Report on NEC/HEC 13 March


Brighton picket: Bring on the reballot!

UCU’s NEC met last Friday in the context of a global Coronavirus pandemic. It was followed by a short emergency HEC, called in response to requests by members of UCU Left, to address the two disputes the union is currently waging in higher education.

The most important business of the NEC was the union’s position on the Covid-19 pandemic and its impact on post-19 education. A series of emergency motions were passed which committed UCU to calling for an end to face-to-face teaching in colleges and universities to avoid contributing to the transmission of the virus, and to support a switch to home working where possible.

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Managements should act in collaboration with the campus trade unions and guarantee that:

  • staff, especially those on casualised contracts, should suffer no detriment in terms of pay as a result of either self-isolation or the cancellation of teaching;
  • no workers with caring responsibilities or other personal circumstances preventing them from working at home should face loss of pay or other detriment;
  • expenses incurred through working at home should be met by the employers.

Motions called for guidance from the union on homeworking and for the union to be involved in wider community responses to the crisis. We need this guidance and the calls for closures to go out immediately from the union.

Since the NEC, UCU branches have been able to give a clear lead on the ground in forcing institutions to take a socially responsible stance and end face-to-face teaching. Emboldened by public demands from branch committees, UCU members in many colleges and universities have acted unilaterally and against the policy of their managements to cancel teaching and refuse to attend face to face meetings which compromise safe practices.

Where managements have been prepared to put lives at risk in the interests of avoiding reputational damage, it is UCU and other unions which have stood up for the health and safety of staff, students and the wider public.


In the emergency HEC meeting which followed NEC, the situation in the HE disputes was discussed. In both disputes the employers’ position had hardened in the previous week as our ballot mandate began to run out and their focus shifted towards the looming effects of Covid-19 on the sector.

Reballots had been planned to open on 17th March, but with the intensification of the coronavirus crisis and the closure of universities it was felt that that timetable was no longer possible. The debate polarised around two motions. One called for the timetable for reballots to be left in the hands of HEC officers and the General Secretary. The other, from the HEC officers themselves, (Vicky Blake, Chair, Jo McNeill and Mark Abel, Vice Chairs) proposed a defined, but delayed timetable.

The majority on the HEC were determined that a timetable should be set to prevent the employers using the Covid-19 crisis to bully the union to call off its fight over casualisation, equality, workloads, pensions and pay. These disputes are not over and the delay to reballots is a tactical decision to ensure the best chance of overcoming the hurdles set by the anti-union laws.

That is why it is unfortunate that the General Secretary’s report on the decisions declared that the union would not escalate the dispute during the crisis. There was no specific discussion of escalation, but HEC did not take the position that there would be no resumption of action until the coronavirus crisis was over. In fact, when reballots take place, it will involve all HE branches, not merely the 74 which have taken action in these disputes so far.

The issues behind our disputes have not gone away as a result of Covid-19. If anything, questions of the insecurity of casualised staff and overwork are exacerbated by the pandemic. The marketised HE system encourages managements not only to ignore health and safety in their responses to the crisis as they strive to avoid reputational damage, but also to continue their attacks on their staff. HEC’s decision to maintain the disputes is an important signal that the union will continue to fight for a higher education system which priorities the interests of staff and students.


We are in it to win it

Fair Workloads Fair pay

Download the leaflet here

We have had an incredible three weeks’ worth of strike action. Members have responded magnificently to the Four Fights and USS disputes. Across the UK members have picketed, lobbied, organised teach-outs and demonstrated. Members’ unprecedented action has put the employers on the back foot.

Before the strikes the employers said there was nothing to discuss. Since we have taken our action, we have forced them to negotiate and on every part of the claim they have been forced to make concessions. But these concessions are nowhere near enough.

The employers are in crisis. They had planned to wait out our strikes. Their contempt for staff has meant that students have gradually come over to expressing support in more and more visible ways. But the situation has changed. They are now caught between strikebound universities and a rapidly escalating Covid-19 crisis that could wipe out overseas student recruitment next year.

Universities are not cash-strapped. We only have to see how much the VCs award themselves and the £44bn in reserves they hold to understand this. We have every reason to fight on: indeed, our militancy is the main defence against any attempt by the employers to impose job losses as a result of Covid-19. We should pre-emptively submit local anti-casualisation claims to rule out redundancies (or non-renewal of contracts) as a result of Covid-19. And we should use our strike meetings to discuss this question this week.

It would be insulting to everyone working in the sector if the employers attempt to increase workloads or impose job losses to mitigate the impact of the Coronavirus. But of course left to their own devices that is exactly what they will do.

This is why we need to make sure the last week of our initial phase of action is not only well supported but we make clear we will all be voting Yes to continue the dispute in the reballots that start on 17 March.

No watering down of the claim

All of the negotiators, including UCU Left negotiators, are clear that there can be no deal without serious progress on behalf of the employers on all aspects of the five elements of our disputes. UCU policy opposes prioritising a deal on pensions at the expense of the rest. Of course, in any negotiations, compromise takes place to reach an agreement but not at the expense of the core demands of a dispute our members have so courageously fought for.

Despite claims to the contrary, there has been no attempt to water down our claims. We are all fighting to get the best possible deal. That’s why it was not helpful for the General Secretary to send out a statement, without even discussing it with your democratically elected negotiators, apparently recommending an ‘offer’ which has not actually been made!

Our negotiators have not recommended any offer, and indeed, unless there is serious movement in negotiations on the Four Fights, they are very unlikely to do so. ‘Four Fights’ negotiators have been arguing to get the employers to agree the best possible national framework on pay, the race and gender pay gaps and casualisation and workload.

Initially UCEA claimed they had no mandate to negotiate a national agreement on any one of the three fights. But our action has forced them to come up with a non-binding framework, formulated as a set of ‘expectations’. We have to be clear whatever we end up with it can only be an ‘expectation’ that institutions will act on it. There is no legally binding framework that forces employers to implement the recommendation. This is not something negotiators have conceded, but the reality of the sector in which we work.

This is why it is so important our strike remains strong and vibrant, not only to keep the pressure up on the national negotiations to get the best possible set of recommendations, but also to send a clear message to the local employer: don’t even think about not implementing it.

Winning the dispute

Without a serious offer from employers this week we need to debate how we are going to win this dispute.  Our starting point must begin by recognising the strength of our position. We have a solid and dynamic strike and convincing arguments that our claims are just and realistic. Students are increasingly joining us on the picket lines and protests.

On the picket lines, marches and strike meetings this week, we should take pictures of UCU members holding up placards saying we will vote yes to continue the fight to make sure there is no doubt in the employers’ minds what will happen if they don’t make a serious offer.

To ensure this is not an idle threat we need to prepare to Get the Vote Out in the re-ballots that will start on 17 March.

For the summer term, all forms of action should be considered. If we decide to do a marking and assessment boycott, we will need to make it clear to employers that we will regard 100% pay docking as a lockout which would trigger more strikes. An assessment boycott could run alongside a programme of rolling action whereby members are called out on a regional basis across the country on a weekly basis, creating a ‘Mexican wave’ effect across the UK leading to more national strike action.

If we are successful in getting across the thresholds again our ballots will last until mid-November. We should make it clear we will be hitting the beginning of next term with further strikes.

At this point we should not rule anything out. The best way to have a united discussion on strategy would be to call a national delegate meeting of striking branches to follow the publication of results of the re-ballots.

We are not alone

The day our re-ballots open will coincide with the announcement of the result of 100,000 CWU postal workers’ strike ballot. Civil servants in PCS are set to hold ballots for national strikes and our colleagues in FE will start their national ballot over pay at the end of March.

We have had magnificent solidarity from the movement so far, and there is plenty more to come. The whole of the trade union movement wants us to win this one. Our members have made a massive investment in this strike.

Let’s get a result to show the employers we have teeth and that any further attacks on UCU members will meet implacable resistance.  For casualised staff, women and BME members, for our members overburdened by unreasonable workloads we cannot afford to step back or deal with these issues ‘some other time’. If our employers sense weakness they will seek to make conditions even worse. Covid-19 shows what is at stake. The employers will make us pay for their crisis if they can.

