Vote to Reject the ‘offer’: Four Fights are more important than ever

Four-fights Square

Vote to Reject the ‘offer’: Four Fights are more important than ever 

Members are being asked to vote on the employers’ derisory ‘offer’ on pay and inequalities. It is important that we vote to reject their non-offer.

We live in the midst of a serious challenge to the continued institutional racial discrimination in society with the inspirational Black Lives Matter movement. As such, to abandon our fight for pay equality for BAME staff, women and other equality groups, would be a terrible indication that UCU is giving up on equality. This fact alone should be sufficient for voting to reject the ‘offer’ in the #Four Fights dispute.

However, the #FourFights dispute goes beyond pay inequality into many of the other areas that lie at the centre of what is wrong with industrial relations in Higher Education and the fact these are unresolved means we should not accept an end to our dispute.

Our dispute shone a light on the appalling levels of casualisation in the sector. It also highlighted the falling real pay levels for most staff of 15-20% over the past ten years whilst senior management sought to inflate their own pay beyond what anyone, apart from themselves, think is in any way acceptable. The fourth of the #FourFights was the increasing and unacceptable workloads facing members as rising student numbers failed to be matched by adequate staffing levels, leading to the worsening of higher education. Overarching all of these elements is the rampant discrimination in the sector.

The #FourFights dispute proved successful in ensuring all of these issues were finally accepted as areas for negotiation by employers. This is a marked step forward and was testimony to the 22 days of strike action we took. It has been argued that, if we do not accept the ‘offer’, what we have achieved in getting employers to discuss expectations will be withdrawn. However, this is not the case. The employers body UCEA has had to accept that the questions being raised in the #FourFights have to be addressed and meetings with negotiators are currently timetabled. Employers know they are vulnerable, but we need to keep the pressure on them.

The Covid-19 crisis is intensifying all of these failings in higher education. Indeed, with the move to blended learning, new issues relating to excessive workloads, working from home and the gender disparity this entails have arisen. Whereas UCU was demanding that all the fine words coming from UCEA needed to be backed with enforceable commitments to change,employers are using Covid-19 to drive these failings further into the sector. Marketisation is not being abandoned as a result of Covid-19 rather it is leading to its intensification with inequality, job cuts, pay cuts and bankruptcy across HE.

The Fund the Future campaign can become our political defence of the sector but it will be all the more powerful if we have a UK-wide strategy to address jobs, pay and inequalities to back it up.

Currently, UCU is leaving branches to resist these changes on a branch-by-branch level. But we know that won’t work. No matter what local deals emerge which minimise the cuts in a specific case, these will become the maximum any other branch can aspire to. We will quickly be in a race to the bottom with members paying the price for a lack of a UK-wide strategy of resistance.  We need a UK wide #FourFights dispute more than ever.

A successful rejection of the offer will not, of course, lead to an immediate return to industrial action. But it would be a clear marker to employers that UCU is serious about defending members and higher education. It would also boost the confidence to fight in those branches facing immediate cuts if the members know the union has their backs. Finally, it would also start to turn around the defeatism in much of the leadership of UCU that thinks all we can do is manage and ameliorate the decline of the sector. We need to reject this offer and begin the mobilisation of the union for the defence of higher education.

Report on NEC 19th June: #Black Lives Matter

Black Lives Matter protest

Report on NEC 19th June: #Black Lives Matter

UCU’s National Executive Committee met on-line on 19th June. While technological issues continue to limit participation the meeting facilitated the NEC to debate and make some decisions.

Two motions on anti-racism and backing the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement were debated fully. The first motion a campaigning motion supporting Diane Abbott MP/Stand Up To Racism (SUTR)/ Doreen Lawrence’s call for an independent public inquiry into disproportionate BAME deaths in the COVID-19 crisis was passed with just three abstentions. It also agreed to work with the Black Members Committee (BMSC) to hold a special delegate meeting to discuss developing an anti-racist strategy for every university and college and finally to encourage local branches to work with BLM – SUTR and other anti-racist groups. A second motion was remitted to the Black Members Standing Committee. This motion was problematic in a number of ways. The terminology BIPOC (Black Indigenous People of Colour) was used, in the UK context, by white supremacists to suggest the white British majority need to be ‘protected’ from anti-racist policies. As a union we purposefully use the term BAME (Black Asian and Minority Ethic) as a descriptor or ‘Black’ to define a political unity across ethnicities and have always campaigned for black and white unity because we understand the concept of ‘United We Stand: Divided We Fall’. An amendment changed this nomenclature. The motion also focused upon individual responsibility for racism rather than structural racism by identifying the primary importance of unlearning racism and the establishment of an alternative university system for black students.  The motion was remitted to the BMSC rather than rejected to allow for further discussion before coming back to NEC (see below for both motions).

