After several waves of strikes university workers will head back onto pickets for another round of action. The UCU union announced on Friday that two waves of strikes by different universities are planned for March.
From Monday 21 March to Friday 25 March, 36 universities will strike. From Monday 28 March to Friday 1 April, 29 universities will strike. Strikes will be over cuts to the USS pension scheme and over workload, pay, casualisation and inequalities—known as the four fights.
All branches will also be reballoted on whether they will strike next term. The announcement of the ten days of action is a welcome step and testament to the rank and file activists who pushed for escalation. But separating the fights and having branches strike at different times will weaken the strike.
Also missing from the discussion, coming from the top of the union, is how to deal with threats to dock 100 percent of workers’ pay if they refuse to reschedule missed lessons. Threats of regional action, which were floated as an option by general secretary Jo Grady, would likely not be enough to fend off these attacks. In response to pay docking, several branches have promised to donate to those workers who could lose pay.
This fresh wave of strikes should be built as big as possible. But those inside the union should not stop pushing for coordinated national all-out strikes. The announcement of strike dates was boosted by a win at the Royal College of Art (RCA). Bold local strikes against precarity, which is rampant at the institution, have meant university management was forced to retreat.
Strikers will vote on a new package of offers, including full employment rights for all, and an end to zero hour contracts. A cap on workloads has also been announced. The union branch wrote on social media, “We held the line. We will end casualisation and overwork at RCA and beyond.” RCA strikers won by sustained action and a refusal to be fobbed off by rotten deals. That’s a lesson for the national dispute.
Some university managements are hungry to attack workers even more. Staffordshire University is trying to bring in a two-tier workforce. New staff will be put in a “wholly owned” subsidiary company. Bosses hope they can use this to impose a worse deal for workers.
Meanwhile in further education, workers took part in a protest this week in support of Nina Doran, sacked UCU branch liaison officer at City of Liverpool college. Nina has been targeted and victimised by the college for her activism. Up to 40 activists from the college, Liverpool university and Liverpool John Moores University joined a rally in solidarity with Nina.
The stakes in education are very high. The UCU leaders have to be pressured not to back off.
For a full list of which universities are on strike and on which days, go to bit.ly/UCUstrikes22
It's a 40-year high
Reports from disputes around Britain
Security services were involved
Move will increase police racism