Yesterday UNISON gave the University formal notice of strike action for Christmas Eve, Sunday 24 December. This might seem to be a strange decision, as most staff at the University are due to finish work for the festive period after Wednesday 20th December. However, while many of us are taking a break on the University Closed Days, there are still staff in key services who are required to work.
Why does it matter?
One of the main points of contention in our strike has been allowances, and adequate compensation for antisocial working hours. As soon as we were aware of the changes, our opposition has been heavily informed by the views of our members who are most affected. The University has ignored the significant issues in the design and application of out of hours working rates, and pushed through the changes to contracts regardless, refusing to resolve the issues with UNISON.
One matter that has been mercifully untouched by the University’s proposals has been remuneration for bank holidays and closed days, so at least staff working on Christmas Day, Boxing day and other closed periods will receive some compensation for giving up their time at such an important period.
Why Christmas Eve?
In stark contrast, rates of pay for weekend work have been hugely affected by the changes the University has forced through. Christmas Eve is normally a “closed day” and is usually recognised a special day. However, because it falls on a weekend this year it is counted as a “normal working day.” This year the only enhancement offered under the University’s new system is the nominal time and a quarter enhancement for weekend work, irrespective of it falling between several other University closed days. Even this minor enhancement wouldn’t be available to catering staff as they are completely excluded from weekend enhanced pay.
What does it achieve?
By taking strike action, we hope to highlight yet another hidden cost of the University’s new system. More importantly we want to illustrate a broader tendency to devalue out of hours working and what the real life impact it has on members’ work-life balance. We don’t think it’s fair to ask members to give up their time under such terms – this is why we’ve called strike action for the 24 December.
What will the strike day look like?
If you aren’t due to work you won’t be expected to strike – it’ll just be a day off for you as normal.
For those who are striking – we aren’t doing the things we would normally do on a strike day (picketing, a demonstration) but instead we want to allow members who are due to work to spend the day as they wish either having a well deserved break or spending time with their loved ones.
Whether you are striking or not, a member or a supporter, we would love for you to share your messages of solidarity with the members of our community who work over Christmas via our accessible picket, and we will be sharing some messages of support via social media- if you would like to share these then we would be really grateful.