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UCU Elections

You should all have received Electoral Reform Services ballots for the UCU elections. It is very important that you vote now; your ballot must be received by this Friday 27th February. There is something of a power-struggle in UCU between the “hard” Left (who seem to be associated with the old Socialist Workers Party) and the “mainstream” (who sometimes call themselves the Independent Broad Left). Currently, the Higher Education Committee and the other principal negotiators are led by the “mainstream” and I personally think they are doing a pretty good job under difficult circumstances. When I vote, I take care not to vote for UCULeft-backed candidates; I think they are divisive and tend to pursue wider political objectives to the detriment of our members’ interests. But that’s just me; you should, of course, make up your own minds. But VOTE. None of us are happy with the USS settlement; it is indeed a worse deal than the one the teachers and post-92’s managed for TPS. This is not, as commonly assumed, because of the accrual rate: our lump sum roughly compensates for their faster accrual. The difference is that the teachers managed to negotiate much better inflation protection. They get CPI+1.6%. We get CPI+0%, subject to some additional caps. We did, however, push the employers further than USS and the Government wanted to go. Getting any more would have required us to force, through industrial action, a government back-down. Could we have done that? I doubt it; our industrial strength is limited. We have four problems:

  • We don’t have enough members. Southampton is one of the bigger branches, but membership is nothing like universal. Could we “bring the University to its knees”?
  • Our members can be reluctant to take action. That’s a pity. Effective industrial action requires a membership who will act as a well-disciplined army; all must be willing to turn action on and off at short notice as required by the ebb and flow of negotiations.
  • Our house is divided; the hard left spends congress sniping at the leadership elected by the majority of members. Congress decreases our credibility amongst employers.
  • Unlike tube train drivers and teachers (parents have to stay home from work), action by university staff does not have an immediate impact on the general population.

The first paragraph might sound a bit hostile to the hard left. I’m particularly cross with them right now as they have exploited UCU’s rules (it only needs twenty branches to call one) to force a Special Sector Conference in Manchester tomorrow, and three of us have to spend the day there to vote against motions criticising our elected leadership. Apart from the public embarrassment—some at USS and EPF must be laughing—our membership fees are being frittered away on travelling expenses, probably about £200 each for 120 delegates, and booking a room at the Britannia Hotel. I’d guess an overall cost around £30,000.

Denis Nicole, Branch VP.

One Comment

  1. executivecommittee says:

    Hi again. We’re back from Manchester. The meeting was quite small; the biggest vote was only 7% over the quorum. We managed to discuss five motions in the available time, and none of the hard left’s (in my view) destructive ones passed. So no real harm has been done, apart from the reputational and financial cost, and the dissipation of activist and staff time that could have been spent on useful campaigning.
    Denis Nicole, Branch VP.

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