A wrong move at Congress

The decision by UCU Congress to close down debate on, and then back the ‘organisation’ of women involved in prostitution rather than prioritise routes out of prostitution, is an example where those calling themselves the ‘UCU Left’ should be ashamed, says Michael McKrell, who has just retired from the NEC.

 

In 2009 the TUC Women’s Conference debated Motion 40 (The Commodification of Sex) – proposed by UCU – which demanded that Conference campaign to:

  1. i) expose the social causes of prostitution including women’s poverty;
    ii) review the residency status of trafficked women;
    iii) criminalise men’s purchase of sex rather than its sale; and
    iv) ensure that the commodification of sex and the objectification of women’s bodies is shown to be a contributory factor in violence against women.

The motion was carried.

Fast-forward to UCU Congress 2017. Motion 56 motion on ‘Education, sex worker safety and collective organising’ was passed – albeit with a curtailed debate – calling for ‘decriminalisation of sex work to allow collective working and improved safety for sex workers’.

I have no doubt that this will be regarded by organisations involved in the fight against domestic abuse and violence against women, such as Rape Crisis, Women’s Aid and anti-trafficking organisations with utter incredulity and dismay. How is it possible that a union which has until now sought to campaign against the objectification and commodification of women’s bodies has now come to adopt a policy which represents de facto collusion in the continuing wave of abuse against women forced into prostitution?

Rather than adopting the position of the TUC Women’s Congress, representing 3 million women, or the position of organisations who deal with the rape, deaths, and abuse of women involved in prostitution, Motion 56 – which was not taken to any of the Union’s Equality Committees before Congress – was pushed to a vote at Congress, debate having been guillotined. We are now stuck with a position that isolates us in the labour movement and effectively means we contribute nothing to the ending of the exploitation of women involved in prostitution.

It was good to see two men – Douglas Chalmers, President UCU Scotland, and Eurig Scandrett, a prominent member of the ‘white ribbon’ campaign in Scotland – speak against the motion. Douglas ably articulated the position of Rape Crisis and other groups opposed to legalizing prostitution. Eurig stated that if student poverty is driving students into prostitution then the answer is to end student poverty, not legalise prostitution!

But it was the deliberate and calculated move to close down the debate that shocked and angered me and which, in my view, brought discredit on the union.

For the only time during Congress the ‘move to the vote’ was called for before HE President Joanna De Groot and FE President-elect Vicky Knight (Chair of the TUC Women’s Committee) could voice their opposition to the Motion. And the manner in which it was done was shameful; it was galling to see a prominent member of the SWP/UCULeft go to the front of Congress where those waiting to speak sat, and say to those in favour of the motion ‘You should close down the debate, we’ve got the votes for it.’

Opponents of the motion had asked ‘where are the Pimps in this motion? Where are the men who buy women’s bodies?’ and had argued that prostitution was part of the cycle of exploitation and abuse women faced and should be worked against, not facilitated.

The answer in the debate, by one prominent member of UCULeft (and NEC member), was that ‘women do not sell their bodies, it’s just like work – which has unpleasant parts to it.’ This is an astonishing statement. Of course, all forms of labour are exploitative and alienating. But are we really expected to compare the everyday experience of workplace ‘unpleasantness’ with the situation in which, driven by economic desperation, women are compelled to endure the systematic use of physical force, threats and use of violence, psychological coercion, and in many cases crippling addiction?

One of the reasons I am angry at those promoting this policy is the callous ignorance of the brutal reality of prostitution, as outlined in The Independent some time ago ; a reality masked by the use of words like ‘collectivise’ and ‘organise’. A question for those who believe we can “support self-organised sex workers in their call for decriminalisation of sex work to allow collective working and improved safety for sex workers” is this. Just who are the ‘organised sex workers’ going to negotiate and bargain with? Answer: pimps and gangsters (not exactly renowned for their unimpeachable adherence to fair employment practices) – lumpen criminals who risk nothing themselves but make huge profits from the exploitation of women.  

Drawing on the Independent report on the effects of the legalisation of prostitution, Megan Murphy writing on the Feminist Current blog pointed out that; “the only thing the Dutch government’s 12 year experiment with legalization succeeded in doing was to increase the market. The illusory labour-based approach, put forth by confused lefties, wherein prostitution is imagined to be ‘a job like any other’ hasn’t worked either…Rather than be given rights in the ‘workplace’, the prostitutes have found the pimps are as brutal as ever. The government-funded union set up to protect them has been shunned by the vast majority of prostitutes, who remain too scared to complain. Under the “labour” model, assault and rape is no longer violence against women, but “an ‘occupational hazard’, like a stone dropped on a builder’s toe,”

There’s simply no reason for police to charge men for doing something they feel they are legally entitled to do. Talking about ‘sex work’ as ‘work’ doesn’t help women. It doesn’t help women leave the industry, it doesn’t create gender equality, it doesn’t stop the violence, and it doesn’t de-stigmatize prostitution. Reframing legalization as ending the ‘stigma’ has not only been shown to be untrue, but it distracts us from the reality that violence and inequality doesn’t happen because of stigmatization — it happens because of male power and systemic injustice.

