UNISON members at the University of Birmingham on the picket line
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Strike action to take place 24, 25 and 26 April

If you weren’t at this weeks’ members meetings, unfortunately, you will have missed a knotty and lively debate on the University’s most recent statement, and our decision to take three days of action next week (Weds 24-Fri 26th April).

Talks with the University

The debate came shortly after receiving a late message from HR, detailing an offer that was made on the condition we call off next week’s action. 

While the resumption of talks was a move in the right direction, we felt that too much was left to further discussion to warrant cancelling strike action completely. The points offered lacked important concessions on a guaranteed pay rise for everyone, fair allowances across the board (an end to the exclusion of catering especially), and proper recognition of the value of evening and weekend work. 

Without these concrete concessions, the committee recommended a shorter period of action than that originally planned for next week (3 days, rather than a possible 8). Shortening our action is an act of good faith, showing that although we haven’t had any concrete improvements offered yet, the committee are glad to have open channels of conversation once again. The committee is dedicated to open talks and offers, and in the landscape of staff on multiple different terms and conditions, as well as multiple versions of the pay scale, the committee would prefer a quick and fair resolution that genuinely benefits all staff.

The difficult decision

This weeks members meetings were active and very well attended. During both the morning and afternoon session, there was a lot of heated debate in the room and online. Large numbers of our members understandably feel like we have been here before, and a tangible lack of trust filled the conversations. All agreed with the decision not to call off all of the strike action entirely. 

Several members spoke in favour of keeping in place the maximum number of strike days, to increase the pressure on the University to make good its many past promises. The close of both meetings saw an unusually close vote, with two-thirds voting to continue with three days of action and a third voting against (and in favour of taking more strike action than this). 

While the committee was grateful for the faith shown in its recommendation, the differing opinions and the levels of frustration are understandable – it was a difficult decision for everyone. We have been here before. We have heard promises that weren’t fulfilled, and that’s why we are in this position. We have made a show of good faith by cutting down our action for next week. Now we call on the University to reciprocate and engage with us on pay, fairness to all departments and out of hours working. Management need to show our members that their voices have been heard. 

These meetings have proved equally, that we are also ready to take further action and are by no means worn down. Considering we have been in this dispute for just over a year, during one of the highest periods of inflation since the 70’s, it is a real testament to the strength of our members, and shows how important this issue remains to us all.

What we ask of all of our members

This is a critical point in our strike action, we need everyone on the picket lines to show what this means to us all. Crucially we need new people to join, so keep talking to your colleagues and let them know they can receive strike pay even if they join on the day of the strike.

Our membership has grown significantly since we have been on strike, so they will not be the only new member, and they can expect to join a very supportive community. We need our communications to go further, shared by our members to non-members, the public, and policymakers. Every small action by our members adds up. If you haven’t already, follow us on social media, flick back through our blogs and take stock of why we are here together, why it matters and why we need to stand strong and united.

This is our call to action for our members to:

  • Stand in unity on the picket lines.
  • Encourage colleagues to join – this affects everyone.
  • Follow, like, share our social media posts.
  • Tag us in your strike photos
  • Write a message on our accessible picket
  • Share our emails and blogs to inform colleagues
  • Print, hang and share our posters.

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