KCL UCU Racism Statement

KCL UCU sends its solidarity and support to Unite UCU members, the Black Members Standing Committee (BMSC), and Black UCU members who over the past few months have revealed the realities of institutional racism in UCU. Even as members have spent countless days on picket lines striking to create a more racially just education sector – institutional racism has not been confronted in-house. Now UCU faces the prospect of its own workers going on strike during its annual Congress and Sector Conferences – at the very moment UK higher education is being brutally restructured. Enough is Enough.

The abolition of institutional racism in UCU will not be achieved through plans handed down from the very structures riddled with racism – but through the active participation, funding and backing of those who are experiencing racism in the highlighting and implementing of the necessary changes within the union. We demand that the UCU General Secretary and UCU management negotiate with our colleagues and fully meet their demands.

We also send our support to the BMSC who have been internally censored on the issue of Palestine. The issue of racism cannot be domesticated or separated from imperialism – racism discriminates in the workplace but it also kills at the border, in police stations and within occupied territories. Not only should we expect that Black members be able to speak freely in UCU – but the BMSC highlighting how the struggle for Palestinian liberation and the fight against anti-Palestinian racism transform our own labour struggles cannot and will not be silenced.

The Palestine solidarity movement is not just an isolated moment of international solidarity with the oppressed and union comrades but is a movement built on ongoing engagement with the connections between racism, imperialism and capitalism. There simply can be no serious anti-racism within UCU – even with just pay and working conditions – if our pensions and employers are directly, or indirectly, funding, supporting, or legitimating the killing of people under racist apartheid abroad.

It was disheartening to see the UCU General Secretary endorse measures that would regulate the speech and potentially victimize UCU members seeking Palestinian liberation. We should have no truck with antisemitism, Islamophobia or any other form of racism in UCU – we should also refuse to play different forms of racism off against each other or create a hierarchy of racisms.

We call on UCU to get its anti-racism act together now! This should be through rejuvenating anti-racism within its own structures and amongst its own members and supporting boycott, divestment and sanctions campaigns in relation to our education sector’s links with murderous imperialism, settler colonialism and racism in Palestine.

KCL UCU Statement of Solidarity with the KCL student encampment

This week King’s students have set up a Palestine solidarity encampment at King’s Strand campus. They are part of a global student uprising against Israel’s war on Gaza and demand that our universities end their complicity with genocide, occupation and apartheid. In line with our union’s position, our Branch stands in solidarity with the King’s encampment and with the global student movement organising against the ongoing genocide in Gaza.

The students at the King’s encampment have resolved to continue their action until  five key demands are met by King’s management:
1. KCL must condemn Israeli war crimes in Palestine
2. KCL must boycott all Israeli academic institutions implicated in apartheid, occupation and genocide
3. KCL must divest from all corporations and arms manufacturers complicit in Israeli apartheid, occupation and genocide
4. KCL must pledge to assist the rebuilding of Gaza’s destroyed education sector, establish ties with Palestinian universities and expand scholarships for Palestinian students
5. KCL must safeguard the freedom of speech of students, staff and other allies acting in solidarity with Palestine

We share the students’ position and have raised  similar demands with management, including in the last negotiating meeting last Wednesday.

As Israel’s attack on Gaza intensifies, King’s staff and students got together on Nakba Day (15 May) to raise our common demands and support the encampment at a lunchtime rally at the Strand. Staff and students came out in large numbers to support the student encampment and the Palestinian people.

We called this rally in solidarity with the encampment and in response to the call to action made by the Palestinian General Federation of Trade Unions (Gaza), the Stop the War Coalition and an international staff-student assembly with students involved in encampments all over the world.

In the meantime, please offer your support to the students by going to the encampment and coordinate as needed with the students, offering support that may include (but is not limited to):

  • Support with teach-ins and other events planned within the encampment
  • Donate to the students’ encampment here
  • Support by providing de-escalation support

We call on King’s management to take immediate action in response to the demands of staff and students to end its  documented investments in, and collaborative research and procurement contracts with, companies and academic institutions funding and supplying weapons to the Israeli military or enabling Israel’s violations of international law through the crimes of apartheid and genocide.

We also urgently call on King’s management to meet with members of the encampment to discuss their demands.

