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University pay fight resumes

UCU members out on the streets in Glasgow, 14 February. Photo Workers.

On 17 April University and College Union declared that university members have won a “historic victory” in achieving restoration of their pension. Three days later, they resumed their other battles with the employers, on pay and working conditions.

After several weeks of the all-out strike days which led to the pensions success, the union has now changed tack, with over 35,000 UCU members voting to pursue further industrial action in the form of a marking and assessment boycott.

The boycott, involving 145 universities, is targeted at stopping summative (that is, final) assessment at undergraduate, Master’s and doctoral level. General Secretary Jo Grady explained: “University staff have been clear that they want a better deal, and it is in the interests of employers to make an enhanced offer and prevent serious disruption hitting graduations.”

The action is despite many UCU members receiving outrageous threats from employers. While many universities are implementing a punitive 30 per cent pay deduction for workers engaging directly in the action, many have been told they are facing 50 per cent or even 100 per cent pay deductions. The aim is to break members’ resolve as quickly as possible.

Knowing that the legal system in Britain is stacked against working people, the union has developed a plan to put maximum pressure on employers immediately. This includes using local press and national media to expose those employers who move to punitive deductions, and escalating to strike action in universities where these deductions take place.

Staff members who don’t have marking and assessment in their workload, and therefore who won’t lose any pay, will participate in the action by contributing to the local and national fighting funds from which those engaged in the boycott can claim the pay they are losing.

The union position is clear: it will not bow down to intimidation. The employers can end this now by tabling a renewed offer on pay and working conditions. It’s that or the union will take the dispute to an even higher level.