Socialist Worker

University workers are ready to get the vote out in strike ballots

by Sadie Robinson
Issue No. 2674

UCU members on strike over pensions at Queen Mary University in London last year

UCU members on strike over pensions at Queen Mary University in London last year (Pic: Guy Smallman)

UCU union members in universities are balloting for strikes over pay, workloads, unequal contracts and pensions.

Activists are running Get The Vote Out campaigns and fighting to get the strongest Yes votes and biggest ­turnouts in the ballots.

Groups of workers are meeting to collectively post their ballot papers. Branches are holding surveys of members to check who has voted and to make sure those who have not yet voted are chased up.

Activists are using, “I’ve voted!” stickers and posters in universities to create a mood around the ­ballots. And UCU general secretary Jo Grady is speaking at meetings across Britain.

The NUS and UCU issued a joint statement this week saying that students stand “shoulder to shoulder” with workers balloting for strikes.

It calls on students to take part in solidarity action to support workers who are fighting back. And it asks students to pressure university bosses to address workers’ concerns.

NUS president Zamzam Ibrahim said, “NUS stands with UCU in the fight for fair pay and pensions, and decent working conditions.”

The ballot over pay, workloads and contracts involves around 125,000 union members across 147 universities. Workers have suffered a real terms pay cut of 21 percent in the last decade. And they are also fed up of contracts that mean women and black and Asian workers earn less.

Grady has pointed out that conditions in universities are much worse than many people may believe. For instance, some 53 percent of university staff are on fixed term and casual contracts.

At 69 of the universities involved in the ballot, workers are also voting for strikes to defend their USS pension scheme.

This is under attack as bosses fight to shift it from a defined benefit scheme to a defined contribution one.

Bosses have already raised contribution levels for workers.

Solid strikes to defend pensions last year showed the potential power that UCU members have—and how strikes can build the union. Activists should go all out to build the Yes votes.

More strikes in Nottingham contract fight

UCU union members at Nottingham College began a fourth week of strikes on Monday in a fight against new, worse contracts.

Workers began a two-day strike on Monday and plan to walk out again on Thursday and Friday.

Next week they are set to strike for five days. The branch has recruited over 100 members since the spring.

Different activities are planned for each day of the strike. Most of the strikers picketing.

Musical instruments brought a high level of noise to all the picket lines on Wednesday of last week.

Richard Buckwell

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