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’

 

 

 

 

 

Help our colleagues at Hull College!

 

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Jenny Prideaux who works at Sheffield College and is a member of the NEC, the Chair of the Recruitment, Organising and Campaigns Committee and FEC Vice-Chair, writes about a crucial campaign for the UCU in the FE sector.

 

 

This is a call to all members to support Hull College UCU in its battle to save the college, save members’ jobs and defend the union. It’s  time to stop Hull College bosses in their tracks!

On 25th August 2016 Hull College issued a notice that threatened over 140 posts at the College with redundancy  – including 60 lecturing staff
This is the sixth year in a row that job losses have been announced resulting in just short of 400 job losses

Staff at the College believe that

  • these job losses are short sighted
  • profit is being put first.
  • significant financial shortfalls are a result of years of mismanagement
  • what was once a great college is being run into the ground.

It’s also an attack on the union itself. 

The branch officers who orchestrated last year’s successful pay and lesson observation dispute have been threatened with redundancy. This includes the branch secretary, the vice-chair and our president Rob Goodfellow.

Our members at Hull, as you would expect from this branch, are determined to fight back.

They have a successful ballot for strike action and are taking strike action on Thursday 13th October

Actions you can take immediately:

Keep yourself updated by visiting the branch’s facebook page

https://www.facebook.com/ucuhull

Retweet its tweets

https://twitter.com/ucuhull?lang=en&lang=en

Sign the petition

https://www.gopetition.com/petitions/save-hull-college-for-the-people-of-hull.html#.V_KNzKRiGFg.twitter

send messages of support to the branch secretary Dave Langcaster at

dlangcaster@gmail.com

Watch this space for details of where to visit picket lines

In full solidarity with our members at Hull

Jenny Prideaux

Last day… but not least

Broadcast logo

Friday’s copy of Broadcast can be downloaded here

Although this is the last day of Congress, it’s by no means the least important. As well as giving Congress the chance to demonstrate UCU’s solidarity with  Malia Bouattia, president-elect of the National Union of Students, and the first black and the first Muslim to hold that post – in which she has already suffered Islamophobic media attacks, and totally unjustified allegations of antisemitism, there are also important issues of rules and finance to be decided upon.

It is not our intention on the issues of finance and rules to give voting advice on all motions – although we point out some issues in Broadcast relating to some of the proposals before congress. We note that it’s to the credit of the Treasurer and the staff advising her that the finances are in a robust situation and this should be acknowledged and applauded. With some exceptions we would simply advise listening to the arguments in the debate.

One motion, however, which we suggest must be passed is 55, on model branch rules, (with or without amendment 55A). There have been bitter arguments on this topic at previous Congresses, and now we are essentially back to the situation at merger. These are of course, only model rules, and a number of branches may need to seek variations. But, given the current climate, we believe it is essential for the union’s protection that all branches have rules of this nature in place, and that they are lodged with the national office.

On the other hand, motion 56 from Yorkshire & Humberside Regional Committee would set a dangerous precedent with regard to the status of elected members of our national committees. The rules state that members must be, or have recently been, in qualifying employment in order to be nominated for the NEC. They do not require NEC members to resign if they subsequently retire – and that is because they are elected to represent a constituency of members who are employed, and they could themselves become re-employed. In the HEC, there has been a convention that members in USS branches do not vote on TPS matters, and vice versa; but the arguments for that are not strong, since all HE constituencies comprise members in both pension schemes – who are disefranchised if their elected HEC member cannot vote. Motion 56 would extend that disenfrachisement, and it would be the start of cake-slicing: for example, should only NEC members from the various equality strands be allowed to vote on matters relating to those strands? We think not.

