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FE Strike Ballot Opens

FE Strike Ballot 2015 Opens

The last FE News announced that colleges in England had been written to and asked to confirm that they would meet our 2015-16 claim of an increase in pay of £1 per working hour for staff at all points. Colleges were given until noon 11 September to confirm that they would meet our claim. Colleges that did not agree to meet our pay claim have now received notice that UCU will be balloting its members on taking strike action over a failure to agree a pay increase for 2015/16. The ballot opened Monday 28 September and will close 12 noon on Thursday 15 October.

(read more in FE News)

(Industrial Action Frequently Asked Questions)

In the light of current legislation is more important than ever to ensure that we DO have the correct details recorded for you. You can check and amend your union record now online at:

If you don’t vote others will make a decision for you!

Ballot papers will be delivered to your home address. If you haven’t received your ballot paper by Friday 2 October please notify us that you need a duplicate by filling in the online form at

NB – Notifications regarding subscriptions have recently gone out. If you did not received yours please check your record as we may not have your correct postal address and you will not receive a ballot paper.

FE Pay Dispute 2015 FAQs

Strike FAQs and guidelines on picketing

If you have a question that is not answered here, please email your branch secretary or . We will do our best to reply to you and/or update this FAQ.

1. What am I expected to do during a strike?
2. Do I have to tell my employer that I am taking strike action?
3 . What about my students?
4. Am I breaking my contract by taking strike action?
5. How much money will I lose?
6. What if I am part time?
7. How will it affect my pension?
8. What is the law on picketing?
9. I am not a UCU member. Can I take part in the strike?
10. I am a Research Fellow fully funded by external bodies but I don’t want to cross the picket line.(HE)
11. I am a clinician and a UCU member, and I have clinical commitments on strike day. What can I do? (HE)

1. What am I expected to do during a strike?

Your union will only take strike action once every other avenue of influence has been exhausted and when your branch officers think there is no other way to make members’ views clear. It is a very serious sanction and that’s why we ask that every member observes the strike. Every member who does not observe the strike is directly undermining the union’s bargaining power and making it harder for the union to protect all its members.

When we call a strike we ask that members do not come into work and do not reschedule their classes. The best possible thing you can do is contact your local rep and volunteer to help out on the picket lines. It isn’t illegal, it isn’t dangerous and it can be fun.

2. Do I have to tell my employer that I am taking strike action?

In order to fulfil legal requirements, employers have been provided with statistical information about UCU members taking industrial action, but not individual names. You are under no obligation to inform management in advance as to whether you will be taking part in strike action or action short of a strike. However, if your manager asks you after the strike whether you took action, you should answer truthfully.

3 . What about my students?

We are a union of professionals and we know that our members don’t like taking any action that affects students. It is the same for many public services. However, when we take action, we are generally making a case for greater investment in or defence of the quality of the service we provide. In the case of job cuts, for example, we argue that our students will be hurt far more by management’s actions than by our own. Observing the strike is defending the interests of staff and students alike. Undermining the strike might feel like the right thing in the short term but will only serve to encourage management and we will all suffer more in the longer term.

Formally, it is management’s responsibility to explain to students if classes are to be cancelled on strike days. However, you may wish to talk to your students before the strikes explaining why the union is taking this action. We will have a leaflet available explaining to students why we feel it is necessary to take action. Ask your rep for copies.

4. Am I breaking my contract by taking strike action?

All effective industrial action may be a breach of your contract of employment. But because UCU has carried out a statutory ballot and the action has been formally called, the law protects workers from dismissal whilst taking part in lawful industrial action or at any time within 12 weeks of the start of the action and, depending on the circumstances, dismissal may also be unfair if it takes place later.

5. How much money will I lose?

You should expect to have a day’s salary deducted for taking part in the strike. Some institutions state that 1/260th of your annual salary will be deducted for each day of action. Any loss greater than this can be challenged by the union.

6. What if I am part time?

UCU believe that any deduction must be pro-rata for part time staff. The deduction must only be for your contracted hours. Please contact UCU for support in challenging any greater loss.

