2nd December strike success, in spite of UEB’s wrecking tactics

First of all, thanks to all those members who were involved in our one day of strike action last Thursday. Whether you were there on the picket lines, on the demonstration or just withdrawing your labour for the day, we recognise the sacrifice you’ve made and your willingness to support the branch and each other, in trying to achieve our objectives.

You’ll probably have seen the email from Andrew Lloyd and Stephen Dudderidge, which both aims to suggest that our strike was ineffective, whilst also actively interfering with our democratic process, by suggesting that our members should not vote in the next ballot. If they are so laid back about us taking action, it does seem odd that they’d want to interfere in this way.

Ballot papers relating to our national dispute over the 2021-22 pay round will be sent out in the post to home addresses, from today, to all our members directly employed by the University. Whilst our 1.5% increase (with a bit more for grades 1 to 4) was better than the pay freeze of 2020, it still falls well short of inflation and is therefore a real terms pay cut. Additional leave is nice, but doesn’t pay for rent, travel, food and essentials. For another year running, we’re expected to do more for less. Andrew and Stephen’s email strangely doesn’t make any attempt to address this fact.

Trade unions, unlike universities, make decisions on a democratic basis, and we’d still have a ballot over serious decisions like strike action with or without the anti-trade union laws. What the current legislation does is insist that we need to have a turnout in excess of 50% of ballots issued, and that the ballot needs to be done by post, making it harder all round for everyone.

That’s bad enough, but for senior university spokespeople, presumably with the agreement of UEB, to then abuse their privilege of being able to email the whole university with a one-sided interpretation of last week’s events and then openly invite you all to take advantage of Tory anti-union laws, by deliberately not voting in a ballot, is deplorable.

In our 2020 ballot, which gave us the strike mandate, 71.3% of our members who voted, voted in favour of strike action. 28.7% voted against. With a turnout of 52.6%, by adopting the same calculation as Andrew and Stephen, 84.9% of our members either voted to strike or didn’t vote. Only 15.1% of our members actively voted against.

(Much of the propaganda perpetuated by those who don’t want anything to change is based on arguing that those who don’t vote are happy with the situation and approve of the do-nothing approach. Most of us recognise that this argument is total nonsense.)

It would be interesting to know how many people voted in University-organised ballots, for which, of course there’s no need for a turnout threshold for the result to count. My guess is that for the small number of elected roles, over 95%, maybe nearer 99% of those entitled to vote either didn’t vote for the winner or didn’t vote at all.

What we do know is that for the vast majority of seats on the Board of Governors, there is no democratic process. BoG members are appointed, by others who have equality hardly ever troubled any ballot boxes. These people then run the University, or appoint other unelected people to run the University on their behalf, some of whom think it’s ok to give us lessons in democracy. You really couldn’t make all this up.

Given the odds stacked against us, it’s quite remarkable that our branch and UCU have won ballots with majority turnouts, and it’s all down to the hard work of our activists and the loyalty of our members.

If UEB are now in favour of anti-democratic, anti-trade union legislation, we’d like to hear what other regressive laws they’re actually in favour of.

If they are in favour of democracy, we look forward to see the plan for the election of all the University’s Board members, where we’ll actively encourage all staff and students to cast their votes. We’re in favour of democracy, both within trade unions and higher education institutions.

Our members know that the only way we’re going to be able to receive pay which does not go down each year, is to be able to threaten to take action.

The only way to guarantee that option is to make sure you vote in the postal pay ballot. Not voting means you’re weakening our democracy.

So, when you get the 2021-22 ballot paper in the post, please remember that the University management is trying to make sure you don’t vote.

That’s reason enough for you to make sure you do return it in the pre-paid envelope and post it as soon as you can.

We’ll be chasing up as many votes as we can, because we want to maximise the turnout, so, once again, please let us know when you’ve voted, or of you don’t receive a ballot paper at your home address within the next couple of weeks.

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