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From The Socialist newspaper, 31 October 2018

UCU: General secretary censured but anti-union laws frustrate strike ballot

UCU strikers at the University of Nottingham, 27 February 2018, photo Gary Freeman

UCU strikers at the University of Nottingham, 27 February 2018, photo Gary Freeman   (Click to enlarge)

Sam Morecroft, UCU Yorks and Humber regional executive (personal capacity)

June's University and College Union (UCU) congress was shut down when staff walked out in response to motions criticising the general secretary Sally Hunt. The annual democratic congress reconvened on 18 October.

The reconvened congress was largely to debate these motions, calling for a vote of no confidence in the general secretary and a vote to censure her. Both stemmed from this year's pension dispute.

While the 14-day strike staved off an attempt to decimate our pensions, the stitch-up by the general secretary and full-time officials to end the strikes has angered members.

Sally Hunt could not attend the congress. She recently announced that she has been suffering with multiple sclerosis for some time, and has been forced to take medical leave. Socialist Party members in UCU send solidarity to Sally at this difficult time.

Exeter UCU delegates withdrew the no confidence motion, explaining the reasons behind it but acknowledging it wasn't appropriate to hear in light of the general secretary's health. The King's College London UCU motion - calling for censure of the general secretary for her conduct during the strike - was overwhelmingly passed.

While Sally Hunt is absent, her duties will be performed by a senior unelected official. Two emergency motions were tabled which called for the congress to send greetings to Sally Hunt, to ensure members retain control of our disputes, and address the leadership's democratic legitimacy during this absence.

They were ruled out of order. This was challenged and delegates won the vote to hear them but fell 17 votes short of the two thirds majority needed to overrule the congress business committee.

The ballot results for higher education pay and equality and further education pay have been released. They represent a huge achievement.

The higher education turnout was the largest for the UCU ever on pay - 42%. Nearly 70% voted for strike action. But the vast majority of institutions failed to reach the Tories' arbitrary and undemocratic 50% turnout threshold.

In further education only four colleges reached the threshold. In higher education my own Sheffield branch narrowly reached 50% with six other universities. If there's to be national industrial action we will need to reballot.

Our union must reflect, and return to organising. The anger over pay, casualisation, workload and the gender pay gap will only grow.

This has been a year of building our union, with successful local disputes and the incredible 14-day pension strike. The Tories' anti-union laws have frustrated us for now. But we are determined to smash their undemocratic thresholds and to fight to defend post-16 education from austerity.

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In The Socialist 31 October 2018:


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