Socialist Worker

University workers fight a wave of new attacks

by Sadie Robinson
Issue No. 2711

UCU union members held a socially-distanced protest outside bosses’ HQ earlier this month

UCU union members held a socially-distanced protest outside bosses’ HQ earlier this month (Pic: Guy Smallman)

UCU union members in ­universities and colleges across Britain are fighting a swathe of attacks on jobs and pay.

More than 500 people joined a virtual rally on Thursday of last week, called by union members in four branches. 

It took place as other workers held a socially-distanced protest outside the bosses’ ­headquarters in central London.

Workers described how they are organising to resist cuts.

Sandy, Unison union branch secretary at Soas, said planned cuts threatened one in four ­support staff. “Our branch meeting last week unanimously voted to start balloting for industrial action,” he said.

Linda, the chair of the UCU at Roehampton university, said bosses there want to make cuts of £4.5 billion. 

“Staff were sent letters asking them to take a voluntary pay cut,” she said. “Staff are quite angry. This is going to impact on people who have been disadvantaged—BME workers, women, disabled staff.”

She said UCU members want to take industrial action if the issue isn’t resolved.

And at Croydon College, UCU members have voted in favour of strikes if bosses push through any compulsory redundancies.

Many workers described plans for savage cuts.


At Reading university, bosses want workers to agree voluntary cuts of 20 percent and job cuts of up to 500 full time equivalent posts. President of Reading UCU Deepa warned, “The university has a nuclear option which is to fire all of us and rehire us on ­inferior terms.”

UCU president Vicky Blake said bosses were using the “cover of the pandemic” to push through attacks. 

But she said the real ­problem is the “marketised model of education”.

“We have to coordinate ­resistance,” she said. “Every institution that is hit by cuts is going to be engaged in a local battle. But we have to see those battles as part of a coordinated attack on our sector as a whole.

“We’re only going to get through this if we all stick together. All of these battles are part of a war that is being waged on education.”

UCU general secretary Jo Grady failed to attend the rally, instead sending a video message.

Peter from South Thames College group said he was “disappointed that our union nationally is not doing more to support this”.

“The general secretary has come on with a video clip,” he said. “We deserve more than that.”

Resisting attacks on jobs, pay and education will have to come from the bottom up. Grassroots organising can also put pressure on the national union to do more.

Roddy from Imperial College London said, “If our union just lifted its little finger, we would be able to do a hell of a lot better. 

“We can score a victory if we can mobilise the resources of our union behind every branch facing attacks." 

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