Planned strikes by members of the University and College Union (UCU) in pre-1992 university, aimed to stop cuts to the University Superannuation Scheme for academic workers’ pensions, have been suspended after union members voted to accept an employers’ offer.
UCU members voted by 64% to 36%, on a turnout of over 60%, to accept an offer from bosses’ organisation Universities UK which proposed to set up a joint “expert panel” to review pension reform. However, many UCU activists argued that the deal, which did not contain any firm guarantees to abandon plans to reform pensions, or any long-term commitment to retaining the status quo, could only postpone, rather than defeat, the attacks.
Activists also argued that the UCU leadership, including General Secretary Sally Hunt, effectively gerrymandered the ballot by circulating misleading emails about the UUK deal.
The substantial minority which voted to reject the deal and continue striking reflects a significant upsurge of rank-and-file organisation in the UCU. Dozens of branches passed policy opposing the deal and mobilised for a no vote. The website “USS Briefs” published regular bulletins analysing and commenting on particular aspects of the dispute, and a new network, “UCU Rank-and-File”, has been provisionally established, with a formal launch meeting due to take place in London on 29 April.
The existing “UCU Left”, which is dominated by the SWP and whose supporters will meet on 28 April, functions almost exclusively as an electoral machine rather than engaging in transformative struggle within the union.
Members have been discussing what a transformed UCU would look like on Twitter using the hashtag #UCUOfMyDreams.
Workers’ Liberty members active in UCU will attend the meeting of the new UCU Rank-and-File initiative to argue for a genuine rank-and-file approach, based on the structures of the union, which fights for greater democracy and more radical and creative industrial strategies.