What shall we do about UCU?

VP Education Maia Jarvis calls for your feedback on what the Students' Union's stance should be after members of the UCU's Royal Holloway branch recently voted in favour of strike action.

Photo of VP Education Maia Jarvis stood in Windsor Gap with Founder's Building in the background

At the start of October, I gave you a heads up about potential strike action from the University and College Union (UCU) and this blog is an update on the current situation. This topic is quite complex and there are lots of interested parties so we published a series of articles over the last few weeks featuring all the key information. I’d recommend that you give them a quick read as they explain the reasons behind the move for strike action, what UCU and USS (Universities Superannuation Scheme) are, and the reasons why it concerns you as students:

The ballot

The ballots (votes) opened on Monday 18 October and closed last week on Thursday 4 November. Members could vote in favour or in opposition of strike action on two different topics, one related to changes in the USS pension scheme and another related to what is commonly known as the ‘Four Fights’ which encompasses a range of issues regarding pay and working conditions.

This vote has taken place at branch level, meaning UCU members at each individual university needed to:

  1. Reach the requirement turnout level for the vote to be valid (50% of members)
  2. Get a clear majority of those voting to determine the verdict

Of the balloted universities, 31 did not reach the minimum required turnout in the USS pensions ballot and 84 did not reach the minimum required turnout in the Four Fights ballot.

The UCU ballot results for Royal Holloway were:

 

Changes to the USS pension scheme

Four Fights (pay and working conditions)

Turnout

271

279

Majority vote (50% required)

Yes (52.6%)

Yes (54%)

% of votes at RHUL in favour of strike action

76.9%

71.3%

As you can see, union members at Royal Holloway voted in support of strike action and UCU are working with members to put together plans for what this strike may look like and when it will take place. We expect to be informed by Monday 15 November at the latest and will update you when we know more.

What’s it got to do with me and my education?

As I’ve said from the beginning, we want to be guided by your thoughts on this complex topic. You may feel passionately that the concerns of academic staff should be addressed and that strike action is a positive way to achieve this and ultimately protect the quality of higher education provided at Royal Holloway. On the other hand, you may feel that the disruption to education caused by strike action is not acceptable and that there are alternative ways to address the issues raised around pay, working conditions and pensions that ultimately protect the quality of teaching at Royal Holloway.

In order to be guided by you, it’s important that you inform yourself by reading the articles we’ve put out and let us know your opinion. Here are the ways that you can share your views with us:

  • Contact me to raise specific concerns by emailing vpeducation@su.rhul.ac.uk
  • Share your thoughts with other students and come together to contact me as a group  

If you think it’s important we as a Students’ Union take a stance on whether the student body supports the strike action it is possible for us to hold referenda. Referenda can be triggered by the officer group, an executive or students via an executive. You can find out more about the process in our constitution.

How I’m supporting you in my role as VP Education

Since becoming VP Education, I’ve been working tirelessly to improve your education and represent your academic interests in all the College meetings I attend. I promise to be led by you as a student body, voice your thoughts and concerns to the University, and take action to ensure your teaching and learning is the best it can be. I’ll be sure to keep you informed as this situation progresses and don’t hesitate to get in contact if you have any thoughts or concerns!