We can shift the employers only if they know they can’t rely on the anti-union laws to wait us out. We have to be prepared to escalate our action.

Let’s Get the Vote Out and make it clear that more strikes and ASOS will follow if our employers refuse to offer us what we deserve and they can afford.


UCU Left ‘Four Fights’ Negotiators’ statement, 6/3/2020

Lobby of Woburn House

Lobbying UCEA HQ in December

Dear colleagues

We are writing as UCULeft ‘Four Fights’ negotiators who have been engaged in complex negotiations which are ongoing.

It is important to note that these negotiations have not yet resulted in an offer. Nothing is on the table and nothing is agreed.

The current situation is that after constructive discussions on the pay-related elements of the claim, the employers’ representatives were sent away to consult with their members.

In this context we are concerned that the General Secretary put out a statement on Thursday that was neither discussed nor agreed with the negotiators. In that statement she says that “If we can get an offer that represents the kind of movement I have set out here on all four parts of the dispute, I will recommend that our higher education committee (HEC) should consult members on whether to accept it.”

Negotiators are elected by members to engage directly with the employers to attempt to settle a dispute. During the course of negotiations we make proposals to the employers, knowing that whatever we might negotiate, there is a democratic process that holds us to account.

Offers, deals and accountability

HEC has agreed the following process for dealing with any offer from the employers. We have not had an offer, but were we to get one this is what would happen.

  1. First, negotiators would discuss it as a package and consider whether or not to recommend it for consultation as the best that could be achieved through negotiations. If it were not ready to go out, we would go straight back to the employers to negotiate further.
  2. Once it was sent out, members would see the offer, consult over and debate it in branch meetings or strike meetings, and elect delegates to a UK-wide meeting of branch reps.
  3. At that meeting, branch representatives would debate the offer at a UK-wide level, and vote on it (in a weighted vote) to decide whether to recommend to HEC as to whether or not to put it out to members.
  4. HEC would then take a vote on whether or not that offer should be sent out for a consultative ballot for members to vote on. HEC’s decision will be based on the recommendations of branch reps from the delegates meeting.

It is also strange to see a General Secretary proposing to recommend a deal that has not yet been made. It is standard practice in negotiations to say that “nothing is agreed until everything is agreed”. The assessment of whether an offer is acceptable cannot be made until all the details are confirmed. This is not yet the situation.

Negotiating on Pay

The second issue concerns headline pay. On Tuesday, UCU negotiators adopted a negotiating position of putting 3% on the table to give UCEA the chance to consult their members about the potential for a rapid resolution of the dispute in the context of a serious global health crisis that could engulf us all.

Let’s not forget that UCU’s claim is for RPI+3%. The employers are sitting on reserves of £44bn. They can afford to meet our claim in full.

This was, and is, a genuine offer to try to resolve the dispute, but it is for members and delegates in the process outlined above to decide whether or not it is sufficient to resolve it.

It is difficult to discuss an offer that does not exist! But were we to get an offer we would have to make a serious decision as to whether we as negotiators, collectively or individually, can recommend it to members to be decided on by the process outlined above.

All the negotiators are strengthened by every single striker and picketer. We now need to sustain and strengthen the action.

Our strikes are our strongest leverage. We can win this together.

Mark Abel
Marian Mayer
Jo McNeill
Sean Wallis

Let’s push on to victory

London College of Fashion Dundee Picket
After the first five of our 14 strike days, the employers are looking for ways to settle. There were talks last week in both disputes and more to follow this week.

Both sides know that the future direction of higher education is at stake. The employers’ commitment to marketisation means that only the bottom line counts in the scramble for dominance or survival. Students are palmed off with an increasingly inferior educational experience as they are crammed into lecture halls and their contact time is cut.

While for staff, the imperative is driving down the wage bill by whatever means available. Wave after wave of voluntary severances push workloads to levels incompatible with healthy lives. A reliance on the cheapest possible employment arrangements – zero-hours contracts, worker and agency contracts which don’t come with employee rights, and short-term contracts – keep people guessing about how long they will be earning.


None of this is because the sector is impoverished. Only the contrary, higher education is richer than it has ever been. Even after the splurges on new buildings and the grasping of Vice Chancellors enriching themselves, universities are sitting on billions in reserves.

Our strike has put the employers on the back-foot. They did not expect the level of support for the demands that we have put forward.

Our demands are necessary and urgent for our members, but also counter the fragmentation and marketisation of the sector. Reinforcing the national mutual agreement to maintain the USS pension scheme and creating a new national agreement to set a floor for employment standards would limit the scope for dangerous speculation at the expense of the sector, students and staff.

How are we doing so far?

We are making real progress on USS. The employers are increasingly learning to accept they cannot assume they can pass on escalating costs to staff and accepting that ‘de-risking’ – a strategy they pursued since 2014 – is a non-starter. We have not won yet, but if we do win, we will complete unfinished business from 2018.

We are also making progress in the Four Fights, with the employers realising they are going to have to reach a national agreement of minimum standards of some sort. Our negotiators are making some progress. The employers are trying to say that they ‘have no mandate’ to enter into such an agreement. But they have gradually made concessions.

UCU negotiators are seeking from UCEA the following:

  • a UK level sector wide agreement establishing a series of expectations of employment rights and working conditions for the Higher Education sector, including abolition of zero-hours contracts and ‘worker contracts’ (apart from genuine one-off engagements).
  • a set of core principles for tackling race and gender inequality on pay outcomes and an implementation timescale.
  • a set of commitments on workload review that reinforce the Pay Framework 2004 principle of Equal Pay for Equal Value is properly realised in terms of time and bring workloads under control.
  • to a meaningful pay increase based on RPI that meets the joint unions’ claim of ‘keep up and catch up’.

If we want to defend academic freedom in every university, we have to set minimum employment standards for the sector. A national agreement will have to be backed up by local negotiations that enforce minimum standards at each institution. There can be no slippage of national minimum standards. We have to stop a race to the bottom.


The sector is institutionally racist and sexist. The further you go up the payscale in departments and management structures, the smaller the proportion of women and BAME staff. Appointing a few professors or senior managers won’t cut it – the universities are structurally discriminatory.

Addressing casualisation and the two or three tier workforce is a basic necessity to address inequality. It is no accident that the universities with the greatest gender pay gaps are medical and research-intensive universities. Casualisation and poor promotion prospects are the ‘glass ceilings’ – the structural impediments to addressing inequality.

The money is there

So far the employers have made no meaningful improvement on the pay offer. That has to change. Our pay has fallen 20% in real terms while university incomes from student fees have skyrocketed. Staff costs are now 55% of budgets – a record low (in the 1970s they were 70% of budgets). The sector has reserves in excess of £44bn, with surpluses of over £1bn a year coming in. The money is there. We need to force the employers to rethink what they do with the money that is sloshing around the sector.

It was strikes that broke the employers’ determination to trash USS in 2018, and it has been our strikes that have dragged the employers to concede further.

We have to strengthen our action, and we have the advantage of having our students on our side. We know our action is impacting on them, but they also appreciate we are fighting for the future of the sector. We are fighting for them, whether they wish to have a future in academic employment or not.

We have to organise to win. This is not the time to let the picket lines dwindle. But we also need to reach out to the rest of the trade union and labour movement for moral and financial support. Whenever we do so we get a great response.

Sector-changing deals are within sight provided we keep the pressure up!

The importance of solidarity to our disputes – Why money matters

QMU students support UCU strike
We are entering a crucial phase in UCU’s two concurrent disputes. Our second wave of strikes represents an escalation in terms of strike days and the number of members involved in action.
These are disputes about the future of Higher Education. It has become clear to people watching the dispute from the outside what was already obvious to UCU members – that we are challenging the marketisation of education through fighting against its pernicious effects on staff.Generalise
The stakes are now very high. We will not pursue these disputes to successful conclusions if we fight them in a sectional way which fails to generalise them outwards. Our issues – shrinking pay, spiralling workloads, insecure contracts, entrenched inequality and severely reduced pension rights – are all too familiar to trade unionists in other sectors. The same project of allowing the logic of the market to rip through the services we provide is being applied to all parts of the public sector.At the moment it is HE staff who are in the frontline of this battle. We are the ones with our heads above the parapet, carrying the fight to the employers and the pension fund bosses. But we are fighting in the interests of many more, and we should not allow ourselves to be isolated. We need to connect our fight with the issues facing the rest of the trade union movement.

