By Sadie Robinson
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University strikers force union leadership to reject shoddy deal—action is still on

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Issue 2595
Pressure from rank and file members forced the leadership to withdraw the offer
Pressure from rank and file members forced the leadership to withdraw the offer (Pic: Guy Smallman)

University workers have rejected a rotten pensions deal put together by the UCU union leadership and Universities UK bosses.

UCU delegates voted the deal down at a meeting on Tuesday. Now the strikes will continue—and push for a far better deal.

This week workers at 65 universities struck again against a devastating attack on their pensions that could lose them £10,000 a year in retirement.

The previous strikes have been a great success. They have divided university vice-chancellors and united workers.

Then on Monday night a proposed deal emerged. It was a long way from what bosses originally wanted.

But it would have meant workers paying higher contributions, and getting less in retirement.

It also stated that the UCU would “encourage” members to “prioritise the rescheduling of teaching” that was cancelled during strikes. It could also have meant that after three years there could be a new (and worse) scheme.

Any attack on the present scheme accepts the bosses’ lie that there’s a deficit that needs to be dealt with by workers paying more.

The deal led to a storm of revolt. Judith, joint equalities rep at the Institute of Education, was on a picket line on Tuesday.

“I’ve never been so angry,” she told Socialist Worker. “The deal accepts the alleged deficit. But we’ve shown the deficit is constructed.

“And the idea that we have to reschedule lectures goes against fundamental principles of industrial action.”


‘How strikes have changed us’, university workers celebrate their action
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Tony is branch secretary at University College London (UCL). “The email correspondence I had overnight was ten to one against,” he said.

Striker Ioanna said, “We’ve picketed in the snow and the rain for ten days. We want a clear victory.”

The pressure told. A meeting of UCU delegates voted overwhelmingly to reject the deal, and this was then confirmed by the union’s higher education committee.

Saladin, the UCL delegate told a crowd outside the meeting, “It was basically unanimous to reject the deal. No one in the room could stand up and defend it.”

The strikes were set to continue all this week, and the union has notified the employers of another 14 days of strikes in the future.

The battle is on to turn this rejection of a bad deal into a crushing victory.

That means defending the pension scheme that presently exists.

University strikers need to build on the organisation they have shown this week.

And they deserve the full support of every trade unionist and everyone who wants to see the Tories defeated.

Defend education. March for Pensions and Pay.Wednesday 14 March, assemble 12 noon, Student Central, Malet Street WC1. Called by UCU London Region. Details

Mass meetings rejected leadership’s deal

The rejection of the deal was fuelled by dozens of meetings at universities across Britain on Tuesday.

Over 300 at a meeting in Manchester voted unanimously against the deal. Newcastle university voted 183 to zero to reject.

In Sheffield UCU union members voted 350 to zero the same way.

In Glasgow the university president said that a meeting had voted 150 to zero against.

In Leeds around 200 people met and voted no. One participant said, “There were people leaning in through the windows to take part”.

In Cambridge a meeting of 200 voted to reject and then sent a message of solidarity to students occupation.

An emergency meeting in Cardiff which voted against the deal had to be held outside.

In all Socialist Worker knows of at least 45 meetings that voted no and none that voted yes.

This sort of rank and file democracy, participation and militancy is hugely welcome.

It is the way to renew our unions.

London lobby pressured a no vote

There was deep anger outside the UCU headquarters on Tuesday morning as hundreds lobbied to oppose the deal.

Protesters chanted, “The strikes will go on,” and, “They say deficit—we say bullshit.”

Mike from Exeter told the crowd, “120 people emailed me last night saying we should reject the deal.

“I saw this deal and was confused. I thought we were winning.

“We have made the union a union with this strike. Graduate teaching assistants and hourly paid staff have made huge sacrifices.”

Des from Ruskin College said workers would be on the picket lines on Wednesday regardless of Tuesday’s decision.

Students who have occupied sent a joint message of support backing strikers and opposing the deal.

Carlo Morelli is a member of the UCU’s national executive committee and has been part of the negotiations.

He told the lobby he would vote against the deal.

“We want a defined benefit scheme,” he said.

Now the union leadership can be pressured to really wage a fight over pensions.



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