News

SOAS UNISON Industrial Action for Fair Pay: 1st, 2nd, 3rd December 2021

24 November 2021

Next week SOAS UNISON members will be taking strike action alongside our colleagues in UCU for 3 days from Wednesday 1st December to Friday 3rd December 2021.

We are taking strike action to reject the insulting 0% pay freeze in higher education for 2020/21, which amounts to a real terms pay cut.

We will be taking action in the context that:

  • Our pay has effectively been cut by 20% since 2009.
  • On top of the 0% pay increase for 2020/21, only a 1.5% increase has been proposed for 2021/22.
  • Retail Price Index inflation has just hit 6% and even the more conservative measure, the Consumer Price Index, is standing at 4.2%
  • This is on top of a 1.25% hike in National Insurance contributions being introduced in April 2022.

SOAS UNISON will be striking alongside the UCU, who are striking over pensions but also over the “four fights” – pay, workloads, gender and race pay gaps and casualisation – all of which are key issues for UNISON members as well.

We kept the university going during the pandemic. We worked above and beyond to ensure our students were supported. Not only did we not get any reward, the pay offer is a slap in the face to all our members.

The Branch Committee is aksing members to join us on the picket line at SOAS. It’s really important we have as many people present in person as possible. Further details of rotas, picket line teachouts and other activities will be circulated to members over the next few days. Please ensure you also maintain the ‘virtual’ picket by not logging in to any work devices or applications at home.

We are well aware of the financial hardship taking strike action can cause for our members. SOAS UNISON branch does have a hardship fund available to provide some financial support to those hardest hit.

Below is the text of the Joint UNISON/UCU response to the email you will all have seen from SOAS senior management last week.

SOAS UNISON Branch Committee

www.soas-unison.org.uk

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“Dear Adam, Claire, Andrea, Khadir,

We are writing to you as the executive committees of the campus unions, UNISON and UCU regarding the plans for strike action in December, and your recent announcement to all staff.

We read your announcement with sympathy and note your disappointment that we have proposed strike action. We had hoped that things wouldn’t come to this but we feel we have no other option, given intolerable issues in our sector including:

·  An average 35% cut to pensions for those on the USS scheme

·  A 20% pay cut over the last 10 years

·  Gender and ethnicity pay gaps

·  Casualisation and work precarity

·  Unmanageable workloads

We too would have preferred negotiations to resolve these issues but we must remind you that it is your representatives – UUK and UCEA – that have refused to engage in discussion, that have broken off negotiations and instead unilaterally imposed cuts across the sector.

Since you would like to see discussions replace strike action, we hope you will lobby your representatives to engage with ours. Our representatives have extended an open invitation to start negotiations immediately.

Since you agree with and sympathise with our cause, we hope you will publicly come out and say so, indicating that the current direction that UUK and UCEA have taken does not represent your views.

Since you wish to protect students’ learning experience, we hope you will join us on the picket line and fight for better learning conditions by supporting those that deliver frontline student services and teaching both at SOAS and across the sector more widely.

To this end, there is also action you can take as Directors locally. We deserve appreciation for our work not only in statements but in deeds. SOAS has a gender pay gap of 7% and an ethnicity pay gap of 15%. It is in your power to close these gaps. You could respond positively to our claim for a £1,250 one-time payment for all staff in recognition of the extraordinary efforts made across the School during the pandemic. Similarly, uplifting London Weighting Allowance at our university to £4,250  per year, as we have proposed, would go some way towards covering the spiralling cost of working and living in our city.

SOAS continues to rely on problematic casualised contracts in all sections of work, which underpay workers and leave them in precarious positions month to month, term to term and year to year. You can end this, and start by sharing a decasualisation strategy that was supposed to be delivered in September 2021.

Workloads at SOAS have become unmanageable to the point of harm – our mental and physical health is being severely damaged by the demands you have placed on us. You can change this, starting with a proper and fair system of work allocation for all members of staff and ensuring proper resourcing.

Finally, we trust that you will join us in defending higher education and refrain from further communications that seek to delegitimise our action and to sow divisions between staff and students when we share a common cause. You note that students have had “a hard two years” due to the pandemic and are rightly concerned for them. As you know, we are too; members of both UNISON and UCU worked tirelessly to mitigate against the effects of the pandemic and provide the best possible education to SOAS students. There is a pernicious narrative being spread by the government and the media that implies the opposite; we hope you will join us in publicly refuting this narrative and recognising the immense efforts made by all staff across the sector to support students since the very start of the pandemic.

We are ready to start discussion and negotiations about any one of these issues. In the meantime, we hope you will join us, as a community, on the picket line to fight for the working conditions and learning conditions that you agree we deserve.

Sandy Nicoll (on behalf of the UNISON executive committee),
Kerem Nisancioglu (on behalf of the UCU executive committee)”