In solidarity

The tales of my medical students, by Dr Jehad Hammad

The tragic tales of four dreams shattered by the ongoing barbaric Israeli war on Gaza

Maysara Alrayes, a promising young doctor, graduated from Gaza’s Medical School and earned a Chevening scholarship for a Master’s degree in Health Administration at King’s College London. Upon returning to work for Doctors of the World in Gaza, he, along with six members of his family, was killed by Israeli missiles that destroyed their home in the city. Despite his brothers’ determined efforts to rescue them, they too fell victim to an Israeli airstrike.

The second story is Dr. Ahmad Shatat, a 30-year-old emergency medicine registrar at Alshifa Hospital. He and his wife, Dr. Doaa Shamoot, were building a peaceful life with their one-year-old daughter. Tragically, during the third week of the war, Israeli bombardment claimed the lives of his wife and child, shattering their dreamful home forever.

The third story is Dr. Alaa Alaqad, a newly graduated doctor engaged to Ibtihal Alastal, a soon-to-graduate medical student. Their plans for post-marriage training in the UK were abruptly halted when Israeli airstrikes in the second week of the war killed Ibtihal, her entire family, and destroyed their home, burying their dreams under the rubble.

The fourth story is Ezzaldein Allolo, a fifth-year medical student known for his talent as a painter and humanitarian work. He was elected as the humanitarian ambassador of the European Union. He volunteered in Alshifa Hospital during the war, enduring the harsh siege imposed by the Israeli army. During the siege of the hospital they were forced drink the normal saline so they would not die of thirst. Tragically, he received news of the death of 21 family members and relatives in an Israeli bombardment of their home. His mother was fortunately rescued with moderate injuries. In the midst of the moral desert the world is living in, the term “lucky” now signifies saving just one family member from the bombardment.

Maysara Alrayes, Ahmad Shabat, Alaa Alaqad, and Ezzaldein Allolo represent merely four stories out of the two million in Gaza, each telling a tale of heartbreaking loss and shattered dreams.


By Dr Jehad Hammad

Former Vice Dean of the Faculty of Medicine

The Islamic University of Gaza.

Gaza, Palestine

To the surviving family and friends of King’s alumnus, Dr Maisara Al Rayyes

Letter of condolences to family and friends of Dr. Maisara Azmi Al Rayyes

To the surviving family and friends of Dr. Maisara Azmi Al Rayyes,

It is with heavy hearts that we write to express our deepest condolences for the loss of your husband, brother, son, and friend. We were devastated to hear that Maisara and eight members of his family were killed by an Israeli airstrike in Gaza and their bodies are still under the rubble since the 5 November, along with the many thousands who have lost their lives in the Israeli assault over the last several weeks. We are still coming to terms with such news as you must be.

We were privileged to have Maisara as a member of the King’s community. He was a dedicated student, a devoted physician committed to improving the lives of women and children; he was a proud Palestinian who dedicated his life to making a positive change in Palestine. We do not have the words to express our anger and sorrow at the fact that the Israeli occupation forces killed Maisara and his family in their genocidal attempt to kill Palestine’s future.

As educators and support staff, his example pushes us to be faithful to our vocation, seek the truth, and fight the unjust conditions that allowed this to happen. 

We are deeply ashamed at the British government’s unconditional support for the State of Israel and its continued failure to call for a ceasefire, ensuring that the lives of thousands more like Maisara remain at risk. We will continue to urge the government to end its complicity in Israel’s apartheid, settler colonialism, and genocidal violence in Gaza. We will continue to seek accountability for Maisara’s killing.

We demand that King’s College London honour Maisara’s life in words and deeds. We call on King’s management to say that Maisara was a Palestinian, to name who is responsible for his killing and to condemn Israel’s bombing and ground invasion of Gaza. We also demand that the College make strategic changes to its investment policy and that it rescinds partnerships with Israeli universities. The idea that the College where Maisara studied is complicit in his killing is unfathomable. We will demand that not a penny of King’s money be spent on facilitating the murder of innocent people like Maisara.

Not only have we lost a brother, a fellow human being, but the world, and Palestine, has lost his dedication to the medical profession and to the future of Palestine. We will fight with all our strength to stop this genocide and make the world a better place than when Maisara left it. 

We will remember him. We will remember Maisara.

We will keep saying his name.

We will keep talking about Palestine.

We will keep fighting for Palestine.


With love and prayers,

the King’s Community


KCL Walks Out on the International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People

On Wednesday 29 November 2023, hundreds of KCL students and KCL UCU and UNISON members held a walk out and rally to mark the UN International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People. This is an annual event with a long history – recognizing the decades of injustices suffered by Palestinians and of their struggle for self-determination. The events were all the more relevant and poignant this year, given Israel’s genocidal war on Gaza and increasing violence and repression across the territories of historical Palestine. We are proud that our national union UCU is backing this international day of action and the call by Stop the War to organize workplace actions.

We are part of a growing global movement demanding a permanent ceasefire and an end to the occupation. As workers and trade unionists, we have a key role to play in answering the call of Palestinian trade unions to disrupt Israel’s military power that is backed by our government. We walked out today also to respond to the call of Shut it Down for Palestine to keep building momentum and increase the pressure, with marches, walk outs and other forms of direct action. We also joined with our amazing students, who for four consecutive weeks have coordinated walk outs and campus protests to demand a permanent ceasefire in Gaza and an end to universities’ complicity. 

Despite all its emphasis on student wellbeing, King’s management is failing in their duty of care towards Palestinian students and staff, and are trying to marginalise, intimidate or repress pro-Palestinian voices on campus. As Kings academics, professional services, support staff and students, we won’t be silenced, either by our university, research funding bodies or the UK government. We demand that the college rescind links with Israeli universities that work with the military and support practices and technologies of apartheid. Our national union has passed motions on divestment of our pension fund and the HE sector from companies that support violence against Palestinians. Our branch has demanded that these are implemented. We have also passed an extensive motion written by members detailing and reaffirming our commitment to implementing boycott, divestment and sanctions. 

We started our rally today remembering our alumnus Dr Maisara Alrayyes, killed by an Israeli airstrike alongside eight members of his family at the beginning of November. Their bodies are still under the rubble. KCL has not recognized that Maisara was Palestinian and refuses to name and condemn who killed him. They held a memorial for him inside at the same time as the workplace action, but not as part of the UN International Day of Solidarity for the Palestinian People. We (along with others, including students) requested that, if KCL would not join this day of solidarity, it should reschedule the memorial so a wider range of people from our community can participate. KCL refused. How can the leaders of this university honour Maisara’s life without standing in solidarity with Palestine?

KCL UNISON and UNISON members read their letter of condolences to Maisara’s surviving family and friends.

Dr Anas Ismail, Kings alumnus and doctor from Gaza, told us what a big personal and collective loss this has been for the medical community in Gaza, and for Maisara’s family and friends. 

“What we can do and should do is to follow their paths and honour their memories by continuing the work that they were trying to achieve by making Palestine and Palestinians’ lives better and by giving them as much freedom as we can until they have the fuller freedom that they deserve and the full human rights that they deserve like any other people on the planet.” 

A member of Palestine Youth Movement and KCL student said: 

“It has become the case that the student body in all of our universities have had to directly and loudly address and actively protest against our administrations for their insistence on complicity in the genocide of Palestinians in Gaza. We refuse to let them speak for us, and we doubly refuse to allow for business to continue as usual, we will not forget the intimidation, the repression, the silence and the hypocrisy. In this case, and indeed in all cases of colonial struggle worldwide, the student body and our faculty need to be united, and loud. Every single one of us has a voice and that voice is powerful, that voice matters. And when we use that voice to speak out and advocate for the oppressed, collectively we can dismantle this war machine and all of its ties. We will continue to speak out and escalate until all our demands are met, and our message reaches not only them but every corner of the globe.“

Other students shared with us their experiences of repression of pro-Palestinian voices on the part of King’s management. A member of the KCL student union told the rally about the statement issued by three elected VPs challenging the Student Union’s lack of condemnation of the Israeli invasion of Gaza, which contrasts with a previous statement of condemnation of the Russian invasion of Ukraine. The three officers faced intimidation on the part of the KCLSU’s Senior Leadership, who threatened them with suspension if they did not take their statement down. They have now backtracked, however the threat of suspension is still there

Also many activists and trade unionists joined us today, including Jewish socialist Sophia Beach, who came to advocate for a free Palestine, from the river Jordan to the Mediterranean Sea, where everyone, Arabs, Jews, Christians and people of all faiths and none can live in peace and equality. We also heard from Cultural Workers against Genocide who also walked out and marched on the South Bank. 

