England, Wales and Scotland section of International Socialist Alternative

UCU in crisis: Solidarity with Unite UCU Workers!

By Socialist Alternative members in UCU

It is an inescapable fact that the most significant and important events at this year’s UCU Congress will not take place in the conference hall. In fact, at the time of writing, the HE and FE sector conferences will not take place at all – planned strike action by UCU staff, organised in Unite, will mean that no business or official events will take place on Thursday. UCU staff have been forced into a series of disputes over the last couple of years on a whole range of issues – workplace racism, unacceptable levels of workplace stress, a failure to agree a serious hybrid working policy, and most disgracefully an attempt to recognise an alternative union for UCU staff by the General Secretary and unelected senior officials, who have split away from the Unite branch. We stand in full solidarity with Unite UCU and the action they have been forced to take. 

That this is happening is an indication of the scale and the depth of crisis in our union. We should not shy away from saying that we as UCU members are partly responsible for this. Had we united around one left candidate in the recent General Secretary election, we could have deposed the incumbent Jo Grady and already be in the process of building a better and stronger union. The failure to build a serious and organised broad left in the union is one factor that has led to this situation. 

Nonetheless, we are meeting at a time of great crisis in both post-16 education and the world around us. The war in Ukraine continues and the horrors of genocide and ethnic cleansing carried out by the Israeli state in Gaza grow by the day, as the liberal world order sits on its hands. 14 years of Tory rule have devastated education and the living standards of the working class and the likely incoming Starmer government will offer no solutions. We need to use the time we have together in Bournemouth – both inside and outside of the conference hall.

This week must be used to sharpen and clarify our commitment to building an internationalist and working class movement against war and occupation, and ready ourselves to continue the fight to defend and regenerate post-16 education. 

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