7. How will it affect my pension?

In previous one-day strikes it has been the experience of UCU that most university employers do not withhold superannuation contributions and therefore participation in strike action has not generally affected pensions. Also, institutions that do choose to withhold contributions often make provision for members to make up pension and AVC deficits from their pay. If you are concerned about any effect, contact Geraldine Egan at UCU (

8. What is the law on picketing?

Peaceful picketing is entirely legal. Picketing should be carried out at or near an entrance or exit from a site at which the pickets work. When others who are not in dispute come into work or use these entrances or exits, pickets must not interfere with them.

The legal categories of people permitted to picket are:

  • UCU members in dispute
  • UCU officials and NEC members supporting members in dispute, providing they are accompanying union members who work at the location.
  •  Visitors to the picket are entirely lawful but should not form an official part of the pickets and should not, for example, be given armbands.
  • Further detailed advice on the picket lines should be issued separately.

9. I am not a UCU member. Can I take part in the strike?

We would like everyone to respect the picket lines and not go into work, but if you are not a UCU member we will not be able to support you if the college decides to take disciplinary action against you. However, it is your general support that counts—if you can get permission from your line manager to take annual leave or work from home, this would be support.

10. I am a Research Fellow fully funded by external bodies but I don’t want to cross the picket line.(HE)

If you are a UCU member please join the picket line! If you are not, try to arrange to work from home.

11. I am a clinician and a UCU member, and I have clinical commitments on strike day. What can I do? (HE)

We fully understand that clinical staff including medics and psychologists have professional commitments to provide clinical cover. Clinicians are advised not to withdraw from any commitment to direct clinical care and activities in support of such. Any clinician concerned about the definition of these terms is advised to contact their own professional defence organisation, and ask them to contact the relevant professional body (eg the GMC) on their behalf. The UCU will therefore respect this. A clinician who intends to strike should be aware that this will only count as lawful action as part of the UCU strike and if s/he is a UCU member.

South West Region Caption Competition

We had a bumper crop of suggestions for our caption competition and the ones which fit for publication can be seen on our regional blog. The six winners who all win a UCU mug and a UCU badge are: Nicholas Thom, Exeter College, Julian Lewis, University of Bath, Brian Griffin, Bath College, Matthew Bridge, City of Bristol College, Richard Hobson, Cornwall College and Jonathan Ellis, Plymouth University.

The short link to this article is
















UCU go to Tolpuddle (2015)

The Tolpuddle Martyrs were a group of 19th century Dorset agricultural labourers who were arrested for and convicted of swearing a secret oath as members of the Friendly Society of Agricultural Labourers.  At the time, friendly societies had strong elements of what are now considered to be the predominant role of trade unions. The Tolpuddle Martyrs were subsequently sentenced to transportation to Australia.

They became popular heroes and 800,000 signatures were collected for their release. Their supporters organised a political march, one of the first successful marches in the UK, and they were released in 1836. Four of the six returned to England.

The Tolpuddle Martyrs festival is held annually, in the third week of July and is organised by the Trades Union Congress (TUC). It features a parade of banners, debates, speeches and music.

If you want to come with us next year or want to find out more email Dave O’Toole, dotoole(at)  

Short link

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South West Region #LOVEFE Rally and Campaign Saturday 27 June






South West Region #LOVEFE Rally and Campaign Saturday 27 June, 12:00 noon.

There will be a South West Region #LOVEFE rally and campaign in Plymouth at the Plymouth Civic Centre at 12 noon on Saturday 27 June. This will kick off a series of #LOVEFE events and stunts across the South West Region. If you want to be involved please email  and bookmark this page to find out details as they unfold.


