This what solidarity looks like

Solidarity action: Imperial Events Meeting cancelled (28 February 2023)

UCU Imperial branch is grateful to the distinguished journalist, author and broadcaster, Kenan Malik, who has withdrawn from an Events Meeting on Tuesday 28th February organised by the College, in solidarity with our strike action demanding an improved pay offer for all staff at Imperial. The meeting was originally organised to discuss his latest book Not So Black and White on race, class, and identity politics. However, he withdrew in support of our dispute over pensions, pay and working conditions in higher education, when it became apparent the meeting fell on a strike day in our dispute over local pay.

As Kenan said: “I don’t cross picket lines, and I support the strikes”.

Picketing on 9 and 10 February

We will follow up last week with effective action this Thursday 9th and Friday 10th February. It’s important that we have a visible – and audible – presence around the South Kensington campus. Please join picketing from 0800 onwards. Bring your own placards, whistles and help ensure management can hear us!

See the Strike Information for February and March 2023 for more details about picketing.

No picketing at South Ken on 1 February

Wednesday will see up to half a million workers strike across the UK: teachers and support workers in schools in every town and city, civil service staff and train drivers on the rail network. 38,000 members have joined the NEU since the announcement of their ballot result. It will be a historic day.

The scale of the action means we cannot mount effective picketing on campus on Wednesday morning. So instead please join strike activities wherever you live – whether that’s a picket at your local school or the protests being organised in many towns and cities. These have been organised by the main school union, so they will all be family-friendly events!

We hope many of you can join the all-London march and rally, called by the National Education Union and supported by UCU and the Public and Civil Service union. The UCU feeder march assembles at 10.30am in Malet Street in Bloomsbury. It’s just a short walk to Portland Place where we will form a UCU block for the main march. Check for full details and updates on the UCU London Region website.

🔥 London March and Rally: STRIKE TOGETHER, MARCH TOGETHER 

Called by NEU. Supported by PCS, UCU, RMT.

🔥 UCU BLOCK: Assemble 10.30am Malet Street WC1E (leaves 11am SHARP)

🔥 March Departs 11.45am Portland Place W1A 1AA for a rally at Westminster 

Post-demo social: (from 3pm or when demo finishes) Food & drink available, Walkers of Whitehall, 15a Craigs Court SW1A 2DD (just off Whitehall). All welcome. Hosted by Lambeth, Hackney and Redbridge NEU and UCU London Region.

Updated strike Information for February and March 2023

UCU members at Imperial College London have two separate mandates to take strike action. The first dispute is UK-wide and is in opposition to cuts to the USS pension scheme. The second – that of pay – is local to Imperial, because College management withdrew from national collective bargaining on pay several years ago. UCU – alongside Unite – took action against management’s disgraceful imposition of real-terms pay cuts on 23 January. The following strikes dates have been called for action:

  • Week 1 – Wednesday 1 February – completed
  • Week 2 – Thursday 9 and Friday 10 February – completed 
  • Week 3 – Tuesday 14, Wednesday 15 and Thursday 16 February – completed
  • Week 4 – Thursday 23 February (local action on pay only with Unite)
  • Week 5 – Tuesday 28 February (local action on pay only)
  • [No action week commencing Monday 6 March]
  • Week 6 – Wednesday 15 (local action pay only) Thursday 16 and Friday 17 March (national action on USS pensions only)
  • Week 7 – Monday 20, Tuesday 21 and Wednesday 22 March (both local and national action)

The following information, advice and guidance is specific to Imperial. For more general information, please refer to the UCU main pages, in particular the Members pages. If you have questions or comments please contact any of the elected UCU reps or email ucu-office@imperial.ac.uk.

Picketing details

In person picketing will take place on each strike morning starting at 8am. Picketing will mainly take place on the South Kensington campus with occasional picketing of St. Mary’s campus. The Exhibition Road vehicle and pedestrian entrance to Imperial College Road will be the main hub for us. If you’re not sure where to go when you turn up, please report to this location.

At 10.30 am each day we will hold a meeting with all in-person picketers.

