2023 Strike and Picket Info

The information on this page relates to the 2023 dispute. This information has been updated with latest guidance on the 2023 UCU Rising dispute following the ballot, which ran from 7 September to the 21 October 2022. For further information on the latest national dispute see: ucu.org.uk/rising. If you have any queries about your local branch or would like to get involved, please email our branch administrator at admin@birminghamucu.org 

UCU RISING CAMPAIGN AND STRIKE ACTION FOLLOWING A BIG ‘YES’ VOTE

Let’s Go!

Glossy new UCU resources can be found here

BUCU Timeline for Day 1: National day of Strike Action (1st February 2023)

Stand proud with your colleagues

Wednesday February 1st has been announced by UCU as the first day of the next round of 18 days strike action. BUCU is once more aiming for a record breaking turn out and is calling on all its members to join the picket lines at campus gates from 8:00 am onwards until 11:00. Feb 1st is also a TUC coordinated day of action. As well as UCU there will be strikes by numerous unions across the UK including civil servants in PCS, fellow educators in NEU and train drivers in ASLEF.

Let’s send a resounding message to our employers, loud and clear, that we reject the paltry 4% offer and will not tolerate inaction over the issues of workload, equality and casualisation. By  joining the picket line we make an visible, undeniable statement that we are stronger than ever in our resolve to win our Four Fights dispute and reverse the cuts to our pensions. 

Day Planner

8:00 – 11:00 Picket campus gates

As before we will have dedicated gates by college (STEWARDS NEEDED):

  • West Gate       – MDS and LES
  • North Gate      – CoSS
  • East Gate        – EPS and Professional Services
  • South Gate      – CAL
  • Bournbrook    – CAL

12:00 – 13:30 UCU PCS NEU Rally Centenary Square 

At 11:00, we will all assemble at the Bournbrook Gate for samosas and from there we will make our way by bus into town to join a cross union rally with others from UCU along with NEU and PCS in Centenary Square from 12:00 – 13:30. Branch secretary Anke Buttner will be addressing the rally. Other local rally’s in West Midlands can be found here 

ASLEF Strike / Vehicle share

It is expected that train services will be severely disrupted if not non-existent on the day. BUCU is assisting the coordination of car shares – please contact us to arrange.

18:30 – 20:00 TUC Protect the right to strike. Bham Conference and Events Centre, Hill St

BUCU Branch President Harjinder Kaur-Aujla will be speaking at this evening rally organised by the BTUC. Register here.

 If you are unable to make it to UoB – join your colleagues at your nearest HE Institution, school, government offices or railway station. Check the relevant union website for picket details.

Birmingham UCU Strike FAQs:

UCU recently held two votes of its members across the country, one on pay and conditions and one on pensions.  In the pay and working condition ballot, the turnout was 57.8% and the yes vote for strike action was 81.1% In the pension ballot, the turnout was 60.2% and the yes vote for strike action was 84.9%. This strike is the result of a national aggregated strike ballot with 81% yes vote in the USS ballot and 63% yes vote in the pay and conditions ballot. We face pensions cut of around 35%, real terms pay cut (again), and failure to resolve longstanding problems of workload, equalities and casualisation: Ballot Result.

The employers have since made two unreasonable offers that can be found here, triggering further strike action. A further BDM meeting resolved the format and duration of strike action, and agreed to a further ballot for more strike action, which will now be executed on the 20th February 2023. Please can members ensure their details are up-to-date in readiness.

Previous 2022/2023 Strike Action

  • Three days of full strike action took place on Thursday 24th November, Friday 25th November and Wednesday 30th November
  • Action Short of Strike (ASOS) began on the 23rd November 2022 and remains ongoing.

