Referendum

In this referendum, the Guild is asking students to cast their vote and determine whether the Guild should support any and all University and College Union (UCU) industrial action in relation to the ongoing disputes around pensions and pay & working conditions in the 2021/22 academic year.

The UCU have announced that staff at universities across the country, including at the University of Birmingham would take three days of strike action between Wednesday 1st December 2021 and Friday 3rd December 2021, inclusive. They have also announced that staff at universities including the University of Birmingham will take indefinite action short of a strike consisting of working strictly to contract.Read the UCU announcement.

You can find our FAQ's below and what this will mean for you.

Referendum
 
Referendum Timeline
Vote Yes or No

Referendum Voting

Voting is only available for students at the University of Birmingham.

If you are a current student, please login here.

Additional Information

The UCU announcement confirms the Union’s intention to take escalating industrial action in the New Year if employers do not make improved offers. For the avoidance of doubt, the referendum is asking students to determine whether the Guild should support the December strikes and any future industrial action that may occur in the New Year until the end of the academic year.

This Referendum was called by the Guild Officer Group on Wednesday 17th November 2021 in line with the Guild’s “Supporting Trade Unions” policy. This outlines that the Guild will support legitimately called industrial action by campus trade unions unless instructed otherwise by a referendum. The existing policy is valid until 21st February 2023.

The reason for the calling of the referendum is simple. This is an issue that students hold various different beliefs on, and which may affect their education in the short and the long term. Much has also changed since the existing Policy was passed in 2019 due to the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic. Additionally, a large proportion of students have joined the University since that policy was passed by the student body and those new students deserve a say.

The UCU recently balloted union branches at higher education providers across the country, including at the University of Birmingham on whether to take industrial action in relation to two separate issues: a dispute over the Universities Superannuation Scheme (USS)- the University pension scheme and on pay and working conditions (what the UCU calls “Four Fights”).

In relation to the pension dispute, the UCU calls on the USS to issue a new valuation of the pension scheme and opposes proposed changes in the way that USS members accrue pension benefits.

Regarding the issue of pay and working conditions, the UCU seek to achieve various outcomes: action to address gender, ethnicity and disability pay gaps, and end to “casualisation” and insecure contracts for higher education workers, and action on rising workloads. They also support a pay rise for higher education workers, arguing that due to pay rises not keeping pace with inflation, workers have been subject to a “real terms pay cut”.

In the recent ballot, the Birmingham branch of UCU voted in favour of both strike action and action short of a strike in relation to these disputes. That mandate last for six months.

We have published responses to Frequently Asked Questions from both the University of Birmingham and the UCU to provide more context on the industrial action. These were provided to us prior to the UCU announcement on 16th November 2021. You can read these here.

You can also read our FAQs – which offer more information on the current disputes – here.

Some academic and academic-related University staff will not work during the period of strike action. This may mean that on the designated strike days, academic staff will not teach your lectures, seminars, tutorials or other academic sessions. They may not be present in their office hours or undertake any work such as marking of assignments or replying to emails. Academic related staff such as librarians may also not work during periods of strike action. Those who are striking do not need to inform you that they will not be running a particular lecture or other session, although they may choose to do so at their own discretion.

It will very much depend on your subject, level of study, and individual timetable as to how much your teaching and learning will be impacted. The University should communicate with all students to let you know about any potential disruption and may also put plans in place to minimise the impact of the industrial action.

Some students may also choose not to “cross the picket line”. A picket is a protest by striking staff at the entrance to a workplace. This means they would make a choice to not come into campus during the strike action as an act of solidarity with striking staff. You should be advised that the University has informed the Guild that it would not consider a student’s personal decision not to cross the picket line to be an “extenuating circumstance” if your learning or results were impacted. International students on Tier 4 visas would also need to be aware that normal attendance requirements would continue to apply unless your individual teaching sessions were cancelled due to strike action.

