Delegates at the University and College Union (UCU) conference (28-30 May) probably came away a little confused on the real prospects for their disputes and their union.
Despite the union’s success in conducting strike ballots over the last year, its lack of a thought-through strategy is creating problems.
After the March 24 strikes, there are fears that momentum has been lost and that strategies are foisted on the union rather than debated. Partly as a result of that, delegates from pre-92 universities unfortunately voted narrowly to pull out of the June 30 action.
Apart from June 30, the only consideration for future action was a call for the TUC to call a one-day public sector strike. This got all of four minutes of conference debate, in the form of one speech in favour.
What to do to make sure such a call was successful was not discussed. And there have to be doubts about the TUC leading such an action given the very limited pressure they are currently under.
UCU leader Sally Hunt, who made a long speech containing thinly veiled attacks on the left and on industrial action, probably expects that the strike on June 30 will be very weakly supported and maybe even that the whole strike wave may subside.
The need for the left to seriously and critically evaluate its tactics is even more clear.
• A longer version of this report, including details of the conference’s debate on anti-Semitism (in which the SWP argued that the union should reject the EU’s definition of the term), is at http://bit.ly/iXn3wh