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UCU: Strike action forces bosses to retreat but keep the pressure on
Sam Morecroft, Sheffield UCU anti-casualisation officer (personal capacity)
The University and College Union (UCU) received an offer on 23 March that showed how completely we have forced employers Universities UK (UUK) on to the back foot. They have offered to maintain the existing pension structure for a year, and crucially have agreed to a joint UUK/UCU working group to re-evaluate the pension fund.
It took a gargantuan effort by members to get us here - around 45,000 of us have taken more days of strike action collectively than were taken in the whole of 2015 or 2016 across all sectors! And when our union leadership announced an 'agreement' before branches could be consulted, members mobilised to seize control of the dispute and to reject the shoddy deal.
We are on the cusp of victory - but we're not quite there yet. The strike action and determination of our members has forced the employers into a retreat.
But at this stage this is a ceasefire not yet a surrender. That's why, at a meeting of 260 members, my branch has mandated me to demand that the threat of further strikes must not be withdrawn until we are certain that there are no preconditions placed on this joint working group.
In particular the reference to 'affordability' in this latest proposal is unacceptable - we can't allow the union to tie itself in to the employer's notion of affordability.
My branch is also demanding that we push for a three-year interim period, so there will be no changes until April 2021. That's crucial, because we can't allow this working group to be forced into a rush job - we need a genuinely transparent process from which members can hear regular reports from the UCU representatives involved.
It also gives us time to build a campaign to nationalise the USS pension scheme. That would secure our pensions not just for a couple of years but well into the future.
UCU members have waged an incredible struggle and we've very nearly won a famous victory - but the pressure must stay on. The employers will undoubtedly want to come at us again in the future, so it's crucial we continue to build a fighting and democratic UCU.
But provided we do that then let them come - they'll be taking on a union with a win under our belts, hardened by this struggle and confident we can fight them back again.
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