The UCU has also indicated that staff will take indefinite “Action Short of a Strike” from 1st December 2021. Action Short of a strike is industrial action incorporated into a staff member’s daily working life outside of any designated strike days. This may include;

  1. Working to contract
  2. Not undertaking any voluntary activities

The UCU has indicated its intention to take further industrial action in the New Year if employers do not make improved offers. At the time of writing, we do not know the precise nature of that additional industrial action.

Both the Birmingham UCU branch and the University have provided more information on their stance on this question in their FAQ responses. This information was provided to us prior to the announcement by UCU on 16th November.

You can vote “Yes”, “No” or “Abstain” in this Referendum.

What does voting “Yes” mean? What does voting “No” mean?

The Guild will publically support UCU in their industrial action during the 2021/22 academic year, whether strike action or action short of a strike, and will stand in solidarity with staff on this issue.

The Guild will not make any public expressions of support with regards to the industrial action called by UCU during the 2021/22 academic year, whether strike action or action short of a strike.

The Guild Officers will issue a statement to publicise the action and to confirm their support. This statement will include:
  • Information about the reasons for the dispute
  • Encouraging students to join staff on the picket lines. Ultimately this is the decision of each student to make their own about this support.
  • Lobbying University management to engage in negotiations with the trade union, via employer representative bodies such as Universities UK (UUK) and the Universities and Colleges Employers Association (UCEA).
The statement will acknowledge that our members have differing and potentially opposing opinions on the pension dispute and have voted to support UCU and those University staff taking strike action and action short of a strike.

The Guild Officers will publish a statement. which will acknowledge that our members have differing and potentially opposing opinions on the pension dispute and have voted not to support UCU strike action /or action short of a strike.

Students will make their own decision about whether to join staff on picket lines.

The Guild will provide space, subject to availability, within the building free of charge for “teach outs” – or alternative educational provision run by those staff taking industrial action.

The Guild will not provide space within the building for “teach outs” – or alternative educational provision run by those taking industrial action.

The Guild will provide space in its building, subject to availability, for refreshment facilities to campus trade unions throughout any strike action. The Guild will be considered a “neutral zone” and not constitute crossing the picket line.

The Guild will be considered a “neutral zone” and not constitute crossing the picket line.

Guild Officers will present the Guild position at relevant University meetings and consider other activities where they can demonstrate their position in relation to the strike action.

Guild Officers will consider what support for the strike actions means for their individual area of the Guild’s operations and policy and make personal decisions about whether this means they will cross the picket line and continue regular meetings with the University.

Guild Officers may make personal decisions about choosing whether or not to cross the picket line.

The Guild will continue to support individual students (including those choosing to vote “Yes”, “No” and “Abstain” in the Referendum) through our Guild advice service and representation functions, in relation to the impact strikes may have on an individual students’ academic student experience and academic progression.

The Guild will continue to support individual students (including those choosing to vote “Yes”, “No” and “Abstain” in the Referendum) through our Guild advice service and representation functions, in relation to the impact strikes may have on an individual students’ academic student experience and academic progression.

In order to be valid, 2000 students must vote in a Guild Referendum as per our Byelaws. This is called the “quorum”. If fewer than 2,000 votes are received, the existing Belief & Commitment of active support will be maintained.

You should consider carefully the implications of the question, before choosing to vote either way. By voting to abstain, you are choosing not to express an opinion on whether the Guild should support industrial action. Your vote will however be counted towards the quorum.

All full members of the Guild can get involved with a campaign team. A campaign team is a group of students who are passionate about a particular stance on the Referendum, and want to campaign for this amongst the student body. The Guild will formally recognise one official campaign team for the “Yes”, “No” and “Abstain” campaigns.

Each formally recognised campaign team will have a budget of £100,  and be able to submit a Referendum Argument which will be displayed on the voting website. 

We are holding a briefing session event to provide more information about the referendum process and to form the official ‘Yes’, ‘No’ and ‘Abstain’ campaign teams, on Friday 19th November, via Zoom

If you are unable to attend the briefing but would like to be involved in the ‘Yes’, ‘No’ or ‘Abstain’ teams, please email studentvoice@guild.bham.ac.uk by 4pm on Monday 22nd November.


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