UCU, the University and College Union, has an NEC of 72 and 119,401 members. In contrast, the National Union of Teachers has an NEC of 40 for 295,000 members. PCS, Unite and Unison all have proportionally fewer NEC members.
As reported in May’s issue of Workers, the University and College Union ballot returned an 88.6 per cent vote to cut the size of the union’s National Executive Committee. 85.1 per cent voted to be balloted when UCU negotiators believed a final offer was on the table. 82.4 per cent voted to elect lay national negotiators by one member one vote. The political faction UCU Left had called on members to vote against all three.
An open letter from some branch officers, some of whom are members of UCU Left, said that the second proposal meant that “any and all offers that are so described by the employers or the Government as ‘final’ offers will be put out to ballot.” This was a direct misrepresentation, since the question on the ballot paper said that members would be balloted “whenever the majority of UCU negotiators believe a final offer is on the table”.
Ever more one-day strikes, with ever-smaller numbers, won’t do, unless we are trying to teach our members that strikes don’t work.
Of course the argument has been won: our members know how bad the pensions “reforms” are for them. But they can also see that repeated one-day strikes will not gain us anything. We need a long-term strategy, of reclaiming control over our workplaces, in particular, by asserting control over the hours we work. For instance, let’s reclaim our lunch hours.
We could work to rule, including working to contract by refusing to work extra unpaid hours, withdraw cooperation to implement projects, and adhere strictly to health and safety rules. We need to improve wages, hours and conditions. We need to rebuild our trade unions, starting by organising in our workplaces. ■