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Pay deductions at the University of East London

From Sally Hunt, UCU general secretary

Dear colleague,

I have today had sight of the message sent to academic staff at the University of East London regarding the dispute.

While its intention is clearly to intimidate, most members who have contacted me have been angry. What kind of an institution responds to a legal strike by locking staff out for the day, especially when they know that this will increase disruption for students?

I want to be quite clear with you about two things. 

Firstly, UCU’s legal advice is that a two hour strike should lead to the deduction of two hours pay – no more or less. Our clearly defined strike does not constitute partial performance as suggested by the message from the university and nor is it action short of a strike; it is in fact a complete withdrawal of labour for the duration of a legally convened strike.

However, the University of East London have decided to treat that two hour stoppage as partial performance. We believe that is a wholly unreasonable and disproportionate response which does more harm to the students than our lawful strike action intends.

It can never be a reasonable response by a university to add to the regrettable disruption that students experience as a result of a legitimate trade dispute. On the contrary, a reasonable response would be to seek to minimise the disruption.

If the University of East London goes through with its threat we will therefore immediately challenge their action through the courts. This process will, of course, be deeply embarrassing for the institution as will the publicity around their baffling willingness to increase disruption for students as a way of intimidating staff, but so be it.

Secondly, I want to say that the University of East London, should it deduct a whole day’s pay for a two hour strike, will face escalated industrial action from UCU. Where necessary we will use our strike fund to support members who participate in order to maximise the impact. We will also begin a national publicity campaign aimed at making sure that students and staff around the country know how the University of East London treats both its staff and those they teach.

I know from my postbag that members are angry with management. Please channel your anger into making our industrial action a success. Their hard line, aggressive action is designed to frighten us into not exercising the democratic right to strike. We cannot allow them to win. 

The union’s advice is therefore that you follow the instructions of the union on strike days and work normally except for the period of the two hour strikes.

You are further advised to respond using the text below.

The union stands behind you in our campaign for fair pay.

Thank you for your support.

Sally Hunt
UCU General Secretary

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Suggested response

Dear x,

Thank you for your letter of x/x. As you will know, there is no legal requirement upon me to let you know whether I am a union member or whether I intend to participate in a strike. However, such is my strength of feeling about your recent letter of [date] informing me that you will deduct a whole day’s pay for a two hour stoppage of work, I feel compelled to put my position clearly to you.

If I completely withdraw my labour during the two hour strike called for Thursday, 23rd January between 11am and 1pm and subsequent two hour strikes called by the union, I will be performing my full range of duties on the days in question during all of the hours for which I am not called upon to be on strike. Further, the work that I will do during the hours I work on the days will be in full, and not partial performance of my duties.

My attendance at work in fulfillment of my duties on the strike days, as set out above, will clearly minimise disruption to my students. It stands in stark contrast to your policy which can only lead to increased disruption on the strike days called, which would be neither reasonable nor proportionate.

Finally, I am advised to tell you that should you nonetheless deduct a full days pay for any two hour strike that I may participate in, my union will seek to recover this money legally as well as escalate the dispute in this institution.

I hope that on reflection, you will reconsider your current policy which is unfair, confrontational and risks further damage to our students.

Yours

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