UCU strikers rally earlier this year (picture: Guy Smallman)

UCU union general ­secretary Jo Grady has signalled that she wants to end the fight over pay and conditions in universities as soon as possible.

She backed a motion at the union’s higher education committee (HEC) last week that called for an interim agreement with the bosses to suspend the marking and assessment boycott (Mab). The motion came despite there being no new offer from university bosses’ body, UCEA, and was passed by a very narrow margin.

University worker and HEC member Mark Abel told Socialist Worker that the motion was “worrying.”

“The motion sends a ­message at a time when we think our action is starting to bite. The employers will be watching this and will think we are giving in.

“It sends the message that our union leaders are ­desperate to end the Mab.”

Mark added that Grady made clear she won’t back a new national strike ballot of members this summer—before the academic year begins. “At UCU congress in May, members voted for there to be a summer ballot. ­Thankfully the HEC didn’t endorse Grady’s position, and didn’t accept there would be no ballot.

“Union activists now need to push for a branch delegates meeting (BDM) so members have their say in how the ­dispute is going.

“In the absence of that, several branches have come together to organise another unofficial BDM.

“We also need to pass motions in our branches to say that the decisions made at congress need to be respected by union leaders.” In a statement UCU Left wrote that members have “every right to be furious” about how their general secretary wants to call off the Mab.

“We have mobilised members at a higher level of organisation than ever before. “We have made enormous sacrifices to get to this point,” said the statement.

“We have been supported by our students. What are we to say to them—that none of this suffering was worth it because some of our ­leadership had no stomach for a fight?

Once again Grady is trying to run the dispute in higher education into the ground. But workers have already overturned her previous attempts to derail the dispute —and they can do so again.

The recent unofficial BDM had delegates from over 30 university branches at it. Organising together in this way is the only to stop Grady and others from selling this dispute out.

Fight can rock the bosses at Brighton

Workers at the University of Brighton began an indefinite strike on Monday after bosses earlier this month announced they want to force through 130 redundancies.

Up to 397 workers have been flagged as at risk of redundancy.

The UCU union members were also taking part in a marking and assessment (Mab) boycott and had already been on strike over the bosses’ threats to dock 100 percent of their pay.

Some workers received less than £30 in their last pay packet as punishment for participating in the Mab. On Monday workers organised teach-ins on picket lines.

They are also planning to protest against the keynote speech of the pro vice-chancellor for research, Rusi Jaspal, on Tuesday.

Strikers at the University of Brighton are showing the way for all workers in higher education. Indefinite strikes are the best way to win.

Support the Brighton UCU solidarity fund at bit.ly/3NE6u5o

College battles in Glasgow and Edinburgh can win

City of Glasgow College lecturers in the EIS-Fela union have been on all‑out indefinite strike four days per week throughout June to defeat plans to remove 100 jobs to go.

They were joined last week by Edinburgh College EIS-Fela branch also out on indefinite strike to win reinstatement of sacked union safety rep, Kevin Scally.

Action for both will resume with the new academic year in August. These two colleges are the largest in Scotland.

There is also action short of a strike by all Scottish colleges in a national pay dispute which includes a results boycott. Managements have tried and failed to bully lecturers to abandon the boycott.

Now term has ended they can do nothing for several weeks.

The scale of the conflict reflects an all-out assault by college bosses who were given the green light by the SNP-Green Scottish government, and its FE minister Graeme Dey.

He is freezing government spending despite galloping inflation and snatched away a £26 million emergency aid package.

There is a wider plan, based on a recent report by James Withers, which is intended to take the sector down the road of marketisation that has ruined the university sector, but saves the government money.

The best answer to this is what City of Glasgow and Edinburgh are doing—all-out indefinite action until the bosses’ plans are completely defeated. A sign it has an impact is Edinburgh College where management for months denied any dispute existed.

Proof it does is that the college “all-staff” day with high profile speakers including Gail Porter (a well-known commentator on homelessness) had to be abandoned at the last minute.

Please send messages of support for Edinburgh to pennygower1@gmail.com

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