Support your colleagues at London Met

London MetUnion members at London Metropolitan University are under threat again after announcement of compulsory redundancies of permanent facility staff, and other job losses resulting from the removal of all teaching hours from some long serving hourly paid lecturer staff.

Amongst those targeted for redundancy are UCU union officers including the chair Mark Campbell and Secretary David Hardman (see picture above).

According to Mark: “What is quickly becoming evident is almost all those selected for dismissal are committed UCU members and educators that have on many occasions had the courage and principles to stand up and be counted. Those members, and ourselves, are now what our current VC, John Raftery, describe as the ‘actively disengaged’ who need to be ‘managed out’ of the university. He also had previously had the gall to suggest this will be to improve and support the student experience! Yes, we are disengaged – but not from our students. We are disengaged from a management that puts its own wellbeing above the interests of our students and the working class communities we are proud to serve”.

Please sign the petition here to oppose this vindictive action by the University management. The branch also request you download and take  a photo with this poster share it on social media and please send a copy to them at uculondonmet@mail.com or post it on their FB page here

The hashtags for support are:  #savelondonmet #saveourreps

More details  of the campaign overall can be found from London Met’s UCU blog here

Footnote:
The atmosphere promoted by management at London Met can also be found in the correspondence between the Vice Chancellor and the UCU’s Environment Officer seeking support for the incorporation of environmental issues into teaching.

It’s well worth reading, particularly the bizarre last paragraph: The e-mail is here

 

 

The Green Paper on Higher Education. What is says, and most importantly what it does not say

David Ridley  is a Lecturer in Media Theory at Coventry University and is also currently finishing his Ph.D in Sociology at the University of Birmingham. His thesis is an exploration of the possibility of a grassroots sociology that could contribute to radical democracy, and the limitations imposed by neoliberalism and the marketisation of higher education. David is Branch Secretary of Coventry University UCU and has been involved in campaigns around casualisation, the use of subsidiary companies and most recently the civic responsibilities of post-92 universities. 

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The Green Paper on Higher Education in England has been at the heart of UCU discussions since first published in November 2015. Although Education is a matter devolved to the administrations in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, many of the proposals have knock-on implications for the devolved nations. 

The briefing below is a condensed version of an original document for Coventry UCU, downloadable here.

As this is a long article, we have put plenty links in to allow you to navigate successfully!

Here is a link to a 9 Bullet Point summary

INTRODUCTION

This report is intended to give UCU members an analysis of the recent Green Paper, which was (it is now closed and the results are being processed) an ‘open consultation’ on the future of Higher Education. The Green Paper not only outlines the much anticipated Teaching Excellence Framework (TEF), but also aggressively pursues some of the other aspects of ‘marketisation’ that were first introduced in Lord Browne’s 2010 Review, whose suggestions were subsequently ‘cherry picked’ for the 2011 White Paper, Students at the Heart of the System. Primarily, the function of this briefing is to help give a sense of what the future may holds for the sector if the government is successful.

The briefing is critical: (1) in terms of its stance towards marketisation as a whole and (2) in terms of engaging with the emerging critical views on the Green Paper from commentators. For maximum ‘impact’, the briefing has been divided into three main themes: marketisation, the Teaching Excellence Framework, and plans to further ‘open up the system’ to ‘alternative providers’ and remove the public interest from higher education altogether.

This briefing seeks to provide an alternative point of view and grounding for action in the coming year as the discussion around the future of HE continues. It is hoped that this report will help open up a constructive dialogue between the UCU branch committees, members we seek to represent, and those who can influence the future of H.E.

The briefing is a further demonstration that the UCU is the only voice for democracy in an increasingly anti-democratic academic landscape, both locally and nationally. Continue reading

NEC Elections 2016:A team to take our union forward

A message from the Independent Broad Left network:

Dear Colleague

This year’s national UCU elections take place against the background of major threats to our profession and the trade union movement as a whole, including:

  • The Green Paper on higher education which will open up the sector to private providers.
  • The review of post-16 education, and the crisis in funding, which could see 4 in 10 colleges close.
  • The continued pressure on pay rises, and the intensification of work demands.
  • The Trade Union Bill, which is intended to neuter the ability of trade unions to defend their members’ interests.Standing up to these and other threats requires a union leadership which puts members first, seeks to involve them in decisions, and emphasises core professional and trade union issues – education, research, jobs, pay, conditions, equality and professional autonomy.The Independent Broad Left network has played an active role in shifting the union agenda towards a focus on the advancement of our professional and employment interests and the defence of members’ rights. We do not seek confrontation for its own sake but we are prepared to take industrial action when necessary, when it is widely supported and when it can achieve real gains for members. We strongly urge you to vote for the candidates below:
  • (Download pdf of leaflet here)

