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From The Socialist newspaper, 25 May 2011

UCU facing battles on all fronts

Dave Beale, UCU, personal capacity

With its 2011 conference on 28-30 May, UCU - the trade union for lecturers, researchers and related staff - is being attacked from every angle by the government and the employers.

The UCU has national disputes and strike action on the agenda for: further education (FE) college pay; university pay; the Universities Superannuation Scheme (USS) pensions that cover pre-1992 universities; the Teachers' Pensions Scheme that covers post-1992 universities, FE colleges and schools; and the refusal of university employers to negotiate a national redundancy agreement.

In addition, there are numerous local disputes springing up over cuts, redundancies and closures.

The UCU also needs to engage in common pension struggles with other public sector unions.

Local government workers are being savaged throughout the country through massive redundancies, pay cuts or freezes, and/or dramatic changes to terms and conditions. NHS unions face yet more cuts and de facto privatisation.

Those unions prepared to fight back must also pressure the Trade Union Congress to coordinate action.

Last autumn the UCU higher education (HE) leadership suffered from a basic division over strategy. The compromise was to run strike ballots simultaneously on pensions, redundancy and pay - a somewhat bizarre decision strategically.

Some sections of the national leadership quite rightly emphasised the importance of defending USS but showed utter timidity over calls for strike action.

Others pushed for strike action on pay and jobs, but failed to recognise the urgency of a strike ballot over USS before January 2011. The defence of USS is now much more difficult than it needed to be.

However, UCU can play an important role in defeating Hutton's pension proposals that affect the Teachers' Pensions Scheme. The campaign to coordinate strike action over pensions between NUT, ATL, PCS and other public sector unions on 30 June should be fully supported by all sections of UCU, including those in the pre-1992 universities' USS scheme.

Even though no teaching or exams are likely to take place in the pre-1992 universities on 30 June, this section of the union should either take strike action on that day or participate in the picket lines and show support to all other striking unions.

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In The Socialist 25 May 2011:


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International socialist news and analysis

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