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My speech to HEC on the #ucuRISING campaign

11 January 2023

My speech to the higher education committee, 12 January 2023.

Colleagues, I want to start with a thank you. To you, to our branches and ultimately to our members who have all taken part in a discussion around the next steps we should take in the #ucuRISING campaign.

Given the timeframes we were up against, no process was going to be perfect, but we have managed to hold a robust, comradely, and effective engagement plan across our union. I do think we can always learn for the future, and I would encourage us all to think about that. Of course, our higher education committee (HEC) makes the decisions on strike action, but I think membership and branch engagement should be automatically factored into the decisions we make on strike action following this one, so we are not left in a position where we are tight for time and debate. Emails from branches calling for wider membership engagement prior to HEC decisions, can only be helpful, informative and increase democracy in my view.

I also want to say that, again we can improve the branch delegate meeting (BDM) process but this meeting was more effective than the November one with debate from across the union and room for discussion on a range of strategies. Our challenge is to continue improving this forum.

That said, we are in a far better place now than we were in December - we have membership input, we have branch engagement and democracy, and you now have clear direction to support the decisions you will make today. 

Our branch delegate meeting (and I think the vast majority of membership feedback we received) voted conclusively for three things:

  1. escalating strike action in line with the plan I shared in December
  2. a spring term marking and assessment boycott
  3. to immediately commence plans for a re-ballot.

There has been much talk about how the employers will view this position. As we sit here today, I genuinely believe this is the strategy which will frighten our employers the most. It is the approach which has everything they fear. It will:

  • deliver strike action now
  • deliver strike action well into 2023, including the option of all out at a later date
  • deliver a marking and assessment boycott at the most impactful time
  • keep our membership united
  • ensure employers get no let off for a relentless period of time.

I want to talk about the next steps following today's meeting. Clearly, we will want to give the widest possible coverage centrally to the decisions that are taken. We will then embark on building support for the action we call and the re-ballot - both of these are crucial.

I don't just want the whole union involved in calling action, I want it involved in increasing support for it. So, in the coming weeks, I will be getting out and about, meeting members and representatives, and reigniting our face-to-face communications strategy. 

We have membership recruitment, political strategy, media, strike building and education plans all ready to implement.

This dispute has been different from the start and that won't stop now.

We have input from members. We have clear direction from branches. Now let's take our decisions and put all of the pressure back where it belongs - on the employers.

Last updated: 18 January 2023