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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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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.


UCU South West Region Facebook Page Launched








UCU South West Region launches new Facebook Page. If you are a member of UCU or like the work that we do then “like”

120,000 of your colleagues and friends already DO.

Employment Rights Weakened… Again.

There have been a number of changes brought in by the coalition government recently which have served to weaken established employement rights. Last April changes were brought in to lengthen the period you must be employed to have the right not to be unfairly dismissed from one to two years. As many of you will know the government has again been busy making plans to change employment law. The changes come into effect on different dates, and some are unconfirmed as yet but on 6 April 2013 this change will take effect:

After 6 April there will be a reduction in the minimum consultation period where an employer proposes 100 or more redundancies at one establishment within 90 days. The minimum consultation period falls from 90 to 45 days. The change in the length of the consultation period means that you can be made redundant more quickly and talks with a union have less time to mitigate or avoid the consequences of the redundancy process.

So there has never been a better time or a more urgent need for employees to take advantage of the collective strength of a union.

If you want to find out more about UCU contact dotoole (at)


UCU Reps train at Taunton

UCU reps discuss the DOs and DONTs of individual casework

Being a UCU rep is both challenging and rewarding so UCU supports each and every rep by providing free and extensive training. Reps can learn about Health and Safety, organising, individual casework, collective issues, employment legislation and collective bargaining and meet others that are doing the same job.

Here four reps from the South West Region break out to discuss the DOs and DONTs of individual casework.  They are part of the latest batch of twelve reps to train on the popular Reps 2 Training Course, a three day course held twice yearly in Taunton (March 2013). 

The University and College Union (UCU) represents more than 120,000 academics, lecturers, trainers, instructors, researchers, managers, administrators, computer staff, librarians and postgraduates in universities, colleges, prisons, adult education and training organisations across the UK and is the largest post-school union in the world. It has thousands of union reps, all doing rewarding work supporting their colleagues and standing up for education.

Why not join them?

  • All training is high quality and free
  • You have a statutory right to paid leave to attend it
  • You have a statutory right to remission to perform union duties
  • You can make a difference in your workplace 

If you are intersted in becoming a union rep for UCU in the South West Region email dotoole (at) If you are not in the South West contact your own regional office. You can find the contact details here

Find out more about being a UCU rep
Find out more about training courses
Find out more about your rights to training


FX Plus – Sharing out the Pain





FX Plus – Sharing out the Pain

Sign the UCU / GMB petition at

About 130 employees at Falmouth University, are set to be transferred to a company jointly owned by Falmouth and the University of Exeter known as Falmouth Exeter Plus (FX Plus). The company was set up in 2004 (originally as Tremough Campus Services) and already employs 235 people at the two universities, mainly in catering, estate maintenance and campus services. But those whose contracts are now being transferred are staff who work alongside, and in support of, the academic staff and will include library and IT services staff, academic skills assistants and disability support teams. It is believed to be the first time a UK university has moved its entire academic support service to a separate company.

The shared services model takes advantage of new rules which allow academic institutions to establish private companies but avoid paying VAT as would happen under the rules which govern charities.

Falmouth University staff have reported fears of jobs being recruited to in FX Plus which are significantly lower in terms of pay than for the same job with Falmouth University. New recruits and existing staff at FX Plus have between seven and ten fewer days of annual leave than employees transferring in to the company. There are also concerns that future restructuring could erode TUPE protection and bring TUPE transferred staff onto inferior FX Plus terms and conditions over time.

UCU and GMB met recently with FXPlus CEO and the HR representative (Monday 4 March) and asked again for the implementation of the National Framework Agreement and national pay bargaining. FXPlus management did not make any commitment to our claim but have stated that there will be a terms and conditions review later this year. What this will cover will not be known until terms of reference are agreed by the board of governors in May.  FXPlus management stated that union campaigning “should manage the expectations of staff”.

What we say:

The facilities used by FX Plus exist as a result of gaining EC funding aimed at improving economic performance in one of the poorest regions in the UK. We fear this move introduces local pay bargaining “by the back door” and is in direct contradiction to the spirit of the EC funding. Existing plans will instigate a two-tier system with a race to the bottom which can only further harm our economy. There are simple answers to allay these staff fears:

  • Implement National Framework Agreements for all staff
  • Retain National Pay Bargaining arrangements
  • Plan to bring all staff into this agreement over time
  • Recognition of UCU by FX Plus

UCU and GMB, whose staff are both affected in this transfer, have committed to work together to oppose the move of staff under these conditions and to defend the important right of union recognition.

What Can I do?

Sign the UCU / GMB petition at
Contact your  union rep and offer your support

Everything You Ever Wanted To Know About Union Recognition: (But Were Afraid To Ask)
Employers have a statutory duty to consult with unions, where recognised, in many areas of employment. Gaining or retaining union recognition is in your interests whether you are a union member or not. Read more at

Download leaflets here:  FX Plus – Leaflet A5

Everything you ever wanted to know about union recognition (but were afraid to ask)








Support the campaign to recognise UCU at FX Plus by signing the petition at

Employers have a statutory duty to consult with employee representatives in many circumstances. For example, an employer wanting to make redundancies must engage in “meaningful consultation” with appropriate staff representatives about the reasons for them and the best ways of avoiding redundancies or mitigating the effects. An employer wanting to change contractual terms similarly cannot do it without the agreement of both “parties” and must also consult. If a union branch is established and recognised this the body that the employer must consult with.

