UCU general secretary Sally Hunt explicitly told a meeting of branch officers on Friday of last week that our union will join coordinated strikes in June to defend our pensions.
Hunt was clear that the lecturers’ union will mobilise our members for the strike and that she will personally attend UCU picket lines on the day.
This is welcome news—and UCU members should do their utmost to turn such encouraging words into concrete reality.
However, the situation in the pre-92 universities is at a critical stage. The Employers’ Pension Forum last week railroaded through massively detrimental changes to the Universities Superannuation Scheme (USS).
They include a move away from a final salary scheme to a Career Average Revalued Earnings (CARE) pension.
This will lead to considerably smaller pensions.
The employers have ignored the UCU’s objections, refused to negotiate, and delayed until the summer to weaken our possible action.
UCU now has to decide how to respond.
All in the union understand that we need to escalate our industrial action in order to effectively combat this imposition.
Unfortunately, some in the leadership believe that we should delay any such response and instead reballot our members for a fresh mandate.
This would be a desperate mistake—as was last week’s decision to call off strikes planned for 24 May.
It demobilises our members at precisely the time the employers have consolidated their attacks.
It is also likely that our negotiators’ last minute concessions, principally on accepting the move to a CARE scheme, gave confidence to the employers to impose their preferred plans.
It was a sign of weakness that the employers have exploited.
Such unilateral compromises are not subject to membership debate and decision and we need to withdraw them.
We should escalate our action on the basis of our existing mandate and a rejection of a two-tier pension scheme.
That resistance should start with ensuring that pre-92 USS members join the strike in June and start preparing now for escalating action at the start of the autumn term.