Unite Strike at Sussex University - advice needed

25 posts / 0 new
Last post
xTx
Offline
Joined: 13-12-04
Oct 6 2008 15:11
Unite Strike at Sussex University - advice needed

Hi,

I work at Sussex University, and am a member of the Unite union... We are striking on Friday 10th October due to the closing of the Final Salary Pension scheme for new starters (me included - I was on rolling 6 month contracts for 2 years till August)...

Today, some people have received an email from HR stating that every staff member must sign a declaration that they will not strike, and if they don't, they will have their pay docked... this is the first time I've been on a "proper" strike (i.e. not wildcat!) and this sounds really dodgy to me, just wondered if anyone had any advice? I'm aware that I will lose pay, but how can this be legal??? For example, if I was on holiday this week I wouldn't be able to sign the declaration, so I would lose a days pay?!?!?

I've pasted the text of the email below...

Quote:

IMPORTANT INFORMATION FOR STAFF

DECLARATION of NON-PARTICIPATION IN INDUSTRIAL ACTION CALLED by UNITE

UNITE has called on its members at the University to take part in strike action in October. As strike action is a breach of contract, those who take part will have no entitlement to be paid for days on which they are on strike.

In order to ensure that pay is only withheld from staff who participate in the strike action called by UNITE, the University is asking all staff in the relevant groups to declare whether they are NOT taking part in strike action on any of the strike days called by UNITE for their members, on 10, 11, 17, 24 and 31 October 2008.

Where an individual member of staff fails or refuses to complete the declaration, the University will assume that s/he is taking part and make deductions from his/her pay accordingly, at the rate of 1/260th of his/her annual salary per strike day, until satisfied that the member of staff has not participated in the strike.

The University expects staff to make these declarations promptly and honestly, and trusts that staff will understand that the declaration is necessary to ensure that pay is only withheld from staff who take part in the strike action on any of the strike days called by UNITE.

Please note that disciplinary action may be taken against any member of staff who does not make a truthful declaration.
_________________________________________________________________________

DECLARATION

To be completed if you are NOT participating in strike action called by UNITE.

Please tick the right hand box against the Declaration below if you will NOT be taking part in strike action on any of the days called by UNITE:

I will not be participating in any of the days of strike action called by UNITE, on 10, 11, 17, 24 & 31 October 2008

FULL NAME: _______________________________________________________

DEPARTMENT: _______________________________________________________

SIGNATURE: _______________________________________________________

Please note that if you intend to strike on one or more but not all of the strike days called by UNITE, you should make your specific intentions clear to your Technical Services Manager, School Administrative Manager or head of unit.

Please return this form to Human Resources, Sussex House,
by Wednesday 8 October 2008 at 4.00pm

any advice chaps?

xTx

posi
Offline
Joined: 24-09-05
Oct 6 2008 15:31

What tossers. You should call UNITE and get some proper advice. A lot of people must have this question. On this -

Quote:
For example, if I was on holiday this week I wouldn't be able to sign the declaration, so I would lose a days pay?!?!?

If you were on holiday you would not technically be taking part in the strike action. I don't know if what they're asking is legal, but I'd assume it is. They've quite carefully avoided saying, as such, that you must sign and return it - just that they expect you to, and that if you do you'll be disciplined for failing to make a 'truthful declaration'.

Demogorgon303's picture
Demogorgon303
Offline
Joined: 5-07-05
Oct 6 2008 15:36

If everyone made an untruthful declaration, what would they do?

Joseph Kay's picture
Joseph Kay
Offline
Joined: 14-03-06
Oct 6 2008 15:46
posi wrote:
If you were on holiday you would not technically be taking part in the strike action.

i think xTx's asking about people who are on holiday now, and are so unable to complete the form even if they don't intend to strike.

to second posi, without actually knowing the law on this, it's probably legal since all they're asking you to do is declare if you intend to work during the strike and thus avoid losing pay. i wouldn't have thought this was illegal, unless there's anything about it undermining the confidentiality of strike ballots (which might be a long shot). obviously the way it's worded they're trying to encourage people to scab, make out only a minority will be striking etc.

Steven.'s picture
Steven.
Offline
Joined: 27-06-06
Oct 6 2008 16:46

This is bullshit - no one should sign it. Even if people did sign it, they could still strike, because it's illegal to victimise anyone for striking.