Nick Varney – Regional Official UCU
Steve Allen – UCU Further Education Committee and City College Plymouth Lecturer
Sean Gibson – Unison Rep and professional support staff City College Plymouth
Ben Smith – Student, City College Plymouth
Mike Sparling – Plymouth Labour Councillor
Alison Chapman – Lecturer City College Plymouth and UCU rep
Michael Carley  – UCU President Bath University and UCU Regional Committee UCU
Sullivan The Poet – Plymouth’s Poet Laureate

A5 Poster here LOVEFE 27 June Plymouth A5 leaflet V0

Please invite your Facebook Friends here:

And “like” the Rally here:

And follow our twitter page here:


Trains run regularly from Exeter to Plymouth. See here:

Train times Exeter – Plymouth

It is 13 minutes walk from Plymouth Railway Station to the Civic Centre Map

Civic Centre Car Park

Address and Postcode (for walkers) Plymouth City Council, Civic Centre, Armada Way, PLYMOUTH, PL1 9ST

Book your seat on the coach – Lobby of parliament Tuesday 16 June 2015

Outside-Parliament-funding-cuts-demo-18th-March-2015-3-700x400   This is a lobby of Parliament by Further Education lecturers and UCU members but anyone who will be affected is welcome. Pick-up points and times are now CONFIRMED based on a schedule which collects staff from the following college sites and arrives in good time for the lobby at 2:00pm.

Please bookmark this page…

Pickup times are based on a best estimate by the coach company, so please arrive in good time at your pick-up point. Book your place on the coach by emailing dotoole(at)

Journey Out

St Austell – Cornwall College, St Austell Campus – PL25 4DJ (6:00 am)
Plymouth – City College Plymouth – PL1 5QG (7:10 am)
Taunton – Holiday Inn, Deane Gate Avenue, Taunton TA1 2UA (9:05am)
Exeter – Exeter College  – EX4 4JS (8:30am)
Bristol – City of Bristol College, College Green Campus – Saint George’s Road, Bristol BS1 5UA (10:20 am)

Journey Back

Departing London at 17:30pm
Bristol  20:15pm
Taunton (M5) 21:15pm
Exeter 22:00pm
Plymouth 23:10pm
St.Austell 00:20am

There is no charge for coach seats. This lobby is open to union members and non-members, staff and students and concerned members of the public and parents. To book your place email Dave O’Toole – dotoole (at)


Information on the #LoveFE Campaign can be found here and here

Several college employers in the region are allowing staff leave to travel to the lobby. Please ask your local union officer or union rep or your line manager if this is available.   

If you are travelling with students you may need to complete a risk assessment. This will require the name and address of the coach company which is: Roselyn Coaches LTD, Middleway Garage, St.Blazey Road, Par, Cornwall, PL24 2JA. 01726 813737, beckie.ede(at)



Lobby of Parliament Tuesday 16 June #LOVEFE


Sign the petition – here
Book your seat on the coach – here

Following the announcement of cuts to the adult education budget in England a major campaign has been launched to save Further Education Adult Learning and we are calling on everyone to help. The cuts of up to 24% of funding for adult learning courses risk decimating further education provision and will leave thousands of the most vulnerable adults without access to any opportunity to improve their education.

The Skills Funding Letter 2015-16 outlined that £770m of adult skills funding in 2015-16 will be set aside for apprenticeships. This means that the bulk of the overall 11% cut to the Adult Skills Budget will fall on non-apprenticeship provision; the Skills Funding Agency has estimated that this could amount to cuts of up to 24% for non-apprenticeship learning in 2015-16.

These cuts will hit vulnerable learners and the South West economy hardest, with millions of people who missed out on qualifications at school or those who need to retrain missing out if the cuts go ahead in 2015/16.

UCU is working together with its members and members of other unions, employers and employers groups, students and the NUS, professional bodies and those ordinary aspirational members of the community who may now be deprived of their own “life chance” to oppose these cuts which, if implemented, will have a devastating effect on Adult Provision in FE and destroy FE as we currently know it. Educational establishments in the South West also provide an irreplaceable and valuable input into the local economy.

Already in the South West, whilst  only in the first week of the new government, hundreds of jobs in FE have been threatened. UCU is therefore working together with others to organise a Lobby of Parliament on Tuesday 16 June 2015 and you can take part by boarding one of the coaches being organised by the UCU Regional Office in Exeter.

