31 March 2015

Brief Report of UCU Scotland Congress, Edinburgh, 27 March

Motions establishing a network of postgraduates and post-docs and an en environmental network, and re-establishing the equality and human rights, and anti-casualisation networks give welcome opportunities for recruiting, organising and campaigning and members are encouraged to join. The links and overlaps between the activities of the different networks should also be explored. For the first time at a UCU Scotland Congress there were two motions on issues facing retired members from the retired members’ branch, institutional support for all retired members who wish to continue scholarly activity after retirement and organisational support for the retired members’ branch.

There were two motions on gender issues relating to sexism on campus and the gender pay gap. If anything, sexism on campus seems to be getting worse. Other linked motions related to the extension of the definition and protection of academic freedom and campaigning against the so-called counter-terrorism and security bill and the prevention of ‘extremism’ on campus. The latter is an attack on civil liberties, freedom of speech and academic freedom and will reduce rather than increase security. Motions on governance and the living wage were also passed.

There were also missed opportunities. In particular, though an emergency motion was passed in support of members at Dundee fighting redundancies, and supporting speeches made to redundancies at Strathclyde and Aberdeen, there was no wider discussion of developing strategies and tactics to fight redundancies and make all jobs in HE in Scotland more secure. A motion passed on increasing membership included an action plan and measures, such as the production of materials targeted to particular groups of members and use of the blog to highlight local initiatives and activities, but did not mention the link between recruitment and action and campaigning. However, the need for increased action and campaigning, including to defend jobs and on casualisation, could be included in the action plan. A motion passed on workloads focused on members rather than institutions and did not make links to repeated restructuring exercises and voluntary redundancy schemes.

Nearly half the motions, including several emergency motions fell off the agenda and were remitted to the UCU Scotland Executive due to lack of time. A half day Congress followed by a short afternoon session of non-resolutionary business, and which many members do not attend, is not sufficient to deal with all the issues arising out of the increasingly tough climate facing HE.

The invited speakers were the NUSS president, the UCU president and a Palestinian student, invited in response to a motion at the 2014 Congress. The non-resolutionary session was an election hustings, with speakers from the Greens, Labour, Lib Dems, SNP and Tories. Unfortunately they were all male, though the chair was female.

 

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