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29 May 2013

Workplace News in brief

UCU university pay

University management made their "final offer" of a 1% pay rise to workers on 21 May. The offer, a laughable improvement on the 0.8% second offer, falls short of workers' demands for an above-inflation rise to make up for some of the past four years of pay cuts, coupled with a living wage for all university workers.

University staff also want national agreements to close the gender pay gap which exceeds 30% at some universities, to bring workload to manageable levels, and to stop casualisation, as well as a UK-wide promise to stop redundancies - all things bosses have refused to take seriously in negotiations.

Of the five unions, UCU, Unison, Unite, EIS and GMB, who take part in the negotiations, Unison and EIS are already recommending rejection. Strike action could potentially begin as early as 23 October.

UCU's annual congress takes place on 29-31 May in Brighton but its negotiators are refusing to make a recommendation on the offer.

Congress should reject the offer and elect new, fighting negotiators. Most critically, UCU must avoid the fiasco of 2012, when an absentee leadership meant that of the five Higher Education trade unions only UCU failed to win a strike ballot on pay.

UCU is in budgetary crisis due to dropping membership numbers. Scandalously the UCU leadership has refused to rule out making union staff redundant.

To survive and thrive, UCU must adopt a fighting lead against cuts and job losses and show potential members the power of a union.

Edmund Schluessel, UCU member

Equinox strike

Workers at Equinox Care - a charity dealing with substance abuse problems - have voted (by 98%) for two days of strike action against pay cuts of up to 8,000 a year for many staff.

Unite, the union representing more than half the workforce, said the ballot result was "a massive vote of no confidence" in chief executive Bill Puddicombe.

Management proposes huge cuts for frontline staff directly working with some of the most vulnerable people in society. As a result, most staff face cuts of between 4,000 and 8,000 a year.

Two separate 24-hour strikes are set to be called, and further strike action is on the cards, unless the dispute is settled.

Tory hammer horror

"Hammer home the value of culture to our economy!" Thus spake Maria Miller, Tory culture secretary, this April. But entertainers' union Equity has been hammering this home since the recession began.

The 43,000-strong union's 2013 conference was mixed but positive. Equity is increasing in membership. It has won key battles on the minimum wage in fringe theatre, and credit-squeezing on TV.

Left resolutions on introductory fees and union democracy failed. However, reactionary motions against recent democratic improvements fell too.

There was a real increase in 'fresh blood' at this conference, which bodes well for the future. Let's show Miller the hams can hammer.

James Ivens