Detective Superintendent Kajsa Wahlberg, Sweden’s national rapporteur on trafficking in human beings, is quoted as saying; ‘The problem is gender-specific. Men buy women.’ Which is why a feminist approach is needed’’.

Congress Motion 56 is tantamount to an endorsement of capitalism’s relentless drive to commodify every aspect of human relations and to condone the further alienation of the body from the self; the body and its most intimate functions are reduced to a means of production, a machine for producing a commodity in the form of a service – sex – the use value of which is appropriated by the (male) consumer, whilst the exchange value enriches the trafficker and the pimp. The way to tackle prostitution is by eliminating its material basis – the demand by men to pay for women’s bodies; exactly what UCU called for at the TUC Women’s Conference in 2009.

As trades unionists and progressives we should be seeking a way out of exploitative human relations, not facilitating their all-pervasiveness and entrenchment. UCU needs to move quickly to reverse the retrograde step it took at Congress this year, adopt an informed and gender-specific analysis of prostitution and drop this shockingly out of touch position.

Michael McKrell

Retiring NEC member

In the interests of debate, we would welcome any members of UCULeft or the SWP who proposed or backed this motion to write in and let us know what was in their mind when they did so. We’ll publish any contributions.

Contact: unionadmin@ucuagenda.com

Vote for a strong team of National Negotiators

Sector conferences elect a team of National Negotiators who argue our position with UCEA in the case of Higher Education, and with AOC in the case of Further Education.

It’s crucial that we have dependable, and hard working representatives of the union in these posts who can take our campaigns beyond the rhetoric, and who can represent our members and work strategically with our sectoral executive committees and full time officials to help achieve the best outcomes for UCU members.

We suggest colleagues vote for the following candidates – with a proven track record in campaigning for the union.

In HE, we ask you to vote for: Julia Charlton; Paul Errington and Joanna de Groot.

In FE we ask you to vote for: Rob Goodfellow, Dave Langcaster and Richard Bathgate

Below you’ll find some details of the candidates, and what they stand for:

HE Candidates:

Julia Charlton – currently a national pay negotiator

Julia Charlton, currently NEC member, and member of Northumbria University  branch. Julia’s message to delegates is:

“I have been a national pay negotiator of 2 years. I have been Branch Chair for 3 years (current) & vice chair for 2 years, acting branch secretary for 9 months, branch assistant secretary for 7 years, and so I have been involved in many successful negotiations with management. I have spent years negotiating with a group of executive committee members and university management where we achieved our preferred outcomes not theirs in the majority of cases, and have seen management at its worst and best. I have a placid and introspective temperament which I believe equips me well for the rôle of national negotiator for UCU. As a member of the NEC/HEC I am well informed about the issues of concern to the broader membership as well as my local branch and I am able to work collaboratively with others to achieve best outcomes”

 

Paul Errington, currently NEC member and member of Teeside University branch

Paul’s message to delegates is:

I have previously been involved at all levels of the pay bargaining process, local and national in heavy industry with the ASB union which amalgamated with the GMB. As a lead shop steward and negotiator I was instrumental in negotiating local and national bonus payments and other pay related enhancements. Through my union I undertook training in negotiation preparation gathering valuable information through consultation with members which assisted in many of our bargaining table approaches. I have been party to national negotiations up to and including ACAS conciliation/dispute resolution discussions. I also have had prior experience of negotiating local incremental pay increases and on call payments within the NHS public sector with realistic aims and goals. I have experience of developing strategies of action and tactics with other members of the negotiating team ensuring that everyone fully understands their pre-assigned roles and important aspect of any team approach to negotiations.

 

Joanna de Groot, President elect of UCU and member of York University Branch

Joanna’s message to delegates:

I was a UK-level negotiator for UCU in 2011-13, and again since 2014, participating in pay bargaining and in pay related working parties involving fellow unions and management. Previously I was a UK- level negotiator for AUT.  I have been a branch negotiator since the 1990s, dealing with the Framework Agreement, statutes and policies, equality issues and harassment, performance review, and grading and promotion issues, as well as casework. This gives me a range of experience, knowledge, and insight to bring to our pay negotiations, as do my varied contacts with members as a national officer of UCU. I am committed to using negotiating opportunities to their full potential to do the very best for members. I believe in maintaining active links between negotiators, elected bodies, and the membership as a whole in order to maximise our strength and effectiveness when we combine negotiation with campaigning .  

