The Solidarity Federation Education Union (SFEU) condemns the decision made by the General Secretary of UCU to suspend the current strike action, a step that has been taken in UCU's words "To allow our ongoing negotiations to continue in a constructive environment we have agreed to pause action across our pay and pension disputes for the next two weeks and create a period of calm". Nothing concrete, as far as we can see, has been agreed by the employers. Even on the pensions front, according to the UCU statement, we are told that we are only "at the start of a process" that will restore benefits. We believed that the start of the process was when we were considering to ballot for strike action, not now after several days of lost pay and management threats.
When the pressure is working, you don’t stop. When employers show no goodwill, you don't either, especially when escalation is starting to work. The announcement to suspend the action was made yesterday evening, after colleagues have finished work (remember ASOS?) and after they will have invested a considerable amount of time in communicating to students about arrangements for the following week - well done UCU for adding to our workloads. Moreover, where was the consultation? Why was no indicative poll set up to canvas members' views as there was weeks ago to consider the paltry pay offer? Does this action have the support of members? Comments on social media would suggest not.
This dispute has shown a number of failings on the part of the trade union model pursued by UCU. Despite the outrage of undemocratic decision-making of few years ago, the UCU still concedes huge power to its leadership. We have faced intimidation from management when on strike - many managers are also members of UCU. As an independent syndicalist union, SFEU advocates horizontal decision-making with transparency and control of disputes directly in the hands of its members. Our union, small that it is, operates on an assembly basis - all decisions are taken by the membership with immediate effect. We would only have suspended the planned strikes if there was concrete evidence of progress and the membership had come to this decision on an informed democratic basis. We urge workers across the whole sector to join our unitary union.