The general secretary of the University and College Union (UCU) has told members of her union that the best way forward for the national dispute over pay and working conditions is to cease industrial action until 2023.
Ahead of a vote tomorrow at the UCU sector conference that will decide the next steps of the union’s campaign, Jo Grady emailed members in the higher education sector to offer advice ahead of the crunch decision.
Motions from branches and committees offer UCU delegates three broad options for the union: continue indefinite strike action, begin an immediate marking boycott, or pause industrial action until 2023.
The third option – to “build now for more effective future disputes” – offers the best chance for the union to secure changes, argued Grady.
The general secretary said she “could not be prouder of the effort” members had shown in taking strikes but added: “We have been trying the current strategy for nearly four years, and it has not delivered the change you need and deserve.”
A cessation would, she told members, give time for the union to build “a campaign which engages and involves many more staff”, which is crucial to securing “a big sector-wide victory”.
In her email, Grady said the union needs to broaden its membership, recruit more branch representatives and campaign volunteers, consult on campaign priorities, and conduct an aggregated ballot, which would allow all its members in 150 branches to take collective action.
Last week, only 37 branches voted to continue strike action on two ballots over pay and the Universities Superannuation Scheme (USS).
UCU strikes are localised, with each branch conducting its own disaggregated ballot. Although strikes have made significant media impact, they have never led to an entire sector shutdown. Pay is negotiated at a national level: employer representatives Ucea [Universities and Colleges Employers Association] have argued that disaggregated strikes do not represent a national consensus on pay.
Last year, Grady told the union it needed to “massively” expand its membership to become a “majority union” for employees in every HE and FE employer in the country.