10 December 2012

FEC Report 7th December 2012

The FEC meeting took place two days after the Chancellor’s Autumn Budget statement which cut welfare and hit the lower paid to the tune of billions while handing out yet more tax concessions and incentives to business and the rich.

The statement also handed billions to Michael Gove, the Education Secretary, to further undermine state education by promoting more academies and Free schools but also, crucially, it served notice of a huge attack on the public sector unions by ending national pay scales and national bargaining for schoolteachers.

There are clearly red lights flashing for FE lecturers’ pay in this regard but schoolteacher unions are now very much in the front line and deserve our support and solidarity. If the Tory coalition gets away with this for schoolteachers they will be coming for health workers and civil servants next, and no doubt us and other sectors as well.

Consequently the following message of solidarity was proposed at the FEC and adopted unanimously under AOB:

Solidarity message to NUT and NASUWT:

In light of this week’s Autumn budget statement in which the government signalled its intention to dismantle national pay bargaining and pay scales for schoolteachers and to introduce performance related pay, UCU’s Further Education Committee recognises the threat to FE pay bargaining and pledges solidarity with NUT and NASUWT to resist this attack.

FEC is keen to be kept informed of any action planned by NUT and will seek to organise solidarity and protest action alongside the schoolteacher unions and, where possible, to coordinate action arising from our pay and workloads campaigns and ballots.

FEC will encourage our FE members to approach local NUT branches to explore opportunities for joint protests and campaigning.

 

Other key issues from FEC – Workloads and Pay campaign

The main discussion and debate in the Secretariat report was over campaigning on workloads and pay. The position from the previous FEC in October was that we should link pay and workload campaigning in much the same way as the schoolteacher unions have done. NUT and NASUWT now have live ballots and are taking action short of strike – and strike action in some cases.

The October FEC had decided to initiate our workloads campaign by sending a letter to all colleges in England asking them to adopt the national agreement on workloads. This was sent on 19th October. Non response or a rebuff would then lead to declaration of a dispute (obviously with the agreement of the branch concerned) and an aggregated ballot of such branches combined with a ballot on pay in the New Year if the AoC did not make a positive response to our next pay claim by a given deadline.

The deadline to respond to the workloads letter is the end of December but by the FEC on 7th it was reported that only 23 colleges had responded, and some of them had used an obfuscating model reply drawn up by the AoC for that purpose. Clearly this falls way short of satisfactory.

Head of FE Barry Lovejoy had also been asked at the previous meeting to approach the other FE unions (Unison, GMB, Unite, ATL) about whether they would agree to submit a combined pay and workloads claim this year. While they were happy to put in an early pay claim (in January) they were not keen on explicitly making a combined claim around workloads and pay.

The conclusion in the Secretariat report from the officials was that we should engage in more awareness raising among members before moving to a workloads dispute through producing campaign materials and a second letter to colleges, this to be reviewed at the next FEC on 8th March.

UCU Left supporters on the FEC felt that this timeline was too slow and risked running us into the summer before any action might be possible over pay and workloads, and it would also miss any possibility of the union being in a position to take action jointly with other teaching and public sector unions if they take strike action over the pay freeze and other attacks in the Spring.

A motion had been tabled by James Eaden reasserting the call for a joint campaign and ballot over pay and workloads, with a tighter deadline.

There was a long discussion on these issues, including some legal clarification.  Some FEC members and the FE officials were essentially arguing that we should delay and de-couple the campaigns. This arises from their pessimistic assessment of the possibility of successfully resisting austerity and from the belief that members will be ‘confused’ by campaigning on two issues at once.  This was because, we were told, members don’t recognise the connection between the two(!). This strategy, or lack of strategy, would leave us with no action in defence of pay and workloads until at least late Spring or even summer at the earliest.

In opposition to this UCU Left supporters argued strongly that we should move as quickly as possible to the declaration of disputes over both pay and workloads, that we must keep the campaigns linked as each will help strengthen members’ support for the other and help to raise the confidence of members, and that workloads is a key mobilising issue in the colleges. Members would welcome a strong lead on this. Such high profile campaigning would also be the very best way of arresting and reversing the recent membership decline in the union.

It was therefore urgent that good campaigning materials be produced for branches quickly, that we organise a campaign launch meeting in Parliament with two delegates from each branch, and so on.

Several small amendments were proposed to James’s motion, one of which made it clear that the aim in the ballot would be to have two separate ballot papers, one for pay and one for workloads (for colleges in formal dispute over this issue), but as part of the same ballot process, ie in the same envelope.

These amendments were agreed by 12 votes to 8, then the amended motion (below) was agreed by 13 votes to 11.

FEC notes:

1)  The meeting on 5th October agreed to link the pay campaign with the workload campaign (item 6.6).

2) FEC also agreed that an industrial action ballot on these issues would include action short of strike action and strike action.

3) other unions’ reported ‘lack of appetite’ for  linking workload issues with this year’s pay campaign

4) the highlighting in the Lingfield Report of low and declining pay in comparison to schoolteachers and university lecturers,  and the effects of this on all those working in the sector.

FEC believes:

1)  Although it is unfortunate that other unions do not want to link the workload campaign with this year’s pay campaign UCU should continue to put conference policy on workload campaigning into practice

2) That UCU needs to begin to prepare members immediately for campaigns over pay and workload. 

3) That UCU should not wait to the end of negotiations with the AoC to launch its ballot over pay.

