Tens of thousands of university workers are set to strike next week over pensions—and further strikes are coming over pay and equalities. The UCU union members are fighting in two related disputes. One is over cuts to the USS pension scheme, the other over pay, workloads, casualisation and equalities—known as the “four fights”.
UCU member Peta from Liverpool told Socialist Worker that the branch was planning mass pickets every day of the strikes. “During our local strike against redundancies, our pickets were relatively small because of Covid,” said Peta.
“Now we will build them as big as possible. Different departments have also organised a programme of teach outs, and we are having a big demonstration next Friday. We’ve invited the UCU branch from Liverpool John Moores. They unfortunately didn’t reach the ballot turnout threshold dictated by the anti-trade union laws by just a handful of votes.”
Despite the wishes of rank and file union members, UCU leaders insist that, for the most part, workers will strike over the two disputes separately.
Workers at 44 universities plan to strike over pensions for five days from Monday of next week. And -workers from both disputes will come together for a two-day strike from Monday 21 February. Walkouts over the four fights at 63 universities are set for 28 February and 1 and 2 March.
Peta said, “It was ridiculous that we aren’t all going out at the same time. When branches were asked, they were broadly against decoupling the disputes.
“Members at the branch delegate meeting also were clear that we should fight for pensions and the four fights together. That shows the lack of democracy within the union and how often the bureaucracy is just paying lip service to members. The top of the union has presented the USS as the more important dispute. This does nothing for the unity of workers.”
The walkouts are backed by continuing action short of a strike, which is causing major disruption to university schedules.
Bosses are now threatening to dock the pay of workers who join the action. The University of Birmingham threatened to dock 50 percent of workers’ pay, if they refuse to reschedule lectures or don’t circulate materials on lectures missed.
Students are set unite with university strikers on the NUS student union’s Student Strike for Education on Wednesday 2 March. The strike will demand “higher and further education to be funded by governments —free at the point of use for students—with proper pay, pensions and conditions for staff across education.”
Disputes at Goldsmiths university and the Royal College of Art in London are also a crucial part of the battle.
Members of the UCU should use every opportunity to escalate strikes and bring the two national disputes together.
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