Socialist Worker

Fight over pensions to win on pay

by Tom Hickey, UCU national executive committee (pc)
Issue No. 2306

Debates on lecturers’ USS pension scheme in the pre-1992 universities, and on our 2012-13 pay claim will be central to the higher education sector conference.

The USS dispute has a direct impact on members’ confidence to fight on pay this year.

The employers have made no concessions over USS in the five months that our action has been suspended.

If conference does not vote for immediate action it will be a signal to employers, and members, that the union has thrown in the towel.

A reinvigorated campaign must reimpose the work-to-contract immediately.

It must also build for escalating strikes in conjunction with other public sector pensions campaigns.

On pay, the employers have offered a 1 percent rise.

It’s the sixth year we have received a below-inflation offer. Lecturers have now lost between a fifth and a quarter of their real income.

Will delegates reject the offer and instruct union negotiators to campaign vigorously and recommend a no vote? The danger is a ballot without a recommendation. This could allow despondency over pensions to determine the result.

UCU needs a campaign for a no vote now. From September we need a campaign for industrial action in an October ballot.

The conference will also debate fees and staffing, performance management and student feedback.

Delegates will discuss workloads and casualisation, research funding, and outsourcing, privatisation, marketisation and the defence of academic freedom.

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