Statement of Solidarity with students in universities across India protesting the Citizenship Amendment Act 2019 (CAA) and the introduction of the National Register of Citizens (NRC).

The Principal’s Medal for Contribution to the Community

Photo of Adam Budd

UCU Edinburgh congratulates Dr Adam Budd who has received the Principal’s Medal for Contribution to the Community, awarded each year by the University of Edinburgh, for his work with the Salaam Baalak Trust in Delhi and in local schools. He was due to receive the award at today’s graduation ceremony. Instead, he is on strike alongside thousands of colleagues across the UK, for fair pensions, pay and conditions in universities.

We are proud to count him as a member of our union, and proud to publish here the address that he cannot give inside McEwan Hall today.

If you would like to support our strike, please wear a solidarity sash and make your views known to the Principal by emailing him at Principal@ed.ac.uk.

Principal Mathieson,

On behalf of the students, teachers, and pupils who have worked with me on History for Schools: thank you for your recognition. On behalf of the social workers, teachers, and children of Salaam Baalak Trust in Delhi: thank you for your recognition.

Congratulations to our graduating students and their beaming parents! In usual circumstances, it is a great privilege to teach at this university, and a great pleasure to participate in graduation ceremonies. Our university represents itself as a global agent of positive change, widening access, and progressive intellectual leadership. We are in this together.

Principal Mathieson, by recognising what we do in disadvantaged communities, you reflect our shared commitment to a social mission. Our university always has been “the Townes Colledge,” rooted in this city and dedicated to serving its needs through practical knowledge. We were the first in Britain to teach medicine at patients’ bedsides, and the first to build a teaching hospital where treatment was offered for free. Edinburgh invented the study of contemporary literature (“Belles Lettres”), to understand how and why the arts can improve society. No university in Britain offers a more generous and multi-layered system for widening access to disadvantaged applicants than ours.

But it was just two days ago that your office decided that we, your striking UCU colleagues, should pay our docked wages immediately after the winter holiday—and not to spread this loss over January and February, as the University of Glasgow will do. On the same day, your negotiators at Universities UK refused to discuss our grievances over pay, which are at the heart of our dispute. You published an explanation that asked us to consider “sustainability.” Whose sustainability? What do such practices sustain?

How can we celebrate the university’s recognition of staff whose work addresses social inequality when the university’s proposals will only deepen inequality?

For years, UCU has reported to your office that colleagues carry workloads that far exceed the university’s own HR guidance. More and more underpaid colleagues are working on fixed-term contracts. But workloads and causualisation increase, year on year. Your office’s arguments for increasing our pension contributions, in the name of sustainability, is unworkable. Your office refuses to acknowledge our position, referring us to the same negotiators who work on University UK’s behalf.  

It is UCU members who do the practical work in our communities, here and abroad, for which our university seems to be so proud. But we cannot distinguish commitment to community from the commitment to fair pay, fair negotiations, and fairness going forward.

This is why we celebrate our achievements, and your achievements, outside and on strike.

We are cheered by the news that UCU signed 3,500 new members this week. Thirty universities will now reballot their members on whether to join our dispute. I am confident that each and every one of us wants to return to work. But we refuse to work without fair pay and fair conditions, and our resolve expands every day.

Awards recognise accomplishment, and labour disputes recognise what we need to achieve fairness. You have recognised what we do: let us all recognise the university’s position as this dispute moves into its second week. 

Open Letter to James Saville, Director of HR

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On 14th November, we met with Linda Criggie, Deputy Director at HR.  One item discussed their related to pay deductions.  We requested that this be over multiple months, following the pattern used at the last dispute and taking account of the extra costs people incur at this time of year.  We further requested that any money saved by the University be used to alleviate student hardship.

After consulting with James Saville, Director of HR, Linda responded by email on 18th November, the relevant passage being:

You had two ‘asks’ when we met – both relating to the monies to be withheld for strike action.

On timing: as I intimated, we have already acknowledged the time of year hence our decision to withhold from January salaries. We are not minded to review this, particularly as we will not, as entitled to do (and being done by many other impacted HEIs), be withholding pay for the mandated action short of strike.  

On use of the total sum withheld, you asked if this could go in to the student hardship fund.  No firm decision has been made as yet, but it will go towards improving the student experience.

Member were rightly concerned over the University’s position, not just in terms of the above response but also in relation to the disproportionate hit on part-time and casualised staff.  A further communication was sent on 28th November, as follows.

Dear James, (cc Linda Criggie & Peter Mathieson)

Pay Deductions

Our members wish me to convey to you their deep concern over how the University is approaching pay deductions for strike action.

We asked that deductions span multiple months because the strike days do the same.  We also asked that some consideration be made to the fact that this is a disproportionately expensive time of the year for everyone.

Many other institutions have recognised this in their approach to deductions, e.g.:

  • St. Andrews: over 3 months from January
  • City University London: over 3 months from January
  • Durham: over 2 months from January
  • Essex: over 2 months from January
  • Royal Holloway: over 2 months from January
  • Glasgow: over 2 months from January

We also want to highlight concerns over the following:

“If you have a varied working pattern, 1/365th of your actual annual salary will be withheld regardless of the actual hours you were due to work on the day of strike action.”

Given that we are in dispute over pay inequality, the fact that this impacts disproportionally on more vulnerable members of staff needs to be recognised.  As well as exacerbating the vulnerabilities of casualised members of staff that we have discussed in negotiations, this also places a further burden on those who work reduced hours due to family and other caring responsibilities.  As such, we are requesting that you review this.

You also rejected our request that the money saved through pay deductions be used to alleviate student hardship, instead opting for the less-definable student experience. Could you please be more specific about what this money will be used for and convey this to staff and students.

