Winning the pay campaign needs to start now

How our union can be effective in winning better conditions including pay is a crucial question involving strategy, tactics and effective use of our resources based on an active membership. Here, Martin Levy, NEC member puts a point of view in favour of building a campaign that will be powerful enough to force management to concede. 


Martin Levy, NEC and HEC member

Activists will be pleased to know, that at the Higher Education Committee (HEC) meeting last Friday, decisions were taken to enable UCU to pursue an active campaign about the HE pay situation.  The official report is in the attached HE News, which you may already have seen.

Having heard from over 100 branches up and down the UK, it was clear that, while there was a widespread antipathy towards taking industrial action on pay at present, there was also a strong view that UCU needs to keep the pay issue active and that this requires a campaigning strategy from the centre.

Several options were considered, and the one which was supported by the majority on HEC, tasks HEC with:

  • starting now and campaigning forward into 2016;
  • early submission of our 2016 pay claim;
  • the maintenance of a continuing campaign in parallel with next year’s negotiations.

UCU box text on pay

This was an important decision – pledging us as a fighting union to develop the type of campaigning strategy that could realistically lead to a result rather than empty posturing.

As one of the HEC members said – “successful industrial action has to hurt the employer, if it’s going to be more than empty sloganeering “.

A minority on the HEC who argued for a move towards an immediate ballot before Christmas, having lost the argument then voted against all campaigning proposals still on the table. For myself and the majority of the HEC that’s a classic academic definition of posturing. The Independent Broad Left network thinks that this childlike approach is defeatist. Those who want to win will campaign.

Within branches, work needs to start now to gear members up for a long campaign, with balloting and industrial action very likely to be restricted by the provisions of the government’s Trade Union Bill.  It will be essential to win members’ understanding of the need for at least a 50% participation level in any ballot.