Members of the UCU union in the higher education sector have rejected proposed changes to national negotiating structures. Over 60 percent voted no on a turnout of 27 percent.
The new structures would have meant a major restriction on the ability of UCU members to take industrial action, which is why many left wing activists campaigned to reject the deal.
The deal would also have cemented “single table bargaining”, where employers would bargain simultaneously with representatives from all the different unions. The employers claimed that accepting the deal would have guaranteed national bargaining for three years.
Activists on the left support both single table bargaining and national bargaining – but would not be blackmailed into accepting a deal which would weaken the union.
Sally Hunt, UCU’s general secretary, said, “It’s clear that while our members remain committed to national bargaining, they have major concerns about the restrictions placed upon UCU’s ability to take industrial action.”
UCU activists called for a special sector conference to fully debate the way forward, but the proposal was voted down by one vote at an executive meeting last Friday. Activists are now demanding that employers reopen negotiations.
“If the employers refuse to negotiate we could call a dispute,” said Malcolm Povey, an executive member. “The ball is in our court now and the union is in a very strong position.”