February 18, 2020

The impact of further Industrial Action


As colleagues will no doubt be aware, the UCU recently announced that there will be further industrial action taking place from 20 February. The strikes will escalate over the course of four weeks:


  • Week one - Thursday 20 & Friday 21 February
  • Week two – Monday 24, Tuesday 25 & Wednesday 26 February
  • Week three – Monday 2, Tuesday 3, Wednesday 4 & Thursday 5 March
  • Week four – Monday 9, Tuesday 10, Wednesday 11, Thursday 12 & Friday 13 March

This will be the second period of industrial action in the last six months, and my previous blog back in November outlined the various ways in which Warwick shares an agenda – from our work with the ‘Pay Action’ and ‘Warwick Anti Casualisation’ groups, through to paying the Living Wage Foundation rate for all of our staff.

One of the key elements of the dispute at the moment is around the future valuation of the USS scheme. This is complex, and vital work. My view for the past several years has been that it is very important to secure the defined benefit element of the scheme. Currently, a series of proposals around governance are under discussion, following a detailed and excellent report by the ‘Joint Expert Panel.’ We as a sector need to secure the implementation of those recommendations. That is one central reason why compromise on all sides is necessary.

Recently UUK, UCU and USS have met in tripartite talks to consider the options. Even though we have the immediate prospect of industrial action, it is vital that there is space for discussions and for compromises to secure this vital strategic goal of a USS pension scheme with a major defined benefit element. I am doing whatever I can to support that goal.

It is regrettable that we are setting out with further action that will impact our students’ experience of university life – something which we can all agree is so important. It is particularly concerning to me that action is continuing into term two where it will be felt all the more keenly by our students as they prepare for their exams and for life after university.

In addition to our responsibility to our students, we have an important civic role in our region as a large employer. We are a much-needed regenerating force that stimulates our local economy, and we are one of the most respected HE institutions in the UK.

I will continue to respect the legal right for industrial action from union members and, while I will always remain impartial, I understand the significant frustrations involved. But I once again urge for swift resolutions to this prolonged dispute and for UCU, UUK, USS and UCEA to come to agreement for the sake of our students, our standing in the community, and for the public’s faith in the UK’s HE sector.


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- 3 comments by 3 or more people Not publicly viewable

  1. Holly Langstaff

    It is frustrating to not see any mention of job insecurity, workloads, and pay equality in this post. I live in the local area and I also contribute to ‘the local economy’ but I am not able to get a mortgage or make future plans due to being paid by the hour for the work I do at Warwick. The recent commitment to tackle casualisation seems to involve getting rid of workers and adding to employees’ workloads because the university ‘can’t afford’ to issue new contracts. Students want happy staff and quality teaching not more new buildings. The stress this causes many people is considerable and goes completely unacknowledged in the above post.

    19 Feb 2020, 21:11

  2. Richard Smith

    Dear Stuart

    The impact of the strike on staff themselves isn’t really highlighted in your blog post – there is a mounting anger that university employers are not doing more to resolve the dispute (as you know, we generally like – and want – to work!) – and while your words about understanding the frustrations involved for staff are supportive, it would be helpful if you could state clearly whether or not Warwick is among the (quarter of?) employers reported today as indicating they want to make an offer on covering contribution increases. If so, it’d be useful to know, also, what Warwick as an employer can do / is doing to convince the remaining institutions holding out against this (mainly Oxbridge colleges?). According to UCU, salaries have declined by 20% against inflation over the last decade – if true (and it does feel like it!), isn’t this a shocking statistic? Please tell us why there is no move to raise the offer of a 1.8% increase in salaries, which barely matches inflation. It’d be good to know more, also, about what this university is doing with regard to its duty of care to address issues of excessive, apparently increasing, potentially illegal – at least if we’re still governed by the EU working time directive – and certainly unhealthy workload (60-hour+ weeks for many full-time staff) – apart from initiatives on casualisation and equality.

    In further interests of hitchhiking on your blog post (because I believe it will be widely read) to present an alternative perspective on the issues involved, this is what I wrote to my students today:

    “Many lecturers and professional staff will be on strike (and not being paid) in universities across the UK starting tomorrow (Thursday) and continuing till Wednesday next week – because university employers are still refusing to make sensible proposals to improve conditions (though there seemed to be some progress since the last strike).

    I will be joining the strike, because I believe teachers, support staff and students are the core of the university, together, but are all being undervalued – our teaching conditions are your learning conditions – but these have got worse and worse with the marketisation of universities over the last 10 years or so; the fees you pay have not been used for improvement in conditions for staff at all (working conditions have got much worse) but instead seem to be used for new buildings, higher salaries for university managers etc. etc. The strike is not our ‘fault’ but that of university employers in general, who are behaving as if universities are a business run for maximum profit rather than a public good.

    For more information, including how you can help:

    http://warwickucu.org.uk/strike-faq-for-warwick-students/

    There are interesting events planned on the picket line and in The Student Union and you’re very welcome to come along – http://warwickucu.org.uk/picket-line-plans-activities/

    Stuart, you would be very welcome to visit staff on the picket line yourself and I urge you to argue as strongly as you can in the right places for resolution of this dispute – it takes two sides to compromise and we are seeing few signs of this on the employers’ side at present.

    Best wishes

    Richard Smith
    Reader, Applied Linguistics

    20 Feb 2020, 00:57

  3. Alexander Corcos

    Dear colleague,

    This ‘move along, nothing to see here’ approach is very predictable from someone in your position.

    I cite some of your published work:

    ‘Therefore the only change to my salary this year was the application of the overall national pay award of 2%, which applied to all Warwick staff on spine points 16 and above. That became effective from 1st August 2018 taking my salary from £297,105 to £303,047.’

    I teach philosophy and cinema and do so for at least as many hours as my senior colleagues. I earned less in 2019 than your 2018 2% salary increase.

    Ethically and economically, I do not believe that you and your squad of deputy-vice-pro etc. and finance bigwigs are worth these kinds of salaries. Greater evidence delineating the relationship between your salary and your value to this organisation should be provided. Ask the director and chair of Warwick Enterprises Ltd., owners of Unitemps, if they can hook you up with a timesheet?

    In my experience, your students are extremely unhappy. Scandals are being mismanaged. The university does not seem well.

    Your ‘Values’ webpage is laughed at, but no one finds it funny.

    I will be holding various alternative learning opportunities during the strike. If you would like to attend (to see how the less fortunate live) then you would be most welcome. I would also recommend the picket line, as does Richard Smith. Holly Langstaff is also singing a wonderful song.

    With love,

    Alex

    Sessional Tutor

    20 Feb 2020, 13:49


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