FE UK

FE UK Casual

North East FE

London and East

Left

Vote Vicky Knight for UCU Vice President

The UCU Independent Broad Left (IBL) network supports the need for UCU to make hard strategic choices about prioritising resources to meet the challenges we face in this ever more hostile environment for post-16 education. This requires a union leadership which puts members first, and seeks to involve them, and emphasises core professional and trade union issues – education, research, jobs, pay, conditions, equality and professional autonomy. 

With this in mind, we have no hesitation whatsoever in supporting Vicky Knight’s candidature as VP of the union. (Download her election address here)

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A message to all UCU members from Vicky:

“This Government’s ideological agenda is clearly hurting everyone in our communities. As workers, educators and researchers we are continually doing more for less, in increasingly stressful environments – over-worked, underpaid, our workplace rights eroded, increasingly precarious in terms of job security, our professionalism undermined, and terms and conditions constantly under attack with privatisation looming.

We also face the (anti) Trade Union Bill, designed to subvert our right to strike, congregate and demonstrate – all of which are fundamental trade union and workers’ rights.

We must maintain at all costs the right to withdraw our labour – an action which UCU members never undertake lightly. Our strength is our democracy, using our collective ability to negotiate and exhaust political alternatives rst.

In order to defend our members in the current climate, a vital objective and focus of the union must be the strengthening of our branches – the absolute foundation of our membership – including increasing our numbers, and thus empowering us to use our collective bargaining and negotiation skills to improve members’ lives.

If you vote for me, you vote for a strong independent voice working hard for, and responsive to, all UCU stakeholders, for the benefit of all, inclusively and equally, in both HE and FE.” 

Some aspects of Vicky’s experience.

She:

  • is a trade union studies lecturer at The Manchester College.
  • has 25 years’ active experience within the public sector, in both the Fire Brigades Union (FBU) and UCU.
  • has a strong commitment to the principles of justice, equality of opportunities, fairness, inclusivity and a voice for all.
  • holds branch, regional and national representative positions in UCU, including NEC membership and FE negotiator.
  • is a member of the UCU Equality and Women’s Committees.
  • has represented UCU at the TUC annual Congress,TUC Women’s Conference and TUC Women’s Committee.
  • has been chair of the TUC Women’s Committee for the last two years.

Vicky believes that:

  • in the face of relentless government and employer attacks on further and higher education, our unity is our strength.
  • our union, funded by members for members, must use democratic structures to represent the needs and aspirations of all, working in all roles across our institutions – and not be used as a vehicle to progress the agendas of any external political organisation or grouping

See below for endorsements of Vicky and her approach from a wide range of UCU members.

Continue reading

Why nurses’ bursaries are important

Julia Charlton is UCU branch chair at Northumbria University, Northern Regional Secretary and NEC member. Here she writes about the importance for UCU members of the campaign to retain bursaries for student nurses.

Julia Charlton

In the autumn statement, George Osborne announced the scrapping of the NHS bursary for new student nurses, midwives and allied health professions in England from 2017. The ‪NHS bursary supports over 80,000 healthcare students at more than 120 universities each year and the Tories want to scrap it.

Why does this matter to UCU members? Because our hardworking health academics are at possible risk because of the possible loss of NHS commissioned training places at Universities. These commissioned places bring vital finance into the university in millions per year.

Under the current NHS bursary system, no fees are charged and students are entitled to a combination of a non-means tested bursary, a means-tested bursary and a ‘reduced rate’ student loan. This will be replaced with the standard undergraduate system, with fees of up to £9,000 and a much larger student loan for maintenance.

These changes would see students burdened with at least £51,600 of debt, plus interest and any overdraft and commercial debt. This is an enormous sum for many in these professions. Loan repayments will mean a nurse, midwife or allied health professional will lose over £900 in pay a year. A new graduate nurse can expect to earn about £ 22,799 in their first year.

What do students say? “The next nurses will basically be paying to work,” says Danielle, of Cornwall. “And no one from my background is going to think it’s a good idea to get in huge debt for a job where you are never going to earn a lot.” “We know we’re going into a profession where there’s been no pay increase for five years.”

