UCU lecturers’ union branches have responded impressively to the call for a special conference in higher education to organise for action in defence of jobs, pay and pensions.
Over the past two weeks staff at nearly 20 universities have voted overwhelmingly to reassert the views of ordinary members. This follows an attempt by some in the union leadership to postpone a ballot over the issues.
As the scale of government cuts becomes clearer, the need for resolute and timely action is being expressed by wider numbers of members.
The case for a special conference has now become unanswerable.
It is vital that this mood continues to be asserted at the branch consultations being held over the next week.
These meetings must be representative if action is to be accepted as imperative by all in the union.
We need to hold meetings in any branch that has not yet debated a strategy for fighting the cuts.
The UCU Left is arguing that to delay action further would ensure that local employers would start implementing cuts before the UCU had started any national action.
That would leave the weakest branches vulnerable to local circumstances and dissipate the union’s strength.
And to separate issues of job protection and pay from the fight to defend pensions would be a strategic mistake.
All these battles need to be fought as part of a general defence of education.
The fight to defend jobs in higher education is the biggest test ever faced by unions in the sector—we need unity across the UCU to rise to this challenge.