Monday, 19 July 2010

Further and higher education will face cuts in public support of up to 25% :Sally‬ Hunt UCU General Secretary

Dear colleague

Funding cuts

Defend jobs, defend education. That is the phrase that has become the union's unofficial slogan in the past year. 

The government's announcement that further and higher education will face cuts in public support of up to 25% over the next three years means even more difficult times ahead, and once again therefore I am seeking your help.‬

UCU research estimates that 38,000 jobs will be lost in our workplaces as a result. Thousands of courses will go too, and we have already seen the grotesque spectacle of hundreds of thousands of qualified applicants being denied the right to go on to university.‬

This government's policy seems to be to use the current economic climate as a cloak to create differential access to our education system, and to make learners pay more for the 'privilege' of less.‬ I noted in The Guardian last week how depressing it is in these circumstances to see university and college heads pushing each other forward for the deepest cuts rather than uniting to lobby government against their impact.

UCU must not make the same mistake. Which is why I have signed an agreement on the union's behalf to campaign in partnership with the National Union of Students. Our two organisations do not agree on everything. Yet under Aaron Porter's leadership it is clear to me that NUS shares our view that savage cuts in provision combined with huge increases in the cost of education will be a disaster for our country. I hope soon to announce a joint student and staff national demonstration against the cuts as the first fruit of this relationship.‬

The coalition government’s first spending review takes place on 20 October. They are opening up the process to external consultation throughout the month of August. We need as many members as possible to write to the Chief Secretary to the Treasury, Danny Alexander MP, putting forward the case for investment in publicly funded education rather than the huge cuts the Coalition is proposing. Click here to send a letter:

Your political activity

These proposed cuts mean that UCU must maximise its political influence. Are you a member of one of the main political parties? If so, please take a few moments to give us your details here:

Pensions news

Turning to pensions, the HE employers ignored the 96% vote by UCU members against their proposals to reform the USS scheme. USS will now begin a consultation on the plans. Given that the employers' proposals are detrimental to existing staff, particularly those under threat of redundancy, and create inferior benefits for new starters, I have called for this consultation to be a ballot of all fund members. Anything less will rightly be seen by staff as a sham.‬

For members of the Teachers' Pension Scheme, the Hutton inquiry commissioned by the government will also threaten future benefits. UCU's view is that the future of our members' pensions are too important to become a political football and we will be working with other unions to defend your rights.

National negotiations

Unsurprisingly, annual negotiations in both further and higher education have proved difficult this year, with pay offers well below the cost of living, and in the case of HE a refusal to agree joint procedures to avoid compulsory redundancy except as an absolute last resort.‬ 

UCU's Congress instructed the union to begin preparations for ballots of members in both sectors should a satisfactory offer not subsequently be made.

HE: On 25 June, our Higher Education Committee agreed that in the event of no agreement then the union should start a national ballot for industrial action in September.

FE: In FE there will be special sector conference to decide the union's position on pay for members in English colleges. Please make sure you attend your branch meeting in early September to have your say.‬

These days the idea that staff in further and higher education get a full summer break is fanciful.  However I hope that you are able to get away to recharge and I would thank you again for your support of this union in these difficult times.‬

Best wishes‬

Sally‬ Hunt

Ps I want to ask for your help one more time in showing support for Dr Miguel Angel Beltran, whose trial has now begun. This is our last opportunity to influence events and put pressure on the Colombian government. Please add your name to mine in an open letter to the Colombian government calling for Dr Beltran’s release:


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  1. Now is the time to fight to defend education. All UCU members need to ensure that we fight for both a national jobs agreement and against an effective pay cut for the second year running. We need to say that the issues of both Job Security and No Pay Cuts are 'very important' and we need to be prepared to 'Definetly' take industrial action to achieve both.

  2. Elizabeth Lawrence20 July 2010 at 02:21

    In the last academic year UCU has been running and winning local industrial action ballots (e.g. Leeds, Sussex) in opposition to redundancies. We have shown that we can fight and we can win.
    We need to take industrial action nationally in an aggregated ballot in defence of jobs and in opposition to a pay offer (0.4%) that is so low it constitutes a real pay cut given the level of inflation. I have replied to the General Secretary that I consider both job security and pay very important and that I am prepared to take industrial action on both of these issues. I urge all UCU members in HE to do the same.
    Elizabeth Lawrence, UCU NEC and National Negotiator, Vice-Chair (post-92) of UCU’s HE Committee

  3. For more information on the HE Ballot please see: