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

A whistle stop tour round Sunday’s H.E. Business

A personal view by Amanda Williams

Amanda Williams is a member of the NEC and works at the University of East Anglia. She was kind enough to offer these personal notes about her HE Sector conference today.

After a slightly contentious start (there are clearly some differences of opinion about what our industrial strategy should be) a good natured and comradely HE conference was enlivened by delegates inserting pop lyrics into their addresses. This was only beaten by delegate Jimmy Donaghey who in the pensions discussion really did utter the almost mythical AUT slogan that it was ‘time to rectify the anomaly’. Speaking in the debate on pensions, I stuck to the script I had prepared myself however without bursting into song.

The majority of motions were passed with no significant opposition and throughout the day the opposing voices were in general seeking to strengthen motions which were agreed in principle.

The discussion around some of the motions made it clear that drafting a motion for conference is no mean feat and all the nuance and implications of different wording needs exploring.  For example motion HE17 was about ways to stand up and defend people against ‘inferior teaching only contracts’ and the ambiguity of whether the motion was against teaching only contracts as inherently inferior or against inferior contracts which happened to be teaching only was the subject of some discussion.

One item that caused discussion and led to a partial remittance (HE26) was that of the portability of REF outputs for which there are pros and cons.  This started a bit of a trend, the next motion HE27 was partially remitted as were a couple of later motions (HE41 and HE43).  Some of the issues leading to partial remittance are unlikely to have been solved by amendments but some of them might have been.  This begs the question whether motions later on in the agenda are less likely to be scrutinised for amendments and therefore more prone to needing partial remittance on the day.

It was a testament to the work of CBC and the Chair Joanna De Groot that all the business of HESC was covered before 6pm.  Now I’m off to the congress dinner ‘because I’m hungry like the wolf’.

Notes for readers: Today’s HE conference got through a considerable amount of business including motions on National and local action; Winning industrial action; Disputes at Manchester Met University; The Glass Staircase – (under)representation of disabled people at management level; Gender Pay in Higher Education; Capability policies; the campaign against privatisation; Teaching observation and assessment schemes; Funding and Widening Access to Higher Education; the Teaching Excellence Framework; Manchester Metropolitan University Compulsory Redundancies; the Use of Consultants in HE; a UK strategy for student-staff alliance; and Supporting Staff affected by Brexit.

All these should help guide the new HEC in carrying out our work over the next year.

Similarly the FE Sector Conference got through motions on areas such as: Pay and the Pay Gap; Anti-Casualisation activity; Equality data collection; Gazelle, Collab and AoC; Precarious employment; Equal opportunity and Equal Pay; Safe space for FE students and staff; Gendered Hate Crime; Agency workers; Area Reviews and Disabled Workers; Governance and Accountability; Transparency; Colleges as a Community Resource; Industrial strategy; UCU members as teachers in Prisons; Themed based learning; and No to compulsion in Further Education.

Like the HEC, the FEC is certainly going to be busy.

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.

                     

Congress 2017 motions – our suggestions

To help colleagues decide on what can sometimes seem to be an overwhelming amount of business, we offer below what we think are sensible recommendations on Congress business, based on the 2nd report of the CBC.

We think these recommendations would lead to useful policy that would strengthen the union over this coming year. But of course – we haven’t yet heard the debate – so like everyone else we’ll be listening to the arguments and voting accordingly!

Anyway – to find out our recommendations click this link here to take you to the page

Thought piece – an Alternative Industrial Strategy

UCU Agenda welcomes ‘thought pieces’ on different aspects of union strategy. If you have any points on this or other postings please let us know by dropping a line to  unionadmin@ucuagenda.com

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. He 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. Here he puts a point of view about our current strategy following our most recent consultation on the pay offer from the employers. Recently his branch published a groundbreaking pamphlet on the situation in Coventry University and an alternative union view to management approaches. You can download it here.

An Alternative Industrial Strategy

On 19 May 2017 the results of the consultation on the 2017 pay offer were sent to branches across the UK. 65.6% of members want to accept the final offer of 1.7% and 55.5% would not be prepared to take part in industrial action after a sustained ‘Get The Vote Out’ campaign. 76.4% members do think, however, that UCU should hold a ballot on pay in Autumn 2017.

This indicates that members do not think that this is the right time to take action, and that 1.7%, still representing a real terms pay cut if inflation is taken into account, can be accepted in the short term so that energy can be focussed on addressing immediate problems members and branches are facing.

The Higher Education and Research Bill 2017 has now been passed. Not only does mean they introduction of the Teaching Excellence Framework, but also many more ‘alternative providers’ (i.e for-profit colleges and universities) which will now find it much easier to enter the new HE ‘market’ that the Tories have finally managed to create after 6 years.

We will now see constant restructuring of existing colleges and universities to meet the demands of this new market. In order to create a ‘level playing field’, new providers do not need to emulate existing institutions, often a complex mixture of research and teaching. For-profit HE will be radically stripped back, fast-track, teaching-only, union-free, focussed purely on the bottom line.

