Socialist Worker

Step up universities fight after rotten deal rejected

by Carlo Morelli, UCU Scotland president, (personal capacity)
Issue No. 2716

The Four Fights issues were central to strikes earlier this year

The Four Fights issues were central to strikes earlier this year (Pic: Guy Smallman)


Workers in the UCU union across the higher education sector have voted to reject the employers’ offer to end the “four fights” dispute.

The vote was 61 percent to reject, 39 percent to accept.

This is a fantastic and remarkable vote after 22 days of strikes before Christmas last year and during February and March this year.

The Covid-19 pandemic which closed universities led to the halting of the dispute. But despite this members have overwhelming rejected this settlement.

University workers are being threatened with mass redundancies. Already thousands of casual staff on hourly paid and fixed term contracts are losing their jobs.

Those on permanent contracts face compulsory redundancies, pay cuts and ­re-employment on worse terms and conditions.

The list of universities affected grows daily but already includes Sheffield, SOAS, Heriot-Watt, Liverpool, Reading, Roehampton and Goldsmiths.

Income

British universities are expecting falls of 50 percent in international student fee income. Conference income has dried up, student accommodation remains empty and students are demanding refunds for untaught courses.

These instabilities are all due to the marketisation of higher education since the introduction of student fees.

The dispute in 2019-20 was in response to the other side of marketisation—a ­prolonged onslaught on pay and conditions of staff. A third of teaching and research staff are on casualised contracts. Excessive workloads led to a wave of health problems and burnout.

Institutionalised race and gender discrimination is rife while pay has been in decline since 2006. The Four Fights campaign was designed to tackle these problems.

Now members have refused to accept employers’ attempts to further intensify the problems the campaign revealed with divide and rule tactics.

The ballot result is also a ­critique of the union ­leadership’s woefully inadequate response to the crisis. The leadership has openly criticised the 22 days of Britain-wide strikes, suggesting alternatives are possible yet have failed to provide any.

Worse still, union ­leaders have put forward a “Jobs First” agenda that will trade off pay and conditions for promises of job security.

UCU members now have to organise to ensure solidarity is provided to all branches resisting cuts.

Already a new Solidarity Movement is organising physical socially distanced protests for Thursday 13 August in response to the cuts at universities.


Jobs battle vote at Soas

Around 650 UCU and Unison union members at Soas university in central London are preparing to vote on strikes over attacks on their jobs.

University bosses are threatening hundreds of redundancies.

The Unison ballot was set to open on Tuesday this week.

UCU members are due to start voting on 10 September.

An online consultative ballot over the summer gives workers confidence they can win the argument for walkouts.

“I’m fairly confident with a bit of work we will win the ballot,” Sandy Nicoll, Soas Unison branch secretary, told Socialist Worker.

Jobs battle vote at SOAS

Around 650 UCU and Unison union members at Soas university in central London are preparing to vote on strikes over attacks on their jobs.

University bosses are threatening hundreds of redundancies.

The Unison ballot opened on Tuesday this week.

UCU members are due to start voting on 17 August.

An online consultative ballot over the summer gives workers confidence they can win the argument for walkouts.

“I’m fairly confident with a bit of work we will win the ballot,” Sandy Nicoll, Soas Unison branch secretary, told Socialist Worker.

“Unless Soas backs down on compulsory redundancies, I’m confident we can get a strong Yes vote and will strike in September,” he said.

Workers are demanding that management commit to no compulsory redundancies.


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