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Strike ballot opens on Friday – negotiations and the one off payment

Strike ballot opens on Friday

As agreed by members in our meeting on 11 May, our strike ballot over pay spine reform, and University management’s insistence on linking it to terms and conditions, opens this coming Friday (26 May). 

If you are a UNISON support staff member at the University of Birmingham, you should receive a ballot paper in the post, to your home address, most likely by the middle of next week

Your ballot paper will look like this:

A mock-up of an envelope, with the text "CES, Important information inclosed" printed on the bottom right with the Civica Election Services logo.

It will include your ballot paper, an explanation of our recommendation to vote YES for strike action and a prepaid envelope for you to return your ballot paper.

It’s absolutely vital that you vote right away – we need to get at least 50% of members to vote for the result to matter. 

Why we should vote YES for strike action

Our consultation in March had a very clear majority in favour of rejecting the University’s offer. Since then the University has only made minor improvements. Crucially they are still insisting we accept permanent and potentially major changes to terms and conditions, including:

  • Cuts to enhanced pay for weekend working
  • A reduction in enhancements received by those working shifts
  • Continuing the unfair exclusion of departments such as catering from receiving enhanced pay

At the same time, the improvements to pay offered as part of the process do not make up for the pay we’ve lost to inflation over the past few years for the majority of staff – we are giving up terms and conditions without even breaking even.

While negotiations are ongoing, we need a YES vote to have any chance of improving things – we need to show the University that this is important to us, and that we won’t accept a bad deal. 

Latest negotiations

As we mentioned above – the University made an improved offer at the start of this week. You can read more on our dedicated pay spine information page. We will have time to consult members on the revised offer after the ballot concludes, but we’d encourage all members to spend the next few weeks carefully considering the offer, which has some improvements on mapping of existing staff on to the new grades. 

The University has also slightly increased their “normal” pay offer to 6% (so this is the minimum we can expect to receive this year as a pay rise, if we do not accept pay spine changes). 

The most urgent aspect of the University’s latest offer relates to the one off payment.

One off payment

The University has said that they need all support staff unions to confirm they either accept the offer or will recommend the offer to their members by the 5 June, or the one off payment will be withdrawn. They’ve also said that they can’t accept any recommendation while our ballot is ongoing. Whether we would agree to this condition or not (your committee feels it is pretty unreasonable), preparations for our ballot are now too advanced and we cannot do what the University is asking us to do

We continue to try and explore a way around this impasse with the University, for example by suggesting that we could hold off on calling strike action, that ACAS be involved or that the one off payment is paid to staff as a cost of living related one, rather than related to the pay spine negotiations.

We think it would be deeply regrettable if the University decided to withdraw the one-off payment in these circumstances – remember that academic and related staff received a bonus equivalent to 2% of their salary last year, and that this was paid despite UCU being in dispute and taking strike action. We don’t begrudge our AOR colleagues the payment – many of them have faced unacceptable real terms pay cuts as well. But we really don’t think it’s acceptable to treat support staff so differently, particularly when the University is talking so much about removing divisions between different grades. When it comes down to it they have the money to make things a little easier for low paid staff – we can’t see why they don’t just do this. 

If any members are concerned about this at all or have any questions about the above we’d encourage you to contact the committee on unisonbham@contacts.bham.ac.uk or Mike on 07964926949

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