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Union ballot outcomes

04 Nov 2019

Message from the President and Vice-Chancellor

Aerial picture of the University buildings

Dear colleague

The University and College Union (UCU) has achieved a mandate from its members at this University on two ballots to take industrial action on pay and on the Universities Superannuation Scheme (USS) pension.

We fully recognise the rights of staff members to take industrial action, and we know that staff will have thought very hard about whether to vote and how to cast their vote.  We are of course disappointed, as you will be, that a solution could not be found to avoid this situation, as industrial action of any kind is always highly regrettable. 

We have previously outlined our position on pay and the USS on StaffNet, and we maintain that the recent national outcomes on these issues deliver the best benefits that can be achieved for both our own employees and for the ongoing financial sustainability of our University. Of course, we hope that industrial action will not prove to be necessary, and I’m sure you share that hope. 

The UCU at our University obtained a 51% turnout of its membership on each ballot. The minimum requirement for the ballot to be valid is a 50% turnout of members. 

On the USS pension, 2,058 members were asked to vote for which type of industrial action should be taken. Of the 1,052 who cast a vote, 864 (82.5%) voted for strike action and 938 (89.8%) voted for action short of a strike.  There are 6,300 members of the USS pension scheme at our University, so  of these 13.7% voted for strike action. 

Universities UK, acting on behalf of employers, has made it clear that it is willing to engage in discussions to avoid such potentially damaging action, a position that we fully support.

On pay, 2,075 UCU members were asked to vote for which type of industrial action should be taken. Of the 1,069 who cast a vote, 839 (78.7%) voted for strike action and 929 (87.3%) voted for action short of a strike. 

These are  national disputes on pay and pension that, in addition to UCU, involved several different unions with various ballots, some on a disaggregated basis: i.e. by individual institution and some on an aggregated basis: i.e. more sector-wide; therefore we were not in a position to resolve these issues on our own, or with our own staff.

UNISON’s national ballot on pay and its disaggregated (ie across universities) ballot on USS failed to reach the required 50% thresholds.  For the disaggregated ballot 26.8% of UNISON members at our University voted and, of those, 61.5% were in favour of industrial action. Unite, our other campus union, did not reach the 50% threshold for its national ballot on pay but we do not have further details.

We are waiting for more detail of what action UCU will recommend and when. We will communicate this to staff and students as soon as we are informed, including the actions we will take to support them. We know that all of our colleagues care deeply about the education of our students and the wider activities of our University, and we will work with our colleagues to mitigate the impact of any action.  

The most important part of our University is the people who work and study here, and we do everything we can to attract, retain and develop our staff and support our students. Pay and pensions are an important part of this for our staff. As an institution with social responsibility at its core and as a Living Wage employer, we pride ourselves on providing generous pay and benefits. 

I can assure the wider University community that we will use our best endeavours at all times to safeguard the core mission and values of our University and its integrity as a collegial community. 

Kind regards

Nancy Rothwell, 

President and Vice-Chancellor

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