Slight change from the normal Technology Enhanced Learning stuff as I am currently on strike (as is most of Higher Education in the UK).
I thought I would talk about why education staff should join a union and use the current pension dispute as an example to support my case.
Striking is the last option available to employees, for most disputes an agreement is determined between the Employers and the Union way before strikes are called. Most disputes are either about pay rises (each year a pay rise is negotiated – Unions normally want more than inflation, Employers normally want less than inflation), changes to terms and conditions or in response to mass redundancies.
In the UK we currently have a large pension dispute where changes to the terms of the pensions will see most staff losing around £10k per year from their pensions (others have covered this in lots of detail). As you might expect this was a big concern for staff and after the employers refused to change their position the UCU (our Union) asked staff if they would strike to try to retain the pension – staff voted overwhelmingly to strike and so 15 days strike were called.
Once the strike started the Employers (through their representatives UUK) rapidly decided to negotiate and made an improved offer (staff would only lose about £5K per year from their pensions). When the Union shared this offer with the employees we rejected this offer and continued the strike.
There is now a pause in the strike – with another 15days strike that will be scheduled soon. This will allow UUK and UCU to continue negotiations and hopefully come up with a better offer that employees will accept. Ideally this will be done before any more striking is required and then those can just be cancelled.
Where you come in
If you work in HE and are not already part of the union you should join the union now.
Why – because each person that joins the Union makes the Unions voice stronger and so make it more likely they will win and makes it more likely they will improve their offer. (Employers know how many of their staff are in the Union and some of their changing attitude can be linked directly with the surge in Union membership in the lead up to the strike)
This provides the following benefits
- You will be much more likely to keep all or most of your pension
- It will be much more likely that the second wave of strikes will not be needed which means
- Your colleagues who have already given up over £1000 striking to protect their (and your) pensions will not lose another £1000+ in lost wages.
- Students will not lose another 15 days of teaching
- If it does come to the second wave of strikes then you can join us on the pickets (which is quite good fun) and larger pickets tend to mean shorter strikes. You can just do a day or 2 if you cant manage more.
- With the vast increase in Union numbers the employers might offer us a half decent pay rise this year.
Union membership is not particularly expensive (https://www.ucu.org.uk/subscriptions)and will cost less over a 40 year career than you stand to lose from a single years pension.