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20 October 2021

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University workers ballot for strike action in pay and pension disputes

Keele university UCU picket line: Striking UCU members supported by students, Stoke Socialist Party members and NSSN supporters. 21.2.20, photo Andy Bentley

Keele university UCU picket line: Striking UCU members supported by students, Stoke Socialist Party members and NSSN supporters. 21.2.20, photo Andy Bentley   (Click to enlarge)

Bea Gardner, Socialist Party member in UCU

University and College Union (UCU) members in universities are being balloted over whether to take industrial action in two disputes. The first is in defence of the 'USS' pension scheme and the second over pay and pay-related issues - 'the four fights' dispute.

Both ballots will take place on a disaggregated basis, meaning any branch that surpasses the 50% threshold will be able to take part in any industrial action taken.

The anger is there among university workers to deliver a strong mandate for industrial action. The pandemic exacerbated all of the existing issues confronting university workers including unsustainable workloads and chronic work instability. Now university workers face another real-terms pay cut and a decimated pension.

However, the union leadership has been slow to launch and build campaigns in both disputes. This lack of leadership could contribute to branches being unable to hit the required 50% turnout for action, with some members not yet convinced of the strategy for the disputes. Additionally, there is a tight balloting window, with the ballot opening on 18 October and closing less than three weeks later on 4 November.

The short ballot does not automatically mean the union will not hit the 50% turnout threshold required by law, but without a sustained campaign leading up to it, it is much harder for branch activists to get out the 'yes' vote.

The timeframe has been set for tactical reasons, allowing industrial action to be taken this term. In the USS dispute, such action is needed this side of Christmas to cause maximum impact ahead of critical decision points.

However, we would be in a stronger position had the union leadership launched a campaign to prepare for industrial action, as instructed by the UCU higher education sector conference in June.

Despite leadership failings, Socialist Party members will work with branch activists and build the strongest possible 'get the vote out' campaign in the time available. That so many UCU branches have successfully organised and won local ballots during the Covid period shows that a strong turnout is possible.

The decision of what action to take in both disputes and which branches will be called out will be made by a special meeting of the UCU higher education committee on 8 November.

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In The Socialist 20 October 2021:


News

Fight for a socialist recovery

Tories to blame for GP crisis

Container delay carnage makes the case for socialist planning

Socialist nationalisation not bailouts for the bosses


Workplace news

Unite union policy conference

University workers ballot for strike action

Unite and fight for 30,000 permanent DWP jobs

Gwent valleys Stagecoach bus drivers strike for fair pay

Reinstate Gary Evans! Llanelli postal workers strike

Napo AGM 2021: Union placed on war footing

Scunthorpe scaffs strike for pay


People's budgets

People's Budgets - a socialist answer to cruel cuts

Brighton bin workers' victory in sight

Fight to defend homelessness services

Ealing People's Budget - cuts can be resisted

Northampton People's Budget - cuts and privatisation is a failed strategy

Fighting the cuts at the ballot box in Liverpool


Fall of apartheid

The fall of Apartheid in South Africa


Climate change

COP26: Trade unions must fight for a socialist transition to renewables

Save the planet from capitalist climate catastrophe


International

Austria: Chancellor Kurz resigns amid allegations of corruption


Obituary

Obituary - Tony Davison: "I work for Militant, but Laing's pay my wages"


Campaigns

"Are you the socialist cabby?"

Housing crisis: Tories and Labour are not on our side

Liverpool arms fair: Hundreds of protesters defy police 'dispersal zone'

Hackney children's centres - more education cuts are devastating

Biggest protest yet to save Stratford Circus

Doncaster: Vigil condemns violence against women


Readers' opinion

I'm unemployed: For me vacancy crisis is a lie

TV review: Squid Game


 

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Article dated 20 October 2021

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