We need moral support from the movement. We need other unions to recognise that our fight is their fight and to say so publicly at rallies, demonstrations and on our picket lines. But moral support will not be enough.

It is crucial that we win financial support as well. Our bosses, like all bosses before them, will attempt to use financial pressure to undermine our members’ ability to sustain strike action. Some universities have callously refused to stagger pay deductions across several months. But losing 14 more days’ pay on top of the eight before Xmas is not easy for most HE staff even if they are staggered.

Raising money from other trade unionists is the key to overcoming this pressure. Not only does every pound raised demonstrate a concrete commitment of support for our fight and an understanding of its importance, it is also crucial to allowing UCU members to continue to strike.

NEC members ensured last Friday that the union remained committed to paying the same rates of strike pay during the 14 days, and raised the cap on what each member can claim in total. This is absolutely right. To reduce the rates would have sent a message to every member that we were not serious about this fight.

But the strike fund is not a bottomless pit. It needs replenishing. That requires a serious effort from all levels of the union. Approaches to other unions at national level can produce donations of tens of thousands of pounds to our fighting fund. But we need to address this at a regional and local level too.

Every striking branch needs to get in touch with other trade union branches in its local area. Trades Councils can help with circulating appeals for funds and should be asked to make donations themselves. Striking UCU members need to follow up these appeals with personal approaches to fellow trade unionists. We need to visit key workplaces and get ourselves invited into branch meetings to speak about the strikes. Every such speech needs to conclude by asking for money.

Some of this is pushing at an open door. NEU teachers branches have been encouraged by their union leadership to make donations. But in every branch of every union, the issues we are fighting over will be understood and requests for donations to our fighting fund will be taken seriously.

Trade unions began precisely as funds to allow groups of workers to go on strike. It is a tradition that needs reviving and that we must put at the centre of this phase of our disputes.

Far from being a weakness, this shows real strength. We are a small part of a global trade union movement and our sister unions will financially support our action so we can continue to fight.

Jo McNeill and Mark Abel, Co-Vice Chairs of UCU HEC

Build the strikes to see the fights through to the finish


Strike to win - pickets and student supporters in Cambridge, 4 December 2019

Strike to win – pickets and student supporters in Cambridge, 4 December 2019

Download Build the Strikes leaflet

Arguments against the 14 days strikes planned in HE are circulating in some quarters of the UCU. Some of these voices are being amplified by the media.

These arguments echo the position of the IBL minority on the HEC who last week voted against calling the same 14 days of strike for the Four Fights as had already been identified for the USS dispute. Not only do they want to decouple the Four Fights from USS, some of them argued that further strikes were futile as it was not possible to make progress on casualisation, equalities, pay and workloads.

The anonymous UCU member who wrote in the TES this week argued against further strikes in either dispute, saying now is the time for constructive negotiation, not strikes.

No retreat

To step back from strikes now would be an unforgivable retreat. We do not have a choice between negotiation and striking. It’s because our eight days last term haven’t pushed the employers far enough in either dispute that we have to strike again.

The only reason UCU was offered a round of ‘without prejudice’ talks which allowed the current offer to be made was the fact we took eight days of impactful industrial action.

Further action will push the employers more. They did not want us to take action within this timeframe. They know how effective action at this point in the academic calendars can be. They clearly remember the 2018 USS strike.

The USS dispute must be fought now because the future of the pension scheme is in the balance. Unless we fight to put it on a sustainable basis, it may not survive.

The Four Fights needs to be pursued because we cannot become the kind of union that only fights for the interests of some sections of its members – those on permanent contracts in pre-92 universities. UCU needs to be the union that fights for all those being trampled on by marketisation.

Younger staff flocked into the union in 2018 to defend USS despite many of them being too precariously employed to have joined the pension scheme. It’s right that we repay that solidarity by fighting for a national deal to roll back casualisation and win people proper contracts.

Winding down the Four Fights would mean abandoning our female and black colleagues to appalling pay gaps. It would also signal acceptance that future generations of HE staff must earn lower wages than their predecessors. It’s the job of the union to make sure that no one gets left behind.