 

FE Candidates:

Rob Goodfellow, President of UCU and member of Hull College Branch.

Rob’s message to delegates is:

As previous Chair of FEC I was a national pay negotiator for two years and am well aware how the AoC conduct themselves. I will strive for the best deal possible on behalf of all FE members and ask for your support in this. As your outgoing national President I have fought hard on behalf of members and have considerable experience in negotiations at many local branches as well as nationally and internationally. If elected I will negotiate in consultation with members.

Dave Langcaster

Secretary of Hull College Branch

Dave’s message to delegates is

I have been a National Negotiator for the last year, having been elected at Congress 2016. I am branch secretary at Hull College where I have negotiated successful resolutions to 2 major disputes since 2015 – in the first dispute, I led the negotiating team that got management to abandon a punitive, graded, zero-notice observation policy, and also persuaded them to honour a pay rise agreed in 2014. In the second, the negotiating team pushed management into agreeing to no compulsory redundancy for UCU members in the last round of redundancies. I also negotiate for individual members, with casework that includes negotiating settlements for resignation due to ill-health and redundancy. Currently negotiating to prevent detrimental changes to a redundancy policy

Richard Bathgate Chair of Gateshead College Branch

Richard’s message to delegates:

As a national further education negotiator and past member of the Durham Mechanics Association affiliated to the NUM, I know full well the importance of serious negotiation backed up by a campaign and industrial action as and when necessary. When taking up employment in the sector in 2004 I immediately joined the union and found myself embroiled in a bitter dispute with management implementing drastic contractual changes. As UCU branch chair I have been involved in negotiations at local level protecting members from constant attacks on terms and conditions. As regional FE chair/E.C. Vice Chair I see it increasingly important as we move further into attacks on trade unions and the very existence of comprehensive F.E.

I offer my experience and commitment as FE negotiator.

                     

Saturday session starts Congress off

Congress observed a minutes silence in relation to the Manchester bombing

Congress started in a dignified manner with a minutes silence in memory of those who lost their lives in the Manchester bombing and then following a welcome address and speech from President Rob Goodfellow, moved into a discussion of international campaigns and solidarity work.
Vice President Vicky Knight then kicked off with a motion reminding delegates of successes we had achieved in solidarity with colleagues facing persecution abroad, with this motion being followed by others on Trump’s visit, against repression in Turkey, on the elections in France and other issues. Steve Boyce who represents prison educators in FE made a very moving speech on the dreadful persecution facing gay men in Chechnya. Other motions covered threats to the Central European University in Hungary, and on Israel refusing entry to pro-boycott U.K. Academics.

The main debate of the morning was perhaps the debate regarding the results of Brexit, together with consideration as to whether we should support Freedom of Movement in the post-Brexit era. Discussions here were in the main very measured, and were all collegiate, with Freedom of Movement being endorsed, but a proposal to support the holding of another referendum to consider Brexit terms being rejected.

The short video below perhaps gives a flavour of some of the issues raised.


Other motions were passed on Scotland’s ‘Just Transition’ approach to sustainable environmental and economic change, on climate change and airport expansion, on air quality and finally on motions on job sharing and also the National Pensioners’ Convention.
Prior to a private session where issues relating to finance were dealt with, Congress heard an address from General Secretary Sally Hunt who talked of the challenges facing the union, and the need to build both FE and HE sectors in order to face the challenges of the next five years. Sally’s speech was covered in TES here.
Motions throughout the rest of the day addressed the business of the UCU’s Education Committee, passing policy on amongst other issues, Apprenticeship reforms, Academic Freedom and Prevent together with anti-racist and anti-colonialist education.
Towards the latter part of the afternoon a video address from Mesut Firat the General Secretary of the Education and Science Workers Union of Turkey alerted delegates to what could be done to help colleagues there.

Overall a good natured and useful day, with some real differences, but also the ability to argue those and resolve them constructively

Friday night debate – Strategies to build the union

Friday night of Congress started off with a fringe meeting looking at how to ensure that the union dealt with a wide range of issues in its campaigning and practice over the next year. Speakers from the devolved nations were Ann Gow from Scotland (UCU Scotland’s incoming President), Renee Prendergast, NEC representative from Northern Ireland who were joined by Vicky Knight, UCU’s incoming President Elect, and national negotiators Jo McNeill and Sean Vernell, with Mark Abel, a representative from the local (Brighton) branch also joining the debate.

A whole range of issues were raised during the meeting, which started with Jo McNeil who argued that in the face of the Trade Union Act, we could still have wins – she thought the NSS boycott had been extremely successful, and solidarity was key, an injury to one was an injury to all. She suggested we did not have a strategy for industrial action.

