UCU marking boycott called off

The University and College Union has officially called off its marking boycott after members voted to accept a new pay deal from employers

May 1, 2014

Almost 84 per cent of members taking part in a ballot voted to back a 2 per cent pay offer for next year and stop the boycott, which was due to start next week. Just 16 per cent rejected the offer.

On 2 May the union’s higher education committee met to consider the ballot result and “confirmed that the dispute is over and the marking boycott off”, according to a UCU statement.

UCU general secretary Sally Hunt said: “UCU members have made it overwhelmingly clear that they wish to accept the 2 per cent pay offer and call off the proposed marking boycott.

“We shall be informing universities of their decision and that the marking boycott is off. My thanks go to UCU members for their support in this dispute.”

The vote was called after the UCU postponed the original start date of the boycott – 28 April – to 6 May to allow for members to consider the pay offer.

The proposed boycott – and a series of strikes held since October – were part of an ongoing dispute over a pay offer of 1 per cent for the current academic year.

A total of 30,141 votes were counted in the ballot, a turnout of 52.6 per cent. Out of the eligible votes cast, 25,239 voted to accept the offer and call off the marking boycott (83.7 per cent) and 4,902 voted to reject it (16.3 per cent).

The Universities and Colleges Employers Association issued a statement saying it was “pleased that the employers’ ‘full and final’ pay offer of 2 per cent for 2014-15 has been accepted by the vast majority of UCU members”.

“Students and the sector more broadly will be relieved that the planned assessment boycott has now been called off,” the statement added.

Ucea pointed out that the remaining unions with staff working in universities – including Unison and Unite – were still consulting on the pay offer, which included a 2.2 per cent increase for the lowest-paid workers.

“If accepted by the remaining trade unions the increase will bring the vast majority of staff in the sector on the lowest points of the pay scale to rates equivalent to or above the Living Wage,” it claimed. 

simon.baker@tsleducation.com

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Reader's comments (5)

Pathetic. Where are the backbones of UCU members?
I think that's a little harsh Howard. The dispute has been ongoing since October and many members have sacrificed a fair amount to make it happen. In addition, the marking boycott was about to become a continuous stoppage due to pay docking, and our sister union UNISON had no plans to take further action pending a ballot. Going on a marking boycott, facing 100% deduction in pay without a clear sense of the union's ability to facilitate strike pay for all members over an extended period (it could not afford to pay the £50 day rate to everyone for any length of time) presented huge difficulties and I suspect the members had just had enough. The 'backbone' of the members has seen the dispute go on as long as it has. Is it a deal that anyone wanted? No. But the membership took a collective decision that it was the best that could be managed at this time in light of the union's lack of preparedness for a continuous stoppage. I think that's just being realistic rather than lacking backbone. The union also needs to build wider issues of TandCs (especially casualisation) into future disputes as the message of this dispute did not speak to a fair number of union members, as others have noted.
I very much agree with Mike. One of the reasons I voted to accept was because I felt the threat of the marking ballot had achieved *something* but continuing with it would be bad for UCU as a whole, and for members. I know people who have become alienated by, even left, the union over this issue. I didn't think it would be well supported, partly based on support for the two hour strikes, partly because I doubted people could afford to have their pay stopped (or at least heavily docked) for a continued period of time. (My university docked a full day's pay for two hour strikes.) I also agree that casualisation/terms and conditions are crucial issue.
Why has this information been released to the media BEFORE the membership has been informed by UCU?
The entire campaign has been a textbook example of how NOT to do it. One day and two-hour strikes are a complete waste of time, the management love them because (a) they know they will be poorly supported and therefore give them an opportunity to pour scorn on UCU, (b) it saves them money in relation to those who do actually go on strike, (c) it has no impact whatsoever on the students' progress and performance, particularly since many universities have "catch-up days" and simply treat one-day and two-hour strikes as they would absence through illness and (d) it drives a wedge between the students and the staff. The only effective weapon we have at our disposal has to do with the assessment - either withhold the marks/grades or give every student a first. Let's stop this bloody strike nonsense once and for all. If there is one thing that gets up my olfactory organ it is limp-wristed academics living out their fantasies as working-class heroes.

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