In response, senior management teams of existing institutions will want to drastically cut costs and rationalise production. This will mean mass redundancies, increasing casualisation, outsourcing, experiments with corporate form, and in some cases where management are particularly aggressive, de-recognition of trade unions, especially UCU.

This process has already begun, at Manchester Met, Leeds University, University of Manchester, University of Brighton, University of Warwick, Southampton Solent University and Sunderland University, the list goes on and continues to grow. Many post-92 universities have tried to get ahead of the game, like UCLan’s dodgy overseas partnerships and Coventry University’s Sports Direct-like employment practices.

The good news is that so far, local branches have been very successful in mobilising members and forcing management to back off, for now. More importantly, at a local level, branches have been meeting the new prohibitive criteria for legal industrial action established by the Trade Union Bill, also recently passed.

What this tells us, along with the results of the consultation, is that members are feeling the effects of marketisation, along with the uncertainty for Brexit, more than they are feeling the pinch of stagnating pay. This may change as the pound continues to be devalued in relation to the Euro and inflation outstrips wages. But on an affective level, marketisation is felt through increasing insecurity, inequality, workloads and bullying, all leading to stress and sickness.

But let’s be clear, members are prepared to fight. The war is happening on the front lines, and we must support branches in fighting marketisation in the trenches, so to speak. We must also build for future national action in the long term, but taking action now while the hearts and minds of members are focussed on local struggles will result once again in disappointing turnouts and a disappointing offer, while making the union look weak

Successful local actions build confidence in our members. Every successful local action builds the union as a whole. Successful recognition campaigns show that the union can move forward within marketisation, not just taking the defensive. Public campaigns against gender pay and casualisation, very painful for management (reputational damage) also driven by local successes, build awareness of marketisation and show our most vulnerable members we will fight for them.

‘UCU Left’ will try to convince you that we need to take action now, but the Independent Broad Left network are offering an alternative strategy. We are not accepting defeat by accepting the pay offer. We are walking away from a battle in order to win the war. We are being strategic rather than ideological and stubborn.

The plan that was suggested at the end of last year’s disappointing pay campaign was correct. Regionally coordinated local actions centred on inequality (gender and casualisation, but also BME, LGBT and disability), and increasingly redundancy, outsourcing and attacks on terms and conditions. We believe the unpredictability of and local strength behind this strategy contributed to the increased offer, so let’s talk what we can get and keep fighting.

If we want to take national action in a post HE Bill, Brexit and TU Bill world, the priority must be building participation and confidence in both branches and our membership. We can talk again about national action in the not so distant future when we can deliver.

David Ridley

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

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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

Strengthening not retreating

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Talking truth to power. But what are the next steps to win the battle?

The HEC at its last meeting took a decision to pause industrial action and conduct an indicative ballot of HE members on the way forward. Here are some points from the Independent Broad Left Network regarding the next stage in the battle to achieve better pay, close the gender pay gap and end casualisation.

It would be easy but mistaken to see the decision taken by HEC on 14 October to pause industrial action on the 2016 pay offer while conducting an indicative ballot of HE members as a retreat. Looking at the achievements and difficulties of our pay dispute, and at the political and economic situation in which we have to go forward, HEC has chosen to move to decisions about next steps which will be informed by the judgement of the people who will actually have to implement them about what will achieve the most for us all.

Making tough choices
We are proud of what members have already put into the dispute, and confident that they will give serious and intelligent consideration to the risks and possibilities of seriously sustained industrial action this autumn. There is wide agreement that we have had an unsatisfactory offer from the employers, and that there is considerable appetite for continued campaigning on the gender pay gap and on casualisation issues, but real uncertainty as to whether industrial action at this particular moment will produce positive results. The HEC recognised that in considering the direction of the current dispute, members needed to be clear that any future pay campaign would be conducted under the new ballot threshold imposed by the Trade Union Act. Tackling pay erosion in future may be much more challenging, with early career colleagues especially likely to suffer the consequences in the medium to long term

Working together
As experienced activists we all understand that industrial action is a means to achieve change, not an end in itself, and that we owe it to ourselves to assess its possible dangers as well as its possible opportunities. Successful action is based on strong support and participation, and on confidence that there are reasonable prospects for the action. Since ‘the union’ is no more or less than all of us, it makes sense to involve all of us in building that support and confidence

Fighting smart and fighting strong
In taking the decision to hold a consultative ballot HEC is working constructively with members by asking them to make an informed judgement about how best we can all work together to make progress in very difficult circumstances. We are not retreating, but strengthening the trust, good sense, and ability to deal with tough situations, on which the effectiveness of union campaigns always depends.

 

Colleagues who have comments on this can get in touch and let us know your views by contacting: unionadmin@ucuagenda.com

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’