As always – points of view on the above are welcome. And if anyone would like to submit a ‘think-piece’ or opinion piece on something that they think should be part of the ‘UCU Agenda’ – please do so to: unionadmin@ucuagenda.com

Build the Fight against the HE Bill and an effective fightback in FE

Fight vs HE Bill

Download Thursday’s copy of HE Sector Broadcast here and Thursday’s copy of FE sector Broadcast here

The determination of our union to fight against the Green Paper/ White Paper/Bill has already been shown at several fringes during congress, and 13 of our motions today in the HE Sector conference will look at how best to oppose this, and ultimately defeat it.

There are clearly some good motions here which will take the fight forward by developing the understanding of our members, students and the wider communities, and clearly there is everything to play for. However we suggest that there are a couple of points that conference should be wary of endorsing as they lack the specific details needed for a successful fightback – we give our suggestions in Broadcast.

It is to be expected that not everyone will agree on the strategy and tactics necessary to successfully win a substantial pay increase, and this disagreement shows in the resolutions tabled.

Members need to be congratulated however for what they have done so far, and given every encouragement to engage in tougher and sustained activity and sanctions, should they prove necessary.

However, what is most important is that Conference comes out of this debate with a united policy to take to both the employers and members. Statements which demean in members’ eyes the leadership of the HEC and the negotiators, and the action that members are already taking, actually undermine the union’s ability to pursue the dispute successfully. 

Today’s opinion piece in HE Sector Broadcast – on Health Educators is by Paul Errington a Health Educator himself at Teeside and an incoming member of the NEC.

Turning to the FE conference it is clear that the high quality motions on many of the issues from the 2015/16 pay claim, through the blight of the gender pay gap –  and the absence of equality monitoring on to the devastating effect of the area reviews, the cuts to ESOL, the Prevent agenda, and the de-professionalisation of the lecturer’s role, all show that our members are active and concerned on these key issues affecting the sector. It promises to be a high quality debate on these questions. The pay issue is one where differing opinions on the way forward exist. We suggest that calling for ‘national’ strike action on the question of ‘pay’ over and over again is however, the wrong strategy – it’s misleading and counterproductive. There is a way to organise, build and support confident, campaigning and unified branches and FE Sector Broadcast suggests some ways we can achieve this.

Elsewhere in each Sector Broadcast you’ll find the Independent Broad Left Network’s general take on some of the other key issues Congress looks at today. As a network, we don’t have a ‘party line’ on policy, and unlike Monty Python neither are we looking for the Holy Grail. So let us know what you think – e-mail unionadmin@ucuagenda.com

 

Congress 2016 – A Time of Danger, a Time of Opportunity

Liverpool ArenaLiverpool Echo Arena and BT Convention Centre (El Pollock) / CC BY-SA 2.0

Download Wednesday’s  copy of broadcast here
Congress is meeting at a time when the Conservative government is clearly experiencing a whole range of crises – something that means both dangers and opportunities for the trade union movement, the UCU included.

Dangers, because the Trade Union Act, despite concessions still sets out to weaken our movement, dangers also for UCU members in FE, because of the area reviews and mergers being rolled out. And dangers for HE members in the Green Paper/ White paper proposals.

But there are opportunities too, because the government is in crisis as shown by the dearth of new ‘big ideas’ in the recent Queen’s Speech, and even in the concessions forced within the anti-TU Bill.

All these, and more, show that the government is weak and that means opportunities for the TU movement, but only by working in a strategic way to overcoming our weaknesses.

In today’s Broadcast read Joanna de Groot’s opinion piece on the importance of implementing our policies in a way that involves members,  plus ‘A view from Scotland’ by UCUS President Douglas Chalmers, plus ‘Northern Ireland at the Crossroads’ – an opinion piece from Mike Larkin,  NEC member for HE in Northern Ireland.

As well as that, you’ll also find the IBL network’s general ‘take’ on some of the issues to come up today. Let us know what you think – unionadmin@ucuagenda.com

Maybe interested in the Independent Broad Left Network in UCU?

Monty Python had it right

….. “Are you the Judean People’s Front?    ###k off – we’re the People’s Front of Judea”

Well we’re the Independent Broad Left Network in UCU and as well as some good ideas for the union, we’ve also got a sense of humour. Why not come along, have a drink, in one of Liverpool’s most historic pubs, find out more, and let us know what you think?

