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National strike ballot, UCU members fall foul of anti-strike laws

6 November 2023

UCU members have voted for strike action in your thousands. Returning a huge vote in favour of both strike action and action short of a strike. Sadly, we have fallen foul of the anti-union laws and our ballot has not met the required thresholds.

This is bitterly disappointing for all of us, as right across the union huge amounts of work have gone into this ballot. I want to acknowledge our members, representatives, and staff who have worked so hard to get the vote out.

As a union this gives us much to reflect on, and the ongoing national strategy consultation now takes on a greater significance than ever. It is absolutely crucial that all members have their say. We will be asking branches to attend a debrief soon, and we are also scheduling a branch delegate meeting (BDM) and a Higher Education Committee (HEC) for December.

A potential downside of this result was that it could have led to an emboldened approach from the employer. However, in a piece published this weekend I am pleased to say that UCEA have recognised the strength of feeling that exists right across our sector, and indicated that they want to enter into extensive negotiations with us on a wide range of issues, including pay, with a view to bringing much needed long-term stability to our sector.

We have been here before with the employers and we cannot take anything for granted, but this has to be seen as a positive development. Be assured though, the window to move things forward is a small one. We will bring a report on any negotiations to both the BDM and the HEC in December.

It is sickening that tens of thousands of workers can vote for strike action and have this deemed illegal by a government led by somebody that nobody voted for. This anti-union approach coupled with the outrageous government attacks on UCU members this last week in relation to the UKRI situation means our union finds itself right at the heart of a fight for the future of our sector as we know it. That is why this week we are launching the union's most serious campaign ever to defend academic freedom, and crucially, work on equality, diversity and inclusion - which has been the focus of the government's politicised attack.

Finally, this is a ballot result that none of us would have wanted to see. But the scale of challenges we face, coupled with growing negative interventions by this right-wing government means that the need for unity and a strategy that you all support is greater than ever. On Wednesday at 6:30pm we will be holding a live event online to discuss the escalating UKRI situation, and how we bring our union together. Please ensure you tune in on Twitter, Facebook or YouTube.

Thank you for your continued support - let's stick together.

Yours in solidarity

Jo Grady
UCU general secretary

Last updated: 6 November 2023