Socialist Worker

UCU congress to reflect a transformed union after an historic year

by Lesley McGorrigan, UCU national executive committee member
Issue No. 2606

UCU members on strike at Queen Mary University during the pensions walkouts

UCU members on strike at Queen Mary University during the pensions walkouts (Pic: Guy Smallman)

The University and College Union (UCU) will hold its annual congress in Manchester this week.

This year has been the most significant in UCU’s history.

Members in the higher education (HE) sector have been transformed by the dynamic 14-day USS pension strike.

The action stopped the imposition of a defined benefit pension scheme.

This momentous action has helped to inspire members in the further education (FE) sector where strikes are now underway in various colleges over pay and job cuts.

And they are starting to win. Bradford College UCU’s recent threat of a strike fought off 71 compulsory redundancies.

Sandwell College’s strike in Birmingham won a pay rise that beat the bosses’ recommended 1 percent.


This tide of activism has resulted in thousands of new members for UCU.

People want to join a union when it takes serious action and wins victories.

Many activists know we could have won further guarantees for the HE pensions if the left had greater influence within our elected leadership bodies.

The union general secretary Sally Hunt did not use her access to resources to campaign for members to continue the strikes.

The optimism of the strikes has fed into the congress agenda which contains motions pushing for more democracy, transparency and member-led structures.

We need to tackle the marketisation, pay erosion, casualisation and discrimination.

This sort of change is crucial if we are to fight back against everything that blights working life and students’ education in our universities and colleges.

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Article information

Tue 29 May 2018, 13:02 BST
Issue No. 2606
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