Ballots for both the HE pay and pensions disputes have started today. Members in over 60 USS institutions are urged to vote YES to defend our pensions, to oppose increased contributions and to reject the shenanigans of the USS itself. UCU members across the HE sector are also urged to vote YES for action in the ballot, along with members of four other campus universities, to fight for fair pay, to demand an end to gender and ethnic pay gaps, to address the scandal of casualisation and to confront rising workloads. It’s crucial that we don’t take success in either dispute for granted. The Tories’ disgraceful industrial relations law which requires participation of above 50% in each institution means that we have to launch a programme of action in every branch to reach every member before the end of the ballot on 30 October. Just because members have every right to be angry about what’s happening to our working conditions doesn’t mean that they will automatically take part in the ballot nor that they will support strike action. We need a Get the Vote Out campaign that doesn’t just rely on the odd email but mobilises members, answers their questions, reaches out into canteens, staff meetings and offices and shows that only defiance and industrial action will secure the pay and pensions we deserve.
We reproduce below part of the action plan – including a weekly calendar and communication to reps – from Goldsmiths UCU that gives an idea of what we should be doing right now to raise the temperature and to deliver strong yes votes in our ballots.
Dear UCU Department Reps,
UCU’s ballot over pensions and over pay & equality officially started today, so members will be receiving their ballot papers in the post from Wednesday. Earlier today we sent an email to all members outlining the key issues in relation to the pay/equality negotiations here and the USS here. There will be two ballot papers which must be returned in one envelope.
Publicity for both issues is now available, and will be distributed at Wednesday’s pre-strike committee meeting. The idea of the meeting is to brief members, and build a team in each department that will work with you on getting the strike out – please try and encourage people to come along.
Getting over 50% turnout
It is important to note this is a disaggregated ballot, so in order to take part in action, we must reach over 50% turnout so Getting the Vote Out, really matters.
Of course the key will be to engage and listen to members and seek to persuade with the strongest possible arguments. But we also want to make sure that we take organisational steps to ensure as many members as possible have direct communication with UCU members regarding the ballot. In relation to this we are asking department reps to coordinate with other activists to talk to as many members as possible and encourage them to vote.
On-line membership & ballot list
Department UCU members – this afternoon, our membership officers will send you a link to members in your department. Please check it is accurate and think about how this could be divided in your department to make sure everyone is spoken to face to face, over the phone, or via personalised emails.
Asking members to vote: This is not about hassling people but seriously engaging with the current situation. The branch recommends VOTE YES, but ultimately asks members to VOTE as we must reach the threshold. Failure to do so will have an extremely detrimental impact on our ability to be effective at a volatile time nationally and locally.
Keeping us updated: The GTVO committee will be reviewing the voter turn out each week and we ask that you help us by updating your department members spreadsheet when people let you know they’ve voted.
Door knocking/dep walkabouts – in particular we advise this approach as it has been very effective in other ballots. If you can let the branch administrator know specific times you plan to do this, then we can arrange members to come and help.
Posters/flyers – it would be great if we could get members to put a poster on their door, and help distribute, generating an atmosphere will encourage and remind people to vote.
Department meetings – The branch president has written to HOD’s requesting a UCU slot at any staff meetings taking place during the ballot. It would be helpful also if we had union specific meetings in departments – if you are able to organise one, we’ll arrange an exec member to speak.
Communication in general
Each week we will be sending specific local emails out to members. If there are issues you think need to be covered, please let us know.
We will also be linking the national issues such as casualisation, workload etc to the local situation. This includes special anti-casualisation publicity.
Opting out of Vote messages
From Wednesday, we will also be sending a link to members which they can click to tell us they’ve voted – they will then also be taken out of any ‘VOTE’ messages.
Reaching the 50% threshold – things you need to know
- Anyone who joins up to 23 Oct, will be added to the ballot list and able to cast a vote.
- Members who have not received their ballot papers, should request a replacement online. The link for this will be available from 17 Sept.