Join the Socialist Party Join us today!

Printable version Printable version

Facebook   Twitter

Link to this page: https://www.socialistparty.org.uk/issue/987/27077

From The Socialist newspaper, 21 March 2018

UCU strike: staff and students unite to continue pensions fight after magnificent 14 days of action

Socialist Students marching with the UCU in London, 14.3.18, photo James Ivens

Socialist Students marching with the UCU in London, 14.3.18, photo James Ivens   (Click to enlarge)

Sam Morecroft, Sheffield UCU anti-casualisation officer (personal capacity)

University and College Union (UCU) members at 64 universities have completed a historic 14-day programme of strike action in defence of pensions.

This is the first phase of our industrial action. If Universities UK (UUK) does not agree a deal which protects our current 'defined benefit' pensions there will be further strikes after the Easter break.

In the course of this strike, not only have the turnout thresholds for national industrial action set out in the Trade Union Act been well and truly beaten, but we have collectively taken more strike days than were taken either in 2015 or 2016 across all sectors!

The energy and power of the strike has been electric. It has forced local university managements all over the country to reverse their position and plead with UUK for a deal that will satisfy the strikers.

Even more impressively, members have not only mobilised against the employer's attack on pensions, but also against the union leadership's attempt to demobilise the strike following concessions.

When the leadership of UCU chose to issue a statement outlining an "agreement" with UUK, suggesting strikes would be called off that teaching rescheduled, the reaction from members on social media was one of visceral rage.

Within less than 24 hours, all but two of the branches on strike had organised emergency meetings and voted to reject the deal.

Well over a thousand demonstrated outside the UCU national office as the union's higher education committee met to discuss the offer.

This mobilisation of rank-and-file members forced the leadership to drop the plan to suspend strikes and reschedule classes.

In the past, UCU's leadership would have succeeded in demobilising the struggle - but not anymore.

Social media, and Twitter in particular, has been a hugely important tool in this dispute. It has allowed members to discuss the way forward in a way that has largely not been possible within the somewhat empty structures of the union nationally.

But social media is not a substitute for a fighting, democratic and member-led union - the energy and militancy of the strikers must be channelled into transforming UCU.

Members in every branch affected by the dispute are understandably incensed by the lack of leadership shown by Sally Hunt and other full-time officials.

The best way to begin to address that problem would be for UCU branches to demand a national strike committee made up of branch delegates to assume control of the dispute from now on.

Between now and the next phase of industrial action we will be working to contract and refusing to reschedule teaching activity.

But we cannot allow the momentum to dissipate. At nine institutions, management is still threatening punitive pay deductions against members taking action short of a strike by refusing to reschedule teaching.

A call for academic boycott of these institutions has been put forward, although not by UCU officially - you can read more about it here. But this alone is not enough.

Not just UCU but the whole of the trade union movement should put these universities - Aberdeen, Bradford, Bristol, Brunel, City, Leeds, Liverpool, Salford and Surrey - under immense pressure to ensure these threats are withdrawn.

This has already been achieved at several universities, including my own, Sheffield. The Trade Union Congress (TUC) - of which Sally Hunt is currently president! - has been invisible during this dispute.

This is a great opportunity for the TUC to finally show some leadership and coordinate labour movement pressure on these institutions. If it doesn't, union leaders should waste no time in organising together anyway.

UCU members have engaged in a fantastic struggle - not just against the employers, but against our own union leadership when it attempted to demobilise the strikes for a few temporary concessions. But the fight to save our pensions continues.

Brighton

Hundreds of students and lecturers from universities across the country gathered at the University of Sussex on 15 March, for a national demonstration organised by local students, including Socialist Students.

Billed as 'Break UUK, win the strike!' the crowd marched through campus to chants of "students and workers, unite and fight" and "UUK pay attention, staff deserve a decent pension".

Over the past weeks of strike action, various students and staff have expressed their solidarity for their lecturers as they continue to fight against UUK's proposed changes to the pension scheme, which could see lecturers losing up to 40% of their pensions.

The crowd erupted with cheers as it passed Balfour Beatty's construction site on campus, where roughly 19 students went into occupation to protest the pension cuts, as well as for Unite the Union access to the site to prevent blacklisting and to organise workers.

Other students joined the occupation as the crowd passed, bringing the number of students on the site to over a hundred! The construction of new, unaffordable halls while the existing ones lie in disrepair demonstrates how the ongoing process of marketisation has affected students as well as lecturers.

Students distributed leaflets describing their recently launched manifesto - 'Democratise Sussex' - assembled over the last few weeks at meetings of staff and students.

The manifesto demands rent controls and democratic reform in the structure of universities as a step towards preventing the constant attacks on higher education.

Connor Rosoman Sussex Socialist Students

Reading

We have been by our lecturers' side on the picket line every morning showing student solidarity against the pension cuts.

We have seen what unity in power means and how important it is to keep the momentum going. We reject in any way possible these decisions affecting our university!

It is a disgrace to see UUK attack and destroy the education system.

We are not here as enemies of education. We are here to defend it! It is our responsibility as students to have a say in what the university decides. We are not blind consumers of education.

