Birkbeck UCU | News | Dispute Bulletin No. 2

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Dispute Bulletin No. 2

Another successful, 90-strong meeting begins planning industrial action. Master supports defined benefit pensions and meaningful negotiations

For the second week in succession we held another exceptionally well-attended meeting including students and colleagues from Unison, whose support we strongly welcome. The Master’s statement on the dispute, sent to all staff Thurs morning, was warmly received because of its support for staff demands:

‘I am now stating publicly that both sides should return to the negotiating table and conduct meaningful negotiations with the preferred outcome being the retention of defined benefit scheme in an affordable form.’ (The Master 8 February 2018)

We hope that other VCs will swiftly follow suit and build to a critical mass, isolating the minority of hardliners and forcing a resumption of meaningful talks.

Teaching and assessment

All staff scheduled to teach on strike days are urged to cancel teaching and notify students in advance, explaining the reasons behind the dispute (see below). Union policy is that we do NOT reschedule lectures or classes although teaching materials will, in some cases, already be available on Moodle.

Where teaching has been cancelled, we propose that students should be advised the topics affected will not be the subject of assessment. This may sound an obvious point, but it is important to clarify to students the implication of our actions. 

Communications to students  

In statements and emails to students, do make clear that we have embarked on strike action reluctantly, and as a last resort, because of the sheer unreasonableness of the employers, as shown in their proposal to destroy our defined benefit pension scheme and to refuse further negotiations. Do point out that the ‘average’ UCU member stands to lose £10,000 per year, for every year of their retirement, if these draconian plans are allowed to proceed. Do encourage your students to add their voice in support of us by writing to Alistair Jarvis, Chief Executive, Universities UK,

The union will also be contacting ADs, urging them to support the dispute; to support all staff, particularly T&S staff who wish to cancel teaching; and to write to students, explaining the reasons behind the strike and seeking to provide reassurance about assessment.

Hardship funds

The union has established a national hardship fund that will make payments to individual union members of up to £50 per strike day to a total maximum of £500. Priority will be given to low income members and details can be found in the attachment alongside this bulletin and also at this link:

In addition the local union has now committed to spend up to £5,000 on hardship and details will be provided in due course. Members should apply, in the first instance, to the national hardship fund; the local fund will be available as a top up.

Pay deductions whilst on strike

Past practice was to deduct 1/260 for each day’s strike participation, ie counting a day as one working day. In 2017 the Supreme Court ruled this unlawful and declared the basis for deduction should be the calendar day, i.e. 1/365. The college will implement the new ruling for the upcoming dispute.

In relation to past strikes, the ruling means the college has over-deducted pay and must now refund monies to all those affected. The local union is currently in discussion with the college to ensure the reimbursement is conducted quickly and comprehensively.

Picketing and picket rota

The purposes of picketing are twofold: to persuade people not to go into work; and to disseminate information about the dispute. More detailed guidance will be available from picket supervisors on the day. An effective picket line needs people with a variety of skills: persuasion, leafletting, staffing a union stall with literature etc, making speeches, not forgetting the regular replenishment of tea and coffee supplies!

To volunteer, email the union administrator Julia Ireland on and cc Sophie Hope on

Strike dates

Thurs & Fri 22-23 Feb

Mon-Wed 26-28 Feb

Mon-Thurs 5–8 Mar

Mon-Fri 12-16 Mar

Join the UCU!

If you have received this bulletin as a non-member, and you are employed at Birkbeck, join the hundreds of colleagues who are already union members and sign up NOW!  Just follow this link to the online form and it will take only a few minutes:


General queries - John Kelly

T&S staff queries - Mike Berlin

USS pension queries – Nick Pronger

Picketing – Sophie Hope

FAQs about the strike -

Action Points

  • Come to the next meeting, Thurs 15 Feb, Main Building, Lower Ground Floor area, 1.00 – 2.00 pm
  • Tell your students about the dispute and the strike dates and urge them to write to the Chief Executive of Universities UK, Alistair Jarvis,
  • Discuss the issues and the strike action with colleagues at Departmental meetings
  • Circulate this bulletin to all staff in your Dept to ensure that non-members can read about the dispute and hopefully join the union
  • Urge non-members to join at the following link:
  • Social media: spread news of the dispute through your Facebook and Twitter accounts

Friday 9 February 2018