Despite the full weight of the University and College Union’s (UCU) machinery pushing for a yes vote in the higher education pay ballot, over 10,000 lecturers voted no.
After a solid pay campaign over the past four months, with lecturers withholding marks and refusing to set exams, many feel that accepting this deal is a wasted opportunity and that they have been sold short.
On a turnout of 55 percent, 71 percent voted to accept the pay deal of 13.1 percent over three years.
It fails to bridge the gap with comparable professions and offers a pathetic result to the magnificent struggle waged by many thousands of rank and file UCU members.
The majority of members who voted yes will have done so reluctantly.
Many will have done so because they felt the momentum of the campaign had gone once the decision was made to suspend all action prior to the ballot result.
We should take heart from the fact that so many members voted no and were prepared to continue the pay campaign. Also many who voted yes are now loudly demanding an emergency higher education sector conference in the autumn where they can hold the leadership to account.
The campaign to achieve decent higher education funding and pay must continue. This means involving ourselves in the many battles to come, not only to gain an acceptable pay rise but also to win back control and autonomy in our working lives.
There are already struggles in both the further and higher education sectors that demand our immediate attention. The issue of casualisation and the serious plight of fixed term and hourly paid staff – predominantly women – requires attention.
We need a willingness to take concerted industrial action, should it be required, to ensure none of our members are treated with the kind of disdain that many employers now wish to visit on us.
The events of the last few months show it is vital for UCU activists to build UCU Left as a serious rank and file organisation. It must both deliver support for those of us struggling against our employers, and link those struggles to more general political campaigns.
Further education lecturers this week voted by four to one to accept a two-stage pay deal.
Lecturers will be paid 3 percent extra by February 2007.
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