Coordinated action on cards, UCU signals

Protests against education cuts are taking place in London and Manchester today as the main lecturers’ union signals that strikes in the academy could be coordinated with industrial action in other sectors.

January 29, 2011

The University and College Union is backing a Trades Union Congress youth rally in Manchester, which warns that government cuts could create a “lost generation”.

It is also officially supporting a protest in London organised by new student groups the Education Activist Network and the National Campaign Against Fees and Cuts.

The UCU was also involved in yesterday’s cross-union meeting in London that discussed plans to coordinate industrial action in response to public spending cuts.

It is holding three strike ballots in higher education next month (over jobs, pay and pensions) and two in further education.

Sally Hunt, the union’s general secretary, signalled that industrial action is likely to be coordinated with other unions.

“UCU supports coordinated action and I strongly believe in unions working together where our interests coincide,” she said.

“The coalition government seems intent on attacking working people and it should not be surprised that we will not just sit by and watch pay fall as the cost of living rises and pensions are decimated.”

The Manchester rally will focus on the government’s plans to treble university tuition fees, end the educational maintenance allowance in further education and cut support for unemployed young people.

Ms Hunt will say in her speech: “It is not right that the next generation is being asked to pay the price for a financial crisis they didn’t create.”

The UCU’s support for the London protest has caused divisions within the union. The UCU Left agitated to support it against trenchant opposition from Ms Hunt.

She noted the violence on previous marches and warned of damage to the union’s relationship with the National Union of Students, which has been criticised by the new student groups. But the UCU Left said trade union solidarity with the students was necessary in the face of police intimidation.

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