Self-destructive tendencies (1 of 2)

June 21, 2012

Following the recent decision by delegates at the University and College Union congress to resume the "work-to-rule" action by staff on pensions, the employers have (entirely predictably) broken off talks on changes to the Universities Superannuation Scheme proposed by the UCU on behalf of its members. They have also removed the previously informal agreement to extend the right of USS members to unreduced pension benefits if they are made redundant.

Why did congress make a move that is so manifestly self-destructive for members? It did so for the same reason it rejected the reforms proposed by Sally Hunt, the UCU general secretary, which have been overwhelmingly supported by polls of the union membership ("Hunt disrupted as congress rejects reforms", 14 June). It did so because the delegates who attend congress and other such meetings have an agenda that has little to do with representing the views and aspirations of branch members.

This agenda is an exquisitely political one, which all those who have ever run into the Trotskyist frame of mind will be aware of (ie, "struggle" is a good in itself). That those following this agenda manage to have their way is even more mind-blowing when we consider that they constitute (as can be drawn from the statistics of ballots conducted by the union) about 3 to 4 per cent of a membership of some 120,000 people.

Why the other 96 to 97 per cent who have not political but trade union reasons for being in the UCU (pay, conditions, job protection, etc) allow that tiny minority to "represent" them is the other question that needs answering. Sadly, the answer comes in a single word - apathy. Strange that apathy can be quite so overwhelming among a "thinking" membership, even though it is massively expensive for the majority who practise it.

Howard Moss, Swansea University UCU pensions officer

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