More days and more branches – the Second Wave is on!

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

The motions passed by the HE Special Conference on Friday have now been published.

The mood of the conference was buoyant after eight days of successful strike action by 60 branches. Delegates were overwhelmingly in favour of planning a further wave of strike action next term. A proposal to debate a motion calling for divorcing the USS dispute from the Four Fights was soundly defeated.

Conference debated several proposals for numbers of strike days and dates for the Second Wave, finally endorsing a proposal from the University of Liverpool for 14 days of action in February and March.

The constitutional position is that only the Higher Education Committee has the power to call industrial action and it doesn’t meet until 30th January. But as a delegate meeting, Sector Conference takes precedence and the HEC should act on the motions passed. As the two Co-Vice Chairs of the HEC, we will be determined to ensure that this is what happens.


Twelve branches have already begun to reballot, with reballots of the rest of the branches which got over 40% opening on 7th January. This could mean up to 50 more branches joining the action representing a total of 81% of the union’s HE membership, 98% of those in USS branches.

This is exactly the escalation we need. We must leave the employers in no doubt that we mean business by putting them under more pressure than they are able to bear. We do this by upping both the number of strike days and the number of strikers in the Second Wave.

The task now is not to let the mood and the momentum of our dispute slip before we can take strike action again. We need to twin branches which have already taken action with reballoting branches to help them get over the line. We need to hold meetings of activists to share the lessons of successful action so far. Both of us will work to ensure that reballoting branches get the GTVO support they need and we are happy to be contacted to facilitate this support, whether from fellow grassroots activists, regional offices or at national level.

This is a strategy that can win these disputes. Now let’s put it into action.

Jo McNeill, Chair UCU Left and Vice Chair HEC (pc)
Mark Abel, Secretary UCU Left and Vice Chair HEC (pc)

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