UCU university workers struck hard but their leadership wanted to end action (Picture: Guy Smallman)

Jo Grady and the leadership of the UCU union have got what they’ve always wanted—the end of national strikes in universities. The results of the national strike ballot among workers at 140 universities was released on Monday.

There was a clear vote for more action with 68 percent voting yes to further strikes. But the turnout, at 43 percent, fell short of the 50 percent turnout required to strike under the anti-union laws. That means the union won’t call more action in the fight over pay, equalities, casualisation and workload.

And it is Grady and her supporters at the top who have sabotaged this dispute.

Carlo Morelli, co-president of Dundee UCU, told Socialist Worker, “It feels like this ballot was set up to fail. We should have balloted in the summer to be ready for term time. Grady and others didn’t make this ballot one that members could believe in.

Saira Weiner, the UCU Left candidate for union general secretary, wrote after the ballot results were released. She said, “UCU needs a different kind of leadership. We need to ensure every level of our elected officers and representatives believe our members have the power to change the future of higher education for the better — and other sectors too.

“We need a general secretary, presidential team, and national executive committee that are committed to democracy through our sovereign structures, to implement policy efficiently, and to deliver the win our members sorely need on pay and conditions. This is what our UCU Left candidates will do.”

A statement from UCU Left after the ballot result said, “Members are not to blame, nor are branch reps. Some may be ‘tired’, but very many are angry and extremely fed up—mainly at the lack of adequate support and the inconsistent leadership from the top of the union. Throughout the entire Four Fights campaign this year, members’ determination and organisation was unfortunately not matched by the same resolve at the top.”

Back Saira Weiner for general secretary, and back members taking back control of their union from those who never believed workers can win. That means building at the base.

Sophie Squire

For the full UCU Left statement go to tinyurl.com/UCULeft1123

Further education

Hundreds of college workers at 29 institutions are set to strike on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday of next week. The UCU union is demanding an above‑inflation pay rise, an agreement on workload and a new negotiating agreement. The Association of Colleges has recommended a 6.5 percent pay increase. But bosses don’t have to follow this guidance.

A UCU survey found up to seven in ten workers may leave the job over pay. The same survey found that on average workers were working at least two days a week basically for free.

For the list of colleges go to tinyurl.com/Colleges1123

Barnet social workers strike

Mental health social workers in the Unison union in Barnet, north London, are striking again this Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday. And they plan to be out again on next Wednesday and Thursday—and Tuesday to Thursday the week following.

Strikers are demanding  recruitment and retention bonuses that match those of the borough’s children’s social workers—who get up to 25 percent of their pay. The council has offered adult social workers just 2.6 percent. 

One striker said, “The level of crisis that we hold daily is very high. For newly qualified social workers, it can be daunting and overwhelming. For longer term social workers, it can impact their wellbeing. Newly qualified staff realise quickly they have the potential to work in other boroughs for a higher salary.

“It’s time to recognise that mental health social workers offer a specialist service that works in a high risk environment for themselves and their clients when they are not managing their own care and support needs. If we can retain staff we can reduce our waiting lists and apply more preventative work as the clients will not have deteriorated so much if they are seen within four weeks.”

Join picket lines outside Barnet council’s main office at 2 Bristol Avenue, London NW9 4EW from 8am-12noon

Scottish Unison wins new deal after school strikes

Unison union leaders have called off Scottish school strikes planned for this week and next week. Talks between the Cosla employers’ body and the Unison union produced an improved pay offer for tens of thousands of local government workers.

The union also says that strikes by its members over the past months has delivered an additional £100 million into workers’ pay packets. This includes an additional £17.2 million secured in the last couple of weeks—after the GMB and Unite unions drew back from strikes.

It was right for Unison members to strike.

Unison will put this new pay offer to their members with the recommendation that they vote to accept it. The ballot will run over the next few weeks. 

But there are holes in the deal. It’s still a below-inflation offer. Bosses have agreed to a minimum pay rate of £15 an hour. And it won’t be fully implemented until April 2026. That’s nearly two and a half years away—by which time inflation will have eroded its value, perhaps very significantly.


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