UCU staff strike throws congress into chaos

UCU could cancel FE sector conference in anticipation of staff walking out

UCU could cancel FE sector conference in anticipation of staff walking out

Staff at the University and College Union are planning to strike at its upcoming national congress to protest allegedly “shameful” handling of workplace racism and breaches of a collective agreement.

They voted this week in favour of action that will target day two of the union’s flagship annual meeting in Bournemouth from May 29 to 31.

The union could be forced to cancel FE and HE-related policy motions, fringe meetings and the conference dinner on May 30 as it “cannot guarantee appropriate staffing levels”, according to an email sent to congress delegates seen by FE Week.

It urged delegates not to cancel any plans to attend and said it was “fully committed” to finding a solution ahead of the meeting.

“UCU’s actions as an employer go against the core values of trade unionism”

A spokesperson said it was “unfortunate” the strikes would disrupt the “important policy-making functions of our union”.

Talks between the UCU and Unite, which represents UCU staff, began this week, but the strike remains on the cards. 

UCU bosses will meet with Unite at an ACAS meeting on May 24 and have invited Unite’s general secretary, Sharon Graham, to attend as an indication of how “seriously” it is taking the dispute.

If the strike goes ahead, it will be the first in UCU’s 18-year history that its own staff have taken action.

Nearly three-quarters of the union’s 182 members of the Unite voted earlier this week to strike. Turnout was 79 per cent.

The ballot followed an internal dispute over UCU’s “institutional failings” into how it allegedly treats black staff, the Unite black members’ group claimed in March.

The group alleged that black staff were disproportionately targeted for punitive action – 45 per cent of all UCU cases handled by Unite had an element of race discrimination.

UCU said in March it was in the midst of “sourcing an external independent party” to review the allegations, but did not confirm at the time of publication whether an appointment had been made.

According to a provisional timetable, the final day of UCU’s congress will hear a call from the equalities committee for general secretary Jo Grady to take “decisive action” on the black group’s allegations.

“The failure of UCU leadership to offer anything more than warm words in response to a situation that is unacceptable to us as members of a union which should be anti-racist,” the motion stated.

The move is a further escalation of the ongoing internal dispute at the union after Unite ramped up a pay dispute with UCU and accused bosses of “prioritising” senior management pay.

Shortly after, FE Week revealed that Grady had accepted a near-£18,000 salary rise to help her pay damages from a libel case.

Unite also accused UCU of repeatedly breaching its agreement that it be the sole union for UCU workers, after it recognised a separate staff union for senior leaders.

A Unite spokesperson said: “It is shameful that as an employer UCU has overseen a culture of racism within its own workplace, imposed new working conditions on staff without agreement and continues to breach collective agreements with its staff union, Unite.

“UCU’s actions as an employer go against the core values of trade unionism that we and the rest of the trade union movement campaign for every single day.”

A UCU spokesperson said: “UCU is proud to offer its staff some of the best pay and conditions in the movement – our staff work incredibly hard, and their work is rightly valued and rewarded highly.

“We recognise the strength of feeling amongst staff and are fully committed to finding agreed solutions and creating the best possible working environment for our staff.”

Latest education roles from

A Level Biology Teacher

A Level Biology Teacher

Barnsley College

Electrical Installation Trainer

Electrical Installation Trainer

Barnsley College

Sessional Science Lab Technician

Sessional Science Lab Technician

Merton College

Sessional Lecturer – Plumbing

Sessional Lecturer – Plumbing

South Thames College

Lecturer – Business (x 1 Banking Specialism & x 1 Accounting/Business Finance Specialism)

Lecturer – Business (x 1 Banking Specialism & x 1 Accounting/Business Finance Specialism)

Kingston College

Apprentice Development Leader

Apprentice Development Leader

GP Strategies

Sponsored posts

Sponsored post

Why we’re backing our UK skills ‘Olympians’ (and why you should too)

This August, teams from over 200 nations will gather to compete in the sticky heat of the Paris summer...

Advertorial
Sponsored post

Is your organisation prepared for a major incident?

We live in an unpredictable world where an unforeseen incident or environmental event could disrupt a Further Education (FE)...

Advertorial
Sponsored post

A new chapter in education protection!

Gallagher is a specialist in the Further Education sector, working with over 75% of Further Education colleges in the...

Advertorial
Sponsored post

Pearson is planting the seed for sustainability talent with new HTQ

Sustainability is rapidly becoming a key organisational goal for many businesses looking to make a difference in society, the...

Advertorial

More from this theme

Strikes

UCU’s own staff to strike for 5 more days

Unite says it hopes the new strike dates will "really focus the minds of senior managers"

Josh Mellor
Strikes

UCU staff to walk out of national congress tomorrow

Ongoing dispute with staff ‘very regrettable’, Jo Grady says

Anviksha Patel
Colleges, Strikes

Five north east colleges set to strike this month

Teachers at Education Training Collective will walk out for two days over 2022/23 pay offer

Anviksha Patel
Colleges, Strikes

London mega-college staff cut short strike action over workload agreement

Workers meant to strike for eight days end up picketing for three days after talks

Anviksha Patel

Your thoughts

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *