November 22, 2019

UCU Strike 25th November – 4th December

UCU members are taking strike action across the University for eight working days from Monday 25th November.

We support the strike!

UNISON members at the University voted 78% in favour of strike action over pay, with a 51% turnout. Our members feel exasperated about real-terms pay falling over the last ten years and wanted to campaign for something better, but the fact that UNISON nationally did not achieve a turnout above 50% means that we can’t legally organise for strike action.

However, we absolutely support UCU’s strike and we’ll do everything we can, legally, to make the strike successful and bring the employers’ body back to the negotiating table for meaningful talks over pay and the other issues that UCU are striking over.

UNISON remains in dispute and will continue to do so until this is resolved. We are happy to talk to the employers’ organisation (UCEA) to resolve this dispute, but we cannot accept another year of pay cuts.

Please read carefully our guidance on what UNISON members can and cannot do during the strike.

UCU picket lines

We expect UCU members to form picket lines at each University entrance. These will be UCU members who are tasked with asking others to join them in refusing to work that day.

Picket lines always come with strikes. The idea is that some union members (and some people who could and arguably should be union members) will not want to lose pay and join the strike, so the pickets are there to try to persuade them to join in. In fact UCU members who do go into work are not accepting the democracy of their union which did vote overwhelmingly to strike. We’d politely encourage them to join their fellow UCU members.

Some workplaces have a tradition of one union and one solid picket line. Brighton bin workers take strike action by forming one mass picket at the depot gates. (The police know better than to make a fuss about the number of pickets.) Some sections of workers have a long tradition of respecting picket lines and not exercising the individual “right to work.” The tradition of the organised working class is that you have no right to deliberately weaken the strike if your union has democratically voted to take action, just as you have no right to strike if it hasn’t.

(The “right to work” is a Thatcherite expression that was designed to promote the individual rights over the collective, which suited a government trying to break strikes. Ironically, mass unemployment meant that millions of workers had no right to work during large parts of the 1980s.)

It’s a slightly different situation at the University, with a history of different strikes over various issues and multiple entrances at each University site.

What makes this complicated is the fact that there are two unions at the University, one with a legal strike mandate (UCU) and one without (UNISON). This is further complicated by the overlap of potential membership. (Whilst we say that UNISON is the union for support staff, UCU will accept membership applications from support staff above a certain grade.)

So, the picket line is there primarily so that strikers can ask academic staff and UCU members (and potential members) not to cross it.

For UNISON members, it will be necessary to work on strike days, unless you’re on leave or off sick, and if we need to cross the picket lines then we’ll explain the situation, whilst adding that we fully support what UCU strikers are doing. Going into work does not mean that we don’t support the strike.

Whilst UCU pickets may ask us to stay away from work on strike days, they will respect the fact that as UNISON members, we have no legal mandate to do so.


UCU strikers will welcome anything we can do to show solidarity. This could mean bringing pickets cups of tea or stopping for five minutes to talk to them. If UCU organise events during strike days then we can attend them, provided we’re doing so in our own time.

Given that UCU strikers will be losing eight days’ worth of pay, we’d encourage all UNISON members to consider donating to their hardship fund which is designed to alleviate some of the worst cases of UCU members managing without being paid.

The web address is

Covering work

If we are asked to specifically cover the work of a UCU striker, then there is grounds to suggest that this request may be unreasonable. Managers should know that trying to get you to cover for a striking colleague is inappropriate, and they should not ask you to do work that a striking UCU member would have done.

Obviously, we are obliged to carry out “reasonable management instructions” and may be asked to do work as a result of the strike. If you have any doubt, please contact us for advice.

Students and non-union members

If students ask, we should explain that UCU have voted to strike and that whilst we have also voted to strike, the method by which we held our ballot (aggregate rather than disaggregate) prevents us from taking action. We support UCU and would urge students to support them as well. It is in the interests of students that all university staff are well motivated and properly paid.

As always, we think that non-union members should join one. If UCU members succeed in winning a better deal over pay, we will all benefit.


We appreciate that this is a complicated situation. If you have any questions at all then please feel free to contact your local steward or branch rep.


November 11, 2019

78.1% in favour of strike action on a 51.4% turnout!

This is the local result of our pay ballot. We’re pleased that the vast majority of members who voted did so to support our recommendation, that threatening strike action was the only way to get a decent pay rise. We’re also pleased to have reached the 50% turnout required for legal industrial action. Thanks very much to all our members who voted and activists who campaigned for it.