All UCU members employed at the University of Birmingham are called on to take strike action on the announced strike days. The full dates of strike action announced by UCU are:

  • Week 1 – Wednesday 1 February (see plan above)
  • Week 2 – Thursday 9 and Friday 10 February
  • Week 3 – Tuesday 14, Wednesday 15 and Thursday 16 February
  • Week 4 – Tuesday 21, Wednesday 22 and Thursday 23 February
  • Week 5 – Monday 27 and Tuesday 28 February and Wednesday 1 and Thursday 2 March
  • Week 6 – Thursday 16 and Friday 17 March
  • Week 7 – Monday 20, Tuesday 21 and Wednesday 22 March

JOIN US AT THE UNIVERSITY OF BIRMINGHAM GATES 8am to 12pm to picket and campaign. On the look out �� for creative ideas and musical artists. (Full details to be announced)

For LIVE up-to-date information see the national UCU page on the strike here and SAVE link on your desktop for ease: https://ww.ucu.org.uk/article/11817/HE-disputes-FAQs

What does taking strike action mean?

Strike action means not doing any work for all of the days specified by the union. This includes, for instance, time before 9am and after 5pm and includes any activity which is part of your work such as teaching, administration, meetings, emails relating to work, marking, completing registers, research or conferences where you are directly or indirectly representing your employer. It also means not doing any preparation for work that you are due to do when you return to work after your strike. The University take a calculation at 1/365th of annual salary for each day of strike action.

Volunteer to Picket

Those taking strike action are encouraged to join the physical pickets outside the periphery of the University on the days of the strike.

map

For physical attendance please bring a face covering and wear this when in enclosed spaces. Hand sanitizer will be available upon registration and at each picket location.

Upon arrival at 8am:

  • join the picket spot that you prefer – we suggest that members join the picket that matches their part of the University: CoSS (North Gate), CAL (South Gate), EPS and Professional Services (East Gate), LES and MDS (West Gate).
  • You can grab a cup of tea & coffee in the Strike Office, Council Chamber in the Guild of Students.
  • Toilets and seating will also be available here.
  • If you normally travel to campus by car, you can still park in your usual spot.

Physical picket details

We aim to picket all of the main entrances to campus 08:00-12:00 on every day during the strike, followed by a rally. The rally will be outside the train station but if adverse weather conditions dictate, we will move to the Council Chamber in the  Guild. https://www.metoffice.gov.uk/weather/forecast/gcqdt4b2x#?date=2022-11-21

Pickets on official strike days are legally entitled to seek to persuade other staff members not to cross the picket line in support of our strike.

We encourage all members to attend picket lines: visibility is key to winning, and students are likely to want to chat to us about the dispute. And of course, it’ll be fun!

If I can’t attend on the day how can I support the action?

For members who are absolutely unable to attend the physical picket there are activities you can undertake online to help support the strikes:

  • Tweet your support @BirminghamUCU using the hashtags #OneOfUsAllOfUs (in relation to the Four Fights) and #NotTodayUUK (in relation to the USS). Similarly you can also tag the branch on Facebook using the same hashtags.
  • If you are striking (i.e. withdrawing your labour) please include this in your tweet along with a short solidarity message or message of support for the fight. You can also tag @UCU and @WestMidsUCU if you want your post to be shared more widely.
  • Join rallies.

Please note that striking does mean withdrawing labour on the strike day. If you’re unable to attend the pickets and if the strike falls outside of your normal working hours please do consider donating to the branch hardship fund.

Making picketing more accessible

We appreciate that being outside for extended periods of time, often standing up, and holding placards can be challenging. Please take care of the following on the day:

  • Wrap up warm! And it will rain, so bring an umbrella!
  • Feel free to bring along a small camping chair or similar if you need one, but do take care not to block the pavement or prevent anyone else’s access to the building.
  • We will be providing a hot snack and hot drinks to picketers daily!
  • If you have a medical condition that might require immediate access to a toilet, feel free to use the one closest to you regardless of whether or not it is behind a picket.
  • Remember that the facilities of the Student Guild (toilets/shop/coffee facilities) are all free to use throughout strike days.
  • Feel free to take a break from the picket if you need one.
  • Please call the picket supervisor if you encounter any issues on the day.

