To all members of UCU Left in Higher Education. This is a call to arms!
Our union is in crisis. Many members have put their head down. Others are furious with the retreats. Some are talking about leaving the union. Some have already resigned.
We have to give a lead.
At the end of this message are a set of draft motions that UCU Left is proposing that branches submit to the Special Higher Education Sector Conference, scheduled for 24 February in Manchester.
Branches have fought to get the 20 requisition motions submitted. We need to use this opportunity to lay down a positive strategy for rebuilding the confidence of members in our national union. We can reclaim our union for its members.
Branches are entitled to submit 2 motions to this Conference of up to 150 words. We think that, taken together, they begin to outline an alternative vision for our union.
Quoracy. Precisely because many members are demoralised and disorientated, activists cannot assume that General Meetings will be quorate, as they were during the dispute. This is not a “normal” situation. Everyone needs to systematically build their branch’s General Meeting.
* Get posters up everywhere. Don’t rely on email, although additional reminders will help.
* Go around departments. Ask colleagues directly to come to the meeting.
* Remind colleagues again on the morning of the meeting.
Time.The deadline for submission of motions is noon on Thursday 12 February. Branches must meet by Wednesday 11 February. Meeting notifications and motions should be circulated to members properly in advance, in a manner consistent with your local branch rules.
All motions for the Higher Education Sector Conference must be submitted by a designated branch officer using the form at the bottom of the page here
Note: Pre-92 branches, whose institutions are in USS (“USS branches”), can pass all of the motions. Post-92 branches can safely pass Motion 3 and 5 without being ruled out of order.
MOTION 1: Restarting the USS dispute (USS branches)
Conference notes the e-ballot result with a majority to accept the USS offer.
The proposals from USS did not represent an improvement on the original changes to pensions.
The accompanying statement to the e-ballot on USS changes was highly misleading and mis-represented the alternative to accepting the proposals on pensions by failing to set out a credible strategy for industrial action.
Conference instructs HEC to declare a dispute over USS and ballot members for industrial action with
A recommendation for a yes vote
A sufficiently long ballot period
Materials explaining that it is still possible to win significant improvements to pensions and setting out a credible strategy for doing this.
MOTION 2: Challenging the deficit (USS branches)
Conference notes the USS ‘deficit’ has been created by a particular interpretation of the value of the assets of the pension scheme and the returns on those assets. This methodology, known as ‘gilts plus’ artificially created a deficit. The consequence of this deficit is then compounded by the belief that the USS pension scheme is not a multi-employer scheme and the de-risking strategy of a movement of assets into government bonds.
Conference believes this methodological approach will create the conditions for a further deficit and further attacks on our pensions in USS and also in the Teachers’ Pension schemes.
Conference rejects the ‘gilt plus’ methodology used by USS and believes pensions are affordable and agrees to launch a campaign to defend all pensions in HE.
MOTION 3: Insisting on a combined “ASOS+strike” industrial strategy
Conference recognises that members do not have confidence in the industrial action strategy pursued by the national union because the majority of the HEC has failed to provide a means by which ASOS would be combined with national strike action.
Conference also recognises that the failure to challenge institution’s decisions to impose punitive pay-docking with national strike action has undermined a belief in ASOS amongst members.
Conference reaffirms the strategy adopted by UCU Congress linking ASOS with escalating strike action rather than counterposing one to the other.
Conference commits to develop a timetable for industrial action which, combined with a mapping of institutions own key timetable, ensures our industrial action is undertaken at a time when it will have the greatest impact.
MOTION 4: Conduct of negotiators and HEC (USS branches)
Conference believes the UCU negotiators failed to follow a democratically determined strategy for negotiations on pensions. UCU has never accepted a defined contribution pension scheme and its secret negotiation was outwith the remit of the negotiators. Conference therefore no longer has confidence in our negotiators and calls on them to resign.
Conference further has no confidence in the HEC, which supported this failure in union democracy.
MOTION 5: Union democracy
Conference reaffirms its belief in UCU as a member-led union. Central to this view is a commitment to democratic decision-making, accountability and transparency.
Conference believes that any suggestion of undemocratic processes undermines and damages the union’s credibility with its members.
Conference instructs the chair of HEC to provide information on request about the numbers and names of branches that have submitted quorate motions calling for a special sector conference to the secretaries of HE branches and members of HEC.
Conference recognises the value of regular member-involvement in the conduct of dispute. Conference instructs HEC to organise regular delegate-based decision-making meetings (special sector conferences) during any national HE dispute to debate the strategy and tactics of that dispute.