A few departments in my council did things like this before the local government strike in July. We just told people not to say. People don't have to declare their union membership to their employer, so they wouldn't have to say this. And the employer would not be allowed to deduct pay if the worker had worked, regardless if they haven't signed this piece of paper.

jef costello's picture
jef costello
Offline
Joined: 9-02-06
Oct 6 2008 16:55

I think it's illegal of them to dock you for strike action until they have proved that you have been on strike rather than the other way around.
A lot of places have started doing this, it's a standard intimidation tactic and it allows them to pressurise you in advance. As they are just going to dock you then there's no point filling it in as you're losing the money anyway.

xTx
Offline
Joined: 13-12-04
Oct 6 2008 18:06

thanks guys... we've been going round telling as many people as possible not to sign, but it's hard without any proper legal clarification... plus it's the first week of term so we're all really busy anyways!

our union is still waiting for legal advice from the central office's legal team, as far as I can tell sad

I had no intention of signing it myself, as I'll lose a days pay either way, but a lot of people who aren't out on strike that day are understandably quite worried, as they want to support the strike but don't want to get into trouble.

We haven't told our manager that we're going to be striking so there's no opportunity to get cover for us - think my whole department will be out on Friday! grin

xTx

Pepe
Offline
Joined: 26-11-04
Oct 6 2008 22:13

I thought I knew who xTx is but now I'm confused. Sake.

xTx
Offline
Joined: 13-12-04
Oct 7 2008 08:15
Demogorgon303 wrote:
If everyone made an untruthful declaration, what would they do?

in a university of over 2000 staff, where only a small percentage is unionised, I'd imagine it's kinda hard to orchestrate that... There are 2 main unions for support staff, Unite & Unison... Unison haven't even balloted for strike action afaik as they doubt they'd get a 'YES' vote... sad

Jess wrote:
I thought I knew who xTx is but now I'm confused. Sake.

heh... yeah, so did Jenni... I don't think I've met you, so sorry if I'm not who you think I am!! wink

xTx

no1
Offline
Joined: 3-12-07
Oct 7 2008 08:46

They are also putting pressure on some UCU members at Sussex uni. Here's the email I got this morning from UCU.

Quote:
We are aware that some UCU members are coming under pressure to disclose
their intentions concerning the UNITE strike days. The following advice has
been prepared by the UCU regional office.
_____________________________________________

Dear UCU member,

Members may have received or may receive correspondence from management
about attendance on the days of the strike action by UNITE members later
this week. This advice is to clarify the position for UCU members in the
light of restrictive legislation on industrial action and this
communication from your employer.

As you will be aware, UCU members have not been balloted on taking
industrial action. As such you do not have the legal protection from breach
of contract which taking legal strike action entails. UCU members are
required to work in accordance with their contract on the days of strike
action and UCU cannot lawfully induce members to break their contract.

Prior to the strike action, there is no obligation on UCU members to inform
management about their intentions on the days of strike action. The
question should not be asked of UCU members in the first place. Your branch
have requested that management stop making any such requests of UCU
members. It is hoped that this can be dealt with collectively.

If UNITE members are forced into taking further action short of a strike,
UCU will issue further guidance based on the principle of not covering the
work of striking colleagues.

UCU is fully supportive of the campaign for a fair pension deal for all
staff at Sussex.

If you have any further questions about UNITE's forthcoming strike action
or the campaign, please contact your branch officers.

no1
Offline
Joined: 3-12-07
Oct 9 2008 09:01

This morning University management have posted a new document where they deal with the 'myths' that those evil unions are spreading. Not sure what it all means.
http://www.sussex.ac.uk/humanresources/documents/uspas_briefing.pdf

Sussex not for sale (mainly a student organisation, but with some staff involvement) are also mobilising people in support of the strike:
http://www.facebook.com/home.php#/event.php?eid=34859802702

xTx
Offline
Joined: 13-12-04
Oct 9 2008 10:48

finally had legal advice from the union (after the deadline given by HR to fill in their form!! sad ) which basically said we don't have to reply to HR at all...

also, just been sent press release by UNITE, complete with Animal Farm reference wink :