Ann Gow, President elect, UCU Scotland, drew on Scottish experience

Ann Gow took a different angle, talking of the lessons of Scotland, pointing out that it was a nation and not a region, and consequently worked in a different manner, education, being totally devolved to the Scottish parliament. UCU Scotland negotiated directly with government and in working with all parties in opposing the vested interests of University principals, had been successful on issues such as Governance of universities and also in achieving and retaining Scotland’s no tuition fees policy.  UCU Scotland came together however, with the universities on areas of common ground such as dealing with Brexit and had signed a common cause statement with them and NUS on this. The union also worked with the Universities to lobby the Scottish government on the budget for the university sector. In general UCU Scotland acted as a ‘branch led union’ which talked publicly ‘for the university community’ – not leaving it to university managements to claim this crown. This meant members identified with the union, and thus when industrial action was necessary then it got support. We had had serious industrial action – but this was where it was merited. Current priorities were gender pay and anti-casualisation.

Taking an angle that chimed with the points Jo McNeil had made, Sean Vernell suggested that Corbyn could win and the 9th June might see a Labour government elected. He then suggested the audience should remember the TV drama ‘A very British Coup’ and that we should be ready to defend a radical Labour government. He thought that the union wasn’t yet ready for that type of action and we needed to use the congress to build for this. He felt the concept of local or national was a false polemic, it was always both. Using a phrase that quite a few others  were to repeat during the meeting, he stated ‘You cannot casework yourself out of a crisis.’ He believed getting a 50 percent turnout in ballots was achievable and that ‘we have never had a real campaign’

Renee Prendergast suggested we drew on best practice wherever it arose

Renee Prendergast, looked at the specifics of Northern Ireland, and talked of how a successful union would learn from its different component parts. Regions, nations, and action locally could give positive examples. She believed that local and national issues were both important, although in practice some national actions had not been as successful as local ones. Today’s successful local actions could lay the basis for successful national actions – but that would be in the future.

Vicky Knight talked of the continuing unacceptable gender pay gap

Vicky Knight, current UCU VP and chair of the TUC Women’s Committee outlined the horrific situation women still face in terms of gender pay inequality pointing out that the gap is such that it was equivalent of women working all year, but only being paid up to October, and that the World Economic Forum suggested at current rates it would take 174 years to close the pay gap.

Mark Abel, from Brighton branch, referred to recent industrial action in the university, and how this had been achieved successfully.

In the discussion from the floor, Douglas Chalmers President of UCU Scotland suggested that there was a weakness in reducing what had been suggested by several speakers as ‘national action’ to strike action alone. Successful national action could be something totally different. He suggested that the gains Scotland had made had indeed been through national action, but not necessarily involving strikes. Rather the union had taken the ‘high ground’ and had been active on all sorts of democratic issues, which had won wide public support and support from union members thus achieving the basis for being able to run successful campaigns involving industrial action on the occasions when it was necessary.

Another contribution from President elect Joanna de Groot argued that we had to work smart as well as be strong, and we needed to think through how we worked. There was a huge range of actions we could use to win, so thinking smart about what better delivered jobs, pay deals, gender pay audits etc was crucial. We should work through this bit by bit, but as part of a UK wide strategy.

Other, interesting contributions from a range of strategic and political positions were also made, with the meeting going on for 30 minutes longer than had been planned.

Overall, the debate and discussion was an indication of some of the differences that do surface at Congress between UCU members who perhaps equated a successful union to one that above all saw industrial action – normally strike action – as the touchstone of success, and another, perhaps broader view that believed that the union had to be less ‘economistic’ and more strategic. A more strategic union, working to achieve success would use a whole range of methods, which above all could unite members, making the union a dynamic one which could actually be effective in the post TU Act era.

Wales UCU Congress – professional and combative


Douglas Chalmers writes: As President of UCU Scotland, I was fortunate to be invited to attend the Welsh UCU congress for the third year in a row. From across the border (or indeed several) it’s only possible to form some impressions of how the union is doing, but I really felt a buzz this year and was impressed by the level of debate and the issues addressed. I’ve put my impressions below. Any mistakes in the report are of course mine (but do let me know)

The Welsh UCU Congress once more showed the union to be at the heart of education matters in the Welsh post-16 sector when it met in Cardiff on 4th March.

Opening the well attended conference – which impressively for me, offered bilingual translation from Welsh into English – Chris Jones, Vice-President Wales UCU, outlined many of the problems facing the sector – casualisation, zero-hour, contracts, and especially in HE, the gender pay gap.  Chris also looked at the gains they had made in the last year.  In Welsh FE, every lecturer was now on the national contract, and prospects looked positive for a joint funding council. Despite some problems, (which were dealt with later on), the Diamond report would offer the most generous grant or loan situation for students in the four nations. On Brexit, Chris pledged that no matter what position individual union members had taken in the referendum, all members were united against the insidious upsurge of racism, stating “for the UCU there was no ‘us and them’ only the one race – the human race”.

