Join the Socialist Party Join us today!

Printable version Printable version

Facebook   Twitter

Link to this page:

From The Socialist newspaper, 1 December 2021

UCU higher education disputes

Solidarity with UCU pickets at University of Nottingham south entrance, photo by Gary Freeman

Solidarity with UCU pickets at University of Nottingham south entrance, photo by Gary Freeman   (Click to enlarge)

Build the action

Stand united to win

Socialist Party members in UCU

University and College Union (UCU) members have said 'enough is enough'. The impressive UK-wide turnouts in both the USS and 'Four Fights' ballots are a strong indicator of our anger. They show a mood to push back against exploitative working conditions, casualisation, relentless attacks on our pension, and the pay insult of 1.5%, which is effectively a massive pay cut when real inflation is now 6%.

It was no small feat to achieve these ballot results on two UK-wide disputes, run side by side, with a short ballot window of just under three weeks.

Breaking the 50% threshold nationally for the first time in Four Fights is also a significant step for UCU. If the ballot had been aggregated together, every member would now be able to take strike action.

The 58 branches taking strike action from 1-3 December are launching the dispute on behalf of the whole union, signalling to the bosses and government that we are serious about the fight we face.

Escalating the action - both in terms of the action taken and the number of participating branches - will be an important part of the strategy moving forward, starting with more branches joining industrial action next term, pending the outcome of the reballots.

There is also potential for other campus unions to join us. EIS, representing lecturers in Scotland, and Unison are both balloting their members. A cross-union university strike would be a huge step forward, maximising the pressure on employers to negotiate meaningful improvements to the pay and conditions offer, and withdraw USS pension proposals.

That includes resisting management attempts to divide and bully us back to work. Some employers are threatening punitive, strike-breaking measures, including threats to dock pay in the Christmas payroll, and deducting 100% of pay for action short of strike. This shows how threatened they are by our action.

But also, that the very issues at stake - low pay, insecure work and excessive working conditions - can make sustaining action difficult.

Therefore, linking up with local trades union councils and appealing for solidarity from other unions will be critical for building solidarity.

Branches should also appeal for trade union donations to the local strike pay fund.

UCU must call for a meeting of all public sector unions, so that we can join with local government and NHS workers also fighting back against the Tory government on pay. Such a united front will strengthen our disputes.

Regional protests of striking and non-striking branches must be built to help sustain the action, maintain members' confidence, and draw in students to support the campaign.

Staff and student solidarity is critical. Management is yet again shamelessly attempting to divide us: outrageously using the student mental health crisis - a crisis of management's own making - to attack the strike.

But students are not blind to the attacks. We have already received wide support from students who are also affected by poor pay and working conditions. Socialist Students is building support for our strike among students.

The official backing of the National Union of Students (NUS) is a welcome development and has given a boost to many members. Further work is now needed to put this support into action, as well as building staff-student solidarity at branch level.

We know that the marketisation of higher education has eroded our conditions at the cost of quality research and learning. A victory will be a huge step forward for the union. However, as long as higher education is led by pro-market senior managers, under the regulatory scrutiny of a hostile Tory government, any achievements will need to be defended.

Many members are drawing the conclusion that to solve the constant attacks we face, we need to go much further, and turn the tide on marketisation. To achieve that, we need a political as well as industrial strategy.

UCU is not affiliated to any political party, yet our union leadership continues to appeal to a Labour Party that, under Keir Starmer, cannot be trusted to deliver the policies staff and students need. Starmer is clearly set on showing big business that he is as safe for them as Tony Blair was.

The Socialist Party appeals to UCU members to stand as candidates in next year's local elections, along with other trade unionists and local campaigners, on a platform of no cuts and for free education. This will be an important step in developing a new left political vehicle for workers, including those who work in colleges and universities. The Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition (TUSC), with support from transport union RMT, is ready as a platform for standing anti-cuts candidates.

See also:
Staff and students unite against university bosses' attacks

Donate to the Socialist Party

Finance appeal

The coronavirus crisis has laid bare the class character of society in numerous ways. It is making clear to many that it is the working class that keeps society running, not the CEOs of major corporations.

The results of austerity have been graphically demonstrated as public services strain to cope with the crisis.

