The afternoon of 20th November saw an Emergency General Meeting for the Royal Holloway UCU Branch, focusing on the upcoming Pensions and Equalities disputes. If you couldn’t make it, here’s a summary of the discussion.
Introduction from branch chair
At Royal Holloway, 83% of our members who voted, voted for strike action for USS, and 79% for strike action for equalities and working conditions. As you are hopefully already aware, the strike will run from 25th November to 4th December inclusive. During this time, you should carry out no management-facing activities, such as teaching or meetings.
During the last strike, management were surprised by our level of engagement and the support from students. By the end of the strike, they wrote a serious letter to address the issues. Recently, we’ve seen a different take from management, with better engagement, though still with poor results. College is apparently interested in engaging with us on casualisation after five years of asking – next term. College has taken some action on gender pay-gap (though these efforts still fall short). College is now interested in meeting to discuss workload. These actions have only come about since the strike action has been confirmed.
What’s important for the strike action is that it is fully supported – by members and students. Recent events show that that is what it takes for our management to listen. This is a national action. Even if college management move to address some of these issues, we will continue the action until the national representatives take action.
Action Short of a Strike (ASoS)
ASoS was supported by 86% for USS, and 83% for equalities. Principally, it means working to contract. Interestingly, the college reserves the right to penalise us for ‘incomplete’ work activity. ASoS is withdrawing any voluntary activity. Take all legally mandated breaks. From the 25th, we are on ASoS until further notice. No covering for colleagues – nothing beyond your contracted activity. College has stated they won’t make deductions based on ASoS now– but they reserve the right to revise this policy.
Members do not have to inform anyone about strike action or ASoS in advance. You may choose to inform your students (though please do so in person, verbally, rather than in writing). You have a responsibility to report after the strikes. Management seem to be waiting to see how strongly action is supported before they issue any response.
Report from Strike Coordinator
If you have any questions, the first port of call is the branch blog. Information to share with students is now live. There are FAQs, on a national level, but also on a local level. The branch Comms on the blog and Twitter have been very active with details, including a group email. Members can email rhulucu2018 at gmail.com throughout the action.
We need to be able to explain to students why we are taking action, and what they can do to support us. Even if they don’t want to support us, explain what they can do to make this dispute finish sooner. The RHSU as yet have not put out a supportive statement – they are in fact holding a vote (a ‘Preferendum’) for the student body’s preference. Several student societies have already expressed solidarity and support. We have requested that these societies lobby the SU to pledge support. The single biggest thing that students can do is to write to Paul Layzell and encourage him to lobby UUK and UCEA to make meaningful proposals.
There is national financial support available for those taking action. Those earning under £30,000 can claim £75 from day 2 onwards; over £30,000, claim £50 from day 3 onwards. Local support will offer cover from the very first day. This support will be available to all those who need it. This means it is essential for us to ask for donations. We will be asking retired members, and there will be an online giving account and collection tins on the picket lines. Visiting lecturers, casual staff, TAs, please claim this money: it is there for you. Even for some of those on higher salaries, taking action is extremely difficult. Please make use of this support.
The strike is only going to have an impact if we can take as much strike action as we can afford. If you can’t take the full 8 days, we ask that you take the days that have the greatest impact. We know that the student voice is much more powerful than ours; all we can do is disrupt their education, and direct them to the principal.
Picketing is immensely worthwhile if you can manage it. The Egham pickets will run 8-10:30 every day of the dispute. We currently have a Bedford Square supervisor for 2-4 December, but we still need a volunteer for the first week.
Teach Inns – there are free slots available. We will give a free hot drink to all picketing staff. If you would like to present, please sign up for a slot and let us know. There are a variety of activities – feminism in higher education, social media and student experience, protest songs, and placard making workshops. Encourage your students to come along. We want students to see that we are not withdrawing on a professional basis; we need them to help us make our arguments.
Non-members can join the union at any point during the action and still take part.
RHUL HR challenged the result of our ballot. They reserve the right to restart the legal challenge. They reserve the right to deduct 25% of salary if “lost learnings” are not replaced after the dispute. We know they think there is no support. They are predicting that the strike will have no impact. Unless the strike is successful, their offers of talks will disappear.
If members have ideas for activities during the strikes/ASOS, and want to run them past the committee, they should write to the branch email, or see us on the picket line. Continue reading “Report from the Emergency General Meeting on 20th November”