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Open Letter Against Punitive Deductions for UCU Industrial Action

We are calling upon our international networks to release statements of support for UCU members and highlight/criticise the punitive measures adopted by universities and their representative organisation UCEA (Universities and Colleges Employers Association).

As many colleagues will be aware, the University and College Union (UCU) members have been taking industrial action for several years to address:

  • rapidly deteriorating working conditions, systemic workplace inequalities and long-term real-terms pay cuts faced by university staff;
  • deeply unjust and financially indefensible cuts made to our collective pension fund.

In the 2022-2023 academic year, 70,000 university staff at over 145 institutions won two consecutive national ballots and took strike action. This is unprecedented and a considerable victory in and of itself given the excessively restrictive trade union laws that govern industrial relations in the UK. Collective action has brought us closer to a resolution in the pensions dispute, but it has, unfortunately, not produced sufficient movement in the pay and working conditions dispute.

The union members are now engaged in a Marking and Assessment Boycott (MAB) to compel employers back to the negotiation table. While marking and assessment-related duties constitute a small percentage of our workloads, many universities have responded to this legal industrial tactic by threatening to dock 100% of our pay. These punitive pay deductions will have a significant impact on all participating UCU members, but they will impact most harshly on our early-career and precarious colleagues—disproportionately women and people of colour—who are already struggling with low pay and job insecurity.

We are therefore calling upon our international networks to release statements of support for UCU members and highlight/criticise the punitive measures adopted by universities and their representative organisation UCEA (Universities and Colleges Employers Association).

What can you do to support UCU members?

  • Sign our open letter: If you would like to add your name to our brief open letter you can do so by filling this form.
  • Send us your own solidarity message: You can also send us a personalised note to express your support. With your consent, we can add your message to the open letter and circulate it on social media. Please also consider expressing your support via your own social media accounts.
  • Bring solidarity motions to your union branch: If you are part of a workplace union at your own institution, please consider bringing a solidarity motion to your next union branch meeting. A solidarity statement released publicly by your union branch would be much appreciated.
  • Contact University Vice-Chancellors: Vice-Chancellors are in a key position to influence the bargaining position of UCEA. We would greatly appreciate it if you could contact them and express your support for UCU members. You can use the union’s email template to contact VCs.
  • Contact your own networks: Feel free to share this page and the open letter with your own networks.
Click here to access our open letter against punitive deductions for UCU industrial action.


Last update: 23 May 2023

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