This movement is international. We were delighted that workers from Italy’s SI-COBAS joined us today and told us about the general strike for Palestine that they organized on the 17th of November.

Peppe D’Alesio from the Si-Cobas National Executive Committee said: 

On “November 17th [our union Si Cobas] proclaimed a national strike against the Zionist genocide in Gaza. On that day, hundreds of logistics warehouse workers in the most important national and international supply chains (SDA, BRT, GLS, Fedex, Dhl, UPS and others) went on strike. In Modena, workers blocked the Israel-owned Tekapp factory, which deals with cybersecurity for the Zionist state. In Salerno we picketed the port terminal for several hours, and blocked the transit of containers of the Israeli company ZIM which transports weapons to the port of Ashdod.. … The fight against the occupation is part of a more general fight against the war, the economy of war and the governments of war, starting with our Western governments, accomplices and allies of Israel. … Stop the bombing, stop the occupation, free Palestine! Workers of the world, let’s unite!”

Shabbir Lakha, from Stop the War Coalition concluded the rally by saying:

“Over the last year we have seen the biggest strike wave in a generation. There has been new confidence and militancy that has been instilled in millions of workers across the country. We need to utilise that industrial strength in the fight for Palestinian liberation. There is no separation of the foreign policy and the domestic. The fight to save higher education, the fight for fair pay and conditions goes hand in hand with the fight against imperialism. And that is why today’s walk out is so important. We know that there are millions of people who agree with us. We know that 80 percent of the British public supports a ceasefire. And we need to give them the confidence to take these arguments to organise in their workplaces and in their communities and in their unions.”


We will not capitulate: another university is possible!

On Budget Day, in Trafalgar Square, the UCU general secretary Jo Grady declared in front of 40,000 workers fighting for a pay rise, better working conditions and dignity:

“We have made a breakthrough. 35% was stolen from our pensions. UCU members have won it back. An end to zero-hour contracts in universities from August onwards, won by our members. A pay deal backed by movement on workload, precarious work, and inequality, all delivered by strike action and winning national ballots.”

Two days later, UCU members were lobbying the Higher Education Committee to reject the deal, and the HEC eventually decided that the so-called deal wasn’t even good enough to be put to members (thus agreeing with UNISON in HE).

What is going on? This is a summary of the UCU Left’s analysis of the deal that was put to members through an e-ballot between Wednesday and Friday last week, and KCL UCU delegates’ own report of the Branch Delegates Meeting and reconstruction of the HEC discussion.

Members have rightly pointed out that the e-ballot conflated two disputes, on pay and conditions (the so-called “Four Fights”) and on the USS pension scheme.

USS seems to be the bigger “win”. So let’s start with USS.

There has indeed been some movement on USS. Under pressure from sustained industrial action, and in the face of new financial circumstances and a revised valuation, UUK has agreed to look again at the valuation methodology, and to consult its member universities on a restoration of benefits. Yet to describe this as ‘a win’ is misleading.

  1. UUK has expressed an intention to restore benefits by April 2024 but has not committed to so doing, and its member institutions have to agree to this policy before it is enacted;
  2. UUK has agreed to seek an improved risk-management mechanism in the light of the open and long-term nature of the scheme, but has made no commitment to the preservation of benefits or to restraint on contribution increases should the scheme experience future adverse valuations; and
  3. UUK has agreed to explore the options and costs of restoring the benefits that will have been lost to members of the scheme between April 2022 and April 2024 but has made no commitment to such restoration – this will depend on costs, and will be subject to veto by the universities belonging to the scheme.

All experienced trade union negotiators would argue that a condition of settling the dispute should be guarantees on benefits and contributions, and on the restoration of losses, and that these guarantees should be underpinned by the prior agreement of UUK’s member universities.

What about the Four Fights?

If UCU members in pre-92 universities have not won their pension back (yet), what about pay and conditions? Have UCU members really won “a pay deal backed by movement on workload, precarious work, and inequality”, including “an end to zero-hour contracts in universities from August onwards”, as the General Secretary proclaimed?

