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National Update from Sally Hunt

Dear colleague,
 
I’m writing to update you with the latest news on our current campaigns. I apologise for the length but there is a lot to report on and there are some important decisions for our union to make.
 
Firstly, a massive thank you to everyone who supported our industrial action last week. It was a big week for UCU. If you haven’t already seen the live reports on our blog, you can catch up with it all here: www.ucu.org.uk/action2011live
 
Please also continue to urge members working in England to add their name to our Institute for Learning (IfL) petition which now has over 20,000 signatures. You can do this here: www.ucu.org.uk/iflpetition
 
IfL
 
I am pleased to be able to give you some good news. The firm stand taken by members has now led to a significant step forward in our IfL campaign.
 
On Wednesday UCU and other trade unions held a constructive meeting with John Hayes MP, Minister of State for Further Education & Lifelong Learning, which has led to the firm  commitment of all relevant parties – the IfL, Association of Colleges, and trade unions – with the minister facilitating where needed, to seek a resolution of the situation as early as possible in May. Detailed discussions will start as soon possible.

We are satisfied that all parties are looking for a resolution and will not take action to escalate matters in the meantime.
 
We are continuing to undertake all the necessary preparation for an industrial action ballot to pursue a boycott of IfL registration fees and also are receiving further legal advice on the contractual responsibilities of employers. In order to allow the discussions between the relevant parties to proceed however, we will not open the ballot at this stage but our advice to members remains that they should not pay the fee.
 
Save the EMA
 
A big thanks to everyone who has supported our work in campaigning against the scrapping of the Education Maintenance Allowance. You may have seen that this week ministers refused to reinstate EMA, but thanks to our campaigning an extra £300 million of funding has been allocated to student financial support. It’s not what we wanted but it’s a lot more than would have been available to our young people had we done nothing.
 
Industrial disputes – Tell me what you think
 
Below, I have set out where we are in each of our current industrial disputes. We are consulting with our branches over the way forward on all these disputes, but as always, I want to hear from individual members too. I would appreciate your views on the below issues and on anything else you think we should be doing. Feel free to email me your views.
 
Teachers’ Pension Scheme (TPS):

Talks are continuing between the government and the TUC, but the government confirmed in the budget that it is adopting the Hutton report on pensions. That means that they intend to move away from final salary pension benefits toward Career Average. They also intend to raise the normal retirement age and shift from RPI to CPI to measure annual rises. This comes on top of the intention of the government to increase contributions by over 3%.
 
All of these will have a substantial impact on members’ pensions. Crucially, it also means that our colleagues in the other teaching unions, who dominate in the TPS, are likely to consider balloting in the summer term at their forthcoming conferences.
 
Tell me what you think: Do you think we should call further strike dates over TPS now or wait for the other unions?

 
FE pay (England):

The Association of Colleges has refused to reopen any negotiations over the pay offer for members in England of 0.2%. We will be looking to the next pay round in mid-May.
 
Tell me what you think: Should we call further strike dates over the pay dispute in FE?

 
TUC March for the Alternative
 
Finally, a massive thank you to everyone who turned out for the TUC’s March for the Alternative on Saturday 26 March. The real story of that day, as everyone who was there will testify, was that between 250,000 and 400,000 people marched peacefully against the coalition government’s cuts and, more importantly, marched for an alternative based on jobs, growth and social justice.
 
I will continue to make the case to all parties that a healthy education system lies at the heart of this alternative.
 
Thank you for taking the time to read this email and have a good break.
 
Yours sincerely,
 
Sally Hunt
UCU general secretary

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