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Hope to see you there!

The UCU’s Calais Summer School

On March 18th, UCU’s National Executive Committee,  passed a motion calling for the University and College Lecturer’s union to set up a summer school in the Calais refugee camp.

This weekend (7th March) a fact finding delegation from UCU went over to the camp to look at how this can be implemented. We publish their report here, which was prepared by Dave Muritu from the NEC.

If colleagues are on twitter – can I suggest that links to this blog report are tweeted please – it’s important UCU’s campaigning here makes links with the maximum people and organisations

Colleagues may also want to keep in touch with Trade Unionists for Calais, on their Facebook page here

Photo by Global Justice now. Licenced under Creative Commons

Photo by Global Justice now. Licenced under Creative Commons

Our trip to the camp in Calais with a UCU delegation was full of stark contrasts. Our aim was to spend a day in the camp with a view as to find out what UCU members could do to help these four or so thousand refugees realise their simple desire to live a normal and productive life in Britain.

The day began with a tour of the Care 4 Calais warehouse, where we could not help but be impressed by the level of organisation and attention to detail that went in to the massive operation to sort and distribute, clothes, food, tents, building materials and more. This was in contrast with the sight we were confronted with as we entered the camp, several acres of wasteland that used to be people’s shelter and make shift homes before the authorities demolished the southern part of the camp.

Our first destination was one of the two schools, which, along with a mosque and a church, were the only structures still standing in this part of the camp. We witnessed what you would see in any school or college; the teaching of English in small groups scattered around classrooms and a larger group being taught French. As more students gravitated towards the school it became apparent that ad hoc lessons were popping up all around the school, in and outside the classrooms. Our guide was asked, almost mid-sentence, if she was a teacher and could she help a young Eritrean man with his French. From what we saw, it was clear that there could never be too many teachers in camp. They would always find students who would hang on their every word.

Later in the day, we were invited for tea by a group of Sudanese men in what was a shelter built from wood and tarpaulin. It felt important for them to have the opportunity to extent their hospitality, in some ways to tell some of their story but more so to enjoy the social normality that it represented. They had all been in Calais for a different length of time but they all shared the determination that they would not give up the nightly ritual of risking life and limb to try to ‘jump’ and make it to Britain to restart their lives. It was, however, noticeable that those who had been living in these incredibly difficult conditions for longest were showing signs of the emotional toll. What was also very clear was that the prospect of return to where they had come from was out of the question. There was nothing to return to.

Having been to the camp, it has helped to harden my resolve to do everything we can to pressure our Government to get rid of this camp by allowing the refugees in to Britain. It is also clear that my trade union is full of members with loads of the skills that could really do so much good in the camp whilst it is still there. Our job now is to find the best way of making that happen.

Dave Muritu, UCU National Executive Committee

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

 

 

Vicky Knight VP-elect answers your questions

Vicky Knight is a trade union studies lecturer at The Manchester College with 25 years active experience within the public sector, in both the Fire Brigades Union (FBU) and UCU.

She was recently elected as Vice President of UCU and will take up this position at the end of the UCU’s UK Congress 2016 .

As well as her NEC membership and being an FE negotiator, she has represented UCU at the TUC annual Congress,TUC Women’s Conference and TUC Women’s Committee and has been chair of the TUC Women’s Committee for the last two years.

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Here she is interviewed by Douglas Chalmers, president of UCU Scotland, and quizzed on her ideas on the big issues facing UCU, particularly in FE in the next 2 years. It covers Vicky’s ideas on cuts, loans, lack of bursaries,ESOL, training, student development, area reviews, national bargaining, membership density, making the union more attractive to women – and many other things.

The video is approximately 10 minutes long, and thanks go to Janice Aitken Scotland Hon. Secretary for the camerawork! Sorry about the slight slippage in lip-synch at bits  – we’re working on that.