Picket supervisors

The picket supervisors will be Roddy Slorach and Toby Andrew. Please contact one of them if you have any concerns on the day. Any person not involved with the strike action with a concern should be directed towards them.

How can you support us?

  • Join the strike days listed above! Meet 8am on Exhibition road.
  • Support the Action Short of Strike (ASOS) from 30 November
  • Email management (president@ic.ac.uk, provost@ic.ac.uk) to say you support the staff pay claim (template here)
  • Speak with colleagues and students about the disputes (student info slides available)
  • Update your out-of-office and email signature (template here)
  • Join a union. There are three at Imperial College: UCU, Unite, Unison

Strike fund

National UCU is making its Fighting Fund available to those members who participate in the strike according to these rules:

  • Daily rates will be £75 for members in UCU subscription bands F3-6 (those earning under £30,000) and £50 for members in bands F0-F2 (those earning £30,000 and over)
  •  All members participating in strike action will be able to claim for the second day of the strike action onwards
  • The officers will review this position and make further decisions if / when further strike action is called in the new year.

 

Strike Information for 24, 25, 30 November 2022

UCU members at Imperial College London have two separate mandates to take strike action. The first dispute is UK-wide and is in opposition to cuts to the USS pension scheme. The second – that of pay – is local to Imperial, because College management withdrew from national collective bargaining on pay several years ago. UCU – alongside Unite – will be taking action against management’s disgraceful imposition of real-terms pay cuts on 30 November. Unison’s ballot for industrial action also closes on that day.

The following information, advice and guidance is specific to Imperial. For more general information, please refer to the UCU main pages, in particular the FAQs. If you have questions or comments please contact any of the elected UCU reps or email ucu-office@imperial.ac.uk.

Picketing details

In person picketing will take place on each of the three mornings starting at 8am. Picketing will only take place on the South Kensington campus. The Exhibition Road vehicle and pedestrian entrance to Imperial College Road will be the main hub for us. If you’re not sure where to go when you turn up, please report to this location.

At 10.30 am each day we will hold a meeting with all in-person picketers. We’ll then continue picketing in person until lunchtime.

Picket supervisors

The picket supervisors will be Roddy Slorach and Toby Andrew. Please contact one of them if you have any concerns on the day. Any person not involved with the strike action with a concern should be directed towards them.

How can you support us?

  • Join the strike days on 24, 25 and 30 November! Meet 8am on Exhibition road.
  • Support the Action Short of Strike (ASOS) from 30 November
  • Email management (president@ic.ac.uk, provost@ic.ac.uk) to say you support the staff pay claim (template here)
  • Speak with colleagues and students about the disputes (student info slides available)
  • Update your out-of-office and email signature (template here)
  • Join a union. There are three at Imperial College: UCU, Unite, Unison
  • If you are a Unison member and have received a ballot, please post it urgently and let your rep know you have voted

Statement from the Joint Trade Unions

Our pay claim is modest. It would partially protect the value of our salaries at Imperial – and is affordable to the College. However, the College has rejected the claim outright, instead insisting upon a dismal 3.3% offer (which is yet another pay cut in real terms), a derisory one-off “cost of living supplement” that does nothing to offset the effects of inflation and the insulting suggestion of setting up a “pop-up shop” to sell “discounted food staples” to impoverished staff members and students.

In the face of such intransigence and wrong College priorities, the only thing that will focus the minds of senior management is to take decisive industrial action that cannot be ignored. That is why we are asking for you to join the 3-days of strike action with the aim of shutting down the College. If we do this, we believe the dispute could be swiftly resolved. We would like to remind you that all staff can legitimately join the 3-day strike action, whether or not you are currently in a union, since ALL employees are legally entitled to do this:

“Non-union staff and striking:  If non-union members go on strike, they are protected from dismissal and have the same rights as union members, as long as the industrial action is lawful.” (https://www.gov.uk/if-your-business-faces-industrial-action/nonunion-employees-and-strikes)

Please note that the situation at Imperial is distinct from most universities involved in strike action in that pay is a local issue here because our employer withdrew from national pay bargaining. UCU members will therefore take strike action over USS pensions on 24 and 25 November and over pay on 30 November.

