All out for USS

It's not too late! Universities UK can still commit to meaningful negotiations over pensions and end the strike action.

Mark Abel (University of Brighton)

post-92

Election address

A senior lecturer in the School of Humanities at the University of Brighton, I have been a UCU membership secretary, branch chair, and now Chair of the UCU Committee. I was recently the delegate from the SE to the UCU's commission on industrial action.

Last year, I played a leading role in an industrial dispute which fought off the de facto derecognition of the UCU at the University of Brighton. We succeeded in defending our negotiating rights, getting the promotions procedure reinstated, winning backpay for demoted hourly paid lecturers, and preventing compulsory redundancies.

A fighting, member-led union

After a series of aborted pay campaigns in higher education in recent years, we failed to fight at all over pay last year. National industrial disputes have repeatedly been called off before they have had chance to bite, despite the membership showing a willingness to fight. Decisions on industrial action taken by delegates to Congress have not been implemented.

Accepting that the latest trade union law makes national action impossible would be disastrous for the UCU. Already marketisation is fracturing the sector, leading to an end to national pay bargaining and the demise of the 2006 Framework Agreement if we abandon a UK-wide industrial strategy.

Postal workers have shown that it is still possible to win a national industrial action ballot. UCU members can do the same.

Political climate

There are signs that the tide is turning. We have a Labour leadership which encourages public sector workers to strike against the pay cap and in defence of public services. There is a realistic prospect of a future government committed to repealing the latest anti-union legislation and abolishing student fees. This would transform the situation for the UCU and the HE sector.

Strategy

Our policy must focus on action that can prevent further destruction of post-16 education, restore real incomes, tackle the gender pay gap, halt casualisation, preserve pension entitlements, and revive academic governance of institutions. This means determined campaigns to win members' support for national action over pay, and supporting individual branches when they find themselves defending their agreements against aggressive managements. A beneficial consequence of successful action would be hastening the end of this anti-educational Government.

We also need a union that will defend overseas colleagues from the rise of xenophobia and the threat to their residency, and is committed to resisting the rise in racist attitudes and attacks.

Biography

I teach international politics and research in aesthetics and musicology. I'm for the democratic accountability of the union's leadership. I'm committed to free HE provision, and to education as a public good rather than a private and personal investment. I support the UCU Left.

Last updated: 1 February 2018