SFEU (Solidarity Federation Education Union) continues to stand in solidarity with those workers who are currently involved in the UCU industrial actions taking place at FE and HE institutions across the country.

While it may appear dispiriting that many UCU branches have not voted to continue participating in these actions, we must remember that it is a major achievement to have attained the 50% plus majority needed to take action as prescribed by current anti-TU laws. Some criticism of the UCU strategy and leadership is, however, due. Throughout this academic year, UCU has continually adopted a strategy which, in our view, has been partly counterproductive in our fight for a fair and sustainable education sector. Specifically, the use of ‘Action Short of a Strike’ (ASOS) has proved particularly divisive, and has discouraged many UCU members from continuing to play a part in these struggles. It is not only ineffective and difficult to carry out: it also places the onus on individual workers (rather than the collective workforce), and therefore undermines solidarity. Employers are often able to mitigate the effects of ASOS, whilst victimising workers who engage in such actions, anyway.

At a time of increasing hostility towards union members, the only way to counter the intransigence of employers is coordinated, sustained, and robust strike action. More recently, on another note, UCU HQ has emailed branches to ask whether they will endorse the marking and assessment campaign boycott, clearly expecting that many will not. This sowing of doubt can only open the door to disillusionment. We must remain strong and implement the boycott as a means of forcing management to return to the table for meaningful negotiations and, ultimately, to ensure our victory in this set of disputes.