Our demands are:

Students occupying at Reading University

Glasgow

Close to 100 strikers again picketed Glasgow University on 14 March. Student supporters are 'hard picketing' which involves blocking the main gate to any lecturers who are breaking the strike - a minority.

The Socialist (Scotland) spoke to Jeanette Findley, branch chair of the UCU: "The mood today is even more determined after we told the negotiators what we thought of the offer.

"I don't personally want any changes to the pension scheme and if we are serious and fight hard enough we can force them back I think. 150 new members have joined here since the action."

Matt Dobson

Why not click here to join the Socialist Party, or click here to donate to the Socialist Party.


In The Socialist 21 March 2018:


What we think

Russia, spies and nerve agents


Socialist Party news and analysis

Hands off free school meals!

The Blairites are NHS privatisers - to save it means sacking them

Cuts harm kids' health

Hated Blairite mayor ousted: now fight for a no-cuts Newham!

Them & us


International socialist news and analysis

West Virginia teachers' strike victory

US school shootings: student walkouts challenge establishment

Brazil: Psol councillor Marielle Franco murdered


Workplace news and analysis

UCU strike: staff and students unite to continue pensions fight after magnificent 14 days of action

Hinkley workers win back unpaid wages after sit-in protest

Strikers and parents rally again in Newham against academies

Hull college workers ballot for action against mass redundancies

Unions condemn 'culture of bullying' at Merseyside hospital

NSSN conference moves


Socialist Party reports and campaigns

Refugees march against racism and to demand rights

Ideas matter: help us fight to win with May Day greetings

Past fund-raising campaigns show dedication to the fight for socialism

Why I joined: 'The Socialist Party is at the forefront of defending Corbyn's anti-austerity leadership'

Hands Off HRI campaign granted judicial review

Over 1,000 on Newcastle NHS march

Refugee Rights to be launched in Manchester


Opinion

Revolutionary physicist and champion of social causes

The Socialist inbox


 

Home   |   The Socialist 21 March 2018   |   Join the Socialist Party

Subscribe   |   Donate   |   Audio  |   PDF  |   ebook






Related links:

UCU:

triangleUCU members vote to end pensions dispute

triangleReject the deal - keep the action on

triangleStrike action forces bosses to retreat but keep the pressure on

triangleGoldsmiths students occupy and protest in support of UCU strikers

triangleLiverpool Uni staff set to fight 220 job losses

Students:

triangleCollege protest against job losses

triangleMoving look at school students' many perspectives on sexism

triangleFCC Wilmington refuse workers' strike in hull stands firm

triangleNEU conference: Teachers vote to strike over pay and workload

Strike:

triangleMcDonald's strikers: "We demand a living wage and decent conditions"

triangleSchool strike forces head to say privatisation will stop

Pensions:

triangleBT can afford more - reject pensions offer

triangleStrike continues: set dates for next national action

University:

triangleSeeing-off the bigoted, billionaire toff!

Reports and campaigns

Reports and campaigns

25/4/18

NUJ

Journalists' union leaders defeat call for political fund, but potential for left grows

25/4/18

Usdaw

Retail union backs zero-hour ban, leaders oppose rank-and-file coordination

25/4/18

McDonalds

McDonald's strikers: "We demand a living wage and decent conditions"

25/4/18

Yorkshire

Sheffield and South Yorkshire: no to closures - defend our NHS

25/4/18

Southampton

Southampton: the cuts or no cuts election

24/4/18

Newham

School strike forces head to say privatisation will stop

23/4/18

Hull

College protest against job losses

22/4/18

Bromley

Bromley library workers win strike campaign

18/4/18

UCU

UCU members vote to end pensions dispute

18/4/18

Usdaw

Usdaw conference 2018: time for new era of fighting trade unionism

18/4/18

Leeds

Victorious Fearnville Fields campaigners thank the Socialist

18/4/18

Hull

Hull says no to war, no to austerity

18/4/18

The Socialist

The Socialist - a fighting, campaigning, workers' paper

18/4/18

Socialist Party

Building fund: 150,000 milestone smashed!

18/4/18

Fighting Fund

Give us your change (and more) to fight for system change!

triangleMore Reports and campaigns articles...


Join the Socialist Party
Subscribe to Socialist Party publications
Donate to the Socialist Party
Socialist Party Facebook page
Socialist Party on Twitter
Visit us on Youtube

LATEST POSTS

CONTACT US

Phone our national office on 020 8988 8777

Email: info@socialistparty.org.uk

Locate your nearest Socialist Party branch Text your name and postcode to 07761 818 206

Regional Socialist Party organisers:

Eastern: 0798 202 1969

East Mids: 0773 797 8057

London: 020 8988 8786

North East: 0784 114 4890

North West 07769 611 320

South East: 020 8988 8777

South West: 07759 796 478

Southern: 07833 681910

Wales: 07935 391 947

West Mids: 02476 555 620

Yorkshire: 0114 264 6551

ABOUT US

ARCHIVE

Alphabetical listing


April 2018

March 2018

February 2018

January 2018

2017

2016

2015

2014

2013

2012

2011

2010

2009

2008

2007

2006

2005

2004

2003

2002

2001

2000

1999