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From The Socialist newspaper, 15 September 2010

UCU executive pulls out of strike ballot

On 8 September the University and College Union (UCU)'s general secretary, Sally Hunt, announced that the union would carry out a ballot for strike action over pay and job cuts. In June UCU's congress voted overwhelmingly to ballot for industrial action if no better pay and job offer was forthcoming from university management body UCEA. UCEA's final offer remains unchanged from the 0.4% pay rise with no guarantee on job preservation.

But instead of running the ballot, UCU's Higher Education Committee (HEC) is preparing for fresh ACAS-sponsored talks with UCEA.

HEC's decision reportedly hinged on the chair's casting vote. The executive members, who voted to ignore UCU's congress and defer a ballot, point to an unscientific poll of the membership, which found that only a narrow majority of members would probably or definitely support strike action. HEC say they will launch an additional survey of the membership.

UCU branches have led a series of strikes at individual universities over the past year. HEC's lukewarm response to their survey is a sign of members' lack of confidence in the HEC's ability to lead a strike.

Many UCU members feel the last national HE strike, in 2006, was poorly-coordinated and relied too heavily on action short of a strike.

However HEC have dramatically under-represented the potential gains of industrial action. The 2006 action consisted of a one-day strike followed by extended action short of a strike, and won, among other things, pay rises that kept UCU members' pay up with RPI inflation from 2006 to 2009.

A well-led strike could win a huge victory for all academic workers.

HEC have only themselves to blame for squandering the enthusiasm of UCU's membership.

They have done nothing to show they have improved their willingness to lead action since the 2006 strike.

If HEC plan merely to defer the ballot in order to build during the autumn, rather than during summer holidays, their decision is justifiable, although they remain guilty of exceedingly poor communication with the membership.

If, however, HEC do not immediately take concrete steps toward a Yes vote to strike, then the UCU Left is justified in its call for a special sector conference.

The membership have mandated UCU to pursue a strike ballot. Strikes work. UCU should lead its membership in preparing for a national strike.

Socialist Party UCU members

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In The Socialist 15 September 2010:

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Socialist Party editorial

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TUC congress

TUC backs youth jobs demo

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TUC: Build for action against cuts


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Student strikes can win results


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