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Getting involved in your UCU branch

Not everyone can be, or wants to be, a union rep but we DO need people in each area to pass information, discuss issues with their colleagues, put up posters or pass on information to colleagues. Each branch is constantly exploring ways in which more members can be drawn into playing a role, however small.

Getting Involved in Your UCU Branch

Model branch rules are available on the UCU website ( ) but in general, branches try to ensure that they have a core of officers as per below:

  • chair/president
  • secretary
  • membership secretary
  • equality officer
  • health and safety reps
  • departmental reps
  • caseworkers

Every branch needs to consider its own specific circumstances and may decide to have further positions, but the suggested job description for the above are usually as follows:

Chair / President

In Further Education (FE) the role is normally referred to as “Branch Chair”, in Higher Education (HE) it is most often “President” but the job is the same.  The chair/president will chair all general meetings and all committee meetings of the branch / local association (LA) and perform such other duties as are laid upon the chair/president by any rule or are decided upon by the committee. In accordance with normal practice, the chair/president may, between meetings of the committee, take any action on behalf of the committee which is both urgent and necessary. Such chair’s action must be reported for approval to the next committee meeting.


The duties of the secretary are to call general and committee meetings of the branch/LA; to ensure that minutes of those meetings are kept; to organise membership communications as the committee deems necessary; to arrange notification of local election and ballot results to all members; and to perform such other duties as are laid on the secretary by any rule or are decided by the committee. In the absence of the secretary, the secretary’s duties will be performed by another officer as the committee decides.


The treasurer will have custody of the funds of the branch/LA and authority to make payments from them in accordance with the rules as the need arises. The treasurer’s duties will be to keep the books of the branch/LA; to present the accounts of the branch/LA for auditing as necessary; to present these audited accounts to a general meeting of the branch/LA; to publish them to all members of the branch/LA and to submit a copy to the treasurer of UCU.

Membership and Recruitment Secretaries

The recruitment secretary will be responsible for setting recruitment targets, planning, coordinating and reporting back on recruitment. The membership secretary should ensure that central membership records are accurately recorded for the UCU members with their branch/LA to enable statutory and rule requirements of membership recording to be met. Although these two roles are often combined it is often better to have dedicated recruitment and membership officers.

Equality Officer

The equality officer will:

  • have knowledge of and commitment to relevant equality issues and be willing to undertake training according to the needs of UCU, monitor the implementation of equality policies within the institution, and, where appropriate, encourage and support local negotiations on equality matters
  • monitor the volume and nature of personal casework which involves equality issues to ensure that the branch/LA has appropriate mechanisms in place for handling such cases
  • where appropriate, provide information, encouragement and support to members about equality issues
  • ensure that UCU’s national annual meetings, and any other relevant events and opportunities for women, black members, lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender members and disabled members are publicised locally, that members from all groups are encouraged and enabled to participate, and that the branch/LA maximises the opportunities for recruitment and organisation amongst all groups.

Health and Safety Representatives

Health and safety reps are unique in having a detailed basic statutory framework of functions and rights outlined for them, which derive from the fact that their trade union is formally recognised by the employer. These rights and functions are supported by a number of absolute (i.e. unqualified) duties on the employer, including:

  • a duty to allow safety reps time off, with pay during working hours to undertake their functions
  • a duty to allow safety reps time off (as above) to undergo training in their functions approved by UCU or the TUC
  • a duty to provide such facilities and assistance as the reps reasonably require to help them
  • undertake their functions (note: the ‘reasonableness’ test relates to the rep’s needs, NOT to restrict what the employer has to provide)
  • a duty to consult in good time with safety reps on a range of matters.

Departmental Reps

Departmental reps fill an organising role within the branch,  talking and listening to members’ and non-members’ views; finding out their problems and concerns; identifying areas with low levels of membership or membership involvement; educating and informing members on issues of importance to them; encouraging members to get involved.


Caseworkers provide individual support and advocacy with the everyday problems which arise in the workplace. These may range to advice on college policy to  representing UCU members in matters of disciplinary and grievance (where members have a legal right to representation).

