A UNION is on the verge of the “biggest pensions win” in the history of British trade unions, its boss said as she told members university management will not break them in their pay battle.

Jo Grady told the University and College Union's annual congress in Glasgow yesterday – its first in-person conference in four years – they will not be afraid to escalate action as their marking boycott enters its fifth week.

And she praised members for helping reverse changes to pensions as part of the Universities Superannuation Scheme.

The union’s general secretary told delegates: “Today, thanks to your bravery and determination, your steadfastness on picket lines, in the face of freezing winds and vindictive employers, we are on the verge of seeing our retirement benefits restored in full.

“This will be the biggest pensions win in British trade union history.”

Since April 20, union members have been in a marking and assessment boycott in a battle for better pay and conditions at universities across the UK.

Some institutions, the union said, have threatened pay deductions but Grady added that the “fight goes on” and the UCU is not going to back down.

She told the conference: “Let me say this: I have never been so proud to be part of this union as I have in recent weeks, watching you all stand firm in the face of vindictive, bullying behaviour from employers. You have refused to bow down.

“Branches are fighting and rolling back the threat of punitive pay deductions – whilst vice-chancellors are disgracing themselves and their institutions. It is our members who are the heartbeat of this sector.

“We aren’t backing down. They want to break our members. They want to break the union. They never will.”

In her 11-minute speech at the Scottish Events Campus, Grady said the UCU wants to build better universities and colleges but also a better society.

“Whether it’s calling out this rotten Government that preys on division or holding a Labour Party that are simply not offering enough to account – we will never be afraid to speak truth to power,” she said.

She told members the UCU has “won not one, but two incredible national ballot results, smashing the Tory thresholds” and it is no longer a “union that takes isolated action, picked off by the bosses”.

“Now we challenge the employer at the same co-ordinated, national scale on which they attack us,” she said.

“Make no mistake about it – every employer we face knows that this union now wins a ballot anytime, anyplace and under any circumstances.

“But we cannot sit back. As we face the fights ahead, we will not be afraid to escalate our action in the face of bullying bosses.”