As we reach the end of the controversial two-week pause to our industrial dispute, we must take stock of where this decision has left us. Having forfeited a significant part of our leverage in the negotiations, UCEA has neither confirmed an end to zero hour contracts, nor upheld its end of the bargain in this supposed period of calm. What we have gained is a tentative agreement on the terms of reference for negotiations over pay-related issues and an imposed pay cut. This is derisory though entirely predictable.

Seeing the inevitable results of this ill-conceived and undemocratic decision transpire brings no satisfaction. However, it should focus minds on how easily our leverage can be taken out of our hands and squandered by the union leadership. It should also make us question why the national union is yet to provide notice to the employer of our intention to take a marking and assessment boycott. In December, the debate around industrial strategy was constructively polarising, and we openly acknowledged not winning people to our position, and stressed the need to make the most of the strategy decided on by the HEC. What united all the positions in that debate was the belief that a summer MAB would give us exceptional leverage against the employers. In the January branch delegate meeting, which decided the course of strike action, 56% of delegates voted in favour of an April MAB. This was 1% less than voted in favour of escalating strike action. Even the General Secretary spoke in favour of a summer MAB when defending her strategy position against all others.

We are now less than a month from April in the midst of a GTVO campaign and we do not have confirmation of the MAB. Our comrades from Goldsmiths made the case in ‘Notes on a Marking and Assessment Boycott’ that a successful MAB requires a serious level of organisation and preparatory work, and comes with all manner of difficulties. The national union has abjectly (or knowingly) failed to sufficiently prepare branches for this action and there is a conspicuous absence of any mention of the MAB in their GTVO coverage. We clearly need leverage in the negotiations and we need a guarantee of effective escalation to persuade members to vote for another ballot. Every day that passes without notice of action, is one day less for branches to prepare for an effective MAB.

We need escalation now. We need members and employers to know: we are preparing to disrupt summer assessments across 150 institutions and we intend to win our demands in full.

Below is a branch model motion demanding that the national union immediately declare a summer MAB. We recommend all branches table this motion as soon as possible and send it to the HEC and the General Secretary.

Motion on Submitting Notice of a Summer MAB

This branch notes:
1. That UCU branches across the country have taken 6 days of a proposed 18 days of strike action over the Four Fights (pay, workload, casualisation and pay inequality) and pensions.
2. That the strike has been suspended for two weeks by UCU leadership at short notice following several days of negotiations with the employers at ACAS.
3. That the suspension of the strike was justified on the basis that significant progress had been made across a range of issues and that it was necessary for negotiations to continue in a constructive environment.
4. That at the Branch Delegates Meeting on 9 January, 56% of delegates voted in favour of a MAB beginning on April 17 to target all final/end of year summative assessments beginning that month and that the HEC formally approved this as part of our industrial strategy.
5. That UCU is currently re-balloting members to extend the current mandate beyond the 20 April cut-off.

This branch believes:
1. That no tangible concessions have resulted from the two-week pause to the strike action.
2. That branches require sufficient notice about a summer MAB to effectively prepare for the action.
3. That an effective summer MAB will put an exceptional level of pressure on employers and vastly improve our position in negotiations.
4. That members require a guarantee that their vote for a renewed mandate will result in the escalation formally approved by the HEC.

This branch resolves:
1. To call the national union to immediately submit formal notice of our intention to take a summer MAB.
2. To call the national union to immediately provide all branches sufficient training resources for a summer MAB.
3. To call the national union to immediately promote the effectiveness of a summer MAB as part of its GTVO campaigning.


The University Worker

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