Industrial action being taken:

UCU: National strike over pensions (24, 25 & 30 November) & ASOS (23 Nov onwards)

UCU and Unite: Branch strike action over pay at Imperial (30 November).  UCU two additional measures of ASOS (30 Nov onwards)

UNISON: Balloting membership for strike action over local pay

 

Strike fund

National UCU is making its Fighting Fund available to those members who participate in the strike according to these rules:

  • Daily rates will be £75 for members in UCU subscription bands F3-6 (those earning under £30,000) and £50 for members in bands F0-F2 (those earning £30,000 and over)
  •  All members participating in strike action will be able to claim for the second day of the strike action onwards
  • The officers will review this position and make further decisions if / when further strike action is called in the new year.

Report from UCU congress, June 2022

Annual Congress is the supreme decision-making body of our union. It comprises two sections: a two-day conference bringing together all the post-16 education sectors of the union, and a one-day conference for each of the FE and HE sectors.

Congress 2022 took place online but voting this year took place live via a platform provided by Civica (the same organisation which organises industrial action ballots). This change was widely welcomed, but it did take time for votes to be recorded and the results announced. As a result, a large number of motions were not discussed, including the whole section on Education.

The full text of all motions can be found here. Many passed without opposition. This report will focus on the key motions, including those which were contested.

 

Congress Day 1

Motion 5 on Proportional Representation passed by a large majority, as did Motion 13 on making subs rates more progressive, and Motions 15 and 16, which made changes concerning the regulation of members’ conduct.  Motion 17 formalised the move to real time voting at conferences.

Two motions focused on the General Secretary’s (GS) role in the ongoing UK-wide disputes over the Four Fights and USS pensions. Motion 19 censuring the GS over the conduct of these disputes, was narrowly defeated. Motion L1 (‘L’ depicts a ‘late’ motion) – less explicitly critical of the GS – won by a narrow majority.

 

HE Sector Conference (USS and Four Fights disputes)

Motion HE3, re failures in USS governance, was passed by a substantial majority.

HE6, a detailed motion outlining a strategy for effective industrial action in the HE disputes, was carried by a small majority.  As amended, this commits the union to an aggregated UK-wide industrial action ballot over the USS and Four Fights disputes beginning as soon as possible this month and running until September.

HE7 and HE8, respectively requiring weekly ‘Get The Vote Out’ branch updates from Civica for this ballot and that this ballot should be in aggregated form, were also passed, in both cases with a larger majority.

HE10 and HE11 both focused on the democratic conduct of disputes, stressing the need for Branch Delegate Meetings (BDMs) to take place prior to HE Committee (HEC) decisions on industrial action, and that HEC should take full account of votes at BDMs.

Another late motion, L7, highlighted and promoted the ‘Twin to win’ campaign. This concerns a group of branches which secured a mandate in the last ballot on Four Fights and USS and have over recent weeks carried out a (remarkably successful) marking and assessment boycott aimed at keeping the dispute active until the next UK-wide steps have been arranged.

L8, criticising delays to industrial action, was passed by a large majority.

 

Congress Day 2

Congress saw considerable debate over a group of Equalities motions concerning different aspects of rights for trans people. Motion 38, the focus of some controversy in this branch and elsewhere prior to Congress, was stripped of sections (a) and (c) by the Congress Business Committee following legal advice. This and the other motions in this group were subsequently passed with similarly large majorities.

One rule change was agreed by the required two-thirds majority at Congress. Motion 55 will mean that smaller UCU branches will be better represented at future conferences. Motion 57 committed the union to establishing a branch delegate-based industrial action committee to run industrial action. Although passed, Motion 57 did not secure a two-thirds majority so therefore fell.

 

As Imperial UCU’s only delegate at Congress, I voted in favour of all the motions outlined above, including those calling for an aggregated ballot, and Motion 19, which was lost.