A pre-registration health degree requires significant time spent in clinical practice, including early, late, night and weekend shifts as a normal part of their studies. For example, nursing students must complete a minimum of 2,300 hours in clinical practice over the course of their studies. These changes effectively charge students for working in the NHS. The best asset of the NHS is its workforce. The best way to make the most of this asset is to invest in the future workforce. By scrapping the NHS bursary and uncoupling workforce planning from education commissioning the Government are taking a risk with the future of patient safety and care delivery, and exacerbating the current recruitment crisis.

The Government needs to reconsider these proposals and discuss how best we invest in and support students, rather than making a reckless decision driven by the desire to achieve deficit targets. We’ll be reminding the Government that “people should come before money” (Sir Robert Francis) on the Save the NHS Bursary demonstrations. (Written by Gail Adams, Head of Nursing at the trade union Unison)

How many hospital visits can you remember where the ward or department was fully staffed with nurses, nurses got their breaks and had time for patients?

We have a shortage of nurses in the UK (just for starters 1200 matrons/ very senior nurse posts were cut as was reported recently). So one would think that the government would do their best to attract more nurses and get more people to train as nurses. Instead we have ‘boom and bust’ policies, and possibly unethical recruitment of nurses from overseas from countries that need their nurses too. The reason we aren’t training enough nurses is because the Conservatives cut the number of nurse training places in the last parliament.

If you or I wanted to get people to choose a particular job or career, would we treat them well and make them feel welcome? Or would we – like the government—effectively block a lot of nurse recruitment from abroad, make those from outside the EU leave if they earn less than £35,000 per year, and scrap student nurses’ bursaries, making it financially impossible for many people to train as nurses, especially for mature students with families? For decades, professions like nursing and midwifery have been open to people of all backgrounds. Now, Jeremy Hunt and George Osborne are slamming the door on the dreams of working class kids who want to care.

To anyone with common sense, these measures seem like a sure fire way to make sure as few people as possible train as nurses.

Now this is where government spin comes in: these policies are being sold to us as “recruiting more nurses and student nurses”, as having a lot more nurses than we used to have, and as all being well with the NHS. NewSpeak rules supreme, Black is White, nurse shortages are more nurses, financial hardship for student nurses will attract more people to become nurses.

Clear as mud?

If you and your loved ones wish to be cared for and treated in a publicly owned and funded and accountable NHS now and in the future then please get behind the movement in favour of keeping student nurses’ bursaries. We have already seen the anger shown in the marches all over the country in mid January. This will continue till we win.

But it is not just nurses as the move will mean thousands of student nurses, midwives, occupational therapists, speech and language therapists, podiatrists, radiographers, dietetics, operating department practitioners and possibly paramedics will be over £50,000 in debt when they graduate. (Veronika Wagner )
Things you can do:

Sign the petition to urge MP’s to save the NHS Bursary
https://petition.parliament.uk/petitions/113491

If you’re a student in the NHS fill in the survey
https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/KJM2QD5

Get your branch to pass and act on this suggested TU branch NHS motion.

NHS Photo

In praise of union learning

Alison Hollinrake is UCU Vice Chair and Union Learning Rep at the University of Central Lancashire. Alison has worked on a number of projects for women, most recently an iROWE project about union support for women dealing with domestic violence Here she considers the continuing role of union education in opening up horizons for working people of all ages and experience.

Alison Hollinrake

I consider myself a lifelong learner.

The start of my working life, in the mid 1970s was as a payroll clerk – at a time when women weren’t allowed to do banking exams.

A request for support – any support – from my employer of seven years for the night school, part time degree programme I wanted to enrol in during the mid 1980s was invariably brushed off with refusal and some degree of amazement that employers might be asked to pay for a degree for a ‘payroll clerk’.

Yet this was not a poor employer or one where there existed no training opportunities – it was a hi-tech engineering company with a YTS training scheme including the opportunity to achieve level 2 NVQ qualifications. It had engineering apprentices, technician trainees, a graduate development programme, supervisor training, and management development. But for lowly payroll clerks (mostly women of course), the doors were firmly shut.

I’m sure that my conviction that I ought to have been offered such opportunities had been awakened by the trade union education I had completed as a Shop Steward, Health & Safety Rep and eventually as Deputy Convenor for APEX. This came courtesy of both TUC Education and my own trade union.

I thought the creation of NVQs, and the establishment of Investors in People might just open up and provide opportunities for those in the workforce, like I had been, who traditionally were overlooked by management in terms of learning and development opportunities unlike our colleagues on the Apprenticeship, Technician, Graduate Development, Supervisory and Management development programmes. This of course has not been the case.

