What are the reasons for strike action?

For the Unison branches that managed to get over the threshold last autumn, our mandate expires at the end of February. There are eight branches across the country still taking action on various days throughout the month - SOAS were out on the 1st, but none of the others are.

Hitting the start of the National Student Survey feels like a strong position to be in, and co-ordination with our local UCU branch is still good, but the lack of communication between UCU central office and local branches has meant that we were still in the position of choosing dates in January without having a clear understanding of what UCU’s plans were, which has undermined our ability to co-ordinate our action effectively.

As for next steps, we’re still waiting to see whether we’re going to reballot to extend our mandate over the 2022-23 offer or wait for the ballot over the 23-24 offer to start. Unison’s HE conference just voted down a proposal to return to national aggregate balloting, which from our current position would be a definite step back and just leave us with no branches able to strike.

Our local branch is in good shape, but it’s hard to know how the national picture compares.

How would you describe your strike tactics?

We started off very strong in October and November, and this round of action has seen a slight decline in numbers compared to that, but we’re still in a strong position overall. We’ve had another burst of new members signing up and it definitely doesn’t feel like the picket lines have just ended up as “the same old faces”, I’ve seen different groups of workers turning up at the pickets on each of the days so far. Morale has stayed high and the weather’s been as good as could be expected for February.

It’s possible that outside and student support has dropped off a bit, but again that’s understandable, since there’s so much action happening at the moment, so everyone’s attention and energy stretched a bit thinner. Not a bad problem to have!

What comes next? What avenues are there for escalation?

In the immediate future, there’s not much potential for us to escalate as we’ll be focused on either reballoting, or else trying to consolidate our growth as a branch and then preparing for the 23-24 ballot. I feel like the past six months have done a good job at introducing a lot of workers to strike action for the first time, which gives us a solid foundation for escalation when we do go again. Perhaps the most important ways to escalate in future would be a) more Unison branches getting their mandates, and b) more effective co-ordination with UCU, but both of those are out of our hands as a local branch to some extent.


Anonymous HE worker

Anonymous higher education workers involved in various HE strikes.