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Unison higher education - fighting leadership needed
Socialist Party delegates
Unison's Higher Education (HE) conference has, over recent years, been a small but significant opportunity to observe the growth of the mood to fight back against austerity attacks in the HE sector.
This year's conference came after three individual national strikes over pay alongside UCU and other HE unions.
But to the bemusement of many delegates, the Standing Orders Committee (SOC) decided that motions over pay, including those submitted as emergency motions, were best left at the bottom of the agenda.
There was a real possibility that in a one-day conference, the debate would not take place.
As the day wore on and delegates' frustration grew, the conference chair finally overruled the SOC, and allowed the six motions on pay to be moved.
The debate was passionate, with many speakers on the left arguing for continued action, hopefully alongside the teachers at the end of March.
We called for a clear and determined strategy to win the dispute, rather than a 'one day and see what happens' approach.
The more conservative branch leaderships and some Service Group Executive (SGE) members wanted a period of consultation with members.
This was a thinly disguised attempt to prevent any action taking place for the foreseeable future and potentially derail the dispute.
In the end, the vote was narrowly lost against the left. Activists will now return to their branches, fully supporting the UCU marking ban due to start at the end of April, but knowing that action on our part is off the agenda for the next few months at least.
But the strike reinvigorated many branches. Many reported an increase in members and activists, with many young people joining and striking for the first time.
The SGE elections taking place in May will be the next opportunity to increase the influence of the left on the SGE, as Unison members recognise the need for a fighting leadership armed with a clear and determined strategy to win.
In The Socialist 13 March 2014:
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