4) For each campaign there should be two questions; ‘Are you prepared to take strike action?’ and ‘Are you prepared to take action short of strike action?’

5) That UCU should feature in our campaigning materials points from the Lingfield Report on professionalism in the sector about the impact of low pay (see appendix to motion).

FEC resolves:

1) To launch the pay and workload campaign with a national meeting in Parliament. The secretariat to invite MPs, representatives from other Sector unions and other related public sector unions (eg  NUT , PCS NASUWT). To aim to hold the meeting as early as practically possible – with a target of early February.

2) UCU to pay for two delegates per college to attend the launch meeting in Parliament. Branches to be notified of the campaign launch in January.

3) To produce a range of attractive campaigning materials focussing on the issues of pay inequality and workload. The literature should follow the good practice of much UCU campaigning literature in framing these issues in the wider context of the defence of Education, and link to the wider public sector unions’ campaigns on pay and workload.

5) To produce an A3 poster that states that the money is there to pay lecturers a decent wage and highlights the disparity between lecturers and principal’s pay .

6)  To get campaign literature into the colleges by the end of January.

Since Barry’s practical proposals on producing campaigning materials and a follow up letter to colleges on the workloads issue were generally positive ways of moving the things forward, these were subsequently also adopted by the meeting.

Pay Claim 2013

It has been agreed with other FE unions to submit an early pay claim in January 2013 around the figure of 5%. An early deadline will be presented for an acceptable response from the AoC.

Any action arising from the claim should be coordinated where possible with other TUC union’s action over pay (eg NUT, NASUWT, possibly PCS and others).

Prepare the ground for the campaign over workload and pay

We should not wait until we get the materials from UCU head office before we start to campaign. One of the ways that college managements attempt to raise our workloads is by continually reconfiguring the way they calculate our contact hours. Attached is a document put out by City and Islington College UCU entitled UCU Count your hours.  There are lots of contact hours which members work that don’t get included on our timetables.  Managements’ attempts to get staff up to hours can be thwarted by adding these unaccounted hours to your timetable. It is also a good way of educating members in understanding their contracts.  If you go to the national UCU website and enter ‘stress toolkit’ you can download a log sheet and explanatory notes, and we also attach an example from City and Islington College UCU branch.

Other issues

National Sick Pay Agreement

A letter had been received from the AoC notifying UCU that the employers intend to withdraw from the current Sick Pay Agreement in England. Currently this provides for six months full pay and sick months half pay. Clearly the employers want to cut this down significantly. Since this is part of our contracts it is likely to happen on a college by college basis. Branches will be advised to strongly resist, including through industrial action if necessary, any moves by employers to implement these changes to sick pay entitlement. A joint union bulletin will shortly be sent to branches.

HE in FE

A series of regional briefings will take place in London, Birmingham, Darlington and Manchester to present research findings and consider how to prioritise improvements.

Observations

The FEC meeting received a very useful presentation from Dr. Matt O’Leary who is conducting research and a survey of observation policies in FE.

His survey, which was distributed to branches last week, had already received 1500 responses, a clear indication of the great significance of this topic for FE members who are subject to enormous stress and bullying in this regard.

Matt intends to organise forum meetings and use semi-structured interviews to explore this issue. In discussion FEC members emphasised the need for the development of clear alternatives to current observation policies. These are a million miles away from being the constructive and supportive events that managements try to claim they are. UCU needs to develop a national collective campaign around this issue, backed by industrial action, if we are to stop the current rot.

A paper was tabled detailing the successful outcome of the recent observation policy dispute at Lambeth College. The threat of strike action had forced a withdrawal  of victimisation threats plus management dropped the automatic link between Grade 4 and capability, there will be notice of a named lesson for observation (no 4-day window) and more emphasis on monitoring equality issues.

Manchester, Bournemouth & Poole, and College of North West London reported moving to ungraded lesson observations. City College Brighton achieved removal of a Grade 3 link to capability.

However, OFSTED’s new inspection framework has seen other colleges wanting to revise and impose new, and worse,  policies, which were leading to at least a dozen other disputes.

Professionalism and funding

–        A number of reports on the Lingfield Report, chartered status, professionalism, and funding were tabled and summarised by Dan Taubman. The Lingfield Report had gone out of its way to flag up the declining pay and professional status of FE teachers and to point out how detrimental to FE education this was.

–        An FE Guild is being proposed as an alternative to IFL membership for FE teachers, although discussions on this are at an early stage.

–        UCU’s policy Dept has produced a discussion paper intended to promote a concept of democratic professionalism (available from the Policy Dept).

–        BIS are also proposing a Chartered Status for which FE institutions can apply if funded by the SFA. Colleges would be able to display an appropriate logo.

–        A cut of around 6% in SFA funding is likely next year as part of the 28% drop in funding announced in 2010 to run through to the end of 2013.

Exams

Gove and OFQUAL have removed January re-sits in A levels and want to turn them into a baccalaureate (A-Bacc). Labour want to introduce a Tech Bacc if they win the next election.

GCSEs are to be replaced with an E-Bacc beginning September 2015, no modules, examined at the end by external examination. This is highly regressive. Below is a petition launched by the NUT along with NAHT, NUS, Equity, the Musicians Union and others opposing this proposal.

Please urge members to sign this. It is a matter of some urgency since the official deadline for consultation is close.  You can find the petition at http://www.ebaccpetition.org.uk/

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