Heriot Watt UCU Rotating Header Image

Joining UCU – FAQs

Almost 120,000 of your colleagues have chosen to belong to UCU – the largest post-school union in the world: a force working for education that your employer and the government cannot ignore. It understands the work you do, and the problems you face and, of course, the more members UCU has, the more effective the support and protection we offer will be.

Answers to frequently asked questions are given below. Please contact the HWUCU office if you have any additional questions or require further information about Heriot Watt UCU.

Why should I join if I get all the benefits anyway?

HWUCU advice, representation and other benefits are only available to fully paid-up HWUCU members. While non-union staff get the benefits won by HWUCU members, they do not get an opportunity to have input to any debate on the issues being negotiated. HWUCU’s bargaining achievements are based on its membership strength, so the more people who join, the more HWUCU can achieve.

What have trade unions ever achieved?

Most of the gains made in the workplace are down to unions. As a member of a union, it is not just you but with other working people we can exert collective strength to protect and promote working conditions. Without unions there would never have been paid holidays, superannuation schemes, equal opportunities or health and safety legislation. Without the constant work of unions there would be no annual pay rise, nor preferential pension schemes. Unions offer a voice at work, expert advice and information and protection.

Members of the HWUCU committee meet with senior university managers at least once a semester to discuss issues raised by members. During restructuring these meetings were far more frequent. Determined work by committee members meant that compulsory redundancy was avoided at both Edinburgh and Scottish borders campuses.

Won’t joining the trade union damage my career prospects?

No. Trade union membership is a right. As UCU offers protection in the workplace, not joining is far more likely to damage your future career if something does go wrong. UCU can also help you to develop your career. We offer conferences on topical issues such as online learning, governance and the globalisation of the profession. We strive for fair and transparent promotion procedures. We have a network of union learning representatives pressing for better staff development.

Will I have to take industrial action if I join?

Industrial action is only taken as a last resort, and cannot take place without the consent of a majority of UCU members via a secret postal ballot. Most situations are resolved via expert UCU negotiations, supported by UCU members, long before the threat, let alone the use of industrial action is required.

I am on a fixed-term contract, why should I join?

Staff on fixed-term contracts are vulnerable, especially at the beginning and end of a contract, or if your contract is very short and is likely to be renewed or extended. UCU can represent and advise you. Information provided by the UCU is often not provided by employers. What happens when your contract ends? What are your rights? Members of the UCU are campaigning for all university staff to have open-ended contracts – the UCU believes this is best for everyone involved. Our ability to campaign and negotiate at the local level depends on active membership interest and participation. It is extremely difficult to negotiate effectively on behalf of a group of staff who are not members.

Things are difficult in my department right now, I dread Monday mornings but I can’t really talk about the situation I’m in with my colleagues. Can UCU help me?

 If you are a member, the union can take up your case and you can get free legal advice if that is necessary. Please note:

  • There is a 90 day membership qualifying period for access to UCU advice and representation.
  • Employment issues which pre-date UCU membership registration, or occur during the 90 day qualifying period, are not eligible for legal assistance.

Please don’t wait until it is too late to have access to expert advice.

I can’t afford to join, but I’ll think about it.

UCU membership ranges from under £3 to around £25 per calendar month depending on earnings.  UCU negotiators regularly achieve annual pay increases higher than the employers’ original offer and this easily covers the subscription rate.

But the real question is: can you afford not to be a member? Not to have a say in the way your school / department and indeed institution is run; not to have access to expert advice, up-to-date information and guidance; not to have access to representation, including legal representation, if things do go wrong? UCU can only help you if you are a member.

Join UCU online today