REF and the University of Essex Motion

The following motion was passed at a quorate branch meeting on 14th February 2024.

This branch notes:

  • UCU national has an existing policy on the REF, and in May 2019, UCU’s annual higher education sector conference passed a range of motions on the REF, including a motion that called on the HESC to resolve to campaign against the use of REF criteria for performance management
  • UCU Essex has existing policy on the REF, including the following:
    UCU Essex opposed the formal linkage of REF assessment to career security in 2014.
  • We oppose the University’s current effort to pretend that they are not in fact directly linked, while it goes ahead with performance management measures (using REF metrics) leading to the threat of competence proceedings and dismissal.
  • This linkage and these threats have imposed unreasonable pressure on many research staff across the last five years.
  • The serious flaws and negative consequences of REF-related performance-management measures mean that HoDs should give the benefit of the doubt whenever possible

This branch resolves:

  • To arrange a meeting with the PVC (R) to discuss the University’s approach to the 2028 REF and any Code of Practice they may produce.
  • To campaign against the use of the REF criteria for performance management.
  • To support members that oppose the REF and its use in management practices.

RSA Union Solidarity Motion

The following motion was passed at a quorate branch meeting on 14th February 2024.

This branch notes:

  • Charity workers are overworked, underpaid and exploited. And though not-for-profits often talk of justice, it rarely extends to their own employees.
  • In 2022 staff at the RSA had to fight for their union recognition after voluntary recognition was denied 3 times by senior management. Since then, staff members across all teams and levels of the RSA have been campaigning for a fair pay rise reflective of the current cost-of-living pressures.
  • They have asked for a flat rate of pay that gives the lowest paid members of staff a 10% pay increase to offset a 14% real-terms pay cut in the last 4 years, and also for a 8% pension contribution as staff pensions were slashed to 5.5% during the pandemic.
  • The RSA has offered a pay rise equivalent to just 2.3% for some of members, and no return to higher pension contributions. The RSA union estimates their pay claim would cost the RSA about £300k, or less than 1% of the charity’s total reserves. In the midst of negotiations, RSA management changed the charity’s reserves policy to make it much harder to use reserves to support staff.
  • Regrettably, the RSA management’s response so far has been completely at odds with its values, its public-facing image, and many of the principles that draw support to the RSA. As a result, union members went out on the first strike in the organisation’s 270-year history!
  • Union members at the RSA need solidarity. Management are refusing to negotiate and we need to ramp up the campaign to respond to the aggressive anti-union approach of their boss. These workers on strike rely on support from the labour movement to keep their fight going.

This branch resolves:

  • To boycott any activities at the RSA until the union’s demands are met, as set out by the 2023 pay claim*, and the dispute is resolved.
  • To write to the university leadership and urge they boycott the RSA and write to Andy Haldane, RSA CEO to resolve the dispute with the workers.
  • To promote the upcoming picket dates for the RSA strike to its members and to bring the branch banner to a picket.
  • To send a message of solidarity to the RSA pickets .
  • To make a donation to the RSA strike solidarity fund of £250:
  • To write to Andy Haldane, RSA CEO and condemn his treatment of workers.
  • To promote and publicise the boycott of RSA activities on social media.

*A flat £2800 salary increase. An increase from 5.5% to 8% pension contributions. A £400 allowance for staff who don’t benefit from hybrid working

BAE Systems and the University of Essex Motion

The following motion was passed at a quorate branch meeting on 14th February 2024.

This branch notes:

  • BAE Systems is the largest weapons manufacturer in Europe. They make parts for the F-35 aircraft, which the Israeli military has used in the bombing of Gaza.
  • The University of Essex has confirmed that, due to the Statement of Investment and Banking Principles, there are no investments in, or borrowing of money from, BAE Systems due to the nature of its business activities as a weapons manufacturer. However, there are relationships that the university allows under academic freedom within the law.
  • There are research and teaching relationships with BAE systems, including Computer Science and Electronic Engineering Apprenticeships. Demilitarise Education is awaiting a response to Freedom of Information requests on investments, academic partnership policy, and academic partnerships.

This branch believes:

  • The International Court of Justice has issued an order on the prevention of genocide in Gaza, which could have important implications for the supply of arms to Israel.
  • Academic freedom can have limits in terms of support for or facilitation of genocide.

This branch resolves:

  • To organise an information-sharing event with Demilitarise Education in March 2024, open to staff and students at the University of Essex.
  • To explore the limits to academic free speech in relation to the arms industry and law.
  • To campaign against any relationship with BAE that contravenes the Statement of Investment and Banking Principles, international law, or any other limits within the law.
  • To discuss the issue and any campaign with Unite and other relevant unions.

