UCU

Lessons from Cambridge

Our advice to other workers, based on our experience in the 20 September climate strike, is: 1. Begin with a very low-stakes, but highly visible, action. In our case, this was simply a group photo in front of a banner during what would otherwise be most people’s lunch break, taking advantage of the 20 minute walkout that the TUC had backed. 2. Go into workplaces and ask if you can put up posters/leave leaflets. This is perhaps easier on the site we targeted as we had several university departments, a vet surgery, and a construction site all in close proximity. 3. If your union officially backs...

Unis out from 25 November

Members of the University and College Union (UCU), the national union for academic staff in the UK, are set to strike at 60 universities for eight days between 25 November and 4 December 2019. This follows a highly successful pair of strike ballots among UCU members in higher education: one on pensions, the other on pay, equality, casualisation, and workloads. The pensions strike continues the long-running dispute over proposed cuts to the United Superannuation Scheme (USS), the main pension plan in the “pre-92” universities. The pay dispute affects both the “pre-92” and “post-92” universities...

Sixty Universities out from 25 November

Members of the University and Colleges Union (UCU) will strike at 60 universities between 25 November and 4 December, over pay and conditions, pensions, and both. The dispute over the USS pension scheme that shut down many pre-92 universities in 2018 remains unresolved. While employers have backed away from entirely closing the defined benefit scheme, employee contributions have risen to 9.6% from 6.35% ten years ago and 8% when the current Career Average scheme was introduced. Jane Hutton, a statistics professor who raised concerns about the governance of USS, has been sacked from its board...

Strikes at Virgin, West Midlands, South Western Railway

Rail union RMT has called strikes on Virgin Trains, West Midlands Trains, and South Western Railway (SWR). On the latter, the union has named a calendar of strikes throughout November and December, which will see walkouts on 16, 23, and 30 November, and 7, 14, 21, and 28 December. West Midlands Trains is the latest Train Operating Company to see its workers plan industrial action over the imposition of Driver Only Operation (DOO). On Virgin Trains, train managers, a grade of customer-facing train crew, on the West Coast franchise will strike on 19 November to demand the reinstatement of an...

Industrial news in brief

UCU ballot opens University staff belonging to UCU are being balloted for strike action this autumn over pay equality, job security, workload and pay deflation. Working conditions in higher education have been deteriorating. The gender pay gap is over 15%; over 100,000 staff across the sector are on fixed-term contracts; academic staff work over 50 hours in a typical week; and in the past ten years pay has declined by 20% in real terms. In 2018 an impressive strike forced pre-92 universities to back down on massive pension cuts, but since then employers have refused to compromise and now they...

Robert Fine and the critique of antisemitism

Robert Fine, who died on 9 June 2018, was a socialist writer unafraid to stand up to much of the left’s received wisdom on the questions of Israel, Palestine, and antisemitism. He opposed the “absolute anti-Zionist” standpoint that one should unreservedly object to (a) Israel’s very existence, rather than the oppressive practices of the Israeli state, and (b) any feelings of Jewish communal or national identification with Israel, even when such feelings are accompanied with harsh condemnation of the Israeli government or genuine horror at the Palestinians’ suffering. Fine opposed the blanket...

Fat cat college threatens to sink pension scheme

Trinity College, the richest college at the University of Cambridge (net worth £1.5bn), recently took the decision to remove itself from the USS pension agreement — the same agreement that saw 2018’s mass industrial action on dozens of university campuses. This verdict, taken based on flawed financial grounds and with disregard to the wider education sector, puts at greater risk the pensions of over 400,000 university workers across the UK, and is already leading other universities to re-consider their long-term commitment to the scheme. University and College Union members in Cambridge have...

Left wins in UCU

Jo Grady, Senior Lecturer in Employment Relations at the University of Sheffield and Pensions Officer of Sheffield UCU, has been elected General Secretary of the University and College Union (UCU). Grady won on a landslide, picking up 48.7% of the vote in the first round and then 64% in the second round. Electoral turnout was 20.5%, a marked improvement over the 13.7% turnout of the 2017 election. Grady came far ahead of her two electoral opponents, each of whom represented an established faction in UCU. Jo McNeill, the candidate for UCU Left (the bureaucratic left faction in which the...

Industrial news in brief

Since 15 January, Higher Education (HE) members of the University and College Union (UCU) have been voting in the pay and equality ballot. The ballot covers 143 universities and will close on 22 February. In last term’s ballots (counted university by university) on this same issue, most UCU branches failed to meet the 50% turnout requirement imposed by the Trade Union Act 2016. This time, the ballot is aggregated, so all results will be counted together. Although UCU activists are working energetically to get the vote out, members face considerable difficulties meeting the turnout threshold...

Industrial news in brief

Station staff on London Underground’s Bakerloo Line South Group, which includes Oxford Circus, Piccadilly Circus, Charing Cross, Lambeth North, and Elephant and Castle, have voted by 88% for strikes against short-staffing. Tube union RMT has announced strikes for 26 December and 14 January. RMT has also declared victory in the “battle of Baker Street”, after London Underground reinstated an unjustly sacked station worker, and trumped-up disciplinary charges against another were dropped. Tube bosses were forced to back down after 41 out of 61 workers balloted at the station voted for strikes...

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