On 29 March the University and Colleges Union Left met in London. Around 60 lecturers discussed the way forward for the left in the union.
The UCU Left is now heavily dominated by the SWP. Despite its claim to be a rank and file group it is, in reality, much more a caucus of members of the UCU’s national committees. 10 of the 15 members of steering committee elected at the conference are members of the union’s leading bodies. A proposal from AWL supporters that the steering committee should be based on activists in branches was heavily defeated at the conference.
The good news is that the UCU left has turned away from pursuing the boycott of Israeli academics that absorbed much of the left’s energy last year. Instead, attention focused on immediate battles that the union has to face. Primary among these is the proposed joint industrial action with the teachers’ union, the NUT, on 24 April. The UCU’s ballot does not close until 14 April, but activists are confident that there will be a vote for strike action.
There was a general recognition that it will take action across the public sector to break Brown’s pay cap, but most activists are waiting to see how successful the action is on 24 April before deciding their next move. The priority now is to build for that action in local workplaces.