Friday, 31 August 2012

Emergency at London Met - please sign the petition

You might have heard press reports about London Metropolitan University, whose Highly Trusted Status for sponsoring international students has been revoked by the UK Border Agency, which means that they are no longer allowed to authorise visas for international students from outside the EU. Worse still, around 2,700 international students are at risk of deportation, despite the fact that they came to the UK to study on visas which they believed to be completely in order.

Sign the petition here for an amnesty for London Metropolitan international students so that they may stay in the UK and complete their studies. Please circulate this as much as possible - it is appalllingly unfair that students who came to the UK in good faith should be penalised for the failure of London Met's management to ensure that the correct immigration procedures were being followed.

You can read more about the failure of London Met's management to deal with this crisis on the London Met Unison branch's website. (Senate House Unison members may remember that London Met Unison's chair Max Watson came to speak to the branch about the pay dispute last month.) Andrew McGettigan goes into more detail on his blog, discussing the way that this will affect the privatisation agenda being pushed by London Met's VC Malcolm Gillies.

Unison have also issued a press release criticising London Met's management for their over-reliance on privatised and outsouced services:
UNISON blamed the problem on London Met’s over-reliance on creating partnerships with private providers – some of which broke the rules regarding overseas students. The union is warning that this is the shape of things to come, as increasing numbers of private companies get involved in the higher education sector. 
The TUC Touchstone blog discusses the wider implications for HE in the UK, where overseas students who pay higher fees than UK or EU students are incresingly important for our sector:
...the students totally complied with the law and were hard working committed students... faced with such information would you be less likely to opt for a UK University? Or do you go to a university in another English speaking country or indeed to one of many European universities increasingly offering degrees via the English language?
Senate House Unison branch sends its solidarity to London Met branch, who in addition to this latest crisis are fighting one of the most aggressive attempts to privatise university services anywhere in the UK.

Friday, 24 August 2012

Higher Education Dispute Latest

I've just sent round a UNISON update regarding this (see below), but I just wanted to quickly sum up where we are now having met with other Bloomsbury UNISON reps yesterday.

  • All unions rejected 1%
  • All unions will be ballotting for strike action
  • UNISON ballot to run from 12 September to 3 October
  • Assuming a yes vote, strike can take place from 10 October onwards
  • UNISON's position is to go for a 2 day strike 18/ 19 October- but will need to agree with other unions
  • If necessary follow-up in November to coincide with student action.
It's great news that all the unions will be working together, and the idea of a two-day strike is to show the employers that we are SERIOUS, which is much more likely to bring them to the negotiating table.

Look out for your ballot papers in September, and for announcements of local meetings about the dispute (12 September and 19 September).

Any questions ask me in the first instance - / 020 7862 8812.


UNISON, the other trade unions, and the higher education employers this week met for final pay talks at ACAS. The talks failed to produce an improved pay offer from the employers, and as a result UNISON will be balloting for strike action among members in those Higher Education Institutions that are part of the national pay talks.

Members had previously rejected the employers’ pay offer of 1%, and no guarantee of a Living Wage for all HE staff. The Higher Education Service Group Executive (HESGE) then decided that, unless an improved offer could be obtained, we should ballot members on whether they are prepared to take strike action on HE pay. The HESGE is recommending that members vote YES to strike action.

The unions’ claim had been for a pay increase of 7%, comprising an element to match inflation, and an element to provide ‘catch-up’ following several years of sub-inflation pay increases – in other words, real terms pay cuts.

Employers will be sent dispute notices over the next few days, and members will receive ballot papers. The industrial action ballot will run from 12 September until 2 October.

Over the next two weeks, branches will be sent a range of information and materials, including ‘vote yes’ leaflets, ‘vote yes’ posters, frequently asked questions, key facts and arguments to help when speaking to members, and a Powerpoint presentation for use in members’ meetings.

We will also be launching an ‘E-mail your Vice-Chancellor’ campaign tool, enabling members to e-mail their Vice-Chancellor or Principal about the pay situation with just a couple of clicks.

It is vital that we get a strong turnout in the ballot, and a decisive vote in favour of strike action. To do this, branches will need to organise meetings, and maximise contact with members, to discuss the importance of the campaign and make it clear that the negotiations have gone as far as they can, without producing an acceptable pay offer.

And we must of course recruit and organise around this campaign, to build the union as we show that we are campaigning hard on behalf of support staff in higher education.

We will keep you updated with information and campaign materials, but branches, reps and members are also encouraged to visit for the latest news.

Best wishes

Mike Short
Senior National Officer
Education and Children's Services
Join us and march for a future that works. 20 October 2012, London.

Monday, 20 August 2012

Higher Education Pay Talks - Update

UNISON’s Higher Education Service Group Executive (HESGE) met last week, to discuss the dispute around pay 2012-13, and the union’s strategy for the pay campaign.

The unions’ claim had been for a pay increase of 7%, comprising an element to match inflation, and an element to provide ‘catch-up’ following several years of sub-inflation pay increases – in other words, real terms pay cuts. The employers have offered an increase of just 1%.

UNISON’s HE branches consulted members about the 1% pay offer in June, and the result was a clear rejection, by a margin of two to one.

