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From The Socialist newspaper, 2 June 2010

University and Colleges Union: Congress votes to fight

Higher Education delegates to University and College Union (UCU) annual congress have voted overwhelmingly to ballot for industrial action to save jobs, with action expected to take place in the last week of September 2010.

Edmund Schluessel, Cardiff University UCU, personal capacity

Delegates also drew a hard line on pensions, rejecting management plans to cut corners in payments to retired lecturers.

Delegates say that university management negotiating group UCEA's intransigence in refusing to save jobs, even in exchange for concessions on pay, have made action necessary. UCEA is currently offering a below-inflation 0.4% pay rise, while thousands of higher education jobs are under threat nationally. The first UCEA offer of 0.25% had been earlier rejected by UCU negotiators.

Further Education delegates also voted to prepare to ballot over the issue of pay. FE teachers have been offered a 0.2% pay rise.

I spoke in support of balloting. I am a postgraduate student with teaching duties and I argued that, unlike some right-wing student union leaderships, students do support their lecturers' actions to defend the quality of education.

A consultative ballot of members also soundly rejected management proposals for a two-tier pension scheme and changes which would have discriminated against new staff and those who have re-entered the sector after working in the private sector. Delegates resolved to take action, including industrial action, in defence of pensions.

Speaking from the podium, UCU treasurer Jim Carr warned employers: "Mess with our pensions and you will face the greatest dispute that has ever taken place in higher education...we can deliver a resounding industrial response and we can give them a resounding defeat. We're on our way to a tremendous victory on this".

The mood at the congress was militant and enthusiastic for action. Delegates voted unanimously to affiliate UCU to the Youth Fight for Jobs campaign, trade union group TUCG, and the People's Charter and the national executive will make the possibilities of UCU intervention into electoral and parliamentary politics a priority.

UCU Left activist Jenny Sutton stood as a TUSC candidate in Tottenham in the 2010 general election, gaining over 1,000 votes.

A controversial amendment to affiliate UCU to the Right to Work Campaign was passed narrowly, with many speakers criticising RtWC's intervention into the BA negotiations on 22 May.

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