UK universities have been rocked by strikes this year led by the UCU trade union over proposed changes to lecturer’s national pension scheme. For a trade union that has traditionally undertaken symbolic and limited industrial action, the strength, creativity and high levels of participation in the dispute came as a surprise. A feeling seemingly shared by UCU’s own leadership who critically misjudged the collective strength and will for action at their disposal, bringing the dispute to a premature close with an unpopular and ultimately inferior deal with university employers.
This set members on a collision course with General Secretary Sally Hunt, they demanded to know why she had snatched defeat from the jaws of victory. The drama came to a head in a farcical episode at UCU’s annual congress where, in response to a number of motions that aimed to bring her to account, she along with UCU staff staged a walk-out and forced the closing of proceedings citing rather spurious claims that these motions would undermine their rights to fair disciplinary procedures as trades union staff.
This has not, however, put a dampener on the enthusiasm of a reignited membership and in recent months a number of member-led, rank-and-file networks have emerged that aim to democratise and radically widen the participation and strategic vision of UCU.
In the latest episode of ‘Talking Shop’ the editorial team are joined by Jess Meacham, Vice-President of Sheffield UCU branch, who shares her views on the strikes and their outcome, the events at UCU congress that followed and the future of organising within universities.
You can also listen to and subscribe to the ‘Talking Shop’ series via ACast – https://www.acast.com/newsyndicalist
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