On the Brighton university picket line against compulsory redundancies

Many university workers have shown they are ready to keep fighting over pay and conditions, despite their union leaders’ attempts to end the resistance.

On Wednesday, due to pressure from below, UCU union leaders announced five new national strike dates from Monday 25 to Friday 29 September. 

But the Marking and Assessment Boycott (Mab) will end. A recent e-ballot gave workers a choice that was basically to end the Mab or carry on without the backing of UCU leaders.

Those at the sharp end of implementing the Mab—people refusing to do marking—have faced thousands of pounds of punitive pay deductions. And they were left isolated by UCU.

But still 63 percent of those directly involved voted to keep the Mab going. Unfortunately, overall 60 percent voted to end it. General secretary Jo Grady used the classic bureaucrats’ tactic of using the less involved sections to outvote the most engaged.

UCU Left, which Socialist Worker supports, said, “Members are frustrated, but they are not waving the white flag. 

“We all know the stakes are high. Whether it is over pay or pensions employers are highly motivated to hold out against industrial action.

“The only way to drag these employers (with the Conservative Government behind them) out of their luxury bunkers is indefinite action—the kind of action we should have taken before the Mab ever started.”

Yet Grady and others are still trying to stop members from taking the action needed to win and have yet to announce a reballot — as the current mandate for strikes is about to run out. 

Around 70 people joined a grassroots UCU Solidarity Meeting on Wednesday.

Roddy Slorach, a UCU member at Imperial University, told Socialist Worker, “There was a lot of anger at the meeting. Members can’t understand how our union leaders have done this. 

“Now the Mab is off members will be under pressure to mark their work now, or else face being disciplined by their universities. 

“One member at the meeting pointed out that even with a reballot we might not be able to strike until mid-November. That would just be a repeat of the same plan of strikes that we have tried in the past that haven’t worked. 

“The gap in action will mean the bosses have months to pile the pressure on workers. 

Roddy added that the five days of strike that have been planned at the end of the month should have led to an indefinite strike, not an isolated block. 

Meanwhile workers at the University of Brighton who have been striking all summer against redundancies are holding firm and ratcheting up the pressure as some students begin to return.

On Wednesday workers were back on the streets blocking cars and holding signs that called for Vice chancellor, Debra Humphris, to resign.

Every UCU member should be inspired by their fight and continue to argue that seizing democratic control of the union and pushing for indefinite strikes is the only way to win. 

Messages of support via Twitter to @BrightonUCU Donations here 

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