Let’s see what’s been agreed. The joint unions’ claim was for a pay settlement in excess of inflation (which is currently over 13%, so a 15% pay rise), a solution to pay inequality, an end to precarious contracts, and a national agreement that would end excessive workloads.


  1.   UCEA has made no move to meet the demand for an award that both covers inflation and restores some of the losses over the last decade and a half. They have already unilaterally imposed what amounts to a 15% pay cut for this and next year.
  2.   The proposed agreement to reconsider the single pay spine with the focus on ending pay compression on a no detriment basis potentially paves the way for even more pay inequality: a reduction in the number of salary points could slow down progress up the pay spine.


  1. UCEA has made a commitment to negotiate over precarious contracts next year (not this year) and to identify ‘concrete steps which employers are able to implement locally.’
  2. It has also committed to recommend to its member universities ‘action on zero-hours contracts’. With a further caveat: a) contract types are for individual institutions to determine, and b) that there are reasons for having indefinite contracts with minimal hours.
  3. UCEA will negotiate with the UCU over the recommendations to be made to their member universities but will come to no mandatory national agreement. Thus, the outcome will be dependent on the negotiations and/or industrial action that is organized at a local level by individual UCU branches.

Pay inequalities

  1. There has been no national agreement to eliminate these pay inequalities, one that is mandatory on UCEA’s member universities.
  2. UCEA has agreed to collect and analyze data on pay inequality by gender, ethnicity and disability, and the impact of this inequality on institutions’ employment strategies.
  3. The outcome of data collection and recommendation will be dependent on the negotiations and/or industrial action that is organized at a local level by individual UCU branches.


  1. There is no agreement to overcome the problem of excessive workloads in the sector.
  2. There will eventually be UCEA recommendations but the outcome in individual universities will be dependent on the negotiations and/or industrial action that is organized at a local level by individual UCU branches.

To sum up, there has been no binding agreement on any of the campaign’s objectives: headline pay, pay equality, workloads, or precarious contracts. 

The UCEA refrain that it cannot commit its individual member institutions is an admission that it knows that there are many that will do no more than acknowledge the existence of UCEA’s recommendations. For the first time in UCU’s history, our self-elected negotiators have agreed to include in the declared intentions caveats that allow unmanageable workloads where local circumstances dictate, and that openly proclaim the existence of objective local circumstances that would justify precarious or low-hours contracts.

What could be the consequences of this deal if UCU members accepted it?

It has long been the wish of the managements in many HE institutions either to break away from national bargaining, or for national bargaining to be ended. Though this would incur some additional HR costs for the management of their institutions, it would also enable them to recruit on the basis of regional or local conditions, to create their own pay scales, and to determine institution-specific conditions of service. The recommendation of the General Secretary to accept this so-called offer is either in ignorance of, or in unintentional collusion with, the drive to end national bargaining de facto.

In sum, there was no ‘offer’, just an imposed pay cut and the promise, without any binding commitments by the employers, of three working parties.

Democratic process

There is also something to say about process. Last week (during the Budget Day march), UCU HQ sent a badly formulated and misleading e-ballot (with a link to a 19-page document) to push members to vote yes to balloting members on this so-called offer. This was done without consulting the national negotiators and the HEC (as per UCU rules).

Last Thursday, the Branch Delegates Meeting strongly rejected the question as formulated in the e-ballot. 56% of delegates rejected and only 38% said yes to the e-ballot question (non-weighted).

Then after having refused to separate the question into two at the beginning, Jon Hegerty and Justine Mercer decided that they should separate the question and vote again (some branches abstained because they hadn’t consulted members on the separate questions).

Two things to note:

  1. Every branch delegate who spoke criticized the way things are communicated and the poor quality of the survey, which was misleading members
  2. UCU HQ have not shared the weighted results of the first vote. Why? Because it showed that branches overwhelmingly reject the UCU leadership’s strategy.

It’s true that a two-thirds majority of members who voted (about 30% of members) and a 52% majority of branches supported sending the so-called proposal to members for consultation.

At the HEC, however, the leadership said that they would not allow negotiators to comment on the ‘offer’ and HEC to decide on whether to recommend to reject or accept. This contradicts UCU policy decided at the sovereign body of Congress. Jo Grady said that since members don’t know about this policy, HQ would just ignore it. 