University Response to UCU Formal Claim

8 June 2022

Please find the University’s response to Essex UCU’s formal claim (below), which was sent to the branch and publicised on 8 June:

We are pleased that there are a number of areas of agreement about how the University of Essex might take forward work to address important shared issues that have been raised through the current national pay and pensions disputes.   The University is prepared to offer the following items as part of a dispute resolution covering both disputes.  We would also want to work closely with UNITE and Unison on these matters, where appropriate.

Joint Statement on USS Pensions

As part of a dispute resolution, the University will prepare a statement on USS pensions based on detailed discussions between the USS Pensions Officer and the Registrar and Secretary.  The Council sub-group on pensions need to approve publication on the University website, but we are confident that sufficient points of agreement can be identified.


We would be pleased to set up a joint Working Group for 2022/23 to consider actions to address our equality pay gaps (gender, ethnicity and disability) including considering pay gaps in the context of intersectional identities.  This Working Group would make recommendations to USG, monitor progress against actions, and agree to seek input from an independent expert if needed.


The University cannot offer permanent contracts for work that it does not reasonably believe to exist on an ongoing basis, or contract individuals for a higher number of hours than the work available.  Staffing budgets are set annually through the established Planning Round and, in some cases, we actively work to create additional permanent posts and reduce fixed term teaching budgets.

We can nevertheless agree to review the contracts of all fixed-term staff with four or more years’ service on 31 July 2022.  The aims of this review will be to identify where additional permanent posts can be created and/ or provide individual post holders with additional career development support to enable them to apply for permanent roles at Essex or elsewhere, should they choose to.  The University is genuinely committed to decasualisation and we would conduct this review in that spirit.


We have already identified a number of areas for joint work with the three campus trade unions around workload, including the creation of a number of focus groups during the Summer Term.  These will include a focus group about WAMs, and in addition we are willing to agree a joint Working Group to oversee this work and make recommendations to USG. Recommendations from this group could include, for example, mechanisms to increase consistency between departmental WAMs; a review of annual review processes; and additional development for managers responsible for work allocation and workload monitoring. 


This offer does not include a financial payment, either on a one-off or ongoing basis, which was the final element of UCU’s formal claim. This needed to be considered by Council in its role as the employer of University staff and a special meeting was held on 7 June 2022.  Council was not able to agree to offer a financial payment; the one-off payment of £2500 or ongoing allowance of £1000 in UCU’s claim is unaffordable and Council has decided that the University should not make separate local payments in addition to the annual pay uplift set through national collective bargaining.   

However, Council has asked the Vice-Chancellor to establish a task and finish group to recommend actions to Council that might go some way to address the challenges of the cost of living crisis.  UCU are invited to participate in this group, whose membership, scope and Terms of Reference will be agreed by Council at their next meeting on 14 July 2022.  Recommendations will be made to Council at its meeting in the Autumn term. 

To be clear, this task and finish group is not part of our formal offer in response to UCU’s formal claim.  Council is concerned about the impact of significant cost of living increases on colleagues and has already committed to this work.  Nevertheless, we hope that it is a helpful context for when colleagues are considering the University’s response to UCU’s formal claim and that the University’s offer will enable the disputes to be resolved. 

If the offer is accepted, appropriate terms would be agreed between the University and Essex UCU.  This would include calling off the action short of strike including the boycott of marking and assessment processes with effect from Monday 13 June 2022 to allow students to progress and graduate as normal, and agreeing not to instigate further industrial action under the current mandates for the two national disputes.

Essex Strike Pickets and Programme: 21-25 March

Every day during the strikes: Pickets until 10.30am

Locations: EBS entrance, Sports Centre entrance and entrance to Wivenhoe House hotel.

If you’re new to picketing and would like a picket buddy to accompany you to the picket please feel free to email us (Dave) here.  Sign up to the rota here or just come along!

Monday 21st March: Casualisation 

8.15am – 10.30am: Pickets

Please join us on the pickets for a strong showing on the first day.

‘Profs against Precarity Picket’ at EBS Picket

We are asking senior staff to join us on the pickets in a show of solidarity with insecure and casualised staff.

10.30am (EBS picket) – Picket Rally: Ending Casualisation in Higher Education

Tuesday 22nd March: Equalities

8.30am – 10.30am: Pickets

11.30am Teach Out: Decolonising the Classroom (Theory & Cake) at the Headgate Theatre, 14 Chapel St North, Colchester, CO2 7AT; Tel: 01206 366000.

Join Nora, Natasha, and Lizzie for a special ‘teach out’ version of Theory and Cake. It is important to note that we are not experts, and this will be exploratory. Doing the reading is helpful, but not necessary. What we want is enthusiasm, ideas, and people who like cake.


