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27 February 2019

University and College Union: anti-union laws frustrate strike ballot again

Socialist Party members in UCU

The result of the higher education equality and pay ballot for industrial action has been announced. University and College Union (UCU) members voted overwhelmingly to strike - a 70% yes vote for action to defeat casualisation, workload, the gender pay gap and falling pay.

Unfortunately however, the turnout was 41% - around the same as the autumn ballot - and not sufficient to meet the undemocratic thresholds imposed on us by the Tories' vicious anti-union laws.

This will be a bitter disappointment to many members, especially given the work branches have done to get the vote out.

Many have organised phone banking, door knocking and members' meetings to drive up the turnout.

There are reports, however, that some right-wing branch leaderships, unwilling to take action themselves, have deliberately discouraged members from voting.

That is scandalous. For all the positives we can take from our organising work, there are still branches which are in dire need of new leaders to step forward.

It was right to take the step of re-balloting, this time on an aggregated basis, in order to attempt to meet the threshold.

While this is a setback, it should be noted that in these two ballots, we have seen the most member engagement and highest turnouts in any pay dispute in our union's short history.

We cannot be discouraged, but should continue to put forward local demands on the gender pay gap, workload and casualisation, which the employers refuse to negotiate at national level.

Sally Hunt has resigned as UCU general secretary, unfortunately for health reasons. Socialist Party members in UCU send greetings to Sally Hunt at this difficult time.

We will write more soon about what this means for our union and how the left should respond.