As you know, we’ve been using our strike ballot mandate to campaign for the University to make bonus payments to support staff, to make up for the pay freeze imposed on us all in August 2020. We first made the claim in the middle of October, and the Vice Chancellor’s response, via a number of letters, has invariably been that the University is unable to fund any bonuses and that any claim would require us to begin a new dispute. We have made it clear all along that a) we are willing to negotiate on the amount of bonus and which members of staff would receive what (with the clear understanding that the lower graded staff should get more) and b) if we don’t receive a serious offer, we will plan strike action as per our mandate.
Our Branch Committee met at short notice yesterday and unanimously agreed to give notice to the Vice Chancellor that we plan to take strike action for one day on Thursday 2nd December, which will fall on one of the three days that UCU are planning action over their “Four Fights” campaign.
We’ve not taken this decision lightly and we know that many of you will be nervous about striking, especially given that it will involve losing a day’s pay and goes against the torrent of guilt-trips that will rain down upon us for daring to consider such a thing (we’re letting down the students and destroying the University etc. etc.) We totally understand people being nervous, but we all know that the only way we can extract better pay for our members is for us to threaten action and be prepared to go through with it.
So, we expect each member to respect the democratic decision of the branch and strike on 2nd December. (Obviously this only applies to those working directly for the University, so not BSU members, members working for other organisations, and not those about to retire.) Between now and then, we’ll organise a Special General Meeting of all members (on-line and pencilled in for Tuesday 23rd at 12 noon). We’ll do everything we can to make sure that all members (and non-members) understand what we’re doing and why. We’ll also explain the basics of how strikes work and hopefully convince everyone that we’re much stronger if we stick together.
We’ll also need to form strike committees at each campus, so that we can organise practicalities on the day, but more importantly, so that we can get the message across to everyone that our potential strike is about working people collectively standing up for ourselves and refusing to accept continuous real-terms pay cuts, which leave many of our members struggling. (Additional days’ leave are welcome, but won’t pay bills or rent. RPI is now 5.2%. CPI is 4.2%)
This is a massive step forward for our branch. It’s the first time we’ve taken strike action for seven years and the first time we’ll be striking alongside UCU for a decade.
It is, of course, a risky strategy, but not going down this road is guaranteed to mean we’re not taking advantage of the clear decision to strike that our members provided. Winning the ballot means that we need to use it, and we’re sure that you’ll want to play your part by withdrawing your labour on 2nd December. That means not working on-site, or at home, or making up for it the day after!
We are, of course, still willing to listen to offers from the Vice Chancellor over a bonus, although we’ve been waiting for a month for this. If our notice to strike makes a difference to their thinking then we will let you all know.
In the meantime, we’ll be sending out loads more information over the next few weeks and trying to answer questions, starting with the Special General Meeting next week. Invites will go out soon. Please try to attend if you can.