UCU

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...

Industrial news in brief

Security staff at the University of Leicester are currently in dispute with management, who wish to cut their working week to 35 from 37 hours, with the loss of two hours’ pay. Effectively this works out to be about £800 per year. A large sum for relatively low paid workers but a tiny sum for the university, especially when the team they are targeting is very small. A consultative ballot was held last week where 100% turnout achieved 100% in favour of industrial action. This, from the 100% unionised team, should send a very clear message to the bosses that a cut in wages will not be tolerated...

Industrial news in brief

GMB and Unison picket lines covered Glasgow on Tuesday 23 and Wednesday 24 October in a two-day strike by City Council employees. A lunchtime demonstration on the first day of the strike also saw four thousand people march through Glasgow to a rally in front of the City Chambers. It was the biggest strike for equal pay in British history. The target was years of pay discrimination against City Council women employees, resulting from the Workforce Pay and Benefits Review (WPBR) which was introduced and defended by successive Labour administrations The then Labour-controlled Council rejected the...

Industrial news in brief

Further Education (FE) college workers are holding a national week of action from 15-19 October. The week of action over FE funding involves the FE lecturers′ union the UCU, plus other unions including Unison, Unite, GMB, NEU, NUS, TUC, and ASCL. The week will also involve a march, rally and lobby of Parliament on Wednesday 17 October (as Solidarity went to press). FE funding has been cut by around 30% since 2009. This has resulted in fewer teaching hours, a drastic reduction in adult education courses, and a real-terms pay cut of 25% for staff — college teachers now earn £7000 less on average...

Worker activists meet to build solidarity

Activists from the Independent Workers’ union of Great Britain (IWGB), United Voices of the World (UVW), UCU, Unite, RMT, Bectu, and other unions and workers’ organisations came together for the “How To Win At Work” conference on Saturday 18 August, hosted by the left-wing think tank New Economics Foundation. The culmination of a project aimed at linking up the struggles of “precarious” workers such as cleaners, bar workers, restaurant workers, delivery couriers and others, the conference saw activists take part in workshops on the basics of workplace organising and planning workplace action...

HE pay ballot new test for UCU

On 29 June, UCU confirmed that, between August and October this year, it will ballot HE members for industrial action over pay. This follows a consultative members’ ballot on whether to accept the 2% pay rise offered by the Universities and Colleges’ Employers Association (UCEA). On a 47.7% turnout, 82% of UCU members rejected the offer and 65% said they would be prepared to take industrial action. Additionally, a Special Higher Education Sector Conference (SHESC) was held on 21 June, following requests from at least 20 UCU HE branches to discuss the United Superannuation Scheme (USS) dispute...

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