Best wishes,

Grant Buttars, UCUE Branch President

UPDATE, 12 December: We were pleased by the email sent out to all staff on Wednesday conveying a revised decision in relation to pay deductions:

In light of UCU’s positive gesture not to target Graduations and the manner in which UCU has conducted picketing, we have decided that we will, on this occasion, spread deductions over two months. We will take the five November days in January and the three December days in February.

Messages of Solidarity

UCU Edinburgh and other branches have received many messages of solidarity and support for the UCU strike. We will keep updating this page as we receive these.

‘I fully support the UCU strike action and call on the employer side to meet their demands of an inflation level pay rise; no increase in pension contributions ; ending casual employment and closing the gender pay gap. These are reasonable demands which can and should be met. To contest the demands and provoke strike action demonstrates a disregard which is a discredit to the employer.’ – Gordon Munro, Councillor for Leith ward on Edinburgh Council, Labour.

‘I’m very aware of the valuable contribution University staff make not only to our higher education sector, but also to the economy in Scotland and across the UK. The work of University staff ensures that we have highly skilled, hard-working people in our public and private sector driving inclusive growth in Scotland, and exporting their fantastic qualifications overseas to the credit of our Scottish Universities. It is right that you and your colleagues should expect decent working conditions and dignity in retirement. Last year I visited the picket lines at Edinburgh University and wrote to the Principals of both Edinburgh and Heriot Watt Universities to express my concern about the changes to your pension scheme. I am happy to lend my support to the current action.’ – Tommy Sheppard, SNP candidate for Edinburgh East.

‘We are all very proud of our world class universities but they are only world class as a result of the hard work, dedication and knowledge of the worlds best tutors, teachers, researchers and staff. As an alumni of Edinburgh University I certainly know that without the teaching team I would not have had such a rich and successful undergraduate experience. I fully support the UCU action to protect the pension rights of employees and the terms and conditions of those who contribute so much to our universities. It is the biggest investment we can make in our current and future economy. The university sector should do the right thing and give their committed staff what they deserve and what they were promised.’ – Ian Murray, Labour MP for Edinburgh South.

And just a few of the many fantastic messages on social media:

Strike: 25 November – 4 December

UCU Edinburgh is joining other branches across the UK in taking industrial action to defend pensions, pay and equality.  We will be taking strike action 25 November – 4 December, and after that taking action short of a strike by working to contract.

More information on the strike and action short of a strike is available here: https://ucuedinburgh.wordpress.com/strike-info-and-resources/

Join the UCU, join the action! www.ucu.org.uk/join

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Key Points on the Pay and Pensions disputes (video)

UCU Sheffield organised a briefing this week for both members and non-members on the disputes and were lucky enough to have a member film the talks so they could be shared more widely. In the first video, Sheffield UCU President and USS negotiator, Sam Marsh, explains what’s going on with USS, while in the second video, Sheffield UCU VP and pay negotiator, Robyn Orfitelli, explains what’s going on with the pay & equalities dispute.

Pensions (USS)

Pay & Equalities

 

Climate Emergency Response

UCU Edinburgh members have wholeheartedly endorsed the following five points in relation to the climate emergency:

1.      We recognise that there is no longer any reasonable doubt that human driven climate change presents an unprecedented threat to all life on Earth and that this deserves to be treated as an emergency. This recognition represents an imperative for us all to consider what an appropriate response might be at all levels of global, national and local community and society.

2.      We warmly welcome the University’s and the Principal’s acceptance of this Climate Emergency. In a recent statement, prior to Sarah Smith’s message to Heads of College, Schools and Professional Services, he said “[a]s a global University, we are deeply concerned by the climate emergency and want to make a significant, sustainable and socially responsible impact”.  We wholeheartedly share this concern and wish to join the Principal and work creatively with him in developing the necessary responses to meet this emergency.

3.      We agree with the Principal that we can do this “by making sustainable choices and, through research and teaching, encouraging others to do likewise.” We also agree that research and teaching, while extremely valuable ways of promoting long term change, are not enough on their own, and it is incumbent on democratic organisations, including trade unions, to throw support behind popular demonstrations for political change.

4.      We further recognise that Edinburgh University (and Scottish Universities more generally) are uniquely placed to draw on our new National Performance Framework to create the futures we desire and aspire to; futures that are informed by the values statement that lies at the heart of the National Performance Framework and that seeks to deliver on the national outcome which challenges the Scottish people to “value, enjoy, protect and enhance our environment”.

5.      We have been called upon to support and show solidarity with the “Global Climate Strike” on the 20th of September. UCU has been campaigning for a 30-minute work stoppage to support this.

We encourage our members, where necessary, to discuss with managers how to arrange their duties in a way that allows them to take part in this action and to engage in demonstrations. We are delighted that, following Sarah Smith’s message, it has been now confirmed that the University fully supports the 30-minutes work stoppages and encourages staff to use this time productively in order to inform themselves about the climate crisis, as well as share their ideas about how to address it.

 

In line with these, we have asked the Principal for two things, one in relation to Friday September 20, the other for the longer term:

 

1.      We feel that, in order for staff and students to be able to fully take advantage of the opportunities to access crucial information and contribute with new ideas on 20 September, the University should suspend attendance monitoring of students and ensure no assignments are due that day. We therefore urged the Principal to consider this and to encourage the wider University Community to mark this day in a manner consistent with the declaration of an emergency.

2.      Moving forwards, we believe that a clear strategy (and lead from the Principal) is needed that ensures that all members of the University community can both access and afford the necessary environmentally sustainable choices, regardless of the economic and time pressures they may be subject to. Such a strategy will make it clear how we as a community are going to respond to the climate emergency and deliver on our commitments.