Since then, further dispute resolution meetings have taken place between the unions and the employers, but no increase in the offer has been forthcoming. The HESGE therefore agreed this week that we should seek, alongside the other trade unions in HE, to meet with the national employers’ side at ACAS, in a final attempt to get a significant improvement in the pay offer. It is hoped that these talks will take place in the next fortnight.

The HESGE also agreed that we should continue preparations for an industrial ballot, in the event that the ACAS talks fail. If the pay offer is not improved significantly, members will be balloted on whether they are prepared to take strike action to fight for a fair pay increase, with a recommendation that they vote ‘yes’ for strike action.

The ballot would take place in September – branches will be kept fully informed of developments, dates, and deadlines, and branches will be sent a range of campaign materials, recruitment materials, and background information, in advance of the ballot.

In the meantime, branches, reps and members are encouraged to visit for the latest news.

Friday, 10 August 2012

Pay Meeting - 9 August 2012

Thanks to all who came to yesterday's meeting, addressed by Max Watson from the UNISON NEC - there was a good turnout, and a clear committment to a campaign to get a better, fairer deal on pay this year.

Full details (courtesy of Catherine) are below, but please do contact me (, Jo ( or Tony ( in the first instance if you have further questions, want to get involved, or want to join UNISON.


Higher Education pay is being negotiated at national level, by a collection of HE employers on one hand and a collection of HE trade unions on the other.
The employers are legally bound by the final decision made at these talks.

The issues
For the last 3 years in a row the pay increases in the HE sector have been below inflation. This means that effectively HE staff have had less to spend year on year1.
Trade unions have asked that staff receive a 7% increase this year, to account for inflation and start to make up for the past few years.
The employers have returned a counter-offer of 1% and at present are not prepared to negotiate further. (Inflation is currently 3%.)
TUs have also asked that no one in the sector should be paid less than the living wage2.
The employers have made no offer in response to the living wage question (effectively meaning it will not be implemented).

Financial info
The Employers say that financial uncertainty and falling student numbers mean that they are not sure what their income will be over the next few years. They say this is why they are not offering more than 1%.
No figures were available for the sector as a whole, but it was mentioned that the University of London alone had a reserve of £93.2million3 in the financial year 2010-11.
UoL had an operating surplus4 of £4.1million last year. The unions’ understanding is that this gets added to the reserve figure – so it is getting towards £100million at UoL alone.
Employers have admitted that the cost of wages is dropping year on year as a proportion of what they spend. At present the spend on wages in the sector is the lowest it has ever been.

No industrial action has been taken about this is the past 3 years, but all unions have now rejected the 1% offer as being too low and not taking account of the living wage.
Union members will be balloted September about whether to take industrial action.
If action were taken, it could take the form of strike or ‘work to contract’ where members only do their contracted hours and tasks. This would take place in October. At present unions don’t know how long any such action might go on for.
However, the stronger the ‘yes’ vote in the ballot, the less likely action would be: if employers see that staff are serious in rejecting this offer, they are more likely to return to the negotiating table.
A recent consultative (not legally binding) ballot of Unison members at UoL got a 44% turnout, of which 94% voted to reject the employers’ offer of 1%.

What to do if you’re interested
Join the union5 if you are not already a member. Non-members cannot vote in the ballot.
All unions are encouraging members to vote yes to taking action.
However, they have stressed that either way what is needed is a strong response to the ballot: if people don’t vote, a strike may go ahead which most members don’t actually want. So the message is vote yes or vote no, but please vote!!
Make sure your union has an up-to-date address for you so that you receive your ballot paper.

I hope this has been interesting – a lot more anecdotal evidence was given but I couldn’t write everything down! You can of course contact me if you’d like a membership form or if you have any other questions. I can’t promise I can answer everything but I’ll try to find someone who can!

Best wishes,


1.        One speaker reported that many members, not just those on the lowest pay grades, are now getting into debt and relying on pay day loans or Union hardship funds to meet their financial obligations.  
2.        The Living Wage Campaign calls for every worker in the country to earn enough to provide their family with the essentials of life. In London the current rate is £8.30 per hour. Outside of London the current rate is £7.20.
3.        I have double-checked that I didn’t write this down wrong!
4.        Operating surplus essentially means profit after expenditure (e.g. wages). See
5.        Unison and UCU are the two unions recognised by the University of London. Although you are free to join either union, traditionally UCU has represented Academic, Research and AMP Staff, and UNISON has covered everyone else. See

Friday, 3 August 2012

Branch Meeting - Pay Claim and Ballot for Action

UNISON Senate House branch meeting
Speaker: Max Watson, UNISON NEC
Thursday 9th August 2012
1-2pm, Woburn Room, Senate House
In September 2012 all HE Unison members will be balloted over the 2012 pay claim. The unions have asked for a 7% increase on all pay points. In return the employers have offered a final pay offer of 1% - effectively a pay cut since inflation was 3% in the year up to April 2012.
Living costs have increased by over 12% over the last four years. In that same period, pay increases have been worth 2.4% of pay for many staff.
Our employers admitted to HEFCE last year that staff costs were at an all time low while reporting strong surpluses at most institutions. Our claim for 7%, which would only begin to make up for the below inflation wage increases of the last few years, is fair and reasonable.
This is your chance to hear more about the pay claim and to have your say before the ballot opens. Members and non-members are welcome.
We look forward to seeing you there!
Refreshments will be provided.
Contact Josephine Grahl | | 020 7862 5814

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