By Sophie Squire
Downloading PDF. Please wait... Issue 2788

Bigger national strikes possible in universities after reballot results

Now union leaders must swiftly escalate the struggle
Issue 2788
Six pickets with UCU union placardsplacards

Strikers at the London School of Economics in December (Pic: Guy Smallman)

More university workers can join a second wave of strikes against attacks on pensions and for better pay, conditions and equalities.

UCU union branches that didn’t reach the 50 percent turnout threshold that anti-union laws impose on strike ballots have been reballoting.

After the results, released on Monday and Tuesday, seven more branches can strike over cuts to the USS pension scheme and nine more branches can take action over the four fights dispute.

Workers at 58 universities struck for three days in December as part of two ­connected disputes.

The first is over cuts to the USS pension scheme. The second is over equal pay, casual contracts, ­workload and a real term pay rise, together known as the “four fights”.

UCU members at City university of London, Newcastle university, Queen Mary and Swansea university voted to take action over both disputes.

The Courtauld Institute of Art, University of Leicester and Strathclyde university all voted to join the USS fight.

And Northumbria university, Oxford Brookes, the university of creative arts (UCA), the university of Westminster and Writtle university college all voted to take up the four fights dispute.

Joseph from the University of Leicester told Socialist Worker how he and other branch members worked to get the vote out.

“Last time, we were six votes short of being able to strike over USS. This time we passed the threshold,” he said.

“We held reps’ meeting and sent out regular emails and texts and made a political argument that we needed escalate action.

“We did everything we did last time, just better.”

At a meeting organised by UCU Left on Monday, activists spoke about where next for the dispute.

Roddy from Imperial College told the meeting that university workers are now in a “strong position to fight.”

“Our opponents, the Tories, are in a terrible situation, and so we are in a stronger position than we were in,” he said.

Activists on the call argued for the need to escalate strikes and to keep the two disputes together at all costs.

The NUS student union has called a student strike for education on 2 March, which could coincide with strikes.

The only way to win better pensions, pay and conditions is to escalate.

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