Socialist Worker

Anger at UCU leadership - but action has created a union that can fight off attacks

by Sadie Robinson
Issue No. 2599

A defiant picket line at Queen Mary University of London, during previous strikes

A defiant picket line at Queen Mary University of London, during previous strikes (Pic: Guy Smallman)


UCU members at several universities were set to start a five-day strike on Monday 16 April if the latest offer on pensions is rejected.

Workers at Bangor University were set to begin a three-day strike on the same day.

Bosses have repeatedly claimed there could be no compromising on their plan for a defined contribution scheme.

Yet solid strikes forced them to come up with new offers.

And, if the strikes continue and grow, workers can throw out the whole assault. Future strikes could be even bigger as Unison union members prepare to ballot for strikes over the same issue.

Unison is recommending a Yes vote for strikes.

The bosses’ offer to settle the dispute commits employers and the union to setting up an “expert panel” to look at how the pension scheme should operate in the future.

The wording, complete with references to “affordability challenges”, wrongly accepts the idea that there’s a deficit in the scheme.

Many union members are angry at how the union leadership has presented the offer and the alternatives to it.

A number of UCU branches have signed a letter to general secretary Sally Hunt, president Joanna de Groot and official Paul Cottrell.

They say union leaders gave workers “incorrect information” that meant workers couldn’t make a “free and fully informed decision”.

Choice

Hunt told workers they had a choice between accepting the offer or fighting for a “no detriment” position—and painted “no detriment” as unrealistic.

Yet many branches have backed a “revise and resubmit” position and called for more negotiations to win guarantees on the scheme.

The bosses’ offer gives them time to regroup, and come back on the offensive when they are in a stronger position.

Yet the strikes have created a stronger, more dynamic union.

Carlo Morelli is on the union’s national executive committee and a UCU member at Dundee university.

He told Socialist Worker, “This dispute has galvanised people like never before.

“We need a settlement that secures pensions for all members. The UUK offer fails to provide that and instead sets us on the pathway for a further dispute.”

Carlo said workers need a deal that is “clear and unambiguous—and doesn’t cost more or give us less”.

The only way to win that is to keep the pressure on bosses through strikes, now or in the future.

The universities set to begin a five-day strike on Monday are Brunel, Cranfield, Leeds, Loughborough, Manchester, Ruskin, Salford, Southampton, St Andrews, and Cardiff. Bangor is set to strike 16, 17 and 19 April. UCU London Region is holding an open meeting, "What next after the e-ballot?", Monday 16 April, 6pm, UCL Cruciform Lecture Theatre 2, Gower Street, Bloomsbury, London WC1E 6BT. For details go to facebook.com/events/1882110245413756/

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