Socialist Worker

Build strike votes in the universities

by Sophie Squire
Issue No. 2778

Rallying on Tuesday

Rallying on Tuesday (Pic: UCU on Twitter)


University workers across Britain in the UCU union have been working hard to get the highest possible vote for strikes over two separate but linked disputes.

The first dispute is around pensions.

Workers will have their pensions slashed by over 30 percent if employer body UUK is allowed to savage the current University Superannuation Scheme (USS).

The second dispute is over casual contracts, a real term pay rise, workload and equal pay.

Over 150 higher ­education institutions are ­balloting for either or both disputes.

Strikes will go ahead in any individual institution where the turnout ­requirements are met.

Branch

Carlo Morelli UCU Dundee university branch co-chair told Socialist Worker how he and other members of this branch are getting the vote out.

“We’ve been emailing members three times a week. And we have emailed out materials about the ballot itself. Texting members has also worked.

“We went from a 5 ­percent response rate to texts at the start of the week to a 15 percent response rate.

“It’s no surprise not ­everyone opens or responds to their emails, as increased workloads means that they are already swamped with them. These methods aren’t only useful for getting people to vote. They are useful for recording just how many people have actually voted.”

“Already we think about 25 percent of members have voted.

“This is around the same at this point if not more than what we have got in previous ballots.”

Turnout

The Tories’ anti-trade union laws mean that unions must reach a 50 percent ­turnout to move forward with strikes. But Carlo remains optimistic.

“There is a way to go to get over the threshold in terms of turnout, but if branches stick to the get the vote out techniques, then we will have enough votes to strike.”

“Protests and rallies will also be an essential part of building up support for the strikes.

On Tuesday of this week, the UCU organised a Get the Vote Out rally at the Senate house building in central London.

The date of the protest marked the exact halfway point of the balloting window.

Speakers included UCU general secretary Jo Grady and CWU union general ­secretary Dave Ward.

Pushing hard to get the vote out is vital. Beginning strikes before the Christmas holidays has the power to hit university bosses hardest.

It will take sustained action, and appeals for solidarity from students and other unions, to win.

For a list of institutions and the ballots they are holding, go here

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