Given the scramble to make sense of the radical changes to our operations and the attendant destruction of our terms and conditions of employment, you could be forgiven for forgetting that it was only a few weeks ago that we concluded our industrial action on the 4 Fights and USS disputes. For those who have forgotten what the two disputes were about, let’s remind you.
The USS dispute reflected ongoing issues which were not entirely resolved by our strike in 2018, when we managed to get the employers association, Universities UK (UUK), to back down from their plans to end a defined benefit scheme. An update on this dispute from early May is available here.
The Four Fights dispute combined a number of issues handily outlined on this graphic.
Ballots for action were taken at the institutional level, as it was thought this was the best way to meet the legal requirement for a 50% turnout. Around 50% of UK universities, including RHUL, then took part in 22 days of industrial action before Christmas and again in spring term. Action Short of a Strike (ASoS) continued at RHUL and many other institutions until the end of April, though ASoS remains in place in institutions who joined that action during the second round of ballots.
Offers Or Not
Discussions with UUK to resolve the pension dispute have not culminated in an offer. Progress has been made in terms of greater cooperation between UCU and UUK in pressing USS to drop Test 1, to look at the cost and benefits of de-risking and to elicit greater information sharing. However, there is no offer to reduce members’ contributions or for employers to absorb some of their burden (in recognition of the past payments holiday or the strike action required to save defined benefits). To be clear, there is no offer from Universities UK (UUK) on the table with respect to the pensions issue.
There is an offer with respect to the Four Fights. Discussions with the University and College Employers Association (UCEA) were unexpectedly halted due to the coronavirus, with some anticipated marginal gains disappearing and taking us back to the earlier offer. Members should note too that the negotiations for the 2020/1 claim should have started by now, but these have been postponed for the same reason. The final offer from UCEA does not improve on the (imposed) average 1.8% pay increase. However, it offers local level work to make improvements in the three other areas: national frameworks for looking at and generating data on pay gaps, for discussing workloads, and to explore scope for reducing casualisation are proposed. Data and best practice would be shared at the national level, to stimulate wider work in these areas. There is to be no money for the frameworks or sanctions for institutions who do not engage in joint work on these issues.
The Higher Education Committee (HEC) of UCU had originally planned to re-ballot for continued action in March 2020 but this was scrapped due to the corona crisis. As it stands today HEC has decided there should be re-ballots on both issues starting either on 30th June or as soon as practically possible after that date. Continue reading “What Happened To The Four Fights And USS Disputes?”