● Keep fighting on USS and the Four Fights! No decoupling of the disputes –
maximum unity among university workers.
● All out on the strike – join the pickets, set up local strike
committees, organise marches with trade union support in every university town!
● Prepare for further action and a summer marking boycott – if the employers don’t move, don’t mark!
Following 8 days of heroic industrial action by UCU members at 60 Universities, our employers are trying to give the appearance of concessions. In reality they have offered no concrete promises. This time, workers at 14 more universities will join the picket lines after smashing the Tories undemocratic anti-union laws at the second attempt.
UCU members are fighting on two fronts. In pre-92 universities in defence of our pension in the USS dispute, and across the whole university sector against ever increasing workloads, rampant casualisation, a shameful gender pay gap and years of falling real terms pay.
Keep the focus on the Four Fights
The employers’ ‘offer’ in response to the Four Fights dispute does nothing to resolve this. They offer only recommendations which local universities may wish to follow – leaving university workers in the same position as when they started to act on casualisation, workload and the gender pay gap. On pay, they have offered no increase on the insulting 1.8%. Right now, the UCU are fighting together in a campaign across Britain and in Northern Ireland on the Four Fights and needs to stick together to win.
Sustained and serious strike action
Delivering 14 days of strong action is a tall order – but the pattern of action mirrors exactly the successful strike plan that was used in the 2018 USS pension fight, which caused huge disruption to universities and successfully forced the employers to ditch plans to scrap the Defined Benefit pension. Only sustained and serious industrial action will secure what is needed – a decent pay rise, job security, reduced workload and an end to sexist and racist pay inequality.
The successful industrial campaign waged by workers across the health service last year is an example of the action necessary to win. They engaged in action short of strike action building up to full scale industrial action. The issue of pay parity for health workers was forced onto the agenda of the Stormont politicians who had no choice but to offer a significant concession to the workers despite the plea that there was no more money. Sustained industrial action gets results.
Keep the disputes united
To abandon the demands for action on pay, workload, casualisation and the gender pay gap would be to abandon the most exploited sections of the UCU membership, that have been at the forefront of the struggle for better working conditions. It is essential for the success of both disputes to keep them linked.
Disappointingly, the new General Secretary Jo Grady also seemed to suggest that the ‘Four Fights’ be put on the back burner. This is a mistake – the union has tried an aggregated ballot and failed to reach the threshold, and the fight for pay and working conditions cannot simply be pushed back to some future date. What’s more, the employers have not moved on pay at all and while they have begun to suggest proposals on other issues they have given no concrete workable commitments on improving job security and workload or reducing the gender pay gap.
University workers need concrete guarantees from the employers. When they prevented the scrapping of defined benefit pensions in 2018, they did so first and foremost because of the power of their strike. To win now on pensions, pay and conditions, that feat will need repeated on an even bigger scale.
Build the strike – an injury to one is an injury to all
Fourteen new branches joining the action is a huge boost. Other branches should re-ballot again to boost the dispute further. Unison and Unite members in universities should also reballot – this struggle affects everyone.
In allied bakeries the workers forced the employer back on a paltry pay offer through a twelve hour picket that shut the site down – not allowing trucks in or out. Last year workers in the Harland & Wolff occupied the yard to prevent the loss of jobs and skills. Working-class people across every sector are feeling the brunt of austerity and capitalism’s inability to provide decent living standards. The struggle of the university workers for respect and equality at work is the struggle of all workers across every industry. We need to build this dispute on campus and across our towns and cities, appealing to students and other groups of workers for support.
University workers must also look beyond this strike and be ready to escalate further, with more well-prepared strike dates and a marking boycott. They are fighting not just for our pensions, pay and conditions but for the future of Higher Education.
Join the Socialist Party
Socialists believe working-class people, through their collective industrial power, have the ability to bring society to a halt. It is this power that makes the fight for socialist change really possible, but it must be organised. We are fighting for a society where the enormous wealth and resources which exist are collectively owned and controlled by working people – those who create it – not the fat-cat elite.