The UCU e-ballot over the UUK offer that closed on Friday (13 April), the nature of the offer and the manner in which members were balloted, all expose a deep democratic deficit in our trade union. Despite the Higher Education Committee voting to put the ballot out to members with no recommendation to vote, the General Secretary wrote three emails to members, complete with links to voting, strongly advocating a YES vote.
This intervention followed a previous attempt on 12 March by the UCU leadership to present an “ACAS agreement with UUK” to members that would cut more than 18.5% from the value of members’ pensions (before the CPI cap and DC threshold is considered). This attempt was overturned by a spontaneous grassroots revolt, aided by the fact that branches were already mobilised on picket lines.
Whatever we win, it will be as the result of a strike movement that has seen union membership surge by as much as 50% in participating UCU branches, and members taking the hardest-hitting strike action in our history. This produced a transformation in our union in just a matter of weeks, creating a broad layer of new activists and leaders throughout our union.
We, the undersigned, believe now is the time for the union to unite to defend our pensions and to ensure that we have democratic structures that are fit to do so.
To this end we call on UCU to
- Call an Emergency Delegate Meeting and HEC to discuss the aftermath of the ballot and the immediate next steps
- Call a Special Higher Education Sector Conference for USS branches to allow delegates to properly debate the future of the dispute*
We must take the argument for democracy and organising in our union into every branch. Naturally, if the vote is No then the first task of activists will be to focus on putting the April strikes in place. Either way, every union member should be part of this debate.
We will urgently need meetings for members and reps to discuss ‘what next after the e-ballot’. London Region UCU has called one such meeting on 16 April. We hope reps will attend and branches and regions will follow this example.
We encourage activists to add their name to this unity statement, and to work together to organise meetings and debates about the future of our union, union democracy, and the direction of our dispute.
Colleagues are warmly encouraged to attend the London Region A Union Transformed activists assembly on Saturday 28th April where such a debate can take place, alongside discussing the positive lessons of the dispute.
We have created a new website, https://ucuunitedfordemocracy.wordpress.com, to advertise such activities.
Saladin Meckled-Garcia, University College London, UCU branch president
Sean Wallis, University College London, UCU branch vice president and NEC member
Carlo Morelli, Dundee University, UCU NEC member and USS negotiator
Jim Wolfreys, King’s College London, UCU branch president
Andrew Chitty, University of Sussex, UCU member
Prof Des Freedman, Goldsmiths University of London, UCU branch president
Rachel Cohen, City University of London, UCU NEC member
Marian Mayer, Bournemouth University, UCU NEC member-elect
Feyzi Ismail, SOAS, UCU branch executive member
Jo McNeill, University of Liverpool, UCU branch president
Anne Alexander, University of Cambridge, UCU member
David Treece, King’s College London, UCU branch executive member
Prof Satvinder Juss, King’s College London