4 July 2014

Further Education Committee Report

FEC report from Friday 27th June.

  • Campaign over funding cuts: Where is FE and Adult education going?
  • Lambeth Solidarity: Hands off our reps: Defend contracts and education.
  • FEC recommends rejection of the 1% AoC pay offer in pursuit of our claim of 3% or £1048 (whichever is higher)

 

This was the first FEC of since Congress 2014 and was held immediately after the NEC meeting in morning. The FEC is the body that determines industrial strategy for Further and Adult Education and is tasked to implement conference decisions.

FEC elections

At the beginning of the meeting Richard McEwan and Carolyn Campbell were elected as the two Vice-Chairs of FEC.

In addition to the Chair and Vice Chairs of FEC who are ex-officio members of the national negotiators, the following were also elected: Laura Miles, Graham Maudsley, Sean Vernell, Vicky Knight and Brian O’Sullivan.

Political/industrial context

We are going into a general election year and this has to have an impact on how we organise. In the coming year the FEC has to do three big things if we are to defend the sector, our members and build the union.

Firstly, we have to be a campaigning union fighting for more funding and put the work of Further and Adult education on the map; secondly, we need to be part of the developing industrial campaign that ‘Britain deserves a pay rise’  and use that to strengthen all our other campaigns provided by the unifying national focus of pay. if we do those two things right we can use that framework to raise up the confidence of members in local branches that can make it easier to fight the local battles such as those at Lambeth, Kings College, Dundee and City Lit.

Campaign to get more funding

  • There are now 1 million 16-24 year olds unemployed.
  • 15% of 16 to 64 year olds have no qualifications
  • The employers’ solution is to sack 2000 FE lecturers.

 

Clearly FE plays an essential role in society. The FEC passed a motion that seeks to consider how we approach the election year. This must include raising the profile of FE and make us more prominent as an essential educational sector. A number of motions from the recent Annual Sector Conference call for a national identity to campaigns. During the recent pay talks the AoC showed a willingness to engage in joint lobbying and campaigning on behalf of FE.

We resolved to support the Lambeth strikers initiated Conference: Where is Further and Adult Ed going?

FEC also agreed to mobilise for an FE contingent on the TUC pay march on the 18th of October.

It was also agreed to organise a defence of FE&A education conference in the spring with the AoC and other interested unions and organisations if possible.

Lambeth Solidarity

The national executive meetings were held just a couple of days after the National Day of Action in support of the All-out strike at Lambeth that is now going into the fifth week. If you have not done so please look at the Wall of Support and circulate it to all members: http://www.ucu.org.uk/wesupportlambethucu

The national day of action received a fantastic response. We should follow this up by asking non-members to join UCU.

This showed that when we say it is this is a local dispute of national significance. The widespread support and engagement of members shows there is an appetite for action among members as well as the understanding we must have a national context to resist austerity. What members said on the day is how much the attacks at Lambeth sound similar to attacks up and down the UK, including cuts to sickness, holiday and increased contact hours.

The NEC meeting on the morning of 27th had released a statement in full support of Lambeth.  The FEC was tasked to develop this practically including how we can apply more industrial and academic pressure on the Lambeth employer. The FEC will investigate whether to apply grey listing and to call on the academic community to boycott working with the college. We reiterated that in the event reps are targeted over their jobs that this would be met with a robust national UCU response.

For more news on Lambeth strike and to see videos and photos: http://lambethcollegestrike.wordpress.com/

Lambeth conference this Saturday: What is Further Education and adult education for?

Lambeth UCU and Unison have called a conference to get to the root of the deeper problems in our sector. This conference was supported by the FEC and Lambeth NUT.

Practical workshops include.

  • What is happening to FE Funding and how do we get more?
  • ‘Employability’ the new mantra.
  • Alternative FE: towards a charter for Further and Adult education.
  • Organising to win.

Where and when? 11am Saturday 5th of July. City Height School, Brixton SW9 8ND. There will be a social at the end of the day. Contact mandybrowncow@yahoo.com to book.

Please come and be part of it to show your support for Lambeth, to let us know about your disputes and find out how you can get more involved in your union.

FEC votes to recommend rejection of 1 percent pay offer

There is a changing mood on pay. In July 10th up to 2 million workers will strike over pay, including the NUT, Unison, GMB, Unite and the FBU. The NEC meeting had passed a motion calling on UCU branches to support the strike. We have the potential to harness the context of a new alliance over pay in the run up to the October TUC demonstration to shift the employers on pay but also put FE and Adult education on the map.

The unions met with the AoC over pay again on 18th June. Their final offer was just 1 percent. They cited a lack of affordability among colleges. UCU argued that a number of colleges had decreased the actual amount spent on staff wages, and that we should work together to address cuts in funding from central government, otherwise we are in danger of simply managing the decline of our sector while staff living costs increase, pay continues to decline, and work load goes through the roof.

The recent publication of Principals’ pay shows that while some pay has also been frozen or cut, in some cases the pay rises are eye watering and leave members wondering why our wages should be cut: http://www.ucu.org.uk/index.cfm?articleid=7108

The FEC voted to recommend rejection of the AoC offer in pursuit of our claim for 3% or £1048 (whichever higher).

We agreed to consult all members on the ‘final’ offer, but the majority voted that alongside this should be a briefing for members clearly arguing for rejection and setting out a credible strategy for further national action alongside other unions.

The FEC recognises the need for a clear strategy as the next general election looms and calls on FEC officers to bring specific proposals on this, and on the potential for further targeted action to the next FEC in early October.

This followed an important debate about whether to recommend rejection or simply put out a neutral offer. By deciding to reject the FEC was saying that we are serious about winning on pay. We will have to shift in the new academic year to ensure every UCU member is involved.

Sickness absence policy  

The UCU has produced a new document to support branches in dispute over sickness. This will be circulated soon. Please let us know if you have disputes on sickness absence so we can share experiences.

Lesson Observations

If you have not had a chance to read the report on graded observations, see here http://www.ucu.org.uk/index.cfm?articleid=7105

City Lit dispute

This is one of the largest adult education providers. Hands off City Lit! Defend education and jobs. There is a threat of 70 redundancies. See @handsoffcitylit  More information to follow.

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