The UCU lecturers’ union will hold a special higher education pay conference on 9 November. The key issue up for discussion at the meeting is the threat by our employers to withdraw from national bargaining.
This threat is part of a wider attack on university staff – aimed at making it harder for workers to take industrial action and making it easier for bosses to single out weaker union branches to drive down their working conditions.
The big battles, over Gordon Brown’s pay freeze for example, will not be won on a sectional basis in the face of a government that is prepared to take on strong unions like the Communication Workers Union.
The employers are also proposing a shift from two table bargaining, which we have at the moment, to single table bargaining.
This would mean that all unions with members in higher education would negotiate with the employers together.
Opposing single table bargaining would split the UCU from other unions that are facing the same attacks.
Within that the retention of the right to bargain by the UCU on behalf of its own members must be a non-negotiable principle that the union may need to take industrial action to defend.
What matters in how successful we are in resisting attacks on our conditions is our organisation on the ground – not our negotiating structure.
We need to defend national bargaining and use single table bargaining to strengthen the unity across all the unions in higher education.