During this coming week UCU will make crucial decisions about the next steps in the UCURising disputes.
At issue is whether our union takes the serious escalating action necessary to challenge and beat our employers, or settles for a strategy of delaying real action until after a reballot, and in the meantime treading water with limited strikes.
The General Secretary has intervened in our disputes in a wholly undemocratic way. Rather than threaten the employers with the hard-hitting action voted for by the Higher Education Committee, she undermined our national negotiators by keeping those decisions secret for six weeks and then publicly declaring her opposition to them.
Fortunately, the General Secretary is not getting everything her own way. Criticism has been growing of her attempt to rig the outcome of Tuesday’s Branch Delegate Meeting by limiting delegates to a choice between two options: her own strategy, presented in a glossy document circulated to all members; and the HEC’s decisions which have never been circulated. Under pressure, she has now been forced to invite opposition voices to take part in a Twitter ‘phone in’ on the eve of the BDM.
This is welcome but is no substitute for genuine democratic debate. The branch meetings that took place last week discussed a range of alternative strategies for our disputes which go far beyond the two choices we’ve been offered. Even where members are unsure about all-out indefinite strike action, there has been very little support for the General Secretary’s proposed strategy. The idea of a form of discontinuous indefinite action has been popular in many branches.
It is still possible to rescue the situation from the General Secretary’s destructive intervention and get our disputes back on track. Members should attend the Twitter event tonight and ask why the BDM will not be allowed to debate all the proposals that will be aired there. Delegates to the BDM who are lucky enough to be called to speak should start their contribution by condemning the undemocratic way that BDMs are run.
Most of all, we should vote down the General Secretary’s bankrupt proposal of limited strike action which has no prospect of shifting our employers. If she gets a majority for her strategy, the General Secretary will impose it on members, excluding all alternatives. Even if your branch is not convinced by the strategy of all-out indefinite strike action, the only way to allow HEC to consider alternatives when it meets on Thursday is to vote for it.
This union belongs to its members, not to the General Secretary. Disputes are won by members making sacrifices to defy their employers by taking industrial action. Members have the right to decide on the forms of action they take, not to have them imposed from above. We need democratically-run BDMs that champion the creative and strategic thinking of our activists, and are empowered to discuss and vote on motions submitted by branches, not locked-down forums controlled by Head Office that offer no space for debate. And we need a nationally elected strike committee to run our action and ensure our union is genuinely democratic and member-led.
UCU Left members of HEC voted for all-out indefinite strike action as the best way to use our powerful ballot mandate and win our disputes. Vote for UCU Left candidates in the forthcoming NEC elections for a democratic, member-led union.