Arora, Swati, “A Manifesto to Decentre Theatre and Performance Studies.” Studies in Theatre and Performance, vol. 4, no. 1, 2021, pp. 12-20.

Bala, Sruti, “Decolonising Theatre and Performance Studies: Tales from the Classroom.” Tijdschrift voor Genderstudies, vol. 20, no. 3, 2017, pp. 333-345. 

Wednesday 23rd March: Why has a sub-group of Council elected to slash my pension?

8.15am – 10.30am: Pickets, followed by a march to Park Road

From 10.30am: Applicant Day Picket/Rally at Park Road Picket

USS Dispute: What comes next?

3pm Teach Out: ‘The Neoliberal University’ Reading Group Session 

Matt Bennett will lead this reading group teach out, open to students and staff. Reading the text in advance is encouraged. 

We’ll discuss Stefan Collini’s ‘Browne’s Gamble’, London Review of Books 2010, available online here: 

Zoom link:

If you have questions about this event, please email Matthew Bennett at

Thursday 24th March: Pay and the Cost of Living Crisis

Rest Day – No morning Picket 

12 noon: The Stopping Picnic, Castle Park (near the bandstand)

A picnic on the picket where staff and students share stories about stopping, withholding, refusing, avoiding, shirking… work

Friday 25th March: Workload

8.15am – 10.30am: Pickets

10.30am (EBS picket): Picket Rally and Open Mic tbc 

Followed by a Social at The Greyhound, 62 High St, Wivenhoe, Colchester CO7 9AZ.

Essex UCU’s Response to Essex Management’s All Staff Email on 4 February

In her message to all staff on 4 February 2022, Director of People and Culture, Alix Langley, writes ‘[i]t is disappointing that Essex is facing significantly more disruption than many other Universities given the limited impact that we can have on the national issues that the strike is about’.

While we understand that the University of Essex cannot speak for UUK, this message suggests that there is a little that University of Essex management can do in the current circumstances; resigned to their fate within UUK and in the public eye, University of Essex managers would have us believe that they are unable to do more.

However, we believe that there are many steps which senior leaders at the University of Essex could actively take to radically improve industrial relations between UCU members and management, which we set out below:

  1. The Vice Chancellor could publicly announce his support for the UCU proposals which were sent to him by the Essex UCU committee on 2 February in this letter.
  2. University of Essex management could agree to a joint statement on an improved USS pension scheme in the vein of other statements agreed between UCU branches and senior managers at Loughborough, Oxford, Cambridge and Imperial. Essex UCU has been keeping channels open to such an agreement in recent weeks but has yet to have had any confirmation of a meeting to further such talks.
  3. On additional USS contributions: University of Essex managers could make a public statement saying that they would be willing to make the modest additional USS contributions that align with new UCU proposals for the next 12 months.
  4. On revaluation: University of Essex management could call for a revaluation of USS, noting that the scheme is now fully funded, and would only fail to be fully funded if it generated returns that are more than 0.23% below CPI.
  5. On USS contributions and consultation: University of Essex management could criticise UUK for failing to consult members initially on the question of increasing contributions when, after the fact, USS’s January 2022 consultation has proved that members overwhelming welcomed increased contributions to maintain their defined benefit.
  6. On the current UUK consultation: University of Essex management could note that the current UUK consultation presents an improved UUK proposal that is far too minimal to be likely to achieve any movement on UCU’s industrial action and call on UUK to consult its members on UCU’s full proposal. improvement-is-a-wholly-inadequate-repair-to-the-damage-of-their-inflation-cap-f2310e40918f
  7. On workload: a significant number of University of Essex staff have reported that they can ‘rarely’ or ‘never’ complete the work that is expected of them and that their workload exceeds their capacity. University of Essex management could commit to working with departments and schools to fill the many empty posts and hire extra staff commensurate with the ever-rising workload; senior managers at the University could also commit to taking serious steps to reducing workload.
  8. On the gender pay gap: we do not believe that the University’s recent actions to address the gender pay gap have been sufficient, with the median hourly pay gap at 18.6% (3.2% higher than the national median pay gap and an increase of 2.4% on last year’s pay gap at Essex) and the mean hourly pay gap at 16.1% (1.2% higher than the national mean pay gap). University of Essex management could take steps towards addressing the gender pay gap at all levels, not just at the most senior levels.
  9. On pay: our pay has dropped significantly relative to inflation over the last decade, while the cost of living has risen. Since 2009, the cumulative loss to pay (compared to rises in RPI) is 17.6%. Hence this year’s pay uplift of 1.5% – rising to 3% for some lower paid staff – is inadequate, especially as families are facing steeply rising food and energy prices. University of Essex management could request that UCEA implement a pay uplift of £2,500 on all pay points and institute pay increases on all spinal points at the local level.
  10. On the four fights: University of Essex management could call on UCEA to establish new JNCHES with working groups to examine career progression and set parameters for workload, equality and casualisation across higher education.