Vice-President Chris Jones, and Chair John James were joined by AMs Kirsty Evans and Alun Davies

Two members of the Wales Assembly addressed the congress and took part in questions and answers. Kirsty Williams the cabinet secretary for education, and member of the Lib Dems, took up the tone of Chris’s speech, stating that

“Staff and students from the EU and beyond are welcome in our universities, our colleges, and in Wales in general”. Her speech covered a whole range of issues including the Welsh Government’s response to the Hazelkorn report on post-compulsory education and training in Wales

Kirsty Williams AM was first invited speaker to address Congress

She highlighted the government’s support for parity in esteem between academic and learning routes, and also talked of current moves to establish a single strategic authority to improve cohesion and promote collaboration as the foundation of a ‘whole systems’ approach which should give parity of esteem for part time and full time students in the system. Referring to developments in England she stated that it was important to ‘look at the unintended consequences that have too often emerged from reforms across the border.’ In a similar vein on TEF, she stated the Welsh government recognised and shared the UCU concerns about this, and while needing to live in the actual situation facing us, the government ‘did not share the same marketisation agenda as across the border’’ so would not be encouraging universities to take part in this. On the living wage issue, she talked of her concern that Cardiff was the only university that had achieved accredited ‘Living Wage’ employer status.

Alun Davis AM complemented many of the issues raised by Kirsty

Alun Davies AM, the minister for life long learning and the Welsh language struck a similar tone critical of the policies emanating from Westminster. Brexit had been an ‘unmitigated disaster’ and impinged on the conversations about ‘who we are’, and meant we needed to stand united against racist attacks, now becoming more common.

Referring to FE he talked of the sector as often being on the ‘sharp end of change’ and also stated that there were often gaps between what was said in speeches on issues such as parity of esteem and the reality we actually experienced.  This needed to be openly discussed.

He commended and argued for the need to register all of the educational workforce, towards the aim of achieving equal status for all educational professionals in Wales.

Some key questions were then put from the floor including  one relating to the funding gap, a second on austerity. A question was then asked on democracy in universities, and a final one on the impact on Welsh speaking students of the Diamond proposals.

A question was put requesting transparency on senior salaries in post-16 education, and on workload issues.

In the subsequent discussion of the ministers’ contributions, points were made that while the Hazelkorn report was welcome, and dialogue was being requested, very little effort seemed to be being made to ensure that the unions’ voices were at the table. The Diamond report was also welcomed with its emphasis on lifelong learning, including adults. However the dangers of it increasing marketisation were also mentioned.

On the living wage, while this was welcomed the issue of zero hours and fixed terms contracts also needed tackled. Secure contracts were felt to be key.

While the EWC (Education Workplace Council) was welcomed it was felt important to move on to have proper representation on that body to deal with questions such as the charging of full fees for part timers, and the problematic nature of the disciplinary aspects of the code. The union was having to hire barristers to fight the vindictive use of it which was costing the unions thousands of pounds. Regarding CPD this was double edged unless the issues of adequate time to undertake it was tackled together with a say in the nature of CPD. No one wanted to use their precious time to learn how to fill in forms correctly.

Finally on professionalisation, it was felt that proper workloads were key to developing a fully professional workforce.

The HE Sector conference heard from invited guest Reneé Prendergast chair of UCU Northern Ireland who compared and contrasted some of the issues facing the sector in what was a period of political instability. Not surprising to those listening, the similarities in terms of heavy workloads, casualisation and the funding gap seemed familiar in both Wales and Northern Ireland.

Representing UCU Scotland, I also addressed the HE Sector conference and confirmed that these issues were also common to us, although we were working in a situation where university governance was being democratised and where the current Holyrood SNP government had published a joint paper with the STUC, praising the work of workplace trade union reps – a clear contrast with either Wales or NI.

The sector conference went on to debate motions on electing Vice Chancellors of Welsh HE institutions, on improving the current under representations of BME staff in academic roles, on the funding gap and its relationship to the sustainability of the sector, and on funding for reforms in Initial Teacher Education and Training.

According to delegates I spoke to, the FE conference had a lively discussion on motions on growing workloads, lesson observations, the lack of union representation on the EWC, the pay claim, CPD and subsidiary companies in Wales.

Unfortunately, transport being what it was, I had to leave before the full congress resumed after the sectoral conferences, but I want to thank my colleagues for a stimulating and positive experience, which left me with confidence for the union’s future in Wales.

