March Branch News: Back at work? Here is what you need to know!

March Branch News

We return to work after 14 days of strike action, as Universities UK comes under intense pressure over how they’ve been representing their members.

With the first wave of strikes over, the dispute will enter an unsettling time which is likely to lack the fast-paced developments of the past four weeks. Do not allow yourself to misinterpret this as momentum dissipating! UCU is currently planning for more strikes days soon after the Easter break, and another 14 days around the exam period. UUK called our bluff on the effects of the strikes last time, and it backfired spectacularly. They will not dare to second-guess us again.

Here’s what you need to know about the next four weeks, and how to make sure you keep the pressure on.

1. Do Action Short of a Strike, and do it properly!

The four aspects of the ASOS are: working to contract, refusing to cover absent colleagues, refusing to reschedule classes cancelled due to the strikes, and refusing to undertake voluntary activities.

Do not routinely work more than your nominal contracted hours (in most cases, 7 hours a day). This is a VERY important aspect of the action. If you are unable to effectively complete your work, then you should ask your manager or head of department what work needs to be prioritised. It is the university management’s job to attempt to maintain business as usual.

2. Resign as an external examiner from USS institutions.

Are you an external examiner at a USS instituion? Resign now! You can find more details about what you are being asked to do, including a template letter, on UCU’s webpage. Then, add your name to this list.

3. Ensure you stay afloat financially.

Pay deductions for strike action will now take place over the next four pay slips, which should soften the initial blow. UCU have a national strike fund which will pay up to £50 per day of action, prioritised to those most in need. Applying requires evidence of pay deductions.

Sheffield UCU also have a hardship fund, though much smaller than the national one. Those on casualised contracts or in severe hardship may apply to us directly.

Our hardship fund can receive donations directly using the details on our webpage.

4. Notify about strike action when asked.

Given the clarification in our meeting last week about USS contributions, it is unlikely to matter too much how you go about this. If using a form, we recommend the versions on our webpage.

5. Keep following national and local developments.

Our Twitter account is the best way to go about this. There has been plenty of UUK-related news over the weekend, with their under-pressure CEO, Alistair Jarvis, attempting to diffuse tensions with a poorly judged piece in the Sunday Times, followed by a long, long-overdue response to questions from Athene Donald of Cambridge regarding the infamous ‘September risk consultation’, confirming what we suspected all along: that Universities UK had acted to obscure the detail and misrepresent the position of its members in a way that had a huge effect on the position we find ourselves in now.

6. Keep an eye out for local meetings and news.

We hope to reschedule a meeting with the vice-chancellor later this week, after last week’s damp squib. and may also manage a meeting of members. We will let you know about these developments as they happen!

Returning to work is unlikely to be easy, particularly for those who have been on the picket-lines. Remembering the solidarity of the past few weeks, and keeping an eye out for new friends around the campus, should make things bearable. Stay strong!

Sheffield UCU Committee