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A message from your RUSU President relating to UCU Strike Ballots

Please be aware the University and College Union (UCU) are currently holding two strike ballots calling for UCU members1 to take industrial action.

I have pulled together the following information to help inform you about the strike ballots and answer some questions you may have.

What is a strike ballot?

It is a referendum by members of a union to decide whether or not to take industrial action, which may include action taken by employees in the form of a protest, an expression of dissatisfaction, slowdown, working to rule or a strike. A strike is a refusal to work for a period of time. These actions are taken in an attempt to force an employer to adopt better working/employment conditions.

What are the strike ballots calling for?

University and College Union (UCU) are asking their members to vote on strike action and action short of a strike on two separate issues.

There is a strike ballot of 69 institutions, relating to the ongoing disputes relating to Universities Superannuation Scheme (USS) pensions; and another strike ballot of 147 institutions over disputes relating to pay, workloads, casualisation and equality.

What position has Reading University Students’ Union taken?

At this stage, RUSU has not stated a position relating to the strike ballot or potential strike action.

We are a membership organisation and recognise that our members, the students at the University of Reading, may hold differing and potentially conflicting opinions on the strike ballots and potential strike action.

RUSU will not provide a Students’ Union position on this matter without consulting our members.

RUSU Trustee Board will await the outcome of the ballot results and may call for a referendum in order to consult with our members and give students the opportunity to vote on and inform the Students’ Union position on this matter.

Where can I find out more information relating to the USS pension dispute?

UCU Strike for USS for information from University and College Union (USU) about why they are calling for strike action relating to USS pensions.

UUK Response for information from Universities UK (UUK) who represent 136 higher education employers (including University of Reading) in discussions relating to the USS pensions. UUK have published their response in relation to UCU analysis on USS benefits in this area of their website.

Where can I find more information relating to pay, workloads, casualisation and equality issues?

UCU National Negotioations for information from University and College Union (USU) about why they are calling for strike action over pay, workloads, casualisation and equality.

UCEA Pay Negotioations for information from Universities and Colleges Employers Association (UCEA) who represent 146 HEIs, including the University of Reading in collective negotiations. UCEA have published their response in relation to current pay negotiations in this area of their website.

When are the strike ballots taking place?

Right now. There are two ballots which are running concurrently, from Monday 9th September to Wednesday 30th October.

Discussions between UCU and those organisations representing university employers (UCEA and UUK) are held at a national level. However, the ballots are conducted at branch level.

When will we find out the results of the strike ballots?

The UCU Higher Education Committee (HEC) will consider the results of the ballots on Friday 1st November. UCU are required to inform their members and every Higher Education Institution (HEI) of the outcome of the ballots as soon as possible. UCU have advised they usually advise members and HEIs about the outcome of ballots within 1-2 working days of the results being considered.

However, please note UCU are not required to inform Students’ Unions of the outcome of ballots, therefore, members of RUSU Trustee Board will not find out the outcome of the ballot until a public statement has been made by UCU or until UCU members or the University of Reading share this information with us.

What will the results of the strike ballots tell us?

For strike action to take place at Reading, at least 50% of UCU branch members (at Reading and at all of the other institutions where ballots are taking place) need to vote, and a majority need to agree to take industrial action.

What will happen if RUSU Trustee Board call for a referendum?

If the RUSU Trustee Board calls for a referendum, this will be published on our website. The RUSU Elections Committee will publish a timeline for the referendum and call for Agents to represent the ‘Yes’ and ‘No’ campaigns. A debate will take place and members will be invited to participate in an online vote to determine RUSU position.

What is a referendum?

A Referendum is when the electorate (in this case the electorate is all members of Reading University Students’ Union) are asked to vote to provide their opinion on an issue. This is done in the form of a question and the electorate are asked to respond either ‘yes’ or ‘no’, to the question.

What will happen as a result of a referendum?

A firm resolution can only be decided by a Referendum if at least 1,000 RUSU members cast a vote in the Referendum and a simple majority of the votes cast are in favour of the resolution.

In this instance, RUSU Trustee Board will support the decision of the electorate.

RUSU is not obliged to act upon a vote that has a turnout of less than 1,000 students eligible to vote. However, the vote may be taken into account when formulating policies.

Who can I contact with any questions?

Any questions, please get in touch at president@rusu.co.uk.

  1. UCU membership includes academics, lecturers, teachers, trainers, instructors, researchers, administrators, managers, computer staff, librarians, postgraduate teaching assistants and other education professionals (https://www.ucu.org.uk/)