Enthusiasm for the strikes in Bristol this week (Picture: Charlie Gadd)

In an undemocratic and disgraceful move, the UCU union leadership has “paused” university strikes without any consultation of members. 

In a video posted on Twitter on Friday night, UCU general secretary Jo Grady said, “We have agreed a two week period of calm.” She said it “will enable us to hold intensive negotiations with the aim of reaching a final agreement.” 

In an email to members, Grady outlined a vague summary of some of the things bosses have moved on in discussions. These included pensions, casualisation, workloads and zero hour contracts. There was no mention of pay. 

Peta, a UCU union member from Liverpool University, told Socialist Worker, “We need to note that the RMT union paused strikes for two weeks for negotiations and got zero from it. And we need to note that the CWU union paused strikes for two weeks and got worse than zero from it. 

“Employers have sacked CWU reps, and managers have gone on the offensive, forcing new shift patterns and worse conditions. Now the leadership of the UCU have paused strikes for two weeks without consulting members, branches or the democratically-elected higher education committee. Have we learnt nothing?” 

On Twitter, UCU national executive committee (NEC) member Bee Hughes wrote, “There’s no evidence of substantial progress and no mandate for this sort of unilateral decision. The pressure we’ve built on employers is being dissipated. The organisation and plans of branches and members for the next two weeks out the window at short notice. It is not good.”

Another NEC member, Saira Weiner, tweeted, “Absolutely disgraceful that Jo Grady has called the strikes off without any consultation of members or the HEC. Everyone on the picket lines deserves a say in their dispute. Undemocratic, and unconscionable.” 

Mark from Brighton university said, “This is an absolute outrage. It a tactical mistake of the highest order to call action off in order to pursue negotiations. As the RMT learned to their cost recently, It lifts all the pressure off the employers and encourages them to backtrack on anything they’ve offered.  

“In any case, it does not appear that there has been any significant movement from the employers, especially over pay. More importantly, this decision has been taken behind the backs of members.

“There has been no consultation with the people who have stood on picket lines for 9 days already, or with the branches involved in the dispute. UCU is not the personal property of the general secretary—it is our union.”

Grady opposed the suspension of strikes during talks in 2018

One UCU member told Socialist Worker that they thought the latest announcement was a “total surrender.” But they also added, “it’s important we remember that a third of UCU members voted for indefinite, all-out action. Those people will definitely won’t be happy about this, and the manner that it has been done.” 

In 2018 former UCU general secretary Sally Hunt decided to call off strikes. This was met with fury from members who protested outside UCU HQ. This needs to happen again against Grady. 

Every union branch should also call an emergency meeting of all its members and call for a no confidence motion in Jo Grady. The need for members of the UCU to seize control of their strikes has never been more important.

Join the UCU Solidarity meeting—Strike together, march together: building united action to win. Tue 21 Feb, 6pm on Zoom. Register at bit.ly/21FebUnited

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