Activists in the UCU universities union have pushed overwhelmingly to take bolder action than their general secretary, Jo Grady, wanted.
Workers at 59 institutions voted to strike in two separate but related disputes.
But the union’s membership met Grady’s strategy for strikes with anger and frustration at meetings last week.
Union leaders proposed that workers only take one day of strikes before Christmas for each dispute.
They also said that reballoting to add new universities to those already striking should be limited to those who got a 40 percent turnout in a previous ballot.
The plan also proposed separating the two disputes.
Hundreds of branch delegates met twice last Friday to vote down these plans that would severely weaken strikes.
The meetings split the disputes. One meeting focused on USS. The other was on the four fights—better pay, reduced workload, opposition to casualisation, and closing the disability, gender and ethnic pay gaps.
One UCU activist told Socialist Worker, “It became clear in Friday’s meeting that UCU members are not in a mood to accept Jo Grady’s plan.
“Speaker after speaker spoke of the need for serious strikes before Christmas combined with immediate reballoting.
“Not a single delegate reported anything but hostility to decoupling the two disputes. Members understand the need for maximum unity and want to take action on all the issues the union is fighting over simultaneously.
“A number of branches had passed a motion circulated by UCU Left calling for a rejection of Grady’s proposal and for five days of joint strikes in both disputes this term.
“Members have shown that they have far more determination and willingness to fight than their leaders.”
There was also anger that speakers from ongoing local disputes weren’t called at the branch delegates’ meeting.
UCU members were right to reject Grady’s plan as it would have made winning much harder. And the vote has shown that there is a mood to fight back in the union. Again, this is a credit to activists on the ground, not those at the top of the union.
Strike dates had not been announced as Socialist Worker went to press.
Every UCU activist should push hard for more strike days and for every branch that didn’t reach the 50 percent threshold to be reballoted.
Previous strikes have shown that the only way to win is by escalating action to hit the bosses hard.
University workers at the Royal College of Art entered their fourth and final week of strikes on Monday.
UCU union members at the university, who are largely on casualised contracts, have been striking over heavy workloads, insecure contracts and other inequalities.
And UCU members at the university of Sheffield are continuing the fight against the universities’ plans to close the archaeology department.
Thousands of staff and students have written letters to the university and tens of thousands more have signed a petition against the cut.
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