The plan for 14 more days of strikes has not come out of thin air. It was proposed by branch delegates at the Special Sector Conference in December. Subsequently, reballots in 37 branches delivered overwhelming majorities for action, with 14 more branches now able to join us in the Second Wave. HEC was right to vote for further action – it would have been a scandalous betrayal of democracy if it had not. This determination has also encouraged EIS members in five Scottish universities to come out on strike as well.

Of course there is some apprehension among members in advance of 14 more days of strike. Striking is not easy. But time and again UCU members have shown that they are ready to see the fights through to the finish. We are committed to our students, but we can’t let our managements get away with blackmailing us over the ‘student experience’ when all they are interested in is competing for fee income and delivering education on the cheap. Only halting the effects of marketisation can save a higher education system worthy of the name.

Now is not the time to hesitate. We need to follow through on members’ willingness to fight and build the action. We need a serious effort to raise financial solidarity from the rest of the trade union movement to alleviate the hardship some members will face. Let’s make it clear to our employers that only fair settlements of our demands will bring peace to our universities.


Four Fights and USS. Sticking together. An injury to one is an injury to all


One of the most serious and important debates in our union took place on Thursday at the Higher Education Committee of UCU over the two disputes, ‘Four Fights’ and USS pensions. After a lengthy discussion, reviewing feedback received to HQ and taking reports from negotiators, it was agreed to call 14 days of strikes for both the USS and the Four Fights disputes. The dates are those determined by the HE Sector Conference in December. It was also agreed to permit branches to vary these by agreement if they fell during ‘reading weeks’ and similar periods.

74 branches have now successfully got ballot mandates to strike on one or both of the disputes. Imperial College London is outside national pay bargaining but voted to strike over USS and (local) pay.

HEC heard that employers continue to resist making commitments on the Four Fights, but they are being forced to respond to the issues at the heart of the dispute. Employers have conceded the principle that pay inequality, casualization and workloads are issues they can agree UK-wide agreements with UCU on. But UCEA’s proposed recommendations to employers go nowhere near enough in terms of being enforceable.

UCEA claims that it does not ‘have a mandate from its subscribers’ to negotiate further over casualization, workload and equal pay gaps. This is their excuse for making limited commitments. But branches can and should start demanding their employers give UCEA such a mandate, in order to resolve the dispute. Branches should also submit local claims identifying key areas that need improvement.

There is some promising news from USS negotiations, which if confirmed and followed through could represent an historic win for the union. UUK has finally conceded that ‘Test 1’ and de-risking has to end. But USS and the Pension Regulator both have to agree to this. Were de-risking abandoned, USS contributions should fall and the scheme should return to its historic long-term stability. But nothing is confirmed yet, USS managers have resisted this argument, and the second Joint Expert Panel report proposals will take much longer to reach a conclusion. There is plenty of opportunity for USS to block fundamental change, so we are some way to go.

HEC also voted to build up a strike fund from members and branches not taking action as well as from the wider trade union movement.

HEC will meet again on 14 February.


The Results Are In – Members are Ready to Fight!

  • Members vote more than 3:1 Yes
  • 14 more branches join the fight, 8 post-92
  • Over 50,000 HE members in 74 universities able to strike

The latest round of ballots in Higher Education were reported on Wednesday 29 January.

Another 12 institutions have joined the “Four Fights” dispute, 8 of which are post-92, and 6 have gained a strike mandate in the USS pensions fight.

It brings the total number of universities taking part to 74, 14 of which are post-92.

Two institutions have mandates for both disputes, and the University of Oxford, which won a mandate on pay but narrowly missed the threshold on USS, also crossed the threshold. Similarly University of East Anglia gained a mandate on pay.

In total, 14 additional branches have gained a mandate for strike action over one or both disputes, including Imperial College London, which also balloted locally over pay (they are outside national pay bargaining).

The figures are impressive. Slightly more than 4,500 balloted members have joined the USS fight, taking the total percentage of balloted members eligible to strike to around 87% of the pre-92 USS sector.

