Solidarity with the UCU

Ballots and strike action can’t be turned on and off like a tap. A consistent campaign, with enough time to get high enough turnouts in ballots and build sufficiently for strike action, should be a basic starting point. Unfortunately, despite many rank and file activists in UCU wanting this, them general secretary and the leadership of the union are not delivering. Motions passed at the Special HE conference for a longer ballot period and for the USS and Four Fights were not implemented by the executive, for example.

Escalate the strikes!

Socialists in the UCU call for:

  • Keep the USS and Four Fights disputes linked with coordinated ballots and strike action.
  • Announce the next days for strike action now, including a January marking boycott.
  • Discussion on strategy to re-ballot branches that didn’t meet the threshold to ensure they do next time
  • Use this to negotiate with the employers from a position of strength. Mass meetings of UCU members to discuss and vote on the next steps.

Despite a very short ballot in October, university staff’s anger has been shown in the votes for strike action – 76% on USS and 70% on Four Fights. These three strike days will also reflect the anger and determination of workers fighting for better pay, improved working conditions and for a fairer education system as a whole.

In order for this action to put meaningful pressure on the employers, it needsto be the start. It needs to be part of a strategy for winning in the reballots and agreeing a programme of escalating strike action and action short of a strike.

Ballots and strike action can’t be turned on and off like a tap. A consistent campaign, with enough time to get high enough turnouts in ballots and build sufficiently for strike action, should be a basic starting point. Unfortunately, despite many rank and file activists in UCU wanting this, them general secretary and the leadership of the union are not delivering. Motions passed at the Special HE conference for a longer ballot period and for the USS and Four Fights were not implemented by the executive, for example.

This highlights the need for the rank and file of the union to be organised, for pressure to be put on the union leadership to stop them from de-escalating the dispute, and to fight for democratic control over strategy and decision making. Meetings, rallies and protests during these strike days can be a show of strength, but will also be important opportunities to discuss what should happen next.

Unite all workers in struggle
Co-ordinate strike action

It is not just lecturers and teaching staff in the university that have been forced to take strike action in Northern Ireland. As UCU members strike this week so to have Education Welfare Officers have engaged in strike action for pay parity with social workers. Workers at Foyle docks have also engaged in strikes for decent pay. Earlier this month workers at Glendemplex in Portadown 13.5% pay increase. NHS staff are currently beginning ballots to reject an insulting pay offer from the Tories and Stormont. While these disputes are different sectors they have something important in common in they are products of protracted periods prior to the pandemic in which conditions were undermined and then workers expected to pick up the slack during a global pandemic- with little thanks. Trade unions should coordinate these struggles- including coordinating dates of strike action to show workers are prepared to fight back

We call for:

  • A maximum 35-hour working week
  • Equal pay audits at every institution and a plan to close the gaps
  • Minimum contract length of 24 months. End the use of zero-hour contracts
  • Protect defined benefit element of USS pension scheme – no further rises in member contributions
  • End university cuts, end the marketisation of
    education. For a fully funded, public and democratically controlled education system

Join the Socialists!

The Socialist Party organises in both Catholic and Protestant areas and is growing in size and influence. Our members in the trade unions are arguing and campaigning for resolute action to defeat the cuts. Socialist Youth members have been key to campaigning for abortion rights. We believe in building a new party that can organise working class people in their common interests and find solutions to the issues that divide us. We have been central to launching Labour Alternative, to bring the politics of the ‘many not the few’ to Northern Ireland. We believe that leadership matters and that trade union activists must work to replace those trade union leaders who are unwilling to lead. Join us to make a difference in today’s struggles and in the fight for a real alternative to the sterile politics of sectarianism and for a socialist future.

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