Socialist Worker

Angry lecturers' conference votes for autumn action over pension attacks

by Sadie Robinson
Issue No. 2306

Lecturers in the UCU union have voted overwhelmingly to continue the fight to defend their pensions.

Delegates to the union's annual conference in Manchester defied union officials in a series of votes yesterday, Friday.

Alan Whitaker, a former president of the union and member of it's national executive committee, spoke to Socialist Worker after the votes.'The pessimists were trounced and there was quite an optimistic mood in the hall,' he said. 'This has been a good day for the left.'

Lecturers in older universities are in the USS pension scheme while those in newer universities and colleges are in the TPS scheme. The government is attacking both.

Workers in the USS scheme passed an amendment to a motion on pensions instructing the higher education committee (HEC) to 'campaign over the summer for a programme of sustained industrial action in the autumn'.

It also called on the HEC to 'reinstate work to contract with immediate effect'.

Many delegates were angry at UCU general secretary Sally Hunt for failing to lead the fight for their pensions. As one delegate put it, 'conference got a bit feisty today'. Workers in the USS scheme have not struck to defend their pensions since 30 November last year.

Amy, a delegate from the Institute of Education in London, told Socialist Worker that lecturers in her workplace wanted to keep fighting.

'The debates today were polarised between people who wanted to keep negotiating and those who wanted to resume action,' she said.

'People in my union branch feel very strongly about the pensions dispute and voted strongly for action. We feel that there hasn't been enough progress in the negotiations.'

She added, 'It's important we keep working with other unions. Today was important because it located our dispute within a wider defence of public services.'

Lecturers in the TPS scheme struck in London on 28 March and across Britain on 10 May. Sally Hunt argued that the 10 May action was a mistake. She issued a report on the dispute warning against further strikes.

Delegates passed a motion calling on the union's national executive committee to 'to develop and propose to other unions a coordinated programme of escalating strike action in defence of public sector pensions from autumn 2012'.

An amendment calling for UCU to join any public sector industrial action in June was lost although a significant minority of delegates supported it.

A late motion was also passed that called on the national executive committee to work with other unions to organise escalating strikes and a national demonstration.

Mark Campbell, a member of the union's NEC and lecturer at London Metropolitan University told Socialist Worker, 'Lecturers have resoundingly decided to up the ante and continue the fight on pensions. It's notable that when Sally Hunt referred to surveys and indicative ballots, delegates talked about the need for union leaderships to give a lead.

'Lecturers have shown that we are united in going forward in the dispute and that we want to win it.'

There was a buoyant mood at a 170-strong UCU Left meeting after the votes on Friday evening. Left wing Labour MP John McDonnell congratulated workers on their decision to keep fighting the Tories' attacks on pensions.

'The decision you've taken today is absolutely critical,' he told workers. 'You've said 'We won't take it any more and we're willing to fight back'.'

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Article information

Sat 9 Jun 2012, 09:51 BST
Issue No. 2306
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