A potential strike by huge numbers of public sector workers to defend pensions moved a step closer last week.
A special conference of higher education lecturers in the UCU union voted overwhelmingly to ballot for industrial action.
They are fighting the threat to jobs, education provision and the attack on the university pension scheme.
The NUT teachers’ union has already announced plans to ballot its members over pensions in the new year. Both unions could now coordinate strikes and other action.
Other public sector unions such as Unite and the PCS could also ballot.
There will be two UCU ballots that will run simultaneously—one on jobs and one on pensions. They will arrive in the same envelope. The ballots will begin on 20 January.
At a time when education is under severe attack, a national ballot to save jobs is an important step forward.
Management want to cut university budgets by slashing jobs and reducing the cost of pensions. That’s why the two ballots are closely linked.
There needs to be an effective campaign for a “Yes” vote in both ballots.
The employers will use different methods for their attack on jobs. Some will announce compulsory redundancies, others will look for voluntary redundancies.
Some will use “natural wastage”, refusing to fill empty posts when people retire or leave, to cut back.
Every one of these cuts damages the quality of education and the conditions for those who are left behind.
Lecturers should fight to save every job, not just to resist compulsory redundancies.
That is the way to defend the right of all students to a decent education, and to save courses that are under threat.
NUT members should meet and pass motions backing their union executive’s decision to ballot on pensions. They should join with their students to fight against the fee hike, and the privatisation of universities.
Public sector workers in other unions should call on their leaders to join this fight.