All other motions were remitted to the National Executive Committee.

I will present a report to at the next Imperial UCU members’ meeting on Wednesday 15th June about the decisions of Congress and HESC and will be happy to answer any questions.

Roddy Slorach, June 2022

Emergency motion passed on action short of strike (ASOS) 24/11/21

Text of an emergency motion passed regarding ASOS in the upcoming USS dispute at an Imperial UCU all members meeting on 24/11/21:

Imperial UCU notes that 

  • UCU branches which passed the threshold have a mandate for all the elements of ASOS listed on the ballot paper
  • UCU notifications of action to employers cite only work-to-contract and refusal of voluntary duties
  • UCEA has advised institutions that refusing to reschedule classes or cover for absent colleagues are not covered by the notification.

Imperial UCU believes that 

  • No HEC decision dictated the content of the notifications
  • This situation potentially undermines our industrial action.

Imperial UCU calls on the General Secretary and HEC to immediately rectify the situation by issuing corrected notifications of action to the employers.

UCU message on the USS pensions dispute for all staff at Imperial College London

Message for all Imperial College staff from branch UCU, 25/11/21

Dear Colleagues,

The Provost, Ian Walmsley, emailed all staff last Wednesday about next week’s industrial action by the University and College Union (UCU) over cuts to USS pensions. Vice-Provost (Education & Student Experience), Emma McCoy, also sent a separate email about the action to all students.

UCU officially represents all staff in USS who are about to see very significant cuts, on average more than 20%, to their pension imposed by the College. I am therefore writing to tell you why UCU believes industrial action is necessary.

First some background: UCU, together with Unison and Unite, negotiate the pay settlement for all staff, not just our members, every year. We also represent all staff in many workplace matters including policies over bullying and harassment, health and safety issues, precarious jobs, nursery fees, compulsory lecture capture as well as tackling gender and ethnic pay gaps. With almost no staff representation within senior management and governance bodies compared to our peer institutions, UCU plays a vital role in challenging the democratic deficit at Imperial. If you want your voice heard more clearly and are not a member of UCU, please consider joining us!

Back to pensions, these should be considered as deferred pay and a cut to pensions simply represents a cut to pay. Every member of staff needs to ask: what would I do if College threatened to cut my pay?

The first step would be to ask why such a cut was necessary. On this issue at least management and the unions agree:  as the email to students stated: “For several years, UK universities and trade unions have disagreed with the valuation placed upon the Universities Superannuation Scheme (USS).” For example, the risk that USS might not be able to pay our pensions is based on assuming that it underperforms compared to any 30-year investment period since 1900. That’s worse than over the 30 years that includes the first World War, the Spanish Flu epidemic and the Great Depression!

The second step would be to understand the effect of the cuts. I urge you to find out how this will affect you personally using either the UCU modeller https://www.ucu.org.uk/ussmodeller or the USS modeller  https://www.ussconsultation2021.co.uk/members/impact; with the latter, you can include the effect of the 2.5% inflation cap based on the historical average rate of inflation of 3.5%. Both modellers show that the cuts are worse for younger staff, in part because the eroding effect of this cap.  For example, a typical 37-year-old academic would experience a cut of between 23-35%.

The third step would be to challenge management’s response.  Rather than try to force a new valuation, Universities UK (UUK) have imposed nearly all of the burden onto staff. UCU has proposed alternative short-term proposals for a more balanced sharing of the cost of the 2020 valuation, while a long-term plan for USS is established on a more credible footing. Imperial management must take the lead and publicly call for these alternative proposals to be explored, for the sake of the staff that they claim to value.  Instead, rather than work with UCU in retrieving the pension they say that they value, management have attempted to drive a wedge between the staff and the students that we teach and support. On that score, students have good reason to be sceptical of the claim that “funds will be reinvested to directly benefit students and your education.” UCU has previously requested that pay withheld from striking staff be paid into the student hardship fund, but this request has been refused.

