This follows on from two days of strike action earlier in the year. The union membership was balloted for strike action and action short of strike action. Turnout for this ballot was up on previous votes, even though it was held over the summer months. The membership voted in favour of ‘strike action’ (58%) and ‘action short of strike action’ (76%). Although both courses of action were chosen by the membership, the union leadership is only offering members ‘action short of strike action’. This is a being put forward as a three-phase escalation of industrial action.
The first phase includes working to contract, but this is problematic, as many lectures and teaching staff have no set contracts and working hours. This won’t be effective and may not even be registered by the employers. The second phase consists of rolling strike action within each institution with different groups of staff taking turns to take action. However, this action, like the previous action outlined, is likely to leave union members isolated within smaller departments and without the broader support of the union. Is the UCU leadership asking their members to cross a picket-line as their particular department is not taking strike action on that day? This action would divide workers.
The third phase suggested is even less coherent. It requests members boycott the Research Excellence Framework, administrative processes and student assessment. This again is not a phase of industrial action that would strengthen the union’s position. What is needed is a clear strategy for industrial action as cuts to the pensions are about to be implemented. Building on from the two strike days earlier in the year, joining the public sector strike day on November 30th would bolster the union and link the fight over pensions in UCU with the broader struggles in the public sector.
A national strike across the public sector would be the most effective action to take and would lead to a more general fight back against all cuts.