The UCU union goes into its Congress this weekend in the midst of several national disputes and on the back of a national strike on 24 March.
The union has also played a vital role in preparations for joint strikes in June (see left).
Since March’s strike, however, things have moved on considerably.
The scale of our employers’ offensive is becoming clear.
Management at London Met are turning the university into a laboratory for attacks on working class education.
A number of other colleges and universities have been forced to defend themselves against bosses’ offensives: among them Conel, Leeds, Dundee, Sheffield, Newcastle and Barnsley.
The employers are also taking a very hard line in the USS pension dispute in pre‑1992 universities.
After threatening UCU negotiators with high court action and bankruptcy, they have imposed massive cuts to the scheme. Members will lose thousands of pounds.
The left in the union has argued that all these attacks are linked—and that the way to fight them is to escalate action as part of a wider defence of education.
Some in the leadership of UCU, however, are prepared to give ground to the employers on key aspects of the pensions dispute and want to reballot members.
They have missed an opportunity to hit back at the employers by calling off a planned strike on 24 May.
The necessary escalation of this dispute must be on the basis of resisting moves to introduce a two-tier scheme and to shift the basis for calculating pensions from RPI to the usually lower CPI.
This is important for the wider defence of public sector pensions.
Some leading figures in the union are also reluctant to develop a national campaign over jobs.
At Congress, members will need to reassert their desire for a concerted fight to defend education and, in the process, reaffirm the role of democratic decision-making within the union.
For more on UCU disputes and strike ballots go to www.socialistworker.co.uk//art.php?id=24895