Quote:
UNITE PRESS RELEASE UNITE PRESS RELEASE UNITE PRESS RELEASE
>
> For immediate release:
>
> Attention: news, industrial and education correspondents
>
> Date: 10th October and 11th October
> Location: University of Sussex main campus entrance directly off
> A27 Worthing to Lewes.
>
> STAFF TAKE STRIKE ACTION AT THE UNIVERSITY OF SUSSEX
>
> Unite's members working at the University of Sussex will take
> strike action in a dispute over pensions on Friday 10th October and
> Saturday 11th October.
>
> Unite will be demonstrating at pickets which will be in place from
> 8 am on the10th October. On the11th October there is an open-day
> for potential students and their parents. Once again, Unite will be
> making its presence known from 8 am.
>
> The dispute will cause disruption to the university's
> laboratories.The union also intends to send a clear message on
> Saturday to potential students and their parents, that the
> university treats its staff like second and third class citizens.
> The senior executives may have read George Orwell's Animal Farm -
> that claimed some are more equal than others - but, if they did,
> they did not learn the valuable lessons the book had to offer.
>
> The management of the University of Sussex are safe with their own
> pension scheme but are seeking to force detrimental changes on
> other staff creating a three tier workforce.
>
> The university has announced it intends to close its existing staff
> pension scheme to all new starters. It is also trying to pass off
> any future deficit problems on a shared basis between the existing
> support staff and the university. On top of this, it is trying to
> force up contributions for existing staff and reduce the
> university's contribution rate. Because the management participates
> in the national Universities Superannuation Scheme, they are safe
> from the detrimental changes they are proposing for the local
> pension scheme.
>
> Unite national officer, Mike Robinson, says:
> “The pensions of the management at Sussex are safe but the
> university is trying to force detrimental changes on other staff to
> create a three tier workforce. The university's senior executives
> may have read George Orwell's Animal Farm that claimed some are
> more equal than others, if they did, they did not learn the
> valuable lessons that the book had to offer.
>
> “Our members are determined to defend new starters rights to a
> decent pension and to stop the erosion of their existing scheme.”
>
> ENDS
>
> To arrange an interview or for more information contact: Ciaran
> Naidoo 07768 931 315

I'll be on the picket from mid-morning, plus there's a multi-union & students march around campus from 1pm, finishing in a rally at Library Square...

xTx

ftony
Offline
Joined: 26-05-04
Oct 9 2008 12:08

info forwarded to IWW folks down your way. not many of em, but a few might show if they're not working tomorrow. hope it goes well.

xTx
Offline
Joined: 13-12-04
Oct 9 2008 13:21
ftony wrote:
info forwarded to IWW folks down your way. not many of em, but a few might show if they're not working tomorrow. hope it goes well.

Thanks! grin

xTx

Jenni's picture
Jenni
Offline
Joined: 7-08-07
Oct 9 2008 15:41

Thanks for that no1 and xTx.
no1 have you got whatever it was that UCU wrote which management claims has false information in it?

The summary at the end of that management document looks grim - reducing the inflation protection on USPAS from 6% to 3%, charming.. also anything that tries so hard to make a defined contribution plan look so great and downplays the benefit to management it'll bring with bonus-this and incentive-that ends up looking very suspect indeed sad

Edit: Comment removed as was misinformed! Sorry

xTx, most of Brighton SolFed can get down there on Saturday, so see you then smile

no1
Offline
Joined: 3-12-07
Oct 9 2008 21:56

Unite's rebuttal is here: http://www.tulc.sussex.ac.uk/rebuttal.pdf

Jenni wrote:
no1 have you got whatever it was that UCU wrote which management claims has false information in it?

Can't be sure what management are referring to, but UCU attached an Excel sheet to one of their emails where you could put in your salary and then it calculated how the proposed changes would affect the employer and employee contributions. It also contained a comment saying : "...Featuring the one they didn't show you the University's saving. How? Through the reduction of their contribution rate from 18.1% to 9.8%!!"

in their rebuttal unite write the following:

Quote:
Management claimed Myth
o That the University has reduced its Employer contribution to USPAS from 18.1% to 9.8% (as incorrectly
stated in writing by UCU this week).

Management claimed “Fact”
o Under its proposal, the University’s Employer contribution to USPAS is 24.6%, increased from its
contribution of 19.5% prior to the last valuation. The table below shows the Employer contributions (i) prior to
the last valuation; (ii) during the temporary period agreed by Council; and (iii) under the University’s proposal:

Rebuttal.
Unite has not seen the UCU document they refer to. Hovever, in their “fact” management are conflating
employee contributions and employer contributions and measures to address a deficit in past service
with contributions required for future service. Council agreed an interim payment pending discussion
of the future of USPAS. The employer contribution for future service is currently 18.1%, with employees
contributing 6%. Their new proposals have employees contributing 9% and the employer contributing
13.5%. The employee contribution increases by 50% whilst the current employer contribution falls by
25% Under the scheme rules, the employer has to make up the deficit re past service commitment –
deficits which arise from poor actuarial advice re longevity, poor fund performance, costs of early
retirement and pension contribution holidays.

