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.

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