Latest updates from Jo Grady

Dec 9th, 2020 | By | Category: News


Dear colleague,

You have until 5pm next Wednesday 17 February to give us your thoughts about industrial action by completing our survey. We’ve had a great overall response so far but the more responses we get, the better informed your democratic representatives will be when they make decisions about future disputes.

Please remember, it is just as important for members who haven’t previously taken industrial action to give their views as it is for members who have.

You have received your unique link to complete the survey by email. If you’ve checked your inbox and your spam folder and still can’t find it, don’t worry – the link will be sent to you again on Monday. The sender will be ‘’.

Online consultation on the employers’ 2020-21 final offer

You have also received a separate email earlier this week with a link to vote in an online consultation on the final offer from employers in our sector-wide negotiations for 2020-21.

You are being advised to reject the offer as it represents a real-terms pay cut and very little in the way of meaningful commitments on workload, equality, and job security.

Please vote by 12 noon on Tuesday 23 February, and check your spam folder if you haven’t yet received your link. The email subject line will be ‘UCU consultative ballot on UCEA final offer 2020/21’ and the sender will be ‘’.

Next steps

After the industrial action survey and the online consultation have both closed, your elected representatives on UCU’s higher education committee (HEC) will meet on Friday 26 February to consider the results of both exercises and discuss our next steps as a union, including a potential ballot for industrial action. You will be informed about any decisions taken as soon as possible after that meeting.

Jo Grady
UCU general secretary



Dear colleague

I am writing to all members about important ballots and surveys currently underway or forthcoming in your union.

Survey on industrial action

The higher education (HE) industrial action survey which launched last Monday is a top priority. The representatives who make decisions about industrial action on your behalf need to know about your priorities, your views about past industrial action, and your strategic thinking about future disputes.

Please take a few minutes to find the email with your personalised link and complete the survey before it closes on Wednesday 17 February. If you can’t find the email in your inbox or your spam folder, don’t worry – you will be sent the link again tomorrow (Tuesday 2 February).

Thanks to members who reported issues with the launch of the survey. The company administering the survey for UCU, Civica, has addressed those problems and the survey should be fully functional. If you have already completed the survey, you do not need to complete it again. We welcome feedback on the survey and have created an in-house email address for you to contact if you have anything to say that isn’t covered by the survey questions.

Separately from this survey, there will soon be an online consultation of members on the offer made by HE employers in this year’s national negotiations. You will need to fill in the survey AND vote in the consultation so your representatives can make informed decisions about what to do next.

Annual UCU elections

Ballot papers have been posted to members for the annual election of UCU’s future president and seats on the national executive committee (NEC). 

The NEC, chaired by the president, is one of the union’s most important elected decision-making bodies. As general secretary I report and give advice to the NEC and its sub-committees, but they make important decisions on a range of matters: from our Covid-19 health and safety policies to our strategy for industrial action including the timing and amount of action, strike pay, and whether to consult members on offers from employers.

These elections are your annual opportunity to determine who sits on that committee and makes decisions in your name. The higher the turnout, the stronger the democratic mandate NEC members will have to represent you with.

For full details of the elections, click here. You can find details of the NEC’s current members and minutes of previous NEC meetings here. Finally, since I became general secretary I have started the practice of publishing my regular reports to the NEC and reports to other committees on the UCU website here.

Task group survey

The first of the member-led task groups pledged in my election manifesto, on sexual violence, is gathering evidence from branches and members to inform the union’s work in this area. You can expect to receive an invitation to submit evidence very soon and I strongly encourage you to take the time to respond.

You can find more information about the work of the task group here.

As always, please drop me an email if you have a question about the task group or anything else.

Jo Grady
UCU general secretary



Dear colleague,

As you know, across the UK the rates of Covid-19 are exceptionally high. The return to in-person learning has been delayed, with universities being instructed to move all but essential activities online throughout January and February. Some universities have taken matters into their own hands and announced that they intend to keep activities online for significantly longer.

After months of campaigning for this, we believe this is an important step in the right direction to protect staff. However, with the pandemic currently worse than ever and hospitals on the brink of being overwhelmed, this period should be extended to cover the remainder of the academic year, and we will continue to lobby and campaign as hard for this as we have since we first called for the move online in August. I have continued to meet with education ministers over the Christmas and New Year period and make the case for taking these precautions to prioritise education and wellbeing – particularly while the vaccine is being rolled out.

Despite the UK government’s announcements, there have been a few disturbing reports from UCU branches that some employers are continuing to require staff to do work on-site that we believe could be done remotely. We expect all employers to review risk assessments in place as a result of recent developments, including the emergence of the new variant of the virus. If you are worried this has not happened for your workplace, please contact your local branch ASAP.

We have also updated our existing guidance regarding your individual rights to health and safety at work, and in particular your right not to receive any detriment if you refuse to attend your workplace under Sections 44 and 100 of the Employment Rights Act 1996.

You can find the updated guidance here.

In normal times the most effective way to protect the rights of individual union members to work in a healthy and safe environment is through the collective strength of union representation and through direct engagement with employers and the government. That is how UCU has already won significant concessions since the pandemic started in all our sectors and nations – not least of all in higher education, where we have conducted successful ballots for industrial action on Covid-19 health and safety, and will keep doing this for as long as the pandemic lasts.

However, we are not living through normal times. Members do have individual rights in law as well as collective ones, and trade unions can lawfully give their members information about these. Please read this guidance for assistance in doing this.  
Jo Grady
UCU general secretary


Dear colleagues 

Thank you all again for your continued work and support for members and each other in this difficult year.  

There has been promising news of vaccines to support a return to normal in the future. However, there is still no confirmed timetable for a vaccine roll out and I do not have confidence that the UK Government’s current advice prioritises safety, so in the meantime we need to air on the side of caution when it comes to UCU working arrangements.

In light of the ongoing rates of infection and the experience of the last “re-opening”, We are therefore now planning on the basis that our general return to UCU offices will not commence until early April. While we will continue to open Carlow Street on a limited basis for safe access and critical functions, we cannot ensure safe travel to our offices that rely heavily on public transport so want to continue to minimise this risk where possible. 

General return will only be on a safe and incremental basis agreed with staff collectively through Unite and individually according to personal circumstances.   

I know that for many of you, this continues to be a very stressful and challenging period. If you are feeling the strain, help and support is available – you can find a range of support services for staff which you can access via the intranet. I would also reinforce what I have said throughout this year about workload and lockdown. That we as a union do not expect everyone to be working as normal. This has not been a remotely normal year and we are not asking any of you to operate in a way that some of the worst employers in further and higher education behave like.

I hope that this gives you some reassurances over the potential timetable for return, but please do keep in touch with your line manager or myself if there are further questions.

Best wishes



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