival in some cases, so please sponsor the law team for the 10K walk on Monday (10th) and fight for free local legal advice.

https://uk.virginmoneygiving.com/fundraiser-display/showROFundraiserPage?userUrl=BrightonUniversity18&pageUrl=1

Response to the University’s decision to pay the 2%

UNISON is disappointed with the decision to make a payment of 2%, backdated to 1st August. Obviously we always welcome genuine increases to wages (!) but as we’ve pointed out elsewhere on many occasions, 2.0% or even 2.6% for the lowest paid, when inflation is nearer 3.2%, represents a real terms pay cut.

The fact that this is the “final offer” of UCEA is precisely why both UCU and UNISON are in dispute and we will be balloting members to confirm the results of our consultative ballot, which was overwhelmingly to reject this offer.

Paying the 2.0% at this stage, as recommended by UCEA is provocative, and is designed to make it look as if the dispute is over, by imposing yet another cut in our pay. If there is a real desire to make sure members of staff are not inconvenienced by having to wait for a resolution, then we would have been happy to discuss a neutral RPI-based interim payment of 3.2%, or something closer to our claim, which was 7.5% or £1,500 with a commitment to £10/hour, as a way of addressing low pay. (This may seem high, but it only goes some way to make up for the years of bellow-inflation increases which university workers have suffered.)

Obviously we welcome the commitment to pay at least the real living wage rate, which is due to UNSION raising this many times in the past and the University recognising that it is falling behind other major employers in Brighton and the South East, who have gone further and committed themselves to being accredited Living Wage employers, which tackles low pay employers in the supply chain.

It is worth noting though that this commitment will not extend to apprentices, but it is a small step in the right direction and we’re pleased to have contributed to it.

UNISON’s strike ballot opens on 14th September and closes on 25th October. It is crucial that all members return their ballot papers by the deadline and non-members who are equally fed up with real terms pay cuts can have their say by joining now.