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Unite Newsletter – January 2022

Unite Newsletter – January 2022

 Working to protect staff in Cambridge University

2021/22 Pay dispute: Preparation for an industrial action ballot

As reported by us in August last year, despite all the higher education Unions rejecting the offer, the Universities national bargaining body (UCEA) recommended that UK universities impose the 1.5% pay rise. It was imposed in September.

Since then inflation has increased to over 7% and University employees have suffered another sizeable pay cut in real terms.

Unite Cambridge held a consultative ballot of members in October 2021which received a relatively high number of returns, almost unanimously asking for us to undertake a full industrial action ballot. In addition, in October 2021 the University Estates Division announced plans to outsource a large proportion of the Estates Maintenance employees. Though they made denials, it was obvious to our members in Estates that their management had a long-term plan to outsource the whole of the unit.

Having limited resources (we could do with more reps – please volunteer at the branch elected to concentrate on this immediate threat to our members. Discussions have not gone well, and we are currently holding an industrial action ballot within estates. Our members are seeking the removal of any outsourcing of Estates Management and the removal of the threat of TUPE and secondment of university staff to an outside contractor.

The 2022 pay negotiations are about to begin. UCEA will not recognise that the Unions remain in dispute with them over the 2021 pay imposition. There is every reason to believe that they will once again offer and then impose a minimum pay award. They will not take into account the steep rise in inflation, nor will they recognise the detrimental impact that the rise in energy prices, as well as government plans to raise National Insurance will have on University employees’ standard of living.

Following a decade of below-inflation pay awards, calculated to be a reduction of 20% in real terms, the increased tax burden combined with a 7% rate of inflation means that many University staff on lower grades may be forced into a state of poverty.

Inevitably these staff may need to find jobs elsewhere. The knock-on effect is that Universities may well have to contract in more expensive services to cover this essential work – and the outsourcing cycle will begin.

Now is the time for us to act. Keeping to the remit given to us by yourselves, we will be issuing notice to the University that we are about to ballot for industrial action.

For the ballot to be successful, and to meet the government’s stringent ballot rules we will need to update the information we have about you. We are mindful of GDPR and would like to assure you that these details are kept in a secure database. Please note that we need the following information to be correct:

  1. Home address – ballot papers cannot be sent to workplace addresses, so we will need to have the correct home address of all branch members who are eligible to vote.
  2. Your full name.
  3. Workplace address – the government says that we must make every effort to know which University department you work for, or which building you work in, giving addresses where we can.
  4. Job title – we must make every effort to provide job titles of staff involved in the ballot.
  5. Your telephone contact number, please.

If we do not have this information, it is likely that the University will be able to challenge the authenticity of the ballot, making our efforts worthless.

We at Unite Cambridge University are very good at keeping our membership database up to date, but we do not want to be caught out. It is our intention to give every eligible branch member a call to request the information we need. However, this is likely to be a very long and costly process, and our time could be better spent supporting those members who need immediate help, so could I ask that every one of you completes the following survey:

(Survey data goes to external site )

We need this to be a successful ballot. We need a high number of returns – obviously, we need a high number of members voting for action, but even those returns that reject the action are useful to us, so please do return your form

More information can be found on our website