English, Welsh and bilingual – inclusivity at the heart of the Welsh UCU

Cradle to Grave conference tackles the new post-Brexit issues

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UCU conference faces up to the real issues we are facing in post Brexit Britain

A well attended Cradle to the Grave conference in TUC Congress House put the UCU once more firmly in the centre of the major issues facing us all in post-16 Brexit Britain.

A range of key speakers, from shadow chancellor John McDonnell, leading pro-refugee campaigners, Steven Hale, and founder of Care4Calais Claire Moseley, NUS President Malia Bouattia, political commentators Steve Richards and Melissa Benn, together with leading academics Peter Scott and Kalwant Bhopal, and our own UCU General Secretary Sally Hunt were joined from North of the border by Jenny Gilruth MSP, SNP Parliamentary liaison officer for education. A workshop on transforming FE also heard from academics Vicky Duckworth, Rob Smith and Sean Vernell together with Steven Exley, the Further Education editor of the Times Educational Supplement.

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John McDonnell pledged support for building an alternative coalition for education

John McDonnell’s speech which opened conference was, as might be expected wide ranging, although perhaps inevitably also dealt with the internal temperature in the Labour Party, something which resulted in some flack in the post speech discussion.

 

 

John supported the holding of an enquiry into the impact of Brexit in HE, and pointed out that the education sector did not feature on the current UK government’s list of negotiation priorities. He however, thought that education should be central to the debate on the principle that ‘another Europe is possible‘. He also pledged labour’s support to UCU in ‘building a coalition of opposition‘.

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The new joint pamphlet was launched at the conference

The next session of conference saw the launch of the joint UCU-Refugee Action pamphlet on ‘A Place of Safety’ where we heard Stephen Hale chief exec. of refugee action and Claire Moseley, founder of Care4Calais talk of the horrific conditions facing refugees and the disgraceful decision of the current Tory government to ditch the Dubs amendment. This government decision ended the acceptance of unaccompanied child refugees at approximately one tenth of their previously understood commitment. Sally Hunt talked of why this area continued to be a key one for UCU, while NUS President Malia Bouattia also talked of the NUS campaign to support refugees drawing on her own personal experience to illustrate this.

Highlights in this session were the focus on the Let Refugees Learn campaign, with speakers pointing out that for many refugees it was at least 2 years until they could sit in a class room and study English. Claire also pointed out that there was no safe and legal route for refugees to claim asylum in the U.K., which put anyone aspiring to get to the UK immediately into the ‘illegals’ category.

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NUS President Malia Bouattia commended UCU on our work with refugees

Malia congratulated UCU on producing the pamphlet pointing out that refugees didn’t come here by choice. She invited everyone to the 12th March national summit on Trump, Brexit and Beyond, finishing by commenting that refugees were clear on who their friends were, acknowledging  ‘we are here because you were there

Peter Scott, the newly appointed Comissioner for Fair Access in Scotland started the next session on the challenge of Brexit and Trump using a powerful presentation downloadable here.  He considered the ‘many sides of populism’, and it’s link with education, or lack of it, what he believed had gone ‘wrong’, and ‘right.’  He then considered Picketty’s views on the rise of economic inequality, and the ‘achievements’ and ‘disappointments’ of mass education. He finished up by stating that re-asserting public good/ and the values as the core of the academy’s mission was the ‘unfinished business’ on the table.

Jenny Gilruth talked of combatting stereotypical role models

Jenny Gilruth talked of combatting stereotypical role models

SNP member of Scotland’s parliament Jenny Gilruth, then talked of how the Scottish government was trying to tackle widening access, including the important of contextualised admissions, and ‘taking direct action to create a level playing field’.

Peter Scott looks on as Kalwant outlined the intricacy of her latest research

Peter Scott looks on as Kalwant outlined the intricacy of her latest research

Leading researcher and academic Kalwant Bhopal looked in details at her ongoing current research on BME student experiences in higher education. This covered legislation in theory and practice, then the demographics, and degree attainment of BME students. Amongst the many invaluable insights that her research had uncovered was the fact that when BME students got good grades, they were less likely to be pushed to apply to Russell group universities. and when they did, less likely to get in. The role of social and cultural capital was also a key issue that BME students and aspiring students faced. The powerpoint images can be downloaded here

The FE workshop on Further Education – Education Transforms featured Vicky Duckworth from Edgehill university, Rob Smith from Birmingham City university, Stephen Exley from TES, and Sean Vernell from City and Islington College. Within it three main interlinked strands were highlighted:
Firstly, the need to seize the major opportunity opening up for Further Education in terms of the skills that will be needed in the post Brexit world. Tackled correctly, this could help win the argument that FE is needed more than ever.
Secondly Stephen Exley, the Times Education FE editor made the key point that we could not just ‘talk to ourselves’ and that we needed to win the arguments outside the UCU by ‘taking the necessary talk‘ in all the possible forums available to us.
Thirdly we needed always to celebrate how FE can and should transform lives, families and communities.
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UCU’s innovative Transforming Lives and Communities initiative

