Socialist Worker

Lecturers: vote no to the deal

by Mark Campbell, UCU branch secretary, London Metropolitan University (pc)
Issue No. 2005

Lecturers are determined to win better pay (Pic: Guy Smallman)

Lecturers are determined to win better pay (Pic: Guy Smallman)


Union leaders last week suspended the lecturers’ action over pay after receiving a “new” offer from managers.

There is huge anger over this. Lecturers feel that we have been sold short and that we should keep on fighting.

The offer is practically identical to the 13.1 percent over three years that the leadership rightly rejected just a week before this “new” offer of 13.1 percent (with the possibility of negotiation in the third year) was put out to ballot.

This disgraceful offer barely covers inflation, let alone dealing with the pay discrepancy. It is unlikely to acheive the union’s aim of catching up with pay in similar professions.

People are angry that this offer has even been put to ballot, with a number of branches passing motions calling for its rejection.

Ballot papers are being sent out this week and we urgently need to argue for a no vote. This offer is far short of the 23 percent over three years that we have been fighting for.

Both the AUT and Natfhe unions, which merged to form UCU, passed motions at their annual conferences this year saying members should only be balloted if an offer that came close to 23 percent was made.

The pay campaign to date has already won an increase beyond what would have been possible without our one day strike in March and subsequent assessment boycott. And we can win more.

We have proved that we will not give in to the bullying tactics of the employers. When the employers attempted to lock out lecturers at Northumbria university they were forced to back down by the threat of all-out action.

Management’s insistence that the action be suspended while a ballot is conducted is designed to make the outcome a foregone conclusion. We have to prove them wrong.

Campaign

It is clear that a no vote in this ballot is a real possibility. The leadership can see this and that’s why they have changed tack. They are now saying “Well what happens next if you vote no?”

We have to answer this with an energetic campaign. We have to say what the next stage of the action should be.

Lecturers are angry with the leadership, and some branches are calling for them to step down. But this ballot is not a referendum on the joint general secretaries.

It is a vote about what we think we can win, and the kind of union that we want UCU to be. It is the first real test for our new union.

We should call for a UCU higher education conference so that delegates from branches across Britain can come together to discuss how to move the campaign forward.

We need to discuss what the action would look like next term.

The action so far has largely not included academic related staff. We need to think about how they can they be involved.

Possibility

If we reject this offer, and that is a real possibility, the employers may impose the deal anyway. However, the the important thing would be that we would still be in dispute. We would be in a position to relaunch our action in the autumn.

We have carried out this stressful action for the last four months.

We have been supported by many students, despite their anxiety, and by the National Union of Students because of the consequences for future students of the marketisation of the sector.

Reports from many universities across Britain show that members’ determination to sustain the action was growing throughout the dispute – especially where they had suffered salary stoppages and threats.

Even where the action has been less solid, lecturers are still bitterly disapointed at this offer. But we have to make the arguments to give members the confidence to vote no.

This is not simply a dispute over pay. This is a dispute over the future of higher education. The employers not only want to pay us less than we deserve, they want lecturers to accept attacks on our terms and conditions as well.

This is not a fight for a symbolic vote. This is about taking on the employers and winning a better deal.


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Sat 17 Jun 2006, 00:00 BST
Issue No. 2005
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