26 November 2014

An open letter to FEC Officers

Dear Colleagues,

The pay ballot for members in England opens on Friday 28th November and runs until Dec 19th.

Every UCU member understands that we are being assaulted by a range of attacks on funding, jobs, and conditions. Few members can be in doubt that pay is a major issue. The question is how we develop an effective campaign. The majority of FEC members have sought to do this and to implement Conference policy since our Annual Sector Conference in May.

Despite our negotiators urging the AoC to join with us in a campaign in the run up to the General Election to champion FE we now recognise that in seeking their injunction to block the strike on 14th October they have sided with the Government to try to silence those standing up for education.

The national ballot is therefore a critical test for the union.

Our priority?

All of us now need to make sure the ballot is won. Every branch officer and rep needs to be encouraged to get behind the campaign. We need:

  1. Briefings reiterating the strategy to defend pay and education.
  2. A plan to Get The Vote Out and maximise the turn out in the ballot.

Members in FE expect to see a united and determined campaign from Officers, FEC members, and Head Office as we saw for the USS ballot in HE. No UCU member should be in any doubt that the full force of the national union is with them.

What is the strategy we are voting for?

1. For a one day national strike to kick off the campaign with a lobby of the AoC;

2. To develop targeted strike action to involve at least two colleges in each region (focused on the highest paid principals), and supported by twinning arrangements, days of action, and collections in other branches in the regions;

3.Then a mass lobby of parliament to press the case for proper FE funding, with another strike day to facilitate a mass turnout.

The FEC meeting on 17th October also unanimously adopted a new Charter for FE putting the case for our sector, which we should use in our branches and regions and publicly in our communities.

The Special Further Education Sector Conference

It has been very disappointing, therefore, to find that the FEC Chair, Robin Goodfellow, and Vice Chair Carolyn Campbell, as Independent Broad Left supporters, have been secretly coordinating a call for a Special FE Sector Conference clearly intended to overturn conference policy and the FEC decision to ballot on pay, while keeping the other Vice-Chair and most FEC members in the dark.

This is despite a (near) unanimous decision to ballot on pay and launch a national campaign at FE Sector Conference 2014.

Branches have now been given little over a week to convene a meeting, consider the arguments and send a delegate to the special FESC at Manchester on December 13th.

This tactic betrays a cavalier attitude to union democracy. The IBL say in their document on the special FESC, that “Our power and effectiveness as a union is not measured by how radical our slogans sound or the policies we pass at Congress but in how powerful and effective we are at mobilising members around a popular collective bargaining agenda.” They seem to think that because they disagree with democratic policy passed at Congress (or at FEC meetings) they can just ignore or undermine it.

Most members will surely feel it is unacceptable for FEC Officers to undermine the pay ballot in this way. Such tactics are a gift to the employers. The role of FEC Officers is to implement FEC decisions. If they refuse to do this they ought to resign their positions. The President-elect (who is ex-officio Chair of the FEC) should be the foremost defender of democracy in the union.

Members in branches which have supported the call for a special FESC may not be aware that FEC policy as determined at the last meeting on 17th October is clear: to ballot on the 2014/15 pay claim and support the campaign strategy outlined above, and to encourage a YES vote in the ballot.

Robin Goodfellow and Carolyn Campbell, along with other IBL supporters, did not propose any alternative strategy on 17th October, indeed the amendment they supported also included notifying a dispute, holding a national ballot, and recommending a Yes vote, the same as the policy in the motion agreed by the FEC majority. The disagreement was mainly about whether to have yet another consultation process. Now they are effectively opposing this position.

We call on the FEC Chair and President-elect Robin Goodfellow and Vice Chair Carolyn Campbell to immediately stop undermining conference and FEC decisions and to implement democratically determined policy. If they cannot do this, they should resign.

We urge all FEC members, branch officers and reps to maximise the turnout in the pay ballot, call for a Yes vote, and make sure that the campaign as determined by the FEC is widely publicised to all FE members.

Signed by:

 

Richard McEwan, Vice-Chair FEC and National Negotiator

Laura Miles, FEC and National Negotiator

Rose Veitch, FEC

Dawn Livingston, FEC

Margot Hill, FEC and National Negotiator

Jon Gilhooley, FEC

Lee Short, FEC

Mick Dawson, FEC

Brian O’Sullivan, FEC

Chris Jones, FEC

Mandy Brown, FEC

Alan Barker, FEC

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