Getting involved without being a rep

A strong union branch is democratic and follows the wishes of its members. It follows, then that the more people who are involved the better. It is also a key tenet of the trade union movement that Equality is central to everything we do. We therefore seek that officers and reps within a branch are representative of the diversity of the membership in terms of gender, ethnicity etc..

Lots more information on being a UCU rep can be found here:

HE and FE Strike Action 3rd December

On 3rd December UCU members in both HE (Higher Education) Universities and FE (Further Education) Colleges will be on strike together after being offered a derisory below the rate of inflation “pay rise”. Even this low offer in both cases comes with “strings” which will make further inroads into the established collective bargaining framework.

For FE this is their first day of strike action. HE establishments have already seen one day of strike action (31st October) and have been working to contract since then. In this action HE are striking with their sister unions in universities Unison and Unite.

Keep an eye on this blog page for news of pickets and rallies near you. Please support any you can.

South West Rallies

Bristol – There will be a rally in Bristol at 1-2pm on College Green. City of Bristol College, University of Bristol and UWE (University of the West of England). UCU, Unison and Unite strikers and their supporters will rally here after their pickets at the respective three institutions. Speakers so far are Dominique Lauterberg (UCU NEC), Harriet Bradley (UCU NEC), Nigel Costley, Secretary South West TUC and Mike Hines, Unison, National Service Group Rep.

South West Pickets

NB – Information posted here is to enable those who wish to visit pickets or support in other ways to do so. ALL colleges and ALL universities are out. For the South West Region this means eight universities and over 40 colleges. If there is a college near you you wish to support who is not listed here please email dotoole (at) and I will try to put you in touch with that college. (Other things may take priority)

Bath Spa University – Main Gate, Bath Spa University, Newton Park, Newton St Loe, BA2 9BN

Bournemouth & Poole College – North Rd (Bournemouth & Poole College) site, Poole, BH14 0LS

Bristol University – Senate House, Tyndall Avenue, Bristol BS8 1TH

City of Bristol College

Ashley Down Centre – Ashley Down Road, Bristol. BS7 9BU

College Green Centre – St George’s Road, Bristol. BS1 5UA (from 7.30am)

Soundwell Centre – St Stephen’s Rd, Bristol, Avon BS16 4RL

South Bristol Skills Academy  – The Boulevard, Hengrove Promenade, Bristol, BS14 0DB

Parkway Advanced Engineering Centre – New Road, Stoke Gifford, Bristol BS34 8SF

Cornwall College

Camborne Campus – Trevenson Road, Redruth, Cornwall TR15 3RD. Picket will meet in Halfords car cark opposite the college at 8.00 AM.

Saltash – Church Road, Saltash. PL12 4AE. from 8:00am

Exeter College Main Site:  Hele Road, Exeter, EX4 4JS

Falmouth University – Penryn Campus, Falmouth University, Penryn, TR10 9EZ

Petroc College (North Devon) – North Devon Campus, Petroc, Old Sticklepath Hill, Barnstaple, Devon, EX31 2BQ

Plymouth University: 08:00 AM onwards in front of the Portland Square Building. Plymouth University, Drake Circus, Plymouth. PL4 8AA

University of Bath – from 7:30am

Junction of Claverton Hill/Convocation Ave

Junction of Quarry Rd/North Rd

2 South pedestrian entrance.

University of Exeter

The Queen’s Drive  and Prince of Wales Road – , Exeter. EX4 4QJ

St Lukes campus – Heavitree Road, Exeter. EX1 2LU

Barrack Road – Barrack Rd, Exeter, Devon EX2 5DW

University of St Mark and St John (Marjon)  – Main Entrance, Derriford Road, Plymouth PL6 8BH

UWE (University of the West of England)

Frenchay Campus – Main gate at  Coldharbour Lane, Bristol BS16 1QY

Truro College – College Road, Truro, Cornwall -TR1 3XX from 8.20am

Supporting the action

…UPSU’s Student Parliament, as the recognised student voice of UPSU, voted to support Strike Action being carried out by University staff who are members of recognised trade unions at Plymouth University.