Credit: Twitter @PaulJSweeney

University staff petition the UCU for ‘indefinite’ strike action

By Kimberley Mannion

Questions remain over a marking boycott now in January after university unions agree not to escalate action during pay negotiations.

A petition has been launched to the University and College Union (UCU) by university staff across the UK calling for “indefinite” strike action at the start of next semester. It states: “A few more days of action is not going to win this dispute. Indefinite action and escalation is the only way we are going to finish this dispute.”

This comes in the context of confusion amongst UCU membership over plans for industrial action moving forward. The UCU along with three other unions representing university staff (EIS, Unison and Unite) are currently in negotiations over pay with representatives of the employer, University and College Employers Association (UCEA). Unison then announced in a statement on 5 December that: “both sides agreed to take steps to avoid escalating the dispute”, during the negotiation period which runs until 31 January. 

A UCU Glasgow branch member who spoke to The Glasgow Guardian described issues with the UCU on communication, given that their union had not made them aware of this effective halt in industrial action for the time being until they saw the Unison tweet. There was confusion over what this meant for a planned marking boycott in January.

The Higher Education Committee (HEC), part of the UCU, had agreed on a marking and assessment boycott to take place at the start of next semester. It is now unclear whether this will go ahead, as despite being previously agreed upon, it still counts as an escalation of action. However, the negotiations with UCEA are on the subject of pay, and the UCU has another dispute with a separate body, the Universities Superannuation Scheme (USS) over pensions. The marking boycott was not distinctively tied to one specific dispute. 

The petition was launched on 5 December by The University Worker, a bulletin written by higher education staff, and has so far garnered 59 signatories, two of which are University of Glasgow staff, and 14 of which are anonymous.

The UCU’s own statement reads: “The focus of all UCU members and branches should be on continuing to build support for UCU’s campaign in order to apply pressure during negotiations, and maximise support for strike action should the union need to call for it.”


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