As you might have heard, UCU, the University and College Union held a ballot at the start of November to take industrial action against the University of Plymouth. This first round of balloting was unsuccessful in reaching the 50 percent threshold legally required to take action, reaching 46.3 percent of people eligible to vote.
Now, starting on the 6th of December, UCU will be re-balloting, opening on the 6th of December, and closing again on Friday the 14th of January. As such, the result will be published after the Christmas vacation period.
While some UCU branches are balloting over a pension dispute, the ballot here at the University of Plymouth is focused on what UCU refer to as their ‘Four Fights’.
The first of these surrounds pay. UCU are campaigning for a pay rise which would be Retail Price Index plus 3 percent. This means that pay would keep pace with inflation, while the current pay rise offer of 1.5 percent is below inflation. Similarly, UCU also want £10 an hour for in house staff at universities, as well as the Foundation Living Wage for contractors.
The second focuses on the workload of staff. UCU want for a 35-hour working week to be the basis for contracts. UCU also are campaigning for a new approach to workload management within universities, as well as local action plans to be created to reduce work-related stress and ill health. Finally, UCU are also working for a payment to all staff, as recognition for the unpaid hours of work which have been done.
Fight three is equality. UCU want to close the gender and ethic pay gaps, with agreements to be both time-specific and to contain specific actions, alongside a full equal pay audit, which would cover all protected characteristics and would be shared with all the campus trade unions.
The final fight is a framework to eliminate precarious employment created by casualisation. This framework is to create action plans alongside institutions to commit to ending zero-hour contracts, ending worker arrangements for teaching staff in favour of proper employee contracts, transferring more hourly-paid staff to fractional contracts, improving job security and creating more open-ended contracts for researchers, bringing outsourced staff back in house, giving postgraduate teaching assistants guaranteed hours and proper employee contacts as well as reviewing the use of hourly paid lecturers within post-92 universities.
As a Sabbatical Officer team, we feel that it is important to support the work of UCU due to the long-term impact of these issues on the student experience, the quality of the education here at the University of Plymouth and the prospects of students and Postgraduates hoping for a career with academia. To this end, as a Sabbatical Officer team and as a Students’ Union, we stand in solidarity with UCU, and support the ballot, and the outcome.
Charlie Atkinson, VP Education