Members of the UCU union were expressing their determination on Monday evening to reject a deal reached earlier in the day by a section of their leadership and Universities UK. The deal was heavily criticised by members as soon as it was released by UCU. Many vented their frustration online, furious that it fell far short of what the strike has demanded so far. They pointed out that this was because the deal:
Accepted the bosses case that the scheme was financially unsustainable and raised the amount of money workers would have to contribute each month into their pension. At the same time, the rate at which employers pay into the scheme would fall.
Forced striking workers to reschedule their classes that were missed during the strike, effectively making them work unpaid whilst also undermining the strike action.
Only lasted 3 years, in which time so-called experts would be invited to come and present inferior pension schemes, something that goes against what people have been on strike for.
In one open letter –signed by 5,000 union members within hours – it said “In three years time we will be demobilised and pressured to accept a worse deal. In our opinion we should keep going and throw UUK’s offer out all together.”
In another statement released by University of Liverpool UCU, it stated that a meeting of 100 members earlier in the day had unanimously rejected the deal. “Members in our branch and across the country did not join one of the most impressive shows of collective solidarity in the face of restrictive trade union laws for a compromise offer that does not guarantee them decency in retirement.”, it read. Within hours, #NoCapitulation was trending on Twitter. One user wrote “I was feeling a tad unstrikey at the weekend. I am feeling very, very strikey now. #NoCapitulation #ucustrike” The branch secretary of one UCU branch involved in the strike simply stated ‘massive sellout!” on Facebook.
However, this was not a done deal. Even the BBC headlines on Tuesday morning that made out the strikes were about to end had to acknowledge that the agreement needed to be ratified by a meeting of union reps that day, as well as any decision on halting strikes. The meeting – to be held in UCUs London offices – quickly became the focus of union members’ anger, with hundreds committing themselves to demonstrate outside in protest at the proposed deal. Student groups which had been set up to support the strike also threw themselves behind what appeared to be an overwhelming desire to carry on the fight in defence of a decent pension.
As the morning rolled on, stories poured in of huge meetings of striking university staff rejecting the deal. One rep in Cardiff put the atmosphere like this: “We’ve had picket lines this morning outside buildings where there hasn’t been one before. People are turning out more because they’re so angry about the deal.” The hall booked for the meeting was too small for the hundreds who wanted to attend, so they held it outside instead. Workers held aloft their placards, some had been made the night before and simply read: ‘No’. The meeting overwhelmingly rejected the deal.
The strike has unleashed a level of industrial struggle and solidarity not seen in decades. The mood of the strike has been very upbeat and workers rightly think they can win. Pushing a deal that falls so far short may have provided an already confident strike with further opportunity to strengthen the organisation of ordinary union members and their supporters.
Today your 'all weather leafletters were: CJ via cab and fresh off the operating table along with all the kuwg equipment: banners, music, cd player, bullhorn, record player, Pam, Mira, folding stool...yes ok, as he passed our estate he picked us up...nothing escapes your keen eyes! Speaking of Keen, Paul K contacted CJ to say he was already in position at Kilburn, as wasGerry Dowing with the leaflets. Abby (more gloves than an Eskimo) and Angie (fur coat and Ski sticks), Peter Murry pulling his wheelchair behind him as an ice breaker. Hassan arrived singing his way down Cambridge Avenue. We even had our Nygell Firminger memorial flame in tow.
We set up. Vinyl on record player and cassettes in the cd player. As we stood waiting for Can the Can to start the notorious Kay passed through our ranks spitting the words "Tell your friend to stop telling lies about me" CJ straightened up and began calling him (all together now) "LIAR!" this is to do with the incident Abby reported last week about Shelley having a seizure in kilburn JCP. I must mention the perma-tanned JCP worker who poked her orange mug through the doorway and shook her head dramatically in a no gesture after clocking us, or maybe her face was inflamed and she wanted to cool off? I shouldn't jump to conclusions.
We did a raucous version of Devil Gate Drive, followed by Crazy Horses (Crazy 'Tories') I have snatches of film and you can hear how much we are laughing as we sing! Our anthem 'Gaukes out' (Schools out) which had the bus stop crowd transfixed, there were so many watchers, surely a few buses had gone by without anyone boarding. We got some waves and cheers too. I filmed as kuwg sang Slades Gudbye to Pam (Jane). We ended with a lovely singalong Glad to be Gay by Tom Robinson then we packed up and went for coffee. Photos to follow and as soon as youtube has twiddled the videos I will send them also. Incidentally, 2 young men going in asked me what we were there for, I expained, they had no idea that Kilburn is to close on Friday! They looked so alarmed they asked me if they could still enter the building...