What a fantastic and enthusiastic campaign this has been for our union. We have shown by our sheer determination, organisation and hard work, our ability to force the employers back to the drawing board, and to withdraw their decision to scrap Defined Benefit and impose Defined Contribution on us. Where do we go to from here? Below you will find some thoughts that we hope will be helpful.
We got to where we are by combining the enthusiasm, commitment, and creativity of thousands of activists with the hard work of UCU staff, the policy framework established by our lead elected committees, the persistent efforts of branch committees, and the seen and unseen work of negotiators.
While there has been plenty of friction between the different players ( not surprising in a complex dispute ) it is a fact that all have contributed to getting us to a point so different from where we were when the employers looked like getting away with imposing a DC version of the USS scheme.
It’s important to remember that the proposal which a massive majority of members have accepted was shaped by the priorities made very clear by the branch representatives who rejected an earlier set of proposals emerging from ACAS.
Rather than seeking to add to or alter those earlier proposals they wanted to focus negotiations on the key objectives of a full review of USS procedures and the defence of a guaranteed pension. Those priorities were taken into negotiations and are embedded in the outcome.
Of course the independent review is just the start of the next stage of our struggle for a better USS.
In accepting it members have shown not confidence in their employers (which is not great) but in our own ability to keep up the pressure for members’ interests, including future use of the industrial strength which we (and of course the employers ) now know we have.
Full involvement in the review will need to matched by unremitting vigilance by our branches, our elected committees and our industrial negotiators.
It seems odd and unhelpful that so much of the visible debate about the proposal and the ballot focussed on who said or did what inside UCU, rather than on our dispute with our employers or the interests of members. In any dispute the participants will have such concerns but do let’s remember that we launched this dispute for a big industrial reason – to challenge the employers’ outrageous and damaging attack on our pensions scheme which both threatened the size and security of our pensions and also pulled the rug out from under the co-stakeholder structure of USS.
SO – members took action because their wellbeing was threatened but also because this threat was just the latest step in the employers’ wrecking of the collegial and professional respect and co-working which should shape our workplaces, and they did this in the name of managerial authoritarianism and credit ratings. Many activists have said that the attack on their pensions was the last straw on top of a burden of managerialism, disempowerment, precarious wok, and excessive hours. Now they are energised to start organising challenges to this burden in their institutions. Real issues to take up, not internal wrangles and sectarianism.
We balloted over 53 thousand members, over 33 thousand of whom voted on the proposal The dispute and the ballot involved members: it was about members. and the outcome allows members to continue to pursue the issues which they have said mattered to them.
Together we have achieved something for ALL members in USS whether or not they agreed with every particular view, whether or not they were at rallies as well as striking. There is a crucial link between these two because activists have used both their power and their responsibility to use their commitment time and energy on behalf of our growing wider membership.
Lots to celebrate, lots to digest, lots to get on with. . .