Unfortunately, the national turnout was nowhere near good enough, so the debate continues over what we should do in the future. We appreciate it’s enourmously frustrating to be balloted repeatedly, only for nothing to happen, and Brighton activists have already started to argue nationally for a fresh approach to the question of delivering significant improvements to pay for us all.

UCU will be taking strike action from the 25th November to the 4th December. Obviously we give them our full support and we’ll have more informaiton about how we can do that before their strike begins.

There’s more detailed analysis in our November newsletter, available in the Newsletters section of the blog.

As always, please let us know if you have any comments or questions.

October 31, 2019

2019-20 Pay Ballot Results

National Result: nearly two thirds of members who voted, voted in favour of strike action, but the turnout fell short of the 50% required for legal industrial action to take place.

First of all, thanks to all our members who voted, particularly those who made the effort to call and get a new ballot paper. We really appreciate the level of support for what we’re trying to achieve for all of us. We won’t know how our branch did until next week, but based on our records, we’re reasonably confident of reaching 50% here.

Nationally, the result is very disappointing, because the turnout, as per the anti-trade union laws, prevents the union from taking industrial action over the imposed real-terms pay cut.

There will be discussions within UNISON over what this means for the future, how we conduct ballots in the future and whether we, as a branch in Brighton, need to re-think our involvement in national pay negotiations.

At the time of writing, we’re still waiting for UCU’s result, also due today. If UCU colleagues strike at Brighton or elsewhere, we will of course give them as much support we can, but unfortunately, we will not be able to join them in taking strike action over pay.

October 24, 2019

2019-20 Pay Ballot – Last chance to vote!

Since ballot papers were first posted out to home addresses on 9th September, we’ve been campaigning to make sure that all our members use their vote. We’ve send out emails, handed out newsletters and leaflets and spoken to hundreds of people because it’s important that we maximise the turnout. Without at least 50% of our members voting, on a national basis, the result will not pass the legal threshold for action.

If you’ve already voted, thanks very much for your efforts. Please let us know you’ve voted if you haven’t already.

If you haven’t yet returned your ballot paper, you need to post it so that it is received by Wednesday 30th October – please post it today!

If you don’t have a ballot paper, please call 0800 0857 857 as soon as you can. You can only request a new ballot paper until 12pm on Friday 25th October, so please call today.

If you have any questions, please give us a shout. We’ll let you know the results as soon as we get them.

August 21, 2019

2019-20 Pay Ballot starts 9th September

If you work directly for the University, you should receive a ballot paper to your home address within days of the 9th September.

Your employer’s pay offer isn’t good enough.

Living costs have soared and yet most staff have been offered another pitiful pay increase of just 1.8%.

So we’re asking UNISON members like you to join with colleagues and vote YES for strike action. We must demand an improved pay offer.

To be able to effectively threaten to take action, we need a turnout of at least 50% of those balloted. To achieve this, we’ll be contacting all members to check that people have voted. If you want to make life easier for us all, let us know when you’ve posted your ballot!

Please let me know if you have any questions.



July 5, 2019

Pay Consultation Result

Once again, thanks to all our members who voted in the pay consultation.

We asked you to either accept the “final” pay offer of 1.8% with slightly more for lower grades, or reject it, with the recommendation that you reject the offer.

82% of our branch members who voted, voted to reject the offer.

18% voted to accept.

The turnout was 56%.

Nationally, the vote was 67% to reject the offer, on a 40% turnout.


The leading body of Higher Education members in UNISON met yesterday and agreed to go to a full postal ballot later in the year. We’ll be lodging a dispute with UCEA, the employers’ organisation and running a ballot at the same time as UCU in September/October. More details in our July newsletter, out soon.

June 3, 2019

2019-20 Pay Consultation – Make sure you vote!

If you work directly for the University and we have your email address on our system, you should have received an email from “Jon at UNISON”.

This gives you a personal link to be able to vote to accept or reject the offer, which is 1.8% or slightly more for grades 1 to 3. Please make sure you follow the link to vote.

HE pay consultation

If you’ve not received this, you can still vote by following the link on the national website. Please let us know if you need any help with this.

The important thing is that all eligible members vote so that the result is a genuinely democratic reflection of our branch’s view.

Please make sure you vote by the deadline of 1st July.

October 30, 2018

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.

October 9, 2018

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.