Workers in 37 UCU union branches are reballoting for strikes. The branches voted overwhelmingly for walkouts in initial ballots, but failed to meet the Tories’ 50 percent turnout threshold for legal strikes.
The reballots end on 28 January. They follow a stunning day eight-day strike by union members across 60 universities in November and December last year.
Workers are engaged in two disputes. One is to defend their USS pension scheme and ensure that members don’t pay higher contributions or get less when they retire.
The other is to fight for a real terms pay rise and improvements to contracts and workload.
At a special conference last month, UCU members voted for a further 14 days of strikes to defend the USS scheme from 20 February.
The union’s Higher Education Committee (HEC) will meet on 30 January to consider the next steps in the dispute. UCU general secretary Jo Grady said the HEC will “have very serious regard” to the special conference decision. But she added that the vote only relates to USS, and has urged branches to discuss what they want to happen in the pay dispute.
Activists are organising to pass a motion calling on the union to implement the decision made at the special conference and name more dates for strikes.
The motion also says that strikes over pay should “continue to escalate simultaneously with action over USS”.
Talks were set to take place between the union, USS and bosses’ Universities UK on Wednesday.
They are the first of five planned days of talks scheduled throughout January to discuss “reform” of the USS pension scheme.
It’s good that strikes have pushed the bosses into talks. But the union should stand firm on its position of “no detriment” and resist any changes that would see workers get a worse deal.
Further hard hitting action, on all aspects of the disputes, is the only way to push the bosses back.