University of Birmingham's Aston Webb Great Hall

UCU industrial action

RESOLUTION ON UCU BALLOT STRATEGY

This branch notes:

  • That the University of Birmingham has consistently failed to ensure the safety of staff working on campus, by refusing to move all teaching and working to online-only except where this is impossible.
  • That at our last members’ meeting, on 17 September 2020, we resolved to ‘move immediately to hold a ballot (action short of strike) to refuse all face-to-face teaching, and to continue to only work from home where that was the case during lockdown, until UCU is convinced that plans for a return to on-campus teaching and working are safe’.
  • That since term started, the rate of Covid-19 infections in Selly Oak, Edgbaston and the University rose from virtually zero to as much as 1000 per 100,000 students, and to a rolling 7-day average of 695 per 100,000 in Edgbaston South/University, and 809 per 100,000 in Selly Oak. The infection rate among students remains at close to 750 cases per 100,000. These are by far the highest rates of infection in the city, and compare with an average for the city as a whole of only 212 per 100,000 over the 7 days to 15 October 2020.
  • That the University’s policies therefore clearly put staff at risk of infection, with the infection rate among staff more than doubling in the past week to 150 cases per 100,000, and have led to a rapid rise of infection, creating a public health crisis in the city.
  • That we still have not yet received a reply from either the University or the Director of Public Health for Birmingham, Dr Justin Varney, to the Open Letter we sent on 27 September which set out our considerable concerns.
  • That we are concerned that suggestions for further rounds of consultation with members are both unnecessary given the considerable support already indicated by members through earlier consultation, and will be excessively time-consuming. Given the urgent nature of health and safety crisis on our campus we cannot afford what we anticipate will be an unnecessary 3-week delay.
    We feel that: (1) the strong results of our members survey, in which 82% of members supported the current strategy on a turnout of 279 participants, the branch resolution passed on the 19 September on a vote of 81 in favour and 3 against, and (2) our strong track record on recent ballots meet the criteria laid out by the UCU report on effective industrial action (passed at Congress 2019).
    In particular, we note Recommendation 11 of that report which states that:
    “Consultative ballots should be used as a campaigning tactic to encourage and gauge the level of member involvement, not as a hurdle to a statutory ballot. In local disputes decisions by the union’s authorising officers about whether a consultative ballot is required should be taken in consultation with the branch and should include consideration of the track record of the branch.”
    We ask UCU head office to take on board this view.

This branch resolves:

  • To repeat its call for the University to move all teaching and working to online-only, except where this is impossible, with immediate effect.
  • To reaffirm its call for a ballot for industrial action, and for this ballot to begin immediately.
  • That this should be a ballot for action short of strike, to refuse all face-to-face teaching, and to continue to only work from home where that was the case during lockdown, until UCU is convinced that plans for a return to on-campus teaching and working are safe.
  • This ballot should include the option of strike action, which would only be taken if the University chose to penalise staff through a punitive pay reduction for taking part in the action short of strike.
  • To only resolve this dispute if and when the University agrees to move all teaching and working to online-only, except where this is impossible.

Resolution adopted by University of Birmingham UCU members’ meeting, 21 October 2020.

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