Socialist Worker

University workers push for struggle at special union conference

by Sadie Robinson
Issue No. 2609

University workers debate how to change their union at a grassroots meeting in London last month

University workers debate how to change their union at a grassroots meeting in London last month (Pic: UCU London Region)

UCU union members were set to attend a special higher education sector conference in Manchester on Thursday.

Some 20 UCU branches held quorate general meetings to demand the conference, which will discuss the USS pensions dispute.

The dispute saw workers in over 60 older universities strike for 14 days to defend their USS pension scheme. The action regenerated the union—and forced bosses to retreat from an immediate plan to turn the scheme into a defined contribution scheme.

But UCU general secretary Sally Hunt encouraged workers to back a deal that fails to give guarantees on the long term future of the scheme. Instead it set up a Joint Expert Panel (JEP) to look at the scheme’s future.

Workers are fighting for ordinary UCU members to have more say in what happens to the scheme, and for more transparency in the JEP.

One motion instructs the union to establish a “standing meeting of HE delegates to scrutinise the work of the JEP”. Another resolves to put all materials submitted to or produced by the JEP “into the public domain immediately”.


One motion calls for the resignation of the USS chief executive officer. Another instructs the UCU to “organise an industrial action ballot” if workers face cuts in their pension or increased contributions.

The fact that the special conference is taking place reflects the widespread anger among UCU members at how union leaders have handled the dispute. It also shows that many workers want to fight to shape the dispute and transform their union.

UCU members also plan to lobby the union’s national executive committee meeting in central London on Friday from 10am. The lobby was decided at a meeting of UCU congress delegates and activists in London earlier this month.

This kind of grassroots organising will be key in making sure workers defend their pensions, pay and conditions—and hold union leaders to account.

College workers win pay rise after series of strikes

UCU union members at Hackney College and Tower Hamlets College have won a pay rise after strikes.

Workers held several walkouts as part of a series of strikes over pay by UCU members in further education colleges.

New City College bosses have now agreed a deal that gives staff £800—a one-off payment of £400 and a £400 annual pay rise.

Hourly-paid workers at Hackney College will also be moved onto the teachers’ pay spine. The deal represents around a 3 percent pay rise this year for the highest paid workers. For lower paid workers, it is an above?inflation pay deal.

Hull College strike wins guarantees from bosses 

The UCU union suspended a planned five-day strike at Hull College Group after reaching a deal with bosses.

Workers at the group’s three colleges in Hull, Goole and Harrogate had been due walk out on Monday.

They struck for three days in May in a fight against a restructure that put 231 full time equivalent jobs at risk.

A joint statement by management and the union said they would seek “to complete the restructure without the need for “compulsory redundancy”.

Strikes, and the threat of escalating strikes, forced bosses to negotiate. They can also block attempts to make cuts in the future.

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