Analysis Announcement

Members to protest outside UCU HQ in anger at Grady ‘sell-out’ after wave of no-confidence votes

Up to 10% of branches have passed votes of no confidence in general secretary in last few days as outrage builds over ‘undemocratic’ ‘informal ballot’

UCU higher education members protesting over attacks on their pay and pensions (image: Lorna McCampbell, Creative Commons)

Members of the University and College Union (UCU) will mount a demonstration outside the London headquarters of their own union tomorrow, in anger at what they term the ‘sell-out’ of the union’s management in their hard-fought dispute over attacks on their pay and pensions by employers.

Members and activists are outraged that the union has announced a confusing and ‘undemocratic’ ‘informal’ ballot on the latest offer – a real-terms pay cut – from employers, which they say goes nowhere near far enough – and Skwawkbox understands that around ten percent of UCU higher education branches have passed votes of no confidence in general secretary Jo Grady in just the last few days.

A Twitter thread by the UCU Solidarity Movement summarises some of the issues:

The ‘UCU Left’ group accused Grady of ‘capitulation’:

Jo Grady has today upped the stakes in her attempt to call off action and capitulate in our UCURising disputes.

While many of us were marching alongside striking teachers, civil servants and junior doctors, and while Jo Grady was herself delivering a rousing speech at the rally in Trafalgar Square, UCU HQ was emailing members to invite them to vote in an ‘informal’ e-ballot on an ‘offer’ from the employers.

There is no new offer from the employers. The pay award rejected by 80% of UCU members a few weeks ago has not changed and remains imposed by the employers. The hopes that USS benefit cuts will be reversed during the next year remain hopes rather than firm commitments.

The only additional elements that Jo Grady can point to are a series of agreed terms of reference for talks on casualisation (contract types), pay equality and workloads. These represent nothing more than a commitment from UCEA to discuss these issues over the coming months. They come with no promises that any HE institution will implement anything that may come out of these talks.

Jo Grady is selling this ‘offer’ as a major breakthrough. It is nothing of the sort, and the General Secretary knows it. If it were, she would not need to work so hard to convince members.

The ‘informal’ e-ballot represents a manipulation of democracy of the worst kind. According to the rules of the union, it is the elected Higher Education Committee (HEC), and HEC alone which decides whether an offer in an HE dispute should be put to members to be accepted or rejected. If HEC decides to put it to members, it should make a clear recommendation to members as to which way to vote.

Jo Grady has gone over the heads of the HEC to try and end the dispute at all costs. She is hoping that confusion and strike fatigue among members combined with her misrepresentation of the ‘offer’ will deliver a big enough Yes vote in this ‘informal’ ballot to pressure HEC into calling off next week’s strikes and ending the dispute.

We should have none of this. Many branches have urged their members not to vote until branch meetings take place which can discuss the situation, decide on their position and elect delegates to the BDM to represent their collective view.

We need the strongest possible expression of opposition to Jo Grady’s attempt to capitulate to the employers. The BDM must decisively throw out this ‘offer’.

Grady had already angered many UCU members and activists when she ignored the union’s ballot for all-out strike action to call off the strikes on the basis of a supposedly improved offer and was accused of sapping the workers’ energy and morale. Even right-led union Unison has already rejected the employers’ appalling latest offer on the basis that it is too poor to put to members.

Members will gather from 12.30pm tomorrow (Fri 17/3/23) at UCU HQ in Carlow Street in the Camden area of London.

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