Socialist Worker

National strike on the cards as 125,000 university workers begin ballots

by Sadie Robinson
Issue No. 2671

Pickets during 14 days of strikes by UCU members in 2018

Pickets during 14 days of strikes by UCU members in 2018 (Pic: Guy Smallman)


Around 125,000 UCU union members in universities across Britain are balloting for strikes over pay, pensions and conditions.

The ballot could see nationwide strikes later in the year.

Workers across 147 institutions are fighting over pay, workloads, casualisation and equality.

And at 69 of those, over 52,000 workers are also balloting for strikes to defend their USS pension scheme. There were 14 days of strikes to defend USS pensions last year.

But union leaders called off the action, and workers are now paying more for their pensions.

Meanwhile, the UCU says university workers’ pay has dropped by 21 percent in real terms over the last decade.

Carlo Morelli is president of UCU Scotland. He told Socialist Worker, “I think there will be overwhelming votes for action.

“The question is what the turnouts will be.

“But we have shown that we can beat the Tories’ 50 percent turnout threshold before—and we can do it again.”

Union members are organising Get The Vote Out campaigns in their departments and calling meetings.

Many university workers will be furious at the gender pay gap and the fact that so many people are stuck on insecure, temporary contracts.

The ballot is a chance to galvanise that anger into action. Carlo said, “It’s important to stress that this is not just about our pay.

“It’s about casualisation, inequality and the way that people are treated across the sector too.

“We should also link our ballots to the climate strikes on 20 September. Everyone who comes out then will vote yes in the ballots.

“These are not separate struggles.”

The ballots end on 30 October.

The Tories are in deep crisis but so far the organised trade unions have failed to take advantage of their weakness.

National strikes could start to transform the atmosphere in Britain—and give the Tories and the bosses a bloody nose.


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