Link to this page: http://www.socialistparty.org.uk/articles/13808
Lecturers in colleges and 'post-92' universities will join 28 March pensions strike
Socialist Party members in UCU
Post-16 education is currently under a serious onslaught from the Con-Dem coalition. Students are suffering from cuts to EMA in further education (FE) and £9,000 annual fees in higher education (HE), and at the same time staff, represented by the University and College Union (UCU) are facing attacks on their pensions, alongside other public-sector workers.
UCU represents staff who are members of two pensions schemes: the teachers' TPS scheme in FE and the 'post-92' universities (mainly former polytechnics); and USS in the 'pre-92' universities.
TPS members of UCU have decided to take joint industrial action with NUT and PCS on 28 March, which is a great step forward.
Unfortunately, USS members have seen their current work-to-contract industrial action suspended after narrowly voting to suspend industrial action and enter into negotiations (see report in last week's Socialist) but only on the condition of a range of concessions being made by employers, in particular around the way in which negotiations are conducted.
These conditions, however, have been ignored by elements within the national leadership resulting in the immediate and unconditional suspension of the USS dispute, contrary to the wishes of conference.
The employers' aggressive attacks on USS mean that its conditions for new entrants are now worse than those likely to be won for TPS through united action.
The argument that pre-92 employers will match the pensions available at post-92 universities has been used as an argument for suspension of action, but Socialist Party members support continued united action by all of UCU together with other public-sector unions as the way to win the best deal for all workers.
There is no economic necessity for any pension cuts, beyond the favours owed by the Tories and Liberals to the 'markets' - in reality City fat cats - that demand it.
UCU members see this, but their anger over pensions has been partially squandered over the last few years under the leadership of Sally Hunt.
While this has had a major impact on the confidence of members to fight, serious action could still win.
The election of key officers in UCU is taking place against this background. The UCU Left is standing candidates, most prominently Mark Campbell for general secretary and Angie McConnell for vice president, who will have the support of Socialist Party members in UCU.
We have criticisms of the UCU Left, for example over its internal democracy and recent votes to 'name a date' for further strike action independently of other trade unions.
However, we do not accept the arguments of the (mainly Labour-supporting) 'UCU Independent Broad Left' for backing Sally Hunt.
Our ultimate goal in UCU is to replicate the successes of PCS Left Unity, which unites the serious forces on the left to provide an effective, fighting union leadership.