Guest post: “How we won the strike ballot at Lancaster University”

23 January 2018

On 22 January 2018 UCU announced that they had surpassed the legal threshold of 50% with a 58% national turnout.  At Lancaster, we had the third highest branch turn-out of 73% out of 68 universities balloted.  

Since the anti-union legislation came in in 2016, UCU have had a policy of ‘Get the Vote Out’ (GTVO).  This was used very successfully at local disputes like Manchester and Leeds, where branches got turn-outs of over 50%, but it had never been tried nationally.

In November we planned our first ever GTVO campaign with some thirty reps ready to door-knock and it worked!  How?  Groundwork, teamwork and lots of communication.  We sent three or four emails a week, updating members on developments locally and nationally, and in turn asked them to let us know when they had voted so that we could keep a general tally and let everyone know where we had got to each week.

This was a great way of establishing a dialogue between members and the branch leadership.  We had hundreds of members email us in, many with positive messages of hope that we would get over the 50% threshold.

It became a way of creating and nurturing a virtual community from a branch of disparate members, lacking a common focus, and complemented the dozen department and section meetings we had.

The all-out attack on pensions was the last straw for many of our members.  We are not an angry branch but members were shocked and quietly enraged that the employers could imagine that it would be ok to simply take away their defined benefits scheme and replace it with a far inferior one.

They understood that it was part of the wider context of the marketization of higher education and that management were choosing financialisation over staff.  The employers’ contempt was brazen and in the ballot campaign, members found a way to collectively fight back.

Julie Hearn

Lancaster UCU chair

UCU NEC

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