Essex UCU Committee

Essex UCU Letter to VC on New Pension Proposals

On 2 February 2022, the Essex UCU committee sent the following letter (below) to University of Essex’s Vice Chancellor, Anthony Forster, calling for him to support UCU’s revised USS proposals and to reply to us before 11 February, when the JNC has the first of two February meetings on the USS pension.

2 February 2022

Dear Anthony Forster,

You will have seen that the University and College Union (UCU) issued a set of new proposals for the Universities Superannuation Scheme (USS) on 26 January 2022 which are aimed at averting widespread industrial action across UK campuses in February and beyond. Link:

These new proposals would see retirement benefits protected in return for a small increase in contributions for both members and employers ahead of a new evidence-based valuation of the scheme. A USS consultation of scheme members concluded on 17 January 2022, and UCU understands that a significant majority preferred increasing contributions of members and employers in order to protect benefits over the alternatives, including benefit cuts. Moreover, USS confirmed on Thursday 20 January that its assets have jumped to over £92bn, more than £25bn higher than the previous valuation.

Last year UCU tabled proposals that would have protected benefits and averted December’s strike action, but Universities UK (UUK) refused to provide the same level of covenant support to underwrite UCU’s proposals as they provided for their own.

UCU’s proposals are as follows:

  • that UUK call on USS to issue a moderately prudent, evidence-based valuation of the financial health of the scheme as at 31 March 2022, to be issued for consultation in June (at the latest)
  • that employers agree to provide the same level of covenant support as for their own proposals to facilitate a cost-sharing of current benefits throughout the 2022/23 scheme year, starting 1 April 2022 at 11% member/23.7% employer until 1 October 2022, and 11.8%/25.2% thereafter
  • that employers agree to pay a maximum of 25.2% and members a maximum of 9.8% from 1 April 2023 so as to secure current benefits or, if not possible, the best achievable as a result of the call on USS to issue a moderately prudent, evidence-based valuation.

We are writing to ask whether you would support UCU’s proposals instead of UUK’s plan. Under UUK’s plan university staff would see an approximate 35% cut to their guaranteed retirement income based on a flawed USS valuation conducted in March 2020.

We would appreciate a response from you before Friday 11 February. This is your chance to avoid further disruptive strikes by staff determined to defend their pensions.

Yours sincerely

Essex UCU branch committee

Essex UCU support motion for Goldsmiths UCU

The following motion of support for Goldsmiths UCU was passed at a General Meeting on 17/11/2021.


Essex UCU branch notes:

  1. That Goldsmiths UCU (GUCU) is in dispute with its Senior Management Team (SMT) at Goldsmiths, University of London, over 20 FTE planned redundancies as part of Goldsmiths SMT’s Academic Portfolio Review.
  2. That a further 32 redundancies are planned in professional services, directly affecting the working conditions of academic staff and students.
  3. That this restructuring undermines the autonomy of departments and staff at Goldsmiths, increasingly centralising power with Goldsmiths SMT.
  4. That moves towards restructuring at Goldsmiths are already having a seriously detrimental effect on the functioning of the university, such that basic services for staff and students are deteriorating.
  5. That Goldsmiths SMT has spent over £2.5m in consultants and additional costs on change managers related to the university’s restructuring.
  6. That Goldsmiths SMT has employed union-busting tactics in the past and is currently delaying payment to key GUCU branch officials for carrying out trade union activities.
  7. The determination of Essex UCU members to support GUCU’s fight for decent working conditions at Goldsmiths.
  8. That Essex UCU committee recommends this motion is passed by the branch.

Essex UCU branch believes: 

  1. That Goldsmith SMT has not explored alternatives to cuts, including stopping the use of expensive consultants and managers; fundraising; applying for government funds in Arts and Humanities; developing a vision for responsible and sustainable resource allocation, etc.
  2. That the planned cuts at Goldsmiths follow a pattern of financialisation increasingly seen across UK Higher Education Institutions, whereby financial pressures from banking partners are used to justify restructures that prioritise the cutting of frontline staff while increasing managerial costs.
  3. That the battle against redundancies and the financialisation of Goldsmiths make GUCU’s dispute one of national significance.

Essex UCU branch resolves:

  1. To issue a public statement of solidarity with GUCU’s dispute.
  2. To make a significant contribution to GUCU’s strike fund.
  3. To actively support and publicise GUCU’s dispute, strike days and campaign events through social media, trade union contacts and beyond.