7th Regulating for Decent Work Conference

Activity: Participating in or organising an eventParticipation in conference


Organising an industrial action ballot to protect jobs during the Covid-19 pandemic: The case of a UK university and the University and College Union

The aim of the paper is to explore and extend, theoretically and practically, our understanding of union organising during a global health and economic crisis, restrictive strike laws, and where members are highly dispersed and accessible only via Internet-based technologies. Specifically, the paper explores one union’s approach to organising a statutory ballot campaign (get the vote out or ‘GTVO’) to prevent compulsory redundancies in a UK university during the first year of the Covid-19 pandemic. The paper draws on theory related to traditional, GTVO and technology-driven organising. A single case study approach is applied, an approach that draws on interviews with members of a union team, effectively a steering group, set up to organise and mobilise as many members as possible to vote in the statutory ballot. The approach also draws on findings from a survey of members who were organised during the campaign, highlighting what aspects of organising made the difference between voting or not in the ballot. The main findings from the interviews are a behind the scenes account of how a team of four managed to deliver a resounding mandate for industrial action, which proved key in resolving the dispute by avoiding compulsory redundancies. The study makes a range of contributions to theory, such as extending theories based on traditional, GTVO and technological-based organising. The findings also have practical implications, specifically in terms of providing a range of recommendations for union organising surrounding statutory ballots. More research is required though, to test out and extend the theoretical and practical contributions of the study.
Period6 Jul 20219 Jul 2021
Event typeConference
LocationGeneva, SwitzerlandShow on map
Degree of RecognitionInternational


  • ILO
  • Decent Work
  • COVID-19
  • Collective bargaining
  • Trade unions
  • GTVO