Vicky Duckworth and Rob Smith’s UCU project http://transforminglives.web.ucu.org.uk/  was a fantastic example of how to do this and those attending the workshop were asked to make full use of the UCU initiative allowing individuals to directly e-mail their MPs and call on them to invest properly in the recruitment and retention of more further education staff to ensure that more people can benefit from the transformative power of education.
Finally Sean Vernell arguing the case for making the curriculum more inclusive and effective rather than repeatedly setting people up for (re-sit) failure gave a compelling argument for ‘themed learning’ quoting the initiatives at City and Islington College and other London Colleges.

 

Steve Richards listens while Melissa Benn answered some questions from the floor

Steve Richards (right) listens while Melissa Benn answered some questions from the floor

In the final joint session of the conference columnist and commentator Steve Richards talked of his view of the insurmountable problems now facing the government due to the Brexit result, and how we might take advantage of it. He thought that her non-Thatcherite and indeed  non Cameronite or Blairite restating of the role of government and even the state in a modern society was one that campaigners needed to take up and use from our point of view.

Malia Bouattia talked of the work done with UCU on issues like the NSS survey and the need to recapture education for staff and students.

Melissa Benn talked of how the government was trying to reshape universities as temples of consumerism and conformism, and stated that the government were ‘tackling the wrong question, with the wrong people, in the wrong way’. She also made a devastating argument against current increasing Tory support for selection in schools.

Sally rounded off the conference talking of the battle against casualisation and the HE Bill

Sally rounded off the conference talking of the battle against casualisation and the HE Bill

Sally Hunt then finished the conference by talking of the battle against casualisation and the implications of the HE bill, and quoting Primo Levy’s words of the ‘would be tyrant waiting in the wings with beautiful words’ argued for the need to take back the language being used in the current debates against intellectualism and even experts, and restate the real meaning of truth and evidence.

At the end of the conference, a very moving film 722 TMX Engineering battalion looking at a refugee camp in the town of Alexandria in Norther Greece.

 

Day of Action on Workplace Racism – the inspiration of Angela Davis

angela-davis-image“The freedom struggles of black people that have shaped the very nature of this country’s history cannot be deleted with the sweep of a hand. We cannot be made to forget that black lives do matter”.
Angela Davis – Women’s March Speech, Washington January 2017

For the UCU’s day of action on workplace racism on 8th February, branches are being asked to organise stalls, use UCU materials and show the UCU’s own Witness film. Recently some additionally useful materials on the whole issue of racism and fighting discrimination have appeared in the run up to , and since the inauguration of Trump.

If you are showing the Witness film (which we recommend), we’d also suggest that many of the resources made available in the last month by veteran academic and activist Dr Angela Davis can also help kick off a discussion. We post them below for the possible additional use of members and branches.

Although Black History Month is in October in the UK, it takes place in February in the USA, and it was fitting that activist, scholar Angela Davis helped launch it in Kansas State University, less than a month after her appearance with Black Lives Matter Co-Founder Alicia Garza in Conversation across Generations  on You Tube, and her fantastic speech to the Women’s March in Washington last month (Click here for transcript) or here to watch it on YouTube. Similarly she rallied activists in Memphis, speaking at the to the Mid-South Peace and Justice Center’s 35th annual banquet, “Living the Legacy of Non-Violence,” on Jan. 14, 2017, two days before Martin Luther King Jr. Day. Again – a speech worth watching, to spark off discussion of the roots of racism, and racial discrimination, not only the the US, but worldwide.

 

Support Douglas Chalmers as Vice President HE

Douglas Chalmers, candidate for Vice President in the current NEC elections gave a video interview for UCUAgenda on what he could deliver for the union if successfully elected.

In the video interview, a union colleague asks him his views on how our union can grow in the current difficult times, what his vision is for the union as a whole, where he stands on Brexit, whether F.E. is served well by the union, and where he positions himself politically. The interview lasts for just over 10 minutes.

Douglas would be happy to answer any questions on his views and can be contacted at: douglas@ucucaledonian.com

A leaflet outlining his views can be downloaded here

NEC Elections 2017 – Vote for a strong, united and independent union

The independent broad left (IBL) is a network of like-minded UCU members who tend to have shared views on issues crucial to our union. We are firm in our belief that repeatedly calling for national strike action, regardless of circumstances or members’ views, is the wrong strategy, misleading and counterproductive.

