The UCU union held a special conference on higher education (HE) last week with over 100 delegates attending from universities across Britain. The conference was called in response to the employers’ threats to abandon national bargaining.
This sets minimum pay and conditions in higher education and the threat to abandon it seeks to encourage a race to the bottom.
The employers have said they would stick to national bargaining – but only if all unions in higher education accept “single table” bargaining.
This would mean the abandonment of separate negotiating bodies for the different unions in HE.
Alongside this are proposals to undermine the UCU’s ability to organise industrial action in the form of a “disputes procedure”.
The conference recognised that the key to defending our pay and conditions lies with the ability of the UCU to negotiate for its members, regardless of whether this takes place in single table or multiple table bargaining forums.
The conference also saw that the disputes procedure is to all intents and purposes a no strike agreement and that this was not acceptable.
These arguments, put forward by the UCU Left, were taken up by virtually everyone, including national officials.
The UCU now has a mandate to initiate a national campaign – including industrial action – if employers abandon national bargaining.