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Four fights: 'we're at breaking point'

Marking boycott and 10 days of further strikes called by UCU sector conference: details and next steps

27 April 2022

Voting on motions to last week's Four Fights conference, which was attended by over 200 delegates from over 100 branches and committees, closed yesterday and the results are now online.

The key decision taken by delegates was to commence a marking boycott this term in branches with a mandate for action, alongside ten days of further strike action to start as soon as late May.

The many delegates who voted for this action did not do so lightly and the fact that we are threatening our first marking boycott in a UK-wide dispute in many years shows just how angry members are - and how intransigent employers have been.

Making the boycott effective

Marking boycotts have played a part in a number of successful recent local disputes. They can be a serious sanction because of their potential impact on the awarding of degrees, but this disruption is why they can work - especially if we can maintain high levels of participation and continue building students' support and understanding that employers, not staff, are responsible for the situation we are in.

However, we must be prepared for employers to push back very hard. Every member in every branch has a huge part to play in minimising the risk to members involved in the marking boycott and making this tactic as effective as possible - with or without a mandate.

We can expect employers to threaten 100% pay deductions for ASOS, and this is why I am calling on members in branches not taking action to donate as much as possible to the Fighting Fund. We will also redouble our fundraising efforts within the wider trade union movement, to add to the generous donations we have already received from a number of sister unions so far.

Next steps

There will be a second meeting of sector conference tomorrow, to discuss the USS dispute. Once results of voting have been published there will be a meeting of branch delegates, on 10 May, and a meeting of the higher education committee, on 12 May, to make decisions about the dates of action in both disputes.

If your branch has a mandate for action, there is a crucial opportunity for your branch to have a say before and at the 10 May branch delegate meeting - about the key dates this term in your institution and about when it will be most effective for you to take action. You and your branch are in control of when and how you take action next. This reflects a number of motions passed by sector conference which called for an intensive process of regular consultation with branches about the progress of the dispute.

I will be in touch sooner after the HEC meets on 12 May with a fuller update but as always, please get in touch in the meantime if you have any questions.

In solidarity

Jo Grady
UCU general secretary

Last updated: 27 April 2022