The frustration follows the announcement regarding pensions and a “double barrelled” ballot question.
The University and College Union (UCU) has received backlash from lecturers and university staff regarding the wording of ballot questions and union communication.
The UCU announced in a tweet on 17 March that in an electronic ballot, members voted 2 to 1 in favour of being consulted on union proposals. The question on the ballot read “Do you support UCU members voting on the proposals that have been negotiated in both disputes, and pausing strike action (action short of a strike would continue) whilst this consultation takes place?” The electric ballot faced criticism due to its wording, and the banding together of two separate questions.
This follows a new deal the UCU had struck with for the Universities Superannuation Scheme (USS) pension to be restored by April 2024. Agreements were also made with employers to end the use of involuntary zero-hour contracts in higher education, and to agree new standards, frameworks and principles to tackle other forms of casualised contracts, reduce workloads and close equality pay gaps.
One Graduate Teaching Assistant from the University of Glasgow tweeted: “The e-poll squeezes two questions into one around an offer that is no better than the one we all rejected a few weeks ago. None of this is about consulting members, it’s about scrambling for legitimacy in the face of abject failure.”
On 17 March, Grady announced in a video on Twitter that branch delegates decided while meeting the day prior to push proposals out to vote while continuing strike action, despite more than ⅔ of votes from the revised e-ballot responding yes to voting on proposals and pause strike action. The HEC met on 17 March, and voted to continue strike action and not to put proposals out for members to vote, Grady said.
Many responses to UCU’s video announcement denounced the use of video messages on social media, and called for written updates to be circulated.
“I was pro-vote but anti-suspension.. Shame that head office put such a flawed question so that we now have to wait for the sector conference,” Brian Smith, a UofG molecular biosciences lecturer tweeted.
The UCU also informed Higher Education Committee (HEC) members on 16 March, informing them they were unable to submit motions at the HEC meeting regarding the ballot rewrite, according to a tweet from a workers organisation at Goldsmiths College.
“In other words the leadership has unilaterally blocked any democratic scrutiny of the decision to hold this eballot. Unacceptable,” the tweet read.