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Current ballot on industrial action

Message from your UCU branch secretary

Dear colleague,

Current ballot on industrial action

I am writing to urge you to vote YES to industrial action and action short of a strike – and I would like to share with you my reasons why it crucial that we do this.


As your UCU branch secretary I now have regular messages from colleagues facing demands for increased work – including demands for significant increases in teaching time and to teach much larger classes. Many colleagues are struggling to maintain a sensible work/ life balance; they are also anxious about the impact on the student experience of a rapidly rising student-staff ratio.


The ballot is about saying to management that we want to see our rights to negotiate terms and conditions of work respected and recognised in practice – and to ensure that any changes are only introduced after meaningful consultation and negotiation.


In the circumstances it is not disproportionate to consider industrial action, because for over two years management has failed to respond to legitimate concerns of staff about very important changes at UEL. The VC has admitted that “the timetable has slipped”; more important, management has failed to meaningfully consult and negotiate with your union, preferring to impose significant changes to our everyday working conditions.


It is only since we raised the possibility of industrial action that the VC has focused on resolving these matters – and while we welcome the prospect of talks we have been here before. For the past two years management has come to the table to “consult” rather than negotiate: now we need to see real progress on the key issues.


In the case of workloads, the imposition of the Academic Portfolio model is already producing unfairness and inequity across the institution. We have been waiting for a year to discuss a new workload allocation model but management have preferred to let a chaotic and divisive situation develop.


UCU Officers have an extensive paper trail that sets out the issues very clearly to management and contains offers to meet.    I was the main author last year of the Joint Statement that sought to resolve these issues – a genuine attempt by UCU to work together with management for more positive industrial relations at UEL.   I have attached the Joint Statement to this email to remind you what was agreed.  I have been disappointed by the response from management.


We simply must not relax the pressure on management. Our solidarity and persistence has finally brought some progress but this is not a dispute about setting up meetings; rather, it is what happens in the meetings and ultimately about how we conduct negotiation about workloads as well as the overall terms and conditions of all academic staff at UEL. It is also about management respecting academic staff and our trade union.


It is essential that we go into forthcoming meetings with a strong YES vote on both questions in the ballot. We hope that industrial action will not be needed: if it is, members will decide what form action will take.








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