Birkbeck UCU | News | Dispute Bulletin No. 3

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Dispute Bulletin No. 3

Strike preparations continue amidst last minute calls for talks

Lectures, seminars, meetings and events are being cancelled all over the country as the first strike date draws closer. The UCU leadership has repeatedly called on the employers to resume negotiations and pressure is also being applied on the political front, with an Early Day Motion now signed by 62 MPs. It would be good to think that behind the scenes more and more Vice Chancellors are beginning to doubt the wisdom of their reckless and belligerent misleaders in Universities UK and today the VC of Essex became the latest university leader to repudiate the hardliners’ assault on our pensions. On the other hand it may be the case that only a solid display of strike support across the country, with all the disruption that entails, will finally persuade many of them to climb down from the fence and support their staff.

How can I support the strike?

There are various ways in which you can support industrial action in defence of a decent pension scheme:

  • TODAY Teach-out Meeting. To organise Teach-outs as part of the strike action.  3.30pm, B01, 12 Gower St (entrance at 14 Gower St). All welcome! Contact Tanya Serisier for more info
  • Cancel lectures, seminars and other college events.
  • Write to students explaining the reasons behind our action.
  • Out of office reply: On strike days leave an out of office reply that states you are on strike in protest at the planned destruction of our pensions; that you will not be answering emails on strike days; and that EITHER the sender should resend their message because the original will be deleted OR you will reply once the strike is over.
  • Sign up to the picket rota by contacting the union administrator Julia Ireland, and Sophie Hope, You can volunteer for any amount of time: every contribution counts and is valued!
  • Refreshments: If picketing is not for you, offer to bring supplies of tea and coffee to pickets.
  • Write to your MP, expressing your anger at the destruction of our pension scheme and asking him/her to speak out in support of defined benefit pensions and meaningful negotiations.

Student support

If your students want to show their support for our action, we suggest the following:

  • Work at home or elsewhere on strike days
  • Or, come into college and join our picket lines
  • And, show support through our Facebook group:
  • And, write to the Head of Universities UK, Alistair Jarvis, urging him to return to meaningful talks with the union that represents the overwhelming majority of staff in USS:

John McDonnell

The local UCU has been in correspondence with Birkbeck alumnus and Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell, who has pledged to do all he can to assist in a resumption of meaningful negotiations

Vice Chancellors’ remuneration committees: UCU exposes a corrupt pay system

A UCU Freedom of Information request showed that Vice Chancellors sit on their own pay committees in almost half (47%) the UK’s universities and in many others they are allowed to attend the pay committee meetings. Birkbeck is one of the few HEIs that does not engage in this outrageous practice.

The corporate remuneration committee is supposed to comprise senior executives who can take an independent view of organizational performance and reach independent decisions about CEO pay.

It is now clear that one of the mechanisms behind the upward surge in VC pay is a system of pay determination that ignores obvious conflicts of interest and allows VCs, quite literally, to line their own pockets. With such corrupt leadership across so many universities, it is not surprising that we are now embroiled in a civil war over staff pensions.    

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.

Diary dates

Thurs & Fri 22-23 Feb

Strikes week 1

Mon-Wed 26-28 Feb

Strikes week 2

March on Parliament Wed 28 Feb Organized by London Region UCU. Assemble Malet St, 12 noon for 1.00 departure

Mon-Thurs 5–8 March

Strikes week 3

Thurs 8 March

International Women’s Day March. Assemble Russell Square, 1.00 pm

Mon-Fri 12-16 Mar

Strikes week 4

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:


FAQs about the strike -

General queries - John Kelly

Hardship funds – John Kelly

Picketing – Sophie Hope

T&S staff  - Mike Berlin

USS pension scheme – Nick Pronger

Action Points

  • 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 and through the Birkbeck UCU Facebook page:


Monday 19 February 2018