The following UGM motion was passed at our last UGM on 20th January 2020.
Title: Support the UCU call for strike action over the Four Fights One Voice dispute
This Union Notes:
1.1 a) That SOAS UCU branch is currently balloting for 14 days of strike action that have been called at a national level;
b) that the ballot closes on 28th January 2020, and strike action has been called from the 20th of February until the 13th of March (Thursday 20th, Friday 21st, Monday 24th, Tuesday 25th, Wednesday 26th, Monday 2nd, Tuesday 3rd, Wednesday 4th, Thursday 5th, Monday 9th, Tuesday 10th, Wednesday 11th, Thursday 12th and Friday 13th)
1.2 a) That this is a national dispute against Universities UK, which represents 68 University employers, in order to regain security and good working conditions for the sector at a national level.
b) that this dispute started 3 years ago over pension cuts, due to UUK saying it would stop offering staff traditional “defined benefit” pensions, which offer a certainty of income in retirement, and instead put out a proposal to shift staff into a riskier, less generous “defined contribution” plan, which offers no assured pension;
c) that the dispute has now expanded to four demands centred around falling pay, gender and racial pay gap, precarious employment practices and unsafe workloads, aiming to gain commitments at national level on the fight against casualisation in Higher Education.
1.3 a) That the current SOAS Director sits on the Universities UK Board, which is the “decision-making body” of Universities UK, focussing “on UK-wide issues and those issues in the constituent nations of the UK that have UK-wide implications or interest”;
b) That SOAS, being represented on the Universities UK Board, is in an instrumental and powerful position to influence Universities UK proposals and decisions;
c) That Universities and Colleges Union (UCU) represents a large number of academic staff nationwide, and at SOAS;
d) That UCU ran a campaign to encourage young, career-starting academics, such as PhD students, to join the Union in 2017 and made membership free for those on teaching contracts in Further Education colleges and Higher Education institutions;
e) That many UCU members who are in the early stages of their career are also members of the Students’ Union, and have been at the forefront of the anti-casualisation campaign at SOAS, Fractionals For Fair Play;
This Union Believes:
2.1 a) That supporting academics on increasingly precarious contracts is an important campaign in the fight against racialised and gendered exploitation in universities, which are mirrored in issues that campaigns such as ‘Decolonising SOAS’ seek to challenge;
b) that showing solidarity towards SOAS staff members, in this case academic, is essential in order to show a united front against the marketisation of our education, especially when education fees are constantly raising and increasingly going towards managerial roles rather than making their way to the people responsible for our education;
c) That the uncertainty and precarity of the sector which Universities UK is not addressing are counterproductive in creating a Higher Education system which has University staff valued and treated with dignity and respect;
d) That strike action, locally and nationwide, despite always being a last resort, is one of the key mechanisms to resist negative changes and protect rights and working conditions across Higher Education;
e) That winning this battle will give confidence to young academics, students and society more widely that we can shape our futures if we come together and take action against privatisation and commercialisation of our education;
This Union Resolves:
3.1 To support and show solidarity to the UCU strikes at SOAS and other institutions
3.2 To keep students informed about the negotiations and how students can take action to influence these negotiations to a fair resolution for UCU members;
3.2 To lobby SOAS Director, as a member of the UUK Board, to support the UCU’s demands and put pressure on the UUK Board to reach a resolution as soon as possible,
3.3 If strikes are called by the SOAS UCU branch:
- To gain assurances from SOAS Senior Management Team that no student will be adversely impacted by the strike when it comes to graduation and continuation in their studies;
- To call an Emergency Union General Meeting in which the Student Union will decide how to collaborate and support the strikes, including how to coordinate a student solidarity presence on UCU official picket lines at SOAS and at UCU-called protests; how to respect the picket line and encourage students to not come into SOAS premises on official strike days; and how to develop, in coordination with SOAS UCU, Unison and others, any other forms of solidarity action that students can take, including providing student support at the picket line.
What have we been doing?
Since passing the motion in January we (the officers supported by our staff team) have been working & making good progress towards the resolves. We have:
- Gained commitments from the School assuring graduation and progression won’t be impacted, including
- the addition of emergency academic regulations
- agreement to staggered deadline extensions
setting up a Student Progression Working Group, which we are invited to
Held 4 open meetings for all students, and opened a digital space for discussion (slido) to
Inform you & involve you in the campaign
Hear what you have to say about what the impact will be on you and what you need from us
Discuss what solidarity with the strikes from the SU actually looks like
Set up webpages, regular email and social media communications to keep you up to date with the information we have
Regularly met with UCU & Unison, and we continue to have these meetings
Discussed the support and welfare needs of students with SOAS senior management and the SOAS Student Advice & Wellbeing team, seeking assurance of suitable provision off campus, including asking for space for Students’ Union support. This has been agreed, and details will be shared when this is finalised.
Started building towards national campaigning, with other Students’ Unions and NUS
Held an emergency Trustee Board meeting, to consider the impact on the Students' Union and make decisions about how we will work throughout the strike period. Minutes for the TB meeting will be online soon.
This webpage was last updated on: 17 Feb 2020 20:07