UCU rising campaign UCU rising campaign. Photo: UCU

The current UCU ballots over pay and conditions and pensions end on 21 October and is an aggregated ballot. This means we need to get over the Tory anti-union threshold of 50% of members voting across the entire higher education sector but if we do, then all universities across the UK will be out. Counterfire UCU members give some tips for activists and branches on how to achieve a high turnout

1Is your branch committee organising Get the Vote Out (GTVO) meetings open to all members to get involved? If not ask them to do so and get involved. These meetings enable activists to exchange best practice and compare experience. Stronger branches should consider opening up their GTVO meetings to other branches in their region who maybe don’t have so much experience of conducting ballots, use of technology such as zoom makes this much easier. Make these at least weekly at a regular time that suits.

2Email non-voters daily. The first email should go to all members. Each email should include a link that will send an email informing the colleague keeping the voter spreadsheet that this member has voted. Once a member has informed that they have voted, tick them off the list and drop them from the daily reminder emails. Include a sentence on cost of living, pay cuts or pension theft in each email.

3Organise section meetings. This is particularly important in areas where there aren’t any reps. Members who don’t regularly attend large general meetings will come to local meetings. These can be virtual or face to face.

4Make sure reps have lists of members in their area to enable them to work through them making sure their colleagues cast their vote. Emails from local reps in their own areas go down well with members.

5Get posters and leaflets distributed and put them up everywhere you can. Centrally organise visits with posters and leaflets to areas where there is no visible union presence and no reps.

6Talk to the local student union and student groups. Get statements of support; these are important as management will attempt to use student concerns as a weapon against any industrial action and staff are sensitive to this.

7Use social media. If your branch has a twitter account, send out daily tweets with soundbites about the unfairness of the current situation. Many members will use TikTok which can be used to host videos from branch activists urging members to vote and explaining what is at stake.

Example soundbites for tweets:

  • Housing and energy costs have increased by 19.6% since June 2021
  • Inflation according to UCU’s preferred measure (RPI) was 11.8% in June 2022 and rising.
  • Pay in higher education has fallen by 17.6% since 2009, taking this year’s offer into account we have lost around 25%.
  • A supposed £14.5bn deficit in the USS pension fund has now become a £1.8bn surplus. Despite this we lost 35% of the value of our pensions due to last year’s cuts.
  • Jo Grady, UCU general secretary, has accused university chiefs of “hoarding billions of pounds in cash”. According to UCU, holdings of cash and liquid assets across the sector have grown by £3.4bn in the 12 months to April 2021, with spending on staff increasing by just £200mn.
  • Combined revenues have risen to £41.1bn, up from £39.6bn the previous year.

8Ask members to use their WhatsApp groups to encourage members to vote. WhatsApp groups for members in specific departments work well to organise voting and can also be used when we go on strike to organise.

9Industrial action works. The reason we still have a defined benefit pension scheme is because of the strike action UCU members took in 2017 and 2018. Those branches which ended up in a marking boycott earlier this year backed these up with threats of strike action. Strike action unites branches and a strike across the entire HE sector will terrify employers and galvanise support from students.

10Recruit to the union, new members who join can participate in the ballot up to October 16. Even beyond that colleagues can still join and take part in any action we vote for.

Dates for your diary

6 September – ballot begins

14 September – start date for replacement ballots to be ordered

16 October – new members participate in ballot up to this point

17 October – last date for replacement ballots

18 October – last safe posting date

21 October – ballot closes

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