GUCU letter to members responding to Warden’s announcement on strike action

Dear colleague,

We’re writing to you following the Warden’s email concerning forthcoming strike action by UCU members.

We are very disappointed by some of her comments not least the claim that UCU intransigence is preventing further negotiations and that current arrangements for pay and pensions are “appropriate”, despite years of falling real-terms pay and an increase in USS contributions. In particular, we are disappointed by the decision of the College unilaterally to introduce punitive measures that are substantially worse than those taken in relation to the 2018 pensions strikes. These include:

  • Docking all strike pay – including that of Associate Lecturers – in one month despite formal UCU requests for this to be done over several months and despite the agreement in 2018 to spread deductions over four months
  • Reserving the right to withhold pay for taking part in “action short of a strike” (ASOS) even though the previous warden, Pat Loughrey, assured staff in 2018 that the University would not deduct pay in relation to ASOS
  • Declaring that withheld pay will be transferred simply to “student-facing activities” as opposed to the Student Union’s hardship fund.

This escalation by SMT is unnecessary and provocative. It represents a direct attack on our economic, mental and physical wellbeing and drastically undermines our capacity to defend the conditions that allow us to provide the high quality education our students deserve. It also makes a mockery of the Warden’s claim that she and senior management “respect the right to go on strike” and “care deeply for our students and staff.”

The current disputes are an expression of the fact that staff are being pushed to the end of our tether by inequality in the workplace, crushing workloads, and ever more precarious working conditions. To respond by intensifying our insecurity is not just a failure to be mindful, as the Warden put it, of our community’s “shared values of empathy and respect”: it is simply cruel.

The cross-College strike committee will meet TODAY, Monday 18 November 2-4pm, in the SU Venue – all welcome.  Our plan was to discuss the many measures we are developing in order to ensure that no particular groups of students or staff are more heavily affected than others during the strike. This remains a priority. But now, as a matter of urgency, we will also have to decide how we respond to the heavy-handed approach our employer has decided to take over the strike, and how to defend one another against these excessively punitive measures. It is incredibly disappointing that our Warden and managers have set out on this course – undermining hopes and efforts of working together to collectively improve our working conditions.

We encourage you to join us at today’s strike committee where we will be discussing further our response.

In solidarity

GUCU Executive