The Treasurer’s report identified the scale of support for members on strike, while time constraints prevented any update on holding a Congress in 2020 and a motion relating to this was not heard. The General Secretary reported on the progress of the ‘Fund the Future’ campaign for funding of post-16 education on recruitment to a set of special working groups. It was a shame the report made no mention of the UCU Solidarity rally Jo Grady spoke at held by Roehampton, Imperial College, SOAS and Liverpool which had 700 register and over 600 attend. Nor was their call for a day of action over jobs heard. The next UCU Solidarity organising meeting will be held on Saturday 20th June at 12 noon.

UCU Solidarity organising meeting: Join Zoom Meeting: Saturday 20th June 12:00 noon.

Meeting ID: 862 2605 6754 Password: 050753

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A motion on dealing with sexual harassment within UCU was debated and passed aiming to establish an independent inquiry into UCU’s treatment of past cases with lessons to be learnt for the future. The original motion was amended to ensure survivors are protected and the equality committee is involved in its development.

On-line meetings are difficult to chair and using voting systems which do not work properly wastes a lot of time. A number of important motions therefore fell off the agenda. Two important motions which fell off the agenda, one giving recognition and support to the call for a day of action over jobs made at the 700 strong activists meeting that took place on 17th June. The other was an emergency motion in support of Reading UCU, who are facing major job cuts with members facing downgrading and re-employment on lower grades. UCU NEC cannot become a body of inaction and inward retrospection and must rise to the challenge facing members. The NEU’s campaign has forced the government into committing a further £1b of funding for schools. We need to learn from their experience for post-16 education.


Motion 8 George Floyd and #BlackLivesMatter (passed with three abstentions)

UCU offers our condolences to the family of George Floyd.

UCU offers our solidarity to the global #BlackLivesMatter movement that has exploded onto the streets of the US and across the world.

The issues of institutional racism have been laid bare alongside the hugely disproportionate deaths suffered by BAME communities in the Covid19 crisis.

UCU urgently needs to develop a strategy to both de-colonise our campuses and to tackle institutional racism.

UCU supports the BLM movement – and the call by Diane Abbott MP/Stand Up To Racism, Doreen Lawrence for an independent public inquiry into disproportionate BAME deaths in the COVID-19 crisis.

Working with the Black Members Committee(BMSC) we will call a special delegate meeting to discuss developing an anti-racist strategy for every university and college.

We encourage local branches to work with BLM – SUTR and other anti-racist groups to promote campus and community anti-racist initiatives.


Motion 10 Addressing systemic and structural racism in British FEHEIs (remitted for discussion by the Black Workers Standing Committee with the term ‘Black’ replacing ‘BIPOC’)

NEC notes:

  1. The resurgence of BLM protests against global Anti-Black racism in the wake of George Floyd’s murder
  2. The pervasive and sinister nature of Anti-Black racism, perpetrated at every level of society, by institutions and individuals

NEC Believes:

  1. Institutional racism and structural inequality within the sector are upheld systematically by the sector
  2. WE are the sector
  3. The fight for the future of education cannot – should not – succeed if this fight doesn’t centre the work of anti-racism in a sustained and consistent way

NEC Resolves to:

  1. Seek affiliations with regional anti-racist organisations, offering ‘unlearning racism’ training courses across UCU
  2. Officially sponsor the Free Black Uni, and make a donation of £1000
  3. Explore, with UCEA & UUK, expansions to ‘employment relations’ to include BIPOC hiring and retention disparities
  4. Campaign for racial equality reforms across the sector, to enable BIPOC staff and students to thrive, and not just survive, in the sector

Motion 2. UCU is committed to rooting out sexual harassment and violence (Amended)

NEC notes

  • #Metoo created a movement to stamp out sexual violence
  • Remittance of the part of Congress 2019 motion 18 calling for a specific rule expelling from membership those found guilty of sexual harassment
  • Sexual harassment and violence can, and have, occurred within the union


  • The UCU has no place for those who commit sexual violence nor for ostracization of survivors.
  • We need rules and procedures which do not silence survivors, and which are fit for purpose
  • An independent inquiry into SH within the UCU would help us all understand how abusers gain and retain power

NEC agrees to present the following as an amendment to the Congress motion from Sheffield branch

Congress commits to rooting out sexual violence and instructs NEC to urgently appoint an independent review of past cases within the UCU, with the aim of helping our work on stamping out sexual harassment.

The Inquiry to be:

  1. conducted with trauma informed procedures and counselling available to all
  2. conducted with appropriate confidentiality for all parties

Inquiry terms to be designed by survivor led organisations e.g. 1752 in conjunction with the equality committee and with input from NUS

The work of the sexual harassment task force to feed into the equalities committees