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Posted on 12 June 2012 at 11:23 GMT

UCU conference debates strategy

Socialist Party members in UCU

Last weekend (8-10 June) saw hundreds of delegates attend the 2012 congress of the University and College Union (UCU), and vote to fight the Con-Dems' austerity programme.

UCU represents over 120,000 workers in post-16 education, including colleges and universities, and there was anger at the effects of austerity right across this spectrum.

At the same time as delegates expressed complete agreement on the need to fight the cuts, there were several tactical issues that were hotly debated, and where votes were fortunately won by the left.

Over pensions, where UCU members are involved in struggles over two schemes (TPS and USS) delegates voted to organise coordinated strike action in the autumn with other unions, in particular teachers' unions NUT and NASUWT.

Socialist Party members Edmund Schluessel from Cardiff University and Dave Beale from Manchester University played a key role in the debate on USS, moving the motions that were eventually carried in support of further action and receiving some of the loudest applause of the conference.

On another important issue, proposals supported by general secretary Sally Hunt that would have limited union democracy were defeated.

UCU is also committed to mobilise members on the issue of pay, and to campaign against cuts, fees and privatisation.

Practically, this involved motions against casualisation and the REF (a process of assessing research in universities) and in support of the upcoming NUS student demonstration.

The defeats for the left in recent elections do, however, mean that the executive and elected officers are unlikely to implement congress decisions fully and a key task for activists will be to hold the leadership to account.

A particularly inspiring moment came from the speech of Dr Miguel Angel Beltran from Colombia, who spoke movingly of the role and power of international solidarity, including that received from UCU.

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