Like many others, I got my first degree after six years of self-funded night school. This then led to my first job in Higher Education – you could do that then!

My MSc followed and in September 2014 I was awarded my Doctorate – my research being concerned with the extent to which the union learning representative (ULR) initiative had met the expectations of its stakeholders. My research continues investigating the impact of the nature of the employment relationship on workplace learning.

I was invited to join the steering group for the North West UCU, Union Learning Fund project “UCU Women, Moving Further, Reaching Higher”  – right up my street! It was truly inspirational working with the project – highlighted on youtube here:

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with the enthusiasm and commitment of the Project Manager and the National Officer reminding me why I had embarked on a career, to try to encourage workplace learning, for all employees, not just the ‘elite’ few in the first place.

From being involved in the project my branch  has benefited, and the profile of union learning has been revised – for example we have run a ‘mid-career’ development event. One lesson from this was perhaps that even members of UCU don’t always appear to appreciate how many development opportunities are available to them within our own organization and via the Continuing Professional Development (CPD) offered to us all by the union. I would say to all members to check out the latest resources – found here.

CPD front pageMy colleagues on the Branch Committee regularly participate in development programmes offered both regionally by UCU and TUC Education.  We also use the on-line resources produced by colleagues for colleagues via the UCU Women, Moving Further Reaching Higher Project – all available via the UCU web site to inform and educate us and our members in case work.

UCU branches in the North West region owe it to the project to sustain and embed the outcomes from its work, via the resources it has produced which can be a tremendous help to our branches!

I might add on a personal note, that at this stage in my career, I also appreciate the development opportunities this and other union resources offer for older workers!

Free our colleague Miguel Beltran

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Dr Miguel Beltran – our colleague who needs our support

Those of us who were UK congress delegates in 2012 will remember the electrifying speech given by Dr Miguel Beltran, the Colombian academic who had been falsely imprisoned for two years on the charges of rebellion – a trumped up accusation due to his criticism of the Colombian government.

In his speech he paid tribute to UCU saying:

“There were moments when every door seemed to be closing. But your solidarity meant I did not feel alone. It gave me dignity and the strength to carry on.”

On 31 of July of this year he was once again arrested. The arrest came after the ruling which cleared Miguel of all charges was overturned, but in spite of the fact that a subsequent appeal with the Supreme Court is still in process. Continue reading

Defeating the Prevent Agenda

Increasingly branches are having to deal with the imposition of the UK Government’s  ‘Prevent’ agenda. Some valuable work is being done with local NUS branches, Students Associations, and most recently the ‘Students not Suspects’ tour. Here are some observations following the recent arrival of the tour in Strathclyde University

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Douglas Chalmers, President UCU Scotland, speaking on behalf of UCU as part of the Students not Suspects tour at Strathclyde University

Horror stories about the new government measures under their Prevent ‘anti-terrorism’ agenda are becoming more widely known, and were no surprise to the audience at the recent Students not Suspects rally in Strathclyde University. These included the  accusations of supporting terrorism against a Staffordshire University student on a Masters Course on Terrorism, Crime and Global Security ( you would think a tiny clue might be in the name of the course), who was questioned while reading a course textbook called Terrorism Studies in his own university library. Previously, Nottingham Uni research student Rizwaan Sabir was wrongly accused of conducting research into terrorism – although clearly part of his doctoral research, endorsed by the university. After being detained for seven days as a ‘suspected terrorist’ he eventually won out of court damages of £20,000 from the police.

These are only two, isolated cases easy findable through a Google search. What is as bad, if not worse, are the examples of ‘self censorship’ or reticence beginning to be seen in some of our Muslim students who are aware that there is a concerted effort by the UK government to find a ‘terrorist threat’ in our universities and other public bodies – an effort which targets the Muslim communities. Continue reading

Help support UCU colleagues at London Met.

Financial mismanagement leading to the staff – and communities –  being asked to face the brunt of proposed changes is nothing new. London Met is (again) facing attacks from their management and are seeking solidarity. 

London Met

Delegates at UCU UK Congress express solidarity with London Met colleagues

Colleagues at London Met have asked branches to offer solidarity in their fight to stop the shrinking of the campus from three sites to one, and a cutting of student numbers from 12,000 to 10,000

The East London Advertiser recently covered the issue  with Tower Hamlet’s Mayor John Briggs saying:

“I was deeply shocked to learn of the decision to relocate out of the East End. To put this valuable heritage at risk in order to address the university’s financial mismanagement is a tragedy”

The branch’s position is simple: Continue reading