In the pay dispute, the total number of additional strikers is slightly more, which increases the strike coverage from 60% to 67% of the entire HE sector.

Using 2019 balloted membership figures*, the number of balloted members in branches able to participate in strikes now exceeds 50,000.

GTVO success

Some branches raised their turnout very substantially between October 2019 and January 2020.

Bath Spa, the University of the Arts London (UAL) and the University of Worcester all increased their turnout by 20 percentage points. For example UAL (with nearly 700 members balloted), increased their turnout from 34% to 54%.

Topping the list of ‘gainers’, the Royal College of Art (100 members) increased their turnout by 28 percentage points.

Unfortunately Worcester just missed out of 50% — another victim of the Tory Anti-Union Law.

Members vote Yes to action

But this is turnout. What matters democratically is whether members are voting Yes. The Yes votes are highly impressive. The average Yes strike vote on the Four Fights claim was 76%, and on USS, 79.4%.

The ballots also cover Action Short of a Strike, where numbers and mandates are very similar (Four Fights: 85% Yes, USS: 83% Yes).

Members are expecting to be asked to take 14 days’ strike action over USS, and possibly over pay. Anyone who thinks that members are not prepared to take hard-hitting action, or want yet another “consultation” needs to look closely at the ballot results.

The results are in. Members are ready to fight, and members in 15 more branches have proved it.

Balloted institutions

The institutions which achieved a turnout of 50% or more are:

1. King’s College London
2. Imperial College London
3. Keele University
4. University of Oxford (already has live ballot on Pay)
5. SOAS, University of London (also on Pay)
6. Birkbeck College, University of London (also on Pay)

Pay/four fights
1. SOAS, University of London (also on USS)
2. The University of Huddersfield
3. Birkbeck College, University of London (also on USS)
4. The University of Winchester
5. University of the Arts London
6. De Montfort University
7. University of East Anglia (already has a live ballot on USS)
8. University of Greenwich
9. University of East London
10. Leeds Trinity University
11. Bath Spa University
12. Royal College of Art

Total number of institutions now able to strike over USS or pay/four fights: 14 + 60 = 74.

Not a single branch balloted voted No. But thanks to the Tory anti-union laws, thousands of members are not permitted to strike.


*Membership has grown since, in some branches by as much as 20%.

UCEA: Must Try Harder

Strike to win - pickets and student supporters in Cambridge, 4 December 2019

Strike to win – pickets and student supporters in Cambridge, 4 December 2019

Colleagues will have seen the email from UCU General Secretary Jo Grady today, Tuesday 28 February, announcing UCEA’s “final offer” on the Four Fights dispute.

This “final offer”:

  • offers no increase on the 1.8% pay imposed (a real-terms pay cut of 0.8% against August RPI)
  • makes limited concessions on casualisation, but mostly says that employers should obey the law
  • makes no tangible progress on reducing catastrophic levels of workload
  • makes no tangible progress on gender and race inequality

The offer is an insult, but it does show that UCEA is frightened by the prospect of our further strike action. They are trying to buy us off, but with crumbs rather than anything meaningful.

This shows that we were right to take the 8 days of strike action, but that we will need to put on further pressure through our next 14 days of strike action in order to get a real offer.

We do not agree to trade off the interests of different groups of members.

UCEA claims it did not have a mandate to make more far-reaching commitments. But if their subscribers are under pressure from branches preparing to strike, they are far more likely to give them such a mandate.


Jo Grady’s email bypassed UCU’s own lay elected negotiators, who did not agree its content.

But most seriously of all, it pre-empted UCU’s own Higher Education Committee, who are set to meet on Thursday.

A democratic organisation such as a trade union would normally avoid making any statement until the elected officers and reps responsible for making a decision are able to meet.

What now?

Our eight days of action shocked the employers. But it is our threat of future strike action is what is really worrying them.

We should continue to mobilise for action. The employers do not want us to take strike action on the same timeframe as the 2018 USS dispute as they know how effective we can be at that point in the academic year. So this is exactly what we need to do. We can get a far better deal than this.

It is standard practice for employers to say their offer is “final”. There is no reason to accept, and everything to lose if we do.

HEC must throw out this ‘offer’ — and UCEA must try harder.