Indefinite strikes are too much, too late, to restore the DC threshold by April

How the UCU Left proposal is mired in a paradox of deterrence

Michael Otsuka
2 min readJan 10, 2023

Please have a careful look at the following FAQ, which tries to explain how it will be possible to employ the threat of ‘hard-hitting industrial action’ to force restoration of the DC threshold by 1 April 2023:

Can USS make the changes to restore the DC threshold by 1 April 2023?

Yes, but UCU will need to ask for it very quickly (ideally, before 11 Jan 2023) to do this. This then puts the ball in the employers’ court, which branches can back up by lobbying VCs to support the idea in principle.

One of the best ways to do this would be to ensure that there is real pressure on the employers to support UCU in this demand by members being ready to take hard-hitting industrial action.

Note that this is a readiness to engage in indefinite strikes from the beginning of February. But this is ‘hard-hitting action’ after that point (namely the 31st of January) at which it has become mathematically impossible to complete the required 60-day consultation by the 1st of April.

As has been extensively discussed in the literature on nuclear deterrence, there are serious problems with a threat to do something that is known in advance to be inefficacious at the point at which the threat would be executed. To get around this problem, one needs to make it credible that one will follow through in doing something that makes no sense once the threat fails to deter.

One way to do so is to make one’s opponent believe that one is impervious to reason and will therefore carry through with the threat at this point, however irrational. If this is how supporters of restoration of the DC threshold by April plan to make their threat credible, I must at least acknowledge that you have been doing a convincing job of conveying an imperviousness to reason in clinging to your proposal even after its timetable has shown to be absurd.

Members, however, will probably not be too keen to be sent out on indefinite strikes on behalf of a goal which is known by all to be impossible to realise at the point at which those strikes begin.



Michael Otsuka

Professor of Philosophy, Rutgers. Previously on UCU national negotiating team for USS pensions.