Outcome of Industrial Action Ballots
Published: 5 November 2019
UCU has called on members to strike for eight days
Following a recent ballot of members, the UCU (University and College Union) has informed the University that it intends to take industrial action over pay and pensions.
The UCU has called on its members to go on strike from Monday 25 November - Friday 29 November and Monday 2 December - 4 December 2019. The union has also asked its members ‘to work to contract’ (for example, declining to undertake voluntary tasks) from 25 November until 29 April 2020.
The University has also been notified that ballots held by Unison, Unite and EIS did not meet the threshold for industrial action.
The University respects union members’ concerns about pay and pensions issues and understands that UCU members will not take lightly the decision to participate in action which could impact negatively on students. For its part, the
University will do everything possible to protect the interests of students and minimise any disruption to their studies.
If industrial action goes ahead, we will put in place advice and guidance for both line managers and employees. In the meantime, we will maintain an open dialogue with trade union representatives; we will also liaise closely with student representatives.
Further general information can be found on the HR webpages via the link below and any relevant updates will be shared in due course.
The University has issued the following Q&A to students to provide them with general information about the industrial action.
1. What is the industrial action about?
The UCU has called the industrial action because it is unhappy about
(a) the 2019 pay settlement for staff and
(b) a recent increase in the contribution employees make towards their pensions.
The 2019 pay settlement from August 2019 involved an uplift of 1.8% (in line with CPI – the main inflation index); the UCU called for an uplift of at least 6%.
On pensions, the Universities Superannuation Scheme board (which looks after pensions for academic staff across more than 60 institutions) increased employer contributions by 1.6% and employee contributions by 0.8%; the UCU argued that staff should not have to pay the 0.8% increase.
2. Could the dispute be resolved by paying the staff more money?
Glasgow is part of a national bargaining forum which determines pay rates across most of the UK university sector. Nationally, during the negotiations the employers did not feel able to meet the trade union’s demands because:
a. Many universities (including a majority of universities in Scotland but excluding the University of Glasgow) were (and still are) in financial deficit
b. Many universities were unable to increase their income – either from tuition fees or government grants – to compensate for increased pay costs
c. The universities were faced not only with the annual pay uplift (1.8%), but also with increased pensions costs (1.6% in the case of universities which offer USS pensions) and the cost of automatic increments which staff receive until they reach the top of their pay bands; in 2019 these added a further c.1.6% to the pay bill. Collectively, these resulted in a total increase in pay costs of around 5%.
The University of Glasgow is in a relatively strong financial position but like the UCU, we are committed to national bargaining on both pay and pensions. This means that we are mutually bound by national agreements reached between employers and the UCU. Our view is that there is little room for negotiation on the 0.8% increase in employee pensions contributions. On pay, we would like to see the national bargaining forum reconvene with a view to reaching agreement on a pay uplift for 2020.
3. Are the pensions of staff under threat?
The increased contributions which the USS board introduced were designed to maintain the current pensions benefits. They were supported by both the University of Glasgow and the local UCU branch. The future of USS and the benefits paid to retired members of staff will depend on the continued financial success of the scheme; we believe the best way to preserve it is to ensure that it is properly funded, with contributions from both employers and employees.
4. What impact is the industrial action likely to have on students?
At this stage, it is hard to determine what impact the industrial action will have. Only a fraction of the total academic and professional support staff complement has voted for strike action but they are unevenly distributed across the University; union membership is higher in the Colleges of Arts and Social Sciences, and lower in the Colleges of Science & Engineering and Medical, Veterinary & Life Sciences. We do not know how many union members will support the call to go on strike. Some classes may be cancelled during the period 25 November-4 December. Beyond this date, classes and exams will continue as normal. Graduations scheduled for the week commencing 2 December will also take place as timetabled.
During the strike, all students should attend classes as normal unless specifically advised not to do so by their School or Research Institute.
We do not expect that the extended period of working to contract will have any real impact on students.
5. Will my academic prospects be affected by the industrial action?
We will do everything we can to minimise the impact of the action on students. In previous disputes, we have always managed to ensure that students are able to complete their studies and to graduate on time. In addition, we give a guarantee that you will not be assessed on academic content which has not been properly covered.
I would like to stress on behalf of the University that we are sincerely sorry for any inconvenience or anxiety caused to students as a consequence of the industrial action.
6. Will I still be able to come onto campus during the strike action?
Yes, the campus – including all learning, social and sports facilities – will remain open throughout the strike. There may be a picket at one or more of the entrances but students and staff will not be prevented from freely entering and leaving the campuses.
7. Will members of staff still be paid if they take strike action?
A day’s pay will be withheld from employees for each day they go on strike. All the withheld pay will be used for the benefit of students; we will agree with the SRC how it should be spent.
8. When will more information be available?
We will provide further updates on the website, by email and via social media whenever information becomes available. We will also provide guidance to Schools and Research Institutes about what information they should be sharing with students.
While we respect the rights and concerns of UCU members, we invite them to think carefully before taking action which could adversely impact on students. If members of staff do take strike action, we ask them to inform their line managers as soon as possible so that students can be advised and needless disruption avoided.
In past disputes, we have always maintained a good dialogue with the UCU locally; we expect the same will apply during the present dispute.
Chief Operating Officer and University Secretary
6 November 2019
First published: 5 November 2019