The lecturers’ UCU union is preparing to ballot all of its members in higher education (HE) for strikes.
The ballot, over pay and job security, could begin in September and strikes could take place on 20 October—the day of the government’s spending review.
Education is under attack and the fightback has begun. So far strikes have mostly been limited to individual universities, so a ballot of all HE members would be a significant step forward.
It is disappointing, however, that UCU general secretary Sally Hunt has sent a letter to members that includes an invitation to members asking for their opinion on campaigning prior to a ballot.
This could be seen as a consultative ballot.
The UCU congress this year voted for an industrial action ballot on pay and jobs.
This decision was backed up at a recent higher education committee—which rejected a consultative ballot.
Sally Hunt’s letter has been sent prior to any campaigning material making a case for why the ballot is important.
It is also being sent as lecturers begin their summer holidays, raising questions about how many will respond.
Tom Hickey, from the UCU national executive committee, told Socialist Worker, “This ballot is crucial. Its outcome will determine whether there is any official, national action by the UCU against the assault on HE and the government’s attempt to restore the narrow, elitist character of universities.
“The government’s plans could mean 30,000 job losses, university closures and amalgamations, the end of academic governance, and the creation of private institutions to teach courses validated and accredited at a distance.
“Separately, there is a battle to be fought over pensions.
“This is the most critical moment in the UCU’s short life. Unless we fight now we will seriously weaken our union’s ability to resist the coming onslaught.”
The UCU should implement conference decisions and bend every muscle to win a big yes vote for strikes.