UCU needs to act in the interests of all members – not just the few

In these uncertain times of national and international upheaval we need a leadership that continues to focus on members’ core concerns of professionalism and pay & conditions. We do not need a ‘UCU LEFT/ Socialist Workers Party’ backed leadership with a political agenda often set by external organisations, bent on empty militant posturing and a culture of blame

UCU needs a leadership with current, credible and relevant experience.

Vote Sally Hunt for UCU General Secretary

sally-hunt

Re-elect Sally Hunt as General Secretary

We believe that Sally is by far the best candidate for this crucial role, given her successful track record as UCU’s General Secretary, her professionalism and her commitment to national and international trade unionism. We agree with her intent to further develop and strengthen support for members and branches and to give members even more say in shaping union priorities. She will ensure elected committees have credible & deliverable plans for industrial action and make UCU more relevant to young staff – the next generation of members.

Vote Douglas Chalmers for UCU Vice President

Douglas Chalmers - a candidate with a record for the job

Douglas Chalmers – a candidate with a record for the job

Currently  President of UCU Scotland with much active experience as branch officer, caseworker and national negotiator, Douglas speaks for us all when he says that most members [whether HE, FE, Adult Education or Prison Educators] want to be able to provide a good comprehensive education service and receive proper professional recognition and reward for doing it. Members need their union to prioritise protecting their jobs, their terms and conditions and not seek conflict for the sake of it.

Vote Steve Sangwine for UCU Treasurer

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Steve Sanguine – ready to hit the ground running

Based on his professional background in computer science and computational mathematics and his in-depth local and national UCU experience, we agree with Steve that, given the current political climate,  UCU really needs a numerate treasurer, who is experienced in complex legal and financial matters and can ‘hit the ground running’

 

 

Vote for a member-led leadership

IBL believes that members deserve better than being told what they should, could or must think. Leadership is about making decisions through listening and consulting with all members.

ALL members from ALL sectors are entitled to vote for the above 3 candidates – PLEASE USE YOUR VOTE

IBL also suggests you support the following candidates:

Trustees: Randy Banks; Alastair Hunter; Philip Burgess

UK Elected HE: Julie Charlton, Michael McKrell; Dominique Lauterburg

UK Elected FE: Anya Cook

Representative LGBT: Ryan Prout

Midlands HE: David Ridley; Justin Mercer

Midlands FE: Simon Bruce-Jones; John Sullivan

North East FE (By-election): Richard Bathgate

Southern HE: Pauline Collins,  Denis Nicole

For further information, contact: IBLcontactaddress@gmail.com

To download the above information in leaflet form: click here

UCU President’s Perspective

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Rob Goodfellow, a lecturer at Hull College was recently elected as President of UCU for 2016 – 2017.
Between spots at the rostrum of this year’s TUC, where he presented UCU’s view on post 16 education he took some time out to talk about his views on all things UCU. Interview by Scottish UCU President and NEC member Douglas Chalmers, and thanks to Julia Charlton for helping with the filming.

“We’ve made an impact at the TUC – everyone who wanted to speak on a motion did so. If we hadn’t been here….. less people would have been ‘educated’ ”.

This view of Rob Goodfellow, half in jest, encapsulated the feeling of the UCU delegates to the TUC in Brighton this year. Speaking on a whole range of issues from Post-16 Education, the European Union, Professional Status, to Challenging the Politics of Hate, our delegation made a very positive impact both from the rostrum and in our networking between times.

NEC member Julia Charlton spoke on immigration, HE Vice President elect Joanna de Groot spoke on the European Union, Vicki Knight, VP spoke on Prison Education, NEC member Pauline Collins spoke on the need for people to work smarter, not just longer, and Vicky Blake from the UCU’s anti-casualisation committee, asked a question about the TUC’s work on casualization and Douglas Chalmers moved a successful emergency motion on Colombia.

Between appearances at the rostrum, Rob took some time out to give his views on a range of issues UCU will encounter under his presidency (Interview 12 mins long).

In England, for H.E, a priority for the union had to be the White Paper – which allowed private providers to operate a ‘smash and grab’ – taking profits and disappearing, leaving taxpayers to clear up the mess and help students affected.

In F.E,  the area reviews were essentially just a means to save money “but it’s a paltry sum, but will have a huge impact on staff, on students and on the local communities”

A key question that post 16 education had to answer was “how far a distance would be travelled by a student and their families” while on their educational journey – “that’s not measured in league tables”

In terms of his own role, Rob saw the President’s job to be to safeguard the democracy of the union, while the union had to take some pragmatic choices.

In terms of the ‘culture’ of the union – making  Congress better in terms of its own culture and practice? “I want branches to see what’s in it for them – get them engaged by sending resolutions and delegates. If it’s a case of two blocs voting I don’t want that anymore than anyone else does”…

Sally Hunt

UCU Gen. Secretary Sally Hunt talked against ‘The politics of Hate’