The Socialist 16 January 2019 |
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UCU: Vote Yes and Yes in the higher education pay and equality ballot
UCU strikers at the University of Nottingham, 27 February 2018, photo Gary Freeman (Click to enlarge)
Sam Morecroft, UCU Yorks and Humber regional executive (personal capacity)
On 15 January, the University and College Union (UCU) pay and equality ballot for industrial action opened, and will run until 22 February.
This is a national strike ballot, covering 147 higher education institutions. It addresses four key aspects of our terms and conditions - workload, casualisation, the gender pay gap and general levels of pay.
Despite the fact that workload in UK universities is so out of control that, on average, UCU members are now working the equivalent of two days a week for free, our employers have refused to negotiate.
Casualisation has become so rife in UK universities that over 100,000 higher education workers are now engaged on some form of casual contract - such as zero hours, fixed term or even casual worker agreements with no employment status at all. Despite this, our employers have refused to negotiate.
Indeed, although the gender pay gap in the UK is the worst of any higher education sector in the developed world at 18.4%, our employers have refused to negotiate.
To add insult to injury, since 2010 our pay has fallen in real terms by 21% according to the retail price index, yet the employers have offered a measly 2% rise.
With the RPI last year standing at 3.2%, that's another below-inflation offer and another real-terms pay cut.
UCU members have had enough of attacks on our pay, terms and conditions - we're being forced to fight back.
This is the second ballot on these issues we've had this academic year - in October we secured a vote of nearly 70% in favour of strike action on a 42% turnout. That's the highest turnout we've ever secured in a pay ballot in UCU's history.
But because of the Tory government's vicious anti-union laws, we don't have a legal mandate to strike.
That shows how important it is for workers in the UK to get rid of the Tories, elect a Corbyn-led government and make sure he keeps his promise of scrapping the Trade Union Act.
Not prepared to wait
But in UCU we're not prepared to wait - we're balloting again, because we're determined that nothing will stop us fighting back against the employers and because we can't afford to accept the current situation.
Closing the gap and securing a 50% turnout is a huge challenge. That's why UCU branches up and down the country will be organising member meetings, knocking on doors and phone banking to make sure we reach the threshold.
Students can play a hugely important role on campus - the support and solidarity of students can raise the confidence of UCU members and help us to get over the line!