By Carlo Morelli UCU Scotland President (personal capacity)
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University workers build resistance to throw out a rotten deal

This article is over 4 years, 1 months old
Issue 2706
Workers struck for 22 days (Pic: Guy Smallman)

A major revolt among rank and file UCU union members in universities is taking place. 

The reason for this resistance is the capitulation by the bureaucracy, and the right in the union, over the “four fights” dispute. 

Members took 22 days of strikes between November 2019 and March this year over pay, equality, contracts, workload and pensions.

The action won an offer from the employers which provides some gains.

But it doesn’t represent a commitment from employers about how they would implement the changes, so the deal is nowhere near being acceptable. 

UCU general secretary Jo Grady and her supporters on the national executive committee are trying to scare members into accepting an ineffective deal. 

Workers are being told by Grady that they either have to accept the offer or begin a ballot for strikes immediately. 

But activists in branches are winning the argument to keep the dispute alive. 

Many of the largest branches—University College London, Liverpool, Edinburgh, Sheffield, Newcastle and Kings College London to name a few—have all voted the deal down. 


Workers are fighting lack of security of employment for casualised staff, excessive workloads, gender and race discrimination and a continued decline in real pay.

All these issues are intensifying with universities’ responses to the Covid-19 crisis.

Activists know that the choice is between rejecting the deal and responding to the jobs onslaught that is upon us, or sending a message to employers that the union is not going to defend its members.

Branches have an opportunity to have their voices heard at the branch delegate’s meetings taking place this week in advance of a Higher Education Committee (HEC) meeting. 

If the HEC throw out the offer we can discuss the campaign to reinvigorate the dispute.

And its decision could help give activists confidence in the union’s commitment to fighting the job losses currently underway of casualised staff.

UCU’s response to the Covid-19 crisis is widely understood to be inadequate. 

The union has tried to shut down the national bodies and resisted calls for them to meet virtually.

Many UCU activists looked on in awe at the response of the NEU union in challenging government policy in relation to opening up schools. 

UCU must throw out the deal and back the NEU in supporting a day of action on 1 June.

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