xTx
Offline
Joined: 13-12-04
Oct 10 2008 15:16

Strike seemed to go well - my boiler blew up this morning (!) so I didn't get there till quite late sad but the pickets apparently had lots of support from other staff, faculty & students...

looks like there will be no picket tomorrow - the strike will still be going ahead for those supposed to be working on that day, but the union have decided there would be no other action... this is because they want to appear that they are not doing something 'bad' to the uni (I spose like discouraging students from choosing Sussex) and therefore take the moral high-ground from the managers of sussex uni... also, apparently the management have had to do a lot of extra work (not sure what?!) with just the threat of the strike that it's already done its job...

xTx

Steven.'s picture
Steven.
Offline
Joined: 27-06-06
Oct 10 2008 16:50

So how many workers are in unite, and how does that compare to the total number?

How did the strike go in terms of people crossing picket lines, or nonmembers striking?

xTx
Offline
Joined: 13-12-04
Oct 10 2008 19:25
Steven. wrote:
So how many workers are in unite, and how does that compare to the total number?

How did the strike go in terms of people crossing picket lines, or nonmembers striking?

there are around 90 Unite members, out of a total of 2,500 staff!! I think there are more Unison members than Unite, but I think I may have said earlier I've heard that they aren't sure they'd win a strike ballot to join in our strikes, though their leaders are 'supporting the strike'... then there is the UCU, which as I understand it is mainly faculty, but whilst supprting the strike, their members are not as affected by this as they are generally in the same final salary pension scheme as the senior management, which is not closing... not sure how many union members total, but I'd bet over the 3 unions there's probably less than a quarter of the total staff that are unionised sad

Most people, apart from us Unite memnbers, did cross the picket lines unfortunately (whilst I was there at least), but it was mainly an informative picket with thousands of fliers handed out and lots of time to chat to other staff and students about pensions and other issues, most of whom were very vocally supportive. A couple of lecturers apparently told a colleague that they wouldn't cross the picket lines so weren't going to come in today (not sure if that means they actually cancelled classes or what).

As for disruption, well, my department of 7 had 5 on strike and 1 on compassionate leave, so only our administrator (who is in Unison) was left manning the phones... and hopefully telling irate lecturers that they couldn't have any support as we were on strike and to direct complaints to senior management saying that they should re-instate the final salary pension scheme grin

xTx

Steven.'s picture
Steven.
Offline
Joined: 27-06-06
Oct 10 2008 19:53

Thanks for the background information, that makes it a lot clearer.

If the UNISON members pensions were under attack as well I would find it surprising that there wouldn't be a yes vote, unless density was so low that they thought they had no chance.

In the local government pension strike in 2006, 80% of UNISON members voted to strike, on a 36% turnout.

xTx
Offline
Joined: 13-12-04
Oct 11 2008 09:55
Steven. wrote:
Thanks for the background information, that makes it a lot clearer.

If the UNISON members pensions were under attack as well I would find it surprising that there wouldn't be a yes vote, unless density was so low that they thought they had no chance.

In the local government pension strike in 2006, 80% of UNISON members voted to strike, on a 36% turnout.

UNISON members' pensions ARE under threat... I've been told they are generally the lower paid workers such as porters, lab techs etc that are affected by the proposals... I'm not sure why everyone thinks they'll vote 'no' to strike action, to be honest... there is an indicative Unison ballot running at present, so I guess I'll get more of an idea on numbers when they let their members know the result...

xTx

no1
Offline
Joined: 3-12-07
Oct 11 2008 10:32

A photo report of yesterday's march and rally is on the student newspaper site:
http://www.thebadgeronline.co.uk/news/in-pictures-technical-staff-strike-over-pensions/11/

Further strike days will go ahead (next three Fridays) if management dont go back to negotiations - more info can be found on the unite website:
http://www.sussex.ac.uk/Units/Amicus/

xTx
Offline
Joined: 13-12-04
Oct 14 2008 08:08

Unite say that ACAS have approached the University management to try and sort something out, but management weren't interested even though the action is affecting labs and students etc; it doesn't affect them directly!

ARGH! sad

oh well, more strike action this week then... should find out about the UNISON indicative ballot soon too... I think the only way to get the management talking is if UNISON strike too...

xTx

Steven.'s picture
Steven.
Offline
Joined: 27-06-06
Oct 14 2008 17:59

Yes I would assume that UNISON would have a lot of members at the University right?

It seems ridiculous to have one group of 50 workers striking, who would be quite likely to get demoralised before the larger group even get consulted. Oh well, that's the problem with the unions I guess.