Given the content of the so-called offer and the continuing undermining of democratic rules and procedures on the part of the UCU leadership, it was the right decision on the part of the HEC to refuse to abdicate their power and not to allow HQ to send the so-called offer to members with the recommendation to accept.


What now?

We need to continue with our strike action to tell the employers: revise and resubmit! The focus now is on:

  • making the last three days of strike action a success,
  • pushing UCEA to make a proper offer,
  • doubling our efforts to get the vote our in the reballot,
  • starting to organize a marking and assessment boycott beginning in April
  • creating or strengthening branch strike committees and passing motions to hold our leadership to account and take back control over our disputes.

In solidarity,

KCL UCU Executive

21 March 2023

University workers for “Woman, Life, Freedom”

This motion was passed at a quorate KCL UCU branch meeting on 16 November 2022

This branch branch notes:

  1. The latest uprisings in Iran which began in protest against the murder of a young Kurdish woman, Mahsa Jina Amini, while in the custody of the Islamic Republic of Iran’s so-called “Morality Police” for allegedly wearing “inappropriate attire”.
  2. Her name has become the symbol and “codeword” of a countrywide uprising against the theocratic dictatorship that has brutally suppressed the freedoms, democratic self-determination, and flourishing of Iranians for more than four decades.
  3. Their demands for basic human rights, dignity, and justice have been met with a brutal crackdown by the authorities.
  4. Students’ peaceful protests and civil disobedience in universities and schools have been faced down with violence, killings, abductions, and disappearances. University campuses have been forcibly attacked and occupied by the regime’s security forces.
  5. Workers in the oil and gas sector have gone on strike in support of “the people’s struggles against organised and everyday violence against women and against the poverty and hell that dominates society.” This has taken place in the wake of an acute increase in labour protests in response to declining living standards as the depredations of crony capitalism and inhumane Western sanctions are increasingly felt across society at large.

This branch believes: 

  1. The uprising in Iran is fueled by a deeper sense of political disenfranchisement, repression, and socio-economic deprivation.
  2. Neoliberal reforms, systemic corruption, privatisation, precarious labour and unemployment have created frustration, and comprehensive and crippling economic sanctions imposed by Western powers have exacerbated and worsened conditions for ordinary Iranians, fueling inflation, unemployment and shortages of medicine.
  3. Iranian women have played a leading role in rejecting state interference and encroachment upon their social and private lives; the slogan of the movement “Women, Life, Freedom” is a popular chant demanding a better life for all, free from inequality, poverty and political/cultural repression and violence.

This branch resolves: 

  1. To stand in solidarity with the millions of brave and courageous protesters who have taken to the streets chanting “Women, Life, Freedom” and “Death to the Dictator”, and to call on students and workers around the world to join us in condemning the actions of the Islamic Republic of Iran
  2. To support the call by Iranian academics to establish a grassroots initiative in support of the movement for “Woman, Life, Freedom” (www.faculty4wlf.com).
  3. To work with other unions including the SU to give voice and support teach-in sessions to discuss and debate the revolutionary movement and uprising in Iran.
  4. To create an international network to support Iranian protesters and dissidents including students and academics who have come to harm or face intimidation and threats at the hands of the Islamic Republic.

The struggle of Iranians is our struggle!


Please write to your VC asking for no detriment to our pension!

Just as our court case is forcing the truth out, a new financial monitoring report from the USS trustee has confirmed that, even according to their flawed assumptions, scheme assets have soared to over £88bn and that the deficit has shrunk by 85%. The trustee has confirmed if a new valuation was conducted now, benefits could be increased and/or contributions reduced. This confirms our “no detriment” position and that our pension should be enhanced. UCU asked UUK to revoke the cuts but they say they need a mandate from employers to do so.

So please write to your Principal/VC using this template:

Dear …,

As I’m sure you have seen, the latest financial monitoring report from USS shows unprecedented growth. The scheme’s assets have risen by £22 billion, and are now valued at £88 billion. The report shows that as a consequence of this growth no cuts or additional funds are required to maintain existing benefits. This is in line with analysis put forward by the UCU representative on the USS JEP. In light of this information, I’m also sure that you will agree that it is a shame that UUK refused to accept the obvious flaws in the 2020 valuation or to consider any alternative to substantial cuts to USS members’ benefits. The last few months of industrial action, which have hugely disrupted our students’ education and our day-to-day lives, could have been avoided had UUK been prepared to work with, rather than against, workers in the institutions it represents.