We now believe that the only path open to us to defend our pensions is to take industrial action. We do not want to disrupt the education of our students: we are the ones who know, teach, and support them. But the responsibility for the disruption lies fully with our employers. We are taking this action on behalf of all staff at lmperial, particularly our younger and future colleagues, many of them currently our students, who will lose the most. I urge you to join us, join UCU and support the action necessary to defend our pensions.

Vijay Tymms, President Imperial UCU

On behalf of Imperial UCU Branch

Imperial UCU motions on COVID safety and return to work

Text of two motions passed at an Imperial UCU all members’ meeting on 29/9/21:

Motion 1 on COVID-19 safety at Imperial College

Imperial College UCU notes that:

  • the UK currently has over 30,000 new cases of COVID-19 daily and fatality rates over a thousand per week. These are much higher than in comparable nearby countries
  • Vaccination significantly reduces the risk of death but the risk of infection far less. As the virus is airborne, masks are effective in preventing transmission.
  • current College policy is that “everyone [should] wear a face covering [in] most indoor settings on campus”. However, visible signage to this effect has been removed in most campus locations.
  • current DfE guidance states, “No student should be denied education on the grounds of whether they are, or are not, wearing a face covering.” However, staff are partially liable under health and safety law for their own and students’ safety. They have the right to suspend a face-to-face class and deliver it online if alternatives are unsafe. Denying a student education is not the same as denying participation in a face-to-face setting if the latter would be unsafe.

Imperial College UCU believes that:

  • rising UK infection rates show that government guidelines have failed to protect UK residents
  • Imperial College remains a hazardous environment for both staff and students.

Imperial College UCU believes the following protections must be in place before face-to-face teaching can resume:

  • masks to be required in all indoor areas for all those who can wear them, and in all cramped, crowded, poorly ventilated outdoor areas (eg, South Ken walkway, entrance to Beit Quad)
  • physical distancing to be maintained at 2m
  • room occupancy to be based on 12 – 17 L pp ps ventilation AND CO2 <800 ppm measured by real time CO2 monitors provided by College, with immediate evacuation if CO2 levels reach 800ppm
  • for prolonged occupation of rooms, refresh times to be calculated for removal of aerosols and measured return of CO2 to background level (~ 400-440 ppm). Speed of aerosol removal will depend on the rate of air circulation. A solid evidence base for this must be established
  • room occupancy limits for teaching to be the same for other activities, whichever is lower
  • radio microphones to be provided to individual teachers
  • no staff or student to undertake face-to-face activities if they feel unsafe; no action to be taken against such staff or students
  • teaching to maintain a level academic playing field. This may require default online teaching to avoid discrimination against protected groups unable to come onto campus
  • all measures to be equalities impact assessed before implementation
  • all risk assessments to be transparent and made available to staff and students

These measures will be subject to review and amendment in the event of new variants or new lockdowns.

We believe that failure to implement these measures would be a failure of the College in its duty of care to staff and students, leading to potential future legal action against both the College and those individuals who have signed off on inadequate risk assessments

Under Section 44 of the Employment Relations Act, staff have the right to remove themselves from a work situation they believe to be a serious, imminent and unavoidable danger without detriment or penalty.

Motion 2 on COVID-19 and flexible working at Imperial College

Imperial College UCU would like to be supported on staff flexible working arrangements during academic year 2021-2022 in the following manner

  1. Any Imperial staff member should be given the option to continue working from home if their roles do not need them to physically be in an office or lecture room and other alternatives are feasible to meet their job duties
  2. Any member who has been asked to return to campus for certain number of days should have the option to decline it, if they can work remotely and their performance is not affected by not being physically on campus
  3. Managers should work with their staff to allow flexibility on when to be on campus.
  4. Personal and travel arrangements should be considered with the safety of staff being a priority.
  5. Imperial staff should be supported if they choose to work from campus whenever they like provided they follow suitable health and safety procedures
  6. All imperial staff who are carers, vulnerable or have been shielding in the last 18 months should be given the opportunity to work from home if they like until further notice without any negative consequences

These proposals are subject to review and amendment depending on changed circumstances such as the emergence of a new variant or new lockdowns.