In these cicumstances although negotiations of the changes may be done with a recognised trade union all staff will benefit from conditions won by the union whether they belong to the union or not.

Research shows that wages in workplaces that are unionised are higher than in those which are not. Once again these benefits are enjoyed by all employees.

Unions are experienced negotiators with expert advice legal advice “on tap”. It is not an exaggeration to say that all of the benefits enjoyed by staff in the modern workplace have been argued for and won by trade unions and none by those “going it alone”. So it is to the benefit of all employees then that a well-organised union branch exists in your workplace and that it is “recognised” for collective bargaining by the employer.

So how does a union get to be “recognised” by an employer?

Many employers, enlightened or not, accept that communicating and consulting with staff and negotiating changes to terms and conditions is most smoothly done by talking to professional and well trained union representative rather than by trying to address staff at the individual level. The vast majority of employers, therefore, recognise the relevant unions voluntarily.

Where this is not the case, the recognition status can be decided by a body called the Central Arbitration Committee (CAC).

The CAC will look at applications against a number of criteria, many of which relate to the strength of support for recognition among the workers in the bargaining unit.

Where less than 50 per cent of workers in a bargaining unit are trade union members, the CAC will hold a secret ballot to find out how much support the trade union has. The CAC will generally award recognition if 40 per cent of all the workers in the bargaining unit take part in the vote and a majority of those vote ‘yes’.

In brief

  • You are better off in a union
  • You are better off in a unionised workplace (even if you are not in the union)

Support the campaign to recognise UCU at FX Plus. Join UCU at

Sign the petition at

Download leaflets here:  FX Plus – Leaflet A5

If you want to know more about UCU email dotoole (at)

Daily Mirror

March for the Future

The Daily is Backing the Future That Works March on Saturday. The TUC is coordinating it, UCU will be there and you should be too…






“The Daily Mirror is backing the TUC’s A Future That Works march in London on Saturday, October 20. Families from across the UK will protest against Government cuts. And they will call for a new plan that puts jobs and growth first.

Organisers promise a safe, well-stewarded event and unions are booking transport to take people to the capital. The march will start at noon.

For more details and to see if transport is ­available from your area go to ­

The Scottish TUC will be holding its own march in Glasgow that day to avoid long journeys to London.”

[full story]

Appeal for ordinary union members to speak about why they will be “Marching for a Future That Works”

TUC Media Officer, Time Lezard writes: 

Greetings! As October 20th fast approaches, I am looking for people who would be prepared to help the South West TUC with some media requests for case studies.

Journalists are likely to be looking for people to interview about why they are marching, and I’m sure you understand when I say they would prefer interviewing ‘real’ people with jobs rather than trade union officials. Alternatively, if you know of someone who has recently lost their job as a result of the cuts and is going on the march, I’m sure journalists would be happy to hear their story too.

I am looking for union members in all regions who will be travelling to London on the 20th and would be happy to talk to the media. 

It is unlikely to be a huge commitment, with probably just one interview in which they are asked why they are marching and what effect the cuts are having on them, both personally and professionally. It’s possible, though, that some broadcast journalists might also want to speak to people on or after the day itself.

I am happy to give media tips to any volunteers who might be lacking in confidence to speak to the media, and try to convince them that journalists are nice people really.

Ideally, I’d like to build up an database of marchers’ jobs, where they live and where they work work so I can easily reply to specific journalist requests and ‘match’ them up to a suitable local person.

As such, please feel free to pass on the details of as many volunteers as you can find, as the more voices that make their way into the mainstream media the better for the movement.

I can be contacted at lezard[at]

In solidarity,

Tim Lezard
Media officer for the South West TUC


They CAN’T do THAT, can they?

Asked on the phone: “How can I recruit people to the union? What should I tell them?” I found myself later emailing the caller “10 reasons to join UCU”. But for me the ONE, main reason to belong to any union is to work collectively, with others, to enforce any rights that you may have and to establish new ones.

I have often been asked: “Can they DO that?” My response is often an unspoken: “Well, they’ve done it anyway, haven’t they.” Sometime the meaning behind the question is put a little more plainly: “Surely there’s a law that say they can’t do that.” And often, yes, there is.

But, for example, in 2010-2011 from the 5,000 cases where it was upheld that the claimant had been unfairly dismissed, only 8 orders for reinstatement or re-engagement were made. Most of the others will have received financial compensation. But the average award for unfair dismissal was just a little bit more than 2 months’ salary and only around 60% of these awards were ever paid.

So I was particularly struck by a blog post which was passed to me which argues organisation in the work place over litigation in the courts. David Renton is a historian and political activist and a barrister at Garden Court chambers. He maintains a blog called “Struck Out” in which he writes about the Employment Tribunal.

David argues in an article on his blog that although legal rights are valuable the best place to enforce those rights is in the workplace and not in the court.

“Often when people organise they find that managers will concede rights, knowing that these are rights set out in law.”

” Managers don’t like it when they are confronted by campaigns involving large groups of workers. “

“Sometimes, the threat of a Tribunal claim can be the most effective means of concentrating a manager’s mind – especially where the managers checks with their employer’s solicitor and the message comes back that the right exists, and a Tribunal is likely to enforce it. [so] threatening litigation can be effective, so long as the workers involved understand that the threat is part of negotiations, and that (if you want to win) the beginning of the process is organising.”

David’s article, which also lists and explains five of your rights in law, is here:

NB – This blog has been marked private. However David’s book is available here:

Struck Out: Why Employment Tribunals Fail Workers and What Can be Done
David Renton