I’m writing today with two requests.

Firstly, I am writing to request that you use your position to urge UUK: immediately to acknowledge this growth in the scheme’s assets; to agree that there is no need for cuts or contribution rises and instruct USS to revoke the changes that come into effect on April 1; to return to negotiations with a commitment to agreeing a solution; and to instruct USS to maintain existing benefits.

Secondly, I am writing to request that you use your position to open a dialogue within UUK about the body’s default adversarial position towards university workers and the UCU, which the episode around the USS valuation clearly shows to be a source of unnecessary disruption and conflict. UUK’s intransigence over the valuation gave workers no alternative but to enter into costly industrial action, and has now been shown to be based on faulty information that they refused properly to interrogate. How can we ensure a situation like this doesn’t happen again?

Our sector is at a major turning point. Years of declining pay and working conditions have left many workers considering their future in the sector – 60% according to a recent UCU survey. In that context, USS employers’ apparent preference for disruption and deficit payments over even short-term contribution increases will have helped many make up their minds to leave. And now we have strong evidence that no changes to benefits or contributions are necessary. Please take this opportunity to show staff that they are valued, and that you are prepared to work to reverse the decline in our conditions.

Yours sincerely, 


Festival Picket at Denmark Hill Monday 28 February 10am – 1:30pm

A picket line festival hosted by Denmark Hill strikers, featuring: all day cakes, collaborative bunting writing, chalk art, poems, live music, talks, a quiz and a lot of rage!

Location: Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology and Neuroscience (IOPPN) Main Building, 16 Decrespigny Park, SE5 5AF https://goo.gl/maps/HDApnR5D7drmZSNN9

  • 10:00 Picket Percussion & Update from Queen Mary – Miriam Fine
  • 10:15 Picket Poems! – Amy De’Ath & others
  • 10:45 Captain Swing, Match Girls and Martyrs: A Potted History of Trade Unions and Pickets in the UK – Alan Simpson
  • 11:00 Striking with Theatre – River Újhadbor
  • 11:30 It’s time to talk about exploitation in  Mental Health Research – Stan Papoulias
  • 11:45 What the hell is going on with mental health & wellbeing in the higher education sector? – Felicity Callard
  • 12:00 Show me the money: a quiz on the KCL accounts – Sita Balani
  • 12:15 Strikes and Mad Rights; What kind of union do we want to be? – Len Demetriou & Rachel Rowan Olive
  • 12:30 Resisting the Asylum Process – Sohail Jannesari
  • 12:45 Words of Solidarity: Dave Lewis from Lesbians & Gay men Support the Miners, Reps from Unison & KCL Marxist Society
  • 13:00 Live Music Medley & Open Mic


The future of our disputes and democracy within our union

As we are approaching further key steps in our USS and Four Fights disputes – with the employers’ intention to reject the UCU proposals on USS, the JNC tomorrow and the next HEC meeting planned for Friday 25 February – we are making the responses to our consultation of the HEC members public.

After the 18 January Branch Delegates’ Meetings and the HEC meeting the day after, 39 branch delegates (representing 27 branches throughout the country) signed a letter to the members of the HEC to query how they voted in the HEC meeting which decided on the next steps in relation to strike action in the USS and Four Fights disputes.  

We noted, first, that the 2021 Higher Education Sector Conference reaffirmed that the Four Fights and USS disputes must be kept together; secondly, that the Branch Delegates’ Meetings on 18 January 2022 was very strongly in favour of escalating strike action and of keeping the two disputes together. According to our analysis of the google docs written by delegates: 95.1% of the branches that explicitly expressed a view at the USS BDM supported escalation and 82.9% supported the view that the two disputes must be kept together. At the meeting on the Four Fights, 81.4% of delegates explicitly expressed support for escalation; 67.1% expressed the view that 4FF and USS disputes should be kept together

Given that regrettably no vote was taken at the BDM, we asked HEC members whether the HEC considered the branches’ positions before the vote, and whether they decided to follow the branch position supported by the majority of branch delegates or not. We also asked HEC members whether they voted to separate the disputes or voted for actions (like regional rolling strikes) that were not put forward to branch delegates at the Branch Delegates Meeting. 18 members of the HEC replied; 19 members did not reply. This is in itself quite significant as we informed HEC members that we intended to publish their responses online for the sake of democracy and transparency. 