Strike Day Rallies

We will be holding strike rallies throughout the strike period. We will update you when the next one is due so do keep an eye on your member updates. At these rallies you can expect to hear speeches from staff, students, union leaders and politicians, as well as some great music and entertainment. Please aim to get to the rally point before midday. Members are encouraged to make their way to the rally in their picket teams. Please remember to bring your placards and enthusiasm so that we can make sure everyone on campus knows about our strike!

UCU Fighting Fund

UCU provides financial support to those taking strike action, to compensate for lost income during the strike days.

How to claim from the national fighting fund: You will not be able to claim until after your employer has deducted money from you for participating in the strikes. If you are in a position where you can go without making a claim or you feel able to claim for a lesser amount, please consider doing so in order that we can prioritise those whose loss of pay may cause particular hardship. The Fund will be able to support more members for longer if you can contribute in this way.

Local BUCU hardship fund

We realise that for some losing a day’s pay for the first day of action and not getting this reimbursed by the union may incur some financial hardship. We are therefore offering £75 to all members to cover the first day of action. You can register for this when you register for your picket. If you are on strike but unable to physically attend a picket, please email our branch administrator, Russ Whitfield at admin@birminghamucu.org, about applying to the local hardship fund.

Alternatively, if you have the means, please also consider donating to the fighting fund to support other members. Our local hardship fund is being built through member donations and is intended for those in especially precarious circumstances. If you or any family or friends can afford to donate here: Birmingham UCU Hardship Fund

Suggested Out of Office (during strike action)

Remember: don’t check your emails while on strike! If you would like to set an out-of-office reply prior to going on strike, please see the suggested template below:     

Out of office/auto-reply – strike days

I am currently unavailable and taking part in the University and College Union (UCU) strike action to defend our right to a fair pension / fair pay, secure contracts and equality at work. (*delete as appropriate*)

Please redirect your query to university management asking them to listen to staff concerns.UCU Rising Campaign: https://www.ucu.org.uk/article/12469/FAQs

Suggested Out of Office (during ASOS – working to contract)

Auto-reply/email footer – action short of strike

Please note that I am currently taking action short of a strike as part of the University and College Union (UCU) industrial action to defend our right to a fair pension / fair pay, secure contracts and equality at work. (*delete as appropriate*)

Response times may be slower for the duration of the dispute, especially outside of normal working hours.

Please support university staff by writing to university management asking them to listen to staff concerns.

UCU Rising Campaign: https://www.ucu.org.uk/article/12469/FAQs

[Guidance on how to set-up out-of-office replies for Outlook is available here: https://support.office.com/en-gb/article/Send-automatic-out-of-office-replies-from-Outlook-9742f476-5348-4f9f-997f-5e208513bd67#bkmk01].

Removing Panopto recordings

In order to avoid our teaching materials being used to replace our teaching on strike days, we advise that all recordings that you have produced for teaching on the strike days should be removed from Panopto. These should not be re-uploaded while the ASOS remains ongoing. All staff are entitled to do this, as a right acknowledged by the University’s own Code of Practice. See here for more details: https://birminghamucu.org/panopto-and-online-teaching-concerns/

What Action Short of Strike Action (ASOS) is being called?

Action Short of Strike now includes all of the following:

  • working to contract
  • not covering for absent colleagues
  • removing uploaded materials related to, and/or not sharing materials related to, lectures or classes that will be or have been cancelled as a result of strike action
  • not rescheduling lectures or classes cancelled due to strike action
  • not undertaking any voluntary activities.

More details here: https://www.ucu.org.uk/article/11817/HE-disputes-FAQs#Taking-action-short-of-a-strike

Do I need to notify the University?

You are NOT required to formally notify anyone in advance of strike days that you are intending to take action. If your manager asks you in advance, you can reply that your union has advised you that you shouldn’t answer this (see UCU national FAQs).

Core Reporting

If asked by your line manager afterwards whether you took part in the action you should answer honestly. If you choose to do this via New Core you can do, but there is no requirement to do so.

