UCU general secretary Jo Grady only very narrowly survived a censure vote on the first day of the union’s annual congress on Wednesday. It was a judgement on the UCU leadership’s handling of six months of battles in universities across Britain.
The debate was held in private, but delegates said the censure vote was defeated only by 116 votes to 101. And another part of the same motion that demanded more union democracy was passed.
Delegates at the UCU congress reported that speakers described the many times that the union leadership had tried to delay their dispute. They had failed to implement decisions made by members at higher education sector conferences, had allowed only short ballot periods in key votes and failed to escalate strikes.
A document Grady sent to members in April, which argued to delay further action for a year was also raised. These betrayals have weakened the battles over pensions, pay, workloads, casualisation and equalities—although delegates were also clear that workers want to keep fighting.
In response, delegates told Socialist Worker, Grady tried to blame other parts of the union, and said she was the daughter of a striking miner in 1984-5. Her main argument was that the union could not fight effectively until it had strengthened its membership and organisation.
But withdrawing from struggle does not build the union—fighting does that. The size of the vote to censure Grady should encourage those who want to see a more democratic and battling union.
Sound 20 universities have launched a marking boycott, despite a lack of backing from the top of the union. And there will also be calls later in the congress for further ballots so that wider action can begin again in September.
Earlier congress passed a motion to oppose the Tories’ Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill, which speakers described as a “systematic attack on minority communities”.
A motion also passed to campaign against the Tories’ anti-trade union laws and stand in solidarity with the RMT union, whose members could be hit with new “minimum service requirement” laws. The congress continues on Friday.
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