This is what we gathered for the responses we received:

  • The BDM documents were made available to HEC members but no summary or quantitative analysis was provided of the 100+ pages. It is therefore not entirely clear how the delegates’ positions were fed into HEC discussion. 
  • The Mayer and Hersh motion, which respondents believe reflected the majority position at the BDM, was narrowly defeated at the HEC. 
  • HEC members were not clear on what forms of action they were voting on e.g. type of strike actions. Some HEC members believe that the next steps of the Four Fights and USS disputes passed at HEC decouple the disputes; some others do not think HEC voted to decouple the disputes. 
  • The regional/national action was part of a set of recommendations proposed by UCU senior national official Paul Bridge but was not related to anything submitted in advance to the BDMs and appears not to reflect the view of any branch at the BDM. There was a move to vote on taking these recommendations in parts, but this did not pass, and some members of the HEC felt they had no other choice but to vote in favour in order for the strike to go ahead.

We urge UCU members to take these responses (or lack of responses) into account when thinking about the future of these disputes and democracy in our union.


Name Role Voted for escalation? Voted to keep two disputes together? Voted against regional strikes and proposals not submitted to BDM?  Replied?
Vicky Blake President (HE) Yes Yes No Yes
Marian Mayer Rep disabled members Yes Yes yes  Yes
Bee Hughes Rep. LGBT+ members (HE) Yes Yes – Despite being the only representative of LGBT+ members on HEC, Bee was not permitted to vote on USS because not at USS university Yes Yes
Robyn Orfitelli Rep. migrant members (HE) Yes – did not attend because of unavoidable personal reasons
Holly Smith HE – London and East Yes Yes Yes Yes
Rhiannon Lockley HE – Midlands Yes Yes Abstained Yes
Linda Moore HE – Northern Ireland Yes Yes Yes Yes
Lena Wånggren HE – Scotland Unclear Unclear No Yes
Ann Swinney HE – Scotland   Yes Yes Yes Yes
Deepa Govindarajan Driver HE – South  Yes Yes Yes Yes
Aris Katzourakis HE – South Yes Yes Unclear Yes
Mark Abel HE- South  Yes Yes but wasn’t allowed to vote on the next steps of USS dispute because in pos-92 institution Yes Yes
Vida Greaux HE – Wales Yes Yes Unclear Yes
Jo McNeill  HE – UK-elected       Yes – missed the meeting because of unavoidable personal reasons
Marion Hersh HE – UK-elected Yes Yes Unclear Yes
Lesley McGorrigan HE – UK-elected Yes Yes Abstained  Yes
Saira Weiner HE – North West   Yes Yes but wasn’t allowed to vote on the next steps of USS dispute because in pos-92 institution Yes Yes
Pura Ariza Rep. women members (HE) Yes Yes but wasn’t allowed to vote on the next steps of USS dispute because in pos-92 institution Yes Yes


No responses from:

Justine Mercer (chair) Vice-President (HE)     No
Steve Sangwine Honorary Treasurer     No
Victoria Showunmi (vice-chair) Rep. Black members (HE)       No
Ben Pope Rep. casually employed members (HE)       No
Joanna  de Groot Rep. women members (HE) No
Joanne Edge Rep women members (HE) No
Sarah Brown (vice-chair) HE – London and East       No
Claire Marris HE – London and East    No
Emma Battell Lowman HE – Midlands No
Chris Grocott HE – Midlands       No
Bruce Baker HE – North East       No, on sick leave
Joan Harvey HE – North East         No
Ruth Holliday HE – North East          No – on sick leave
Philippa Browning   HE – North West         No
Sally Pellow HE – South       No
Ann Gow HE – UK-elected         No
Adam  Ozanne HE – UK-elected   No
Bijan Parsia HE – UK-elected         No
Chris O’Donnell HE – UK-elected         No