Strike ballot FAQs

LOGISTICS Q&A FOR SPRING 2019

What is the ballot about?

Why should I vote?

Why do we need to take action?

The last ballot in autumn didn’t result in a strike, so why are we voting again?

How do I vote?

Why should I notify the branch that I have voted?

Why can’t we vote online?

I can’t find the envelope with my ballot, what should I do?

Who is eligible to vote?

Who is not eligible to vote?

I’ve been balloted but don’t think I should have been, or I’m not sure if I’m eligible to vote. What should I do?

When is the deadline to submit my vote?

What outcome is necessary for a strike to go ahead?

I’m not sure if I want to strike, so should I abstain?

I can’t afford to lose pay by striking.

What happens if the vote is in favour of a strike?

That’s right at the end of term, isn’t it?

What work will be affected by a possible strike?

Will supervisions continue as normal?

How can I help UCU reach the ballot threshold?

What if I still have questions?

 

What is the ballot about?

UCU members at universities nationwide are being re-balloted on whether to take strike action in support of the 2018 national claim. We are demanding from our employers:

  • A meaningful pay rise, instead of the sub-inflationary 2% offered by employers;
  • A serious commitment to closing the gender pay gap;
  • Recognition of excessive workloads;
    Reduction in the use of precarious contracts.

They have offered none of these.

For more on the issues, and the possible strike action, see here.

We recommend you vote YES to Industrial Action and YES to Action Short of a Strike, and we urge all members to participate in the ballot.

Why should I vote?

This is a crucial ballot, aiming to secure long-needed advances in staff conditions at a time of real uncertainty in the sector. We want as many members as possible to participate in the ballot and express their views. Participating in the ballot gives members a voice in union decision-making; it gives colleagues a voice (because unless we meet a 50% turnout threshold nationally, even those who are prepared to strike will be unable to do so); and it strengthens the union and its ability to advocate for staff in future.

Why do we need to take action?

  • Over the last seven years, total income across the sector has increased by 33.1%, operating surpluses by 176.8% and reserves are up by 259%, yet staff costs as a percentage of income have gone down from 54.6% to 52.9%.
  • 2016/17 data shows a mean gender pay gap of 11.8% or £5936 per year.
  • According to HESA, there at least 50,000 university teaching staff on hourly-paid contracts and at least 12,500 with zero-hours contracts. 66% of research staff are still on fixed-term contracts
  • UCU’s recent workload survey showed that HE staff are working an average of two days unpaid every week.

The last ballot in autumn didn’t result in a strike, so why are we voting again?

The autumn ballot failed because the turnout was too low to gather a legal mandate for a strike, even though a majority of those who voted were in favour of a strike. The timing of the vote may have been part of the problem. That’s why a second ballot is being run in the hope that a clear majority of members will exercise their right to vote.

How do I vote?

You should have received a ballot in the post in early January, either at home or at work; the envelope looks like this. Fill out your ballot paper and return it in the included envelope. It’s prepaid, so no need for a stamp. Then please email us at CUCUVoted@gmail.com to let us know that you have voted (but not what your vote is).

Why should I notify the branch that I have voted?

This helps us keep track of how the turnout is looking in the weeks before the deadline and to most effectively target our resources during the ballot period.

Why can’t we vote online?

We have no choice – voting on paper is a legal requirement. The Trade Union Act 2016 specifically and deliberately outlawed online voting in industrial disputes.

I can’t find the envelope with my ballot, what should I do?

Make sure your details are correct on MyUCU and order a replacement.

Who is eligible to vote?

Anyone who is employed by the university or contracted to the university, whether full-time or part-time.

  • This includes people with university contracts who also do some college teaching.
  • It also includes students (most likely doctoral students) who are contracted to teach (Standard Free membership) – even if you are on an hourly rate.
  • TES staff are eligible to vote as TES is an internal department of the university rather than an external agency.

Who is not eligible to vote?

  • People who are employed only by a college, and not by the central university. This is because colleges are not part of the national pay bargaining process.
  • Members in Cambridge Assessment.
  • People who are self-employed or working for an external agency.
  • Employees who owing to long-term illness, maternity leave or research leave would not normally be at work during the strike period.
  • Students who aren’t working for the university (Graduate Student membership).

I’ve been balloted but don’t think I should have been, or I’m not sure if I’m eligible to vote. What should I do?

Contact us at admin@ucu.cam.ac.uk and we’ll be happy to help.

When is the deadline to submit my vote?

Completed ballot papers must be received by Friday 22 February. Remember to allow good time for postage – no later than Wednesday 20 February. Best to put your vote in the post today.

What outcome is necessary for a strike to go ahead?

For the vote to comply with legislation:

  • 50% of all eligible UCU members nationally will have to participate in the vote.
  • Then out of those who turn out to vote, 50% will have to vote yes to strike (in the last ballot 69% of members nationally voted to strike).

This means that every vote is important. The autumn ballot failed not because people voted against striking, but because not enough people returned their ballots. Remember too that Unlike in previous ballots, this vote is aggregated nationally rather than being counted within individual branches. For the strike to be legal, we need 50% membership turnout and a majority of ‘yes’ votes across the UK.

I’m not sure if I want to strike, so should I abstain?

If you don’t vote, you are effectively voting to stop the rest of membership from being able to take action, because of the 50% turnout rule. Union democracy is vitally important, we need to know what the whole membership thinks, so please do use your vote. If you don’t think we should strike, vote No to industrial action (but perhaps Yes to action short of a strike?). Abstaining is not sitting on the fence. It undermines the strength of the union across the board, not only on pay, equality and casualisation, but also on pensions, and in the many local issues, disputes and negotiations on which UCU works for its members.

Remember that the higher the turnout and the higher the Yes vote in this dispute, the more worried the employers will be about a possible strike, and the more likely they will be to come up with a better offer. Paradoxically, the stronger the vote the less likely we are to actually end up on strike!

I can’t afford to lose pay by striking.
The union has hardship funds, both nationally and locally, which can provide some financial help.

What happens if the vote is in favour of a strike?

Once votes are counted, the law requires that employers be given two weeks’ notice of intention to strike. This means that the earliest a strike might begin would be Monday 11 March.

That’s right at the end of term, isn’t it?

Yes, because the Cambridge term ends earlier than at most universities, the only days when scheduled teaching might be affected by the strike would be Monday 11 to Wednesday 13 March. Remember, however, that the strike will continue after that, so departmental supervisions (see below) and any other departmental business should not be done on designated strike days.

What work will be affected by a possible strike?

All of your contracted duties for the university. This includes lectures and other forms of teaching organised by departments. It also includes meetings, marking, responding to emails and other communications on university business.

Will supervisions continue as normal?

This depends on whether the supervisions are organised by colleges or departments. Supervisions organised by colleges will continue as normal. If you are a university employee who also teaches in a college, the strike does not remove your obligation to your college teaching. But supervisions organised by departments, even if they are paid for by colleges, will be affected by the strike.

How can I help UCU reach the ballot threshold?

Speak to your colleagues about the ballot and encourage them to vote or to join UCU (a ballot paper will be sent out to them).
Don’t see posters in your department? Get in touch and we will send you some.
Volunteer to help phone other members to remind them to vote.
Remember to notify the branch that you have voted.

What if I still have questions?
Contact us at admin@ucu.cam.ac.uk and we’ll be happy to help.