I am working on a visa – does this affect my right to strike?

As part of the changes to the Immigration Rules announced in September 2019, Tier 2 migrants will not be penalised in applications for ILR if they are absent from work due to legal strike action. This includes not being refused ILR if such an absence causes their salary to fall below the required threshold. There is further detailed technical guidance on the UCU national website on how different visa holders might be affected, covering tier 2, 4, & 5 visas: UCU – Migrant workers and taking action

Are students supporting the action?

Guidance for Students

ASOS guidance for ARPS members

PGR’s as staff not students 

The full-time officer at the Guild, Acacia Matthews, has issued this supportive statement and a student referendum is in place locally to support our action.

“Your Full Time Officer Team stands in support of the University and College Union (UCU) in relation to the announced period of strike action, that their members have approved by ballot. Students have continually shown their support for this stance through Guild referenda, and in the context of a cost-of-living crisis, the issues raised by UCU are now more pressing than ever.

We urge the Joint Negotiation Committee on the pensions dispute to meet with UCU nationally, with a fair pension offer for academic and academic-related staff, to end years of strike disruption across the sector.

Your Officer Team will be actively supporting the strikes by providing a space in the Guild for those on picket lines to take a break and have refreshments, as well as continuing to raise the concerns of casualisation, PGTA pay, and equality for all, at the most senior level of the University.

The Guild recognises the significant impact strike action will have on many students, and is acting to mitigate this. We will open all Guild rooms outside of student group bookings as study space during strike days, as well providing space for lecturers to deliver ‘teach-outs’. We will also continue to lobby the University for fair assessment mitigations and other changes, for students impacted by any disruption to their studies.

As a team, we aren’t officially calling on students not to cross picket lines and go onto campus during the period of strike action. We recognise that not all students are able to make such a commitment, and that this is a matter of personal choice.

Similarly, as a team, we will be judging individually which meetings on campus and with the University are essential for us to attend during strike days. Any such meetings will be held in the Guild wherever possible.

We would like to stress to all students the importance of respecting the decisions and beliefs of others during any strike period, while also recognising the right of a union to picket at the entrance to their employer’s estate”.

2023- Latest statement from the Guild on strike action

If you have any questions regarding this statement or how your Guild can support you during the strike period, please email FTO@guild.bham.ac.uk or contact us via any of our social media channels, which you can find details of here.

Further information and YouTube links: https://www.guildofstudents.com/representation/industrialaction/
Historical Student support

Nationally, the NUS has given its full backing to UCU over both disputes, with the NUS Vice-President for Higher Education Hillary Gyebi-Ababio, releasing the following statement:

“NUS stands in solidarity with staff who have voted for industrial action over these past few weeks. The sad truth is that increasingly staff on the ground have only seen more work for less reward. Time and time again, we’ve seen staff across universities go above and beyond to keep their institutions running, and students learning, and they have been met with cruel and untenable conditions and remuneration. There remains huge pay disparities between senior management and frontline staff, not to mention the appalling gender and race pay gaps. The situation is unsustainable for staff, and ultimately, that affects the support students receive, the quality of their learning and their wider student experience. 

“We don’t win a new vision for education by allowing senior managers to pit students and staff against one another. Staff working conditions are our learning conditions, and we must stand together if we are to realise a system that is truly student-centered and democratised. Our fights are inherently linked. UUK and UCEA must return to negotiations if we want to see a resolution to these disputes, and disruption minimised for students”.

Students have historically given fantastic support to our members, with students overwhelmingly voting to support our action in 2020 and the former President of the NUS, Malia Bouattia, giving this incredible speech on the steps of the Aston Webb on the 4th December 2019.

The Guild of Students at the University of Birmingham has a referendum in place to student members to advise students on their position on strike action.  If you are a UCU member and also a student, then you are entitled to participate in the democratic activities in the Guild and we encourage you to do so.

You can find more details and see the full ‘Vote YES’ campaign page here: Guild of Students – The Yes Case