  • The Socialist Party's material is more vital than ever, so we can continue to report from workers who are fighting for better health and safety measures, against layoffs, for adequate staffing levels, etc.
  • We must be ready for the stormy events ahead and the need to arm workers' movements with a socialist programme - one which puts the health and needs of humanity before the profits of a few.
Inevitably, during the crisis we have not been able to sell the Socialist and raise funds in the ways we normally would.
We therefore urgently appeal to all our viewers to donate to our Fighting Fund.

Please donate here.

All payments are made through a secure server.

My donation


Your message: 


In The Socialist 1 December 2021:


NHS Critical

Covid-19: New variant emerges but same old capitalist disease

27 dead in channel migrant tragedy

Bulb bailed out, nationalise energy to solve price crisis

Khan threatens further London transport cuts

Kickstart scheme 'insufficient and flawed'

Tories strengthen repressive laws


After COP26: where next for the climate movement?


Argentine elections see deepening polarisation


Wales: The Labour-Plaid Cymru agreement - jam tomorrow, maybe

Rural life

Behind the rural idyll - the problems of everyday life

Workplace news

NHS workers - vote yes for action to win a decent pay rise

Staff and students unite against university bosses' attacks

UCU higher education disputes

Education unions lead campaign against Leicester academisation

RMT strikes against abolition of night tube train operators

South Yorkshire Stagecoach drivers strike against measly 1% pay offer

Nottingham and Mansfield trade unions rally against cuts and for better pay

Oaks Park school strike ends following forced concessions


East London mass non-payment wins housing victory

Marching to stop violence against women

Housing campaigners protest CEO champagners

Building a political alternative to Tory and Labour cuts

Stop the cuts to Uni arts funding

Plymouth: Hundreds attend vigil for Bobbi-Anne McLeod

Socialism 2021: How we reached our fighting fund appeal target

End fuel poverty

Readers' opinion

TV review: Valley of the Tears


Home   |   The Socialist 1 December 2021   |   Join the Socialist Party

Subscribe   |   Donate   |   Audio  |   PDF  |   ebook

Related links:


triangleLondon colleges victory

triangleUniversities strike - build the action and stand united to win

triangleSupport uni workers' walk-out on pay and pensions

triangleUniversity workers vote for action in two disputes

triangleUniversity workers ballot for strike action

Higher Education:

triangleStaff and students unite against university bosses' attacks

triangleCollege strikes continue into third week

triangleSocialist Students conference

triangleStrike back for free education


triangleCovid, stress and cutbacks fuel school staff shortages

triangleUni staff and students must unite to end marketisation and for free education

triangleEducation unions lead campaign against Leicester academisation


triangleLow pay, stress and Covid drive: NHS staff crisis

triangleWeetabix workers defeat 'fire and rehire' and ballot on improved pay offer


triangleInvergordon Royal Mail mutiny wins


triangleSouthampton student vote for online exams must be accepted

Reports and campaigns

Reports and campaigns



Obituary - Pauline Wall



10,000 tube workers vote to strike over jobs, terms and pension cuts



People's Budget: We beat council cuts before, we will again



Obituary - Pauline Wall



Obituary - Ethan Bradley 1993-2021



Protests against BBC transphobia



Communities fight back against Rio Tinto mine



Solidarity with workers protesting in Kazakhstan


North London

North London NHS - "It's going to be us who saves it"



Southampton student vote for online exams must be accepted



Carmarthenshire gritters take action as Plaid-led council reneges on agreement



Jobcentre Coronavirus outbreak leads to reps meeting call


South Yorkshire

South Yorkshire bus strikes spreading and getting stronger



East Mids rail conductors force concessions, train managers' dispute continues



Weetabix workers defeat 'fire and rehire' and ballot on improved pay offer

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



Phone our national office on 020 8988 8777

Email: [email protected]

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

Regional Socialist Party organisers:

Eastern: 079 8202 1969

East Mids: 077 3797 8057

London: 020 8988 8786

North East: 078 4114 4890

North West 079 5437 6096

South West: 077 5979 6478

Southern: 078 3368 1910

Wales: 077 7221 5281

West Mids: 024 7655 5620

Yorkshire: 078 0983 9793



Alphabetical listing

January 2022