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From The Socialist newspaper, 18 May 2011

UCU at the crossroads on pensions

Dave Beale
UCU, personal capacity
UCU pickets at Bradford University during the last strike, photo Iain Dalton

UCU pickets at Bradford University during the last strike, photo Iain Dalton   (Click to enlarge)

Lecturers in the further and higher education sectors are being attacked on all fronts by the Con-Dem government and the employers - cuts, job losses, pay and pensions.

Members of the lecturers' union, UCU, have been inspired by the decisions of the NUT and ATL to ballot for strike action in defence of the Teachers' Pension Scheme, which covers teaching staff in schools, colleges and the new, post-1992 universities. The potential for united strike action on 30 June in defence of pensions across not only education sectors but also the civil service is opening up.

In these circumstances, therefore, rank and file UCU members will be outraged by the change in strategy by sections of the UCU leadership regarding the Universities Superannuation Scheme (USS) - the scheme for the 'old' pre-1992 universities - and the major concessions to the employers that have now been offered by the union's USS negotiators.

The union's higher education national sector conference last November refused to consider immediate strike action in defence of USS, which was called for by Manchester University branch, and instead chose to ballot after the critical USS Trustees' meeting in January this year. A 'yes' vote was secured following a further delay, and one-day strikes were eventually held in March. The union leadership insisted that the union's position on USS was still secure because the employers could not proceed with their planned changes to the scheme unless UCU's national pensions reps attended the joint USS forum - and they would refuse to do so.

Subsequently, the UCU reps were threatened with legal action by the employers if they declined to attend. No great surprise there, most of the history of the trade unions has included employers threatening trade unionists with the law.

UCU members will no doubt be shocked to discover that their elected USS reps capitulated to the employers and attended the joint national USS meeting on 10 May. Members will be wondering whether they had the encouragement of key 'moderate' sections of the national leadership to do so.

As a result, the employers, with the chair's casting vote, forced through their plans for a dual scheme, giving new starters a much inferior career-averaged rather than final salary based scheme.

This is a disgraceful state of affairs - and the best the 'moderates' seem to be able to do is suggest another ballot to somehow pressurise the employers! Also, according to UCU Left, the unions' pensions reps failed to report these events to the union's national higher education (HE) committee on 15 April.

Plans for strike action over USS on 24 May must go ahead, and the UCU HE committee meeting the day before must have the bottle to insist on this. A vote of no confidence in the union's USS pension reps should be tabled at the HE committee.

A full investigation of the national leadership's handling of the USS dispute should be held. And the union's whole handling of this dispute must be put to vote at the union national conference starting on 28 May.

But this must not be a distraction from the crucial battle UCU must fight with other public sector unions in defending the Teachers' Pension Scheme and the schemes of other public sector workers. Strike on 24 May! All out on 30 June!

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In The Socialist 18 May 2011:

Socialist Party workplace news

Strike back at pensions robbery!

Fight all the cuts - come to the NSSN conference

Socialist Party NHS campaign

Battle for the NHS!

Derriford hospital announces huge cuts

Socialist Party editorial

Crisis deepens in the eurozone

Socialist Party news and analysis

The Hardest Hit march and rally

Teachers' strike stops job cuts

Iraq war: Labour's lie machine

Pay gap grows ever wider

News in brief

Socialist Party feature

Britain now facing crisis on all fronts

International socialist news and analysis

Northern Ireland: The 'no change' elections

Socialist Party workplace news

UCU at the crossroads on pensions

CWU conference: Support joint union action on 30 June

BA dispute: Mass meeting votes to put latest agreement to membership

Workplace news in brief

Socialist Party youth and students

Con-Dems: Supporting Youth Enslavement

Yorkshire Youth Fight for Jobs regional conference

Socialist Party feature

Tory cuts hit children and young people

Teachers strike and parents picket at Shorefields

Campaigners put pressure on Lambeth council


The difference a union makes


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