5 May 2020

Report back from organising & strategy meeting

Organising to defend post 16 education webinar landscape v3

Thanks to everyone who joined last night’s fantastic organising and strategy mass meeting and for all your excellent contributions. Over 170 people joined the call.

In this report, a call to action:

  • Raising three key demands and developing strategy and organisation: No return to work till it is safe. No redundancies. Defend education.
  • A Day of Action on Thursday called by Health workers ‘Defend the NHS, don’t end the lockdown’
  • Resources and links attached and included in one place at the bottom.

We hope you will join us next week as we rally to ensure there is no return to work until it is safe.

Raising three key demands:

  • No return to work till it is safe.
  • No redundancies: defend education.
  • Building a national strategy and organisation at every level of the union.

One of the themes of the meeting included the development of a national strategy for the whole union to respond to the scale of the crisis and how we can practically organise. As is becoming increasingly clear in recent days, higher education faces an existential threat.

UCU Left prepared a discussion document ahead of last week’s UCU NEC, Defending Post-16 Education in the Coronavirus Era. Unfortunately, the outgoing President did not allow it to be discussed. Please share with branches and regions to help develop discussion and strategy. It was endorsed and supported at the Yorkshire and Humberside Regional meeting. Your branch or region may also wish to add support. You can find it and add comments and ideas here.

Attached are a set of three demands we can organise around: No return to work until it is safe. No to redundancies: Defend Education. You may wish to base branch discussions on how to organise around these themes or adapt the document as a model motion. Please share any motions passed in your region and send to the UCU President.

You can find a report of the NEC meeting here.

A Day of Action on Thursday called by health workers:

  • Defend the NHS, don’t end the lockdown
  • No return to work until it is safe!

The other major theme of the meeting was preparing a response to government’s moves to try to end the lockdown before it is safe.

We heard from Emma Mort, NEU exec, on the many national initiatives taken by their union. She reported on how several thousand people have joined their union. The NEU has held countless organising meeting and national meetings of over a 1000 reps. They are campaigning to win support in the community, from councillors and MPs. Model letter attached. It was great to join forces with our sister union and to share experiences of how to organise. Open Schools when it is safe. This has been signed by over 270k people.

Day of action Thursday: ‘Defend the NHS, don’t end the lockdown’
The response to calls for solidarity on international workers memorial day were immense. Health workers are calling for action this Thursday. At the end of the call last night we had a show of hands to support building a day of action to ‘Defend the NHS, don’t end the lockdown’ called by People Before Profit: Health Worker Covid Activists. See the call here.

Organising action on Thursday in our branches

  • Convene an online branch meeting. Invite a health worker, NEU speaker or someone from your local Covid-Action group.
  • Discuss a motion not to return to unsafe workplaces. See attached.
  • Ask members to hold up selfie signs (attached) or to use the graphic as their profile picture. Take a gallery photo and share that on Twitter tagging @UCU @UCULeft @Worker_group and with hash tag #fivetests #PPE #NHS.
  • Ask members to send in a homemade or printed selfie picture to those links. We will publish a wall of support on our website.

There is a national online meeting this Wednesday to build support across the movement:
Defend the NHS, don’t end the lockdown
No return to unsafe workplaces
People Before Profit
6pm Wednesday May 6th.

*   John McDonnell MP
*   Kevin Courtney NEU
*   Sarah Woolley BFAWU
*   Karen Reissmann NHS worker
*   Janet Newsham Hazards Campaign

No to redundancies, defend education:
We heard from Roehampton branch reps. The university is proposing pay cuts and job losses of up to 15%. You can send solidarity tweets to @RoehamptonUCU and email solidarity messages to ucu@roehampton.ac.uk

Defending casualised workers:
Many GTAs, postgraduate and postdoctoral researchers and PhD and casualised educators are at risk now.
See the #CoronaContract petition and website, which contains resources and model motions to take to your UCU branch.

Some good news! Durham University has backed off on attacks:
We also heard from Bob Jeffery, branch negotiator, on Sheffield Hallam’s branch victory on workload prior to the Lockdown. You can find a report here on how they organised.

There is a myth circulating that ballots cannot be held. You can ballot. People raised the issue that we will need to take collective action sooner than a ballot can take place where members jobs are threatened now. We have the ability to digitally shutdown workplaces. We can withdraw our labour where we are exposed to risk to life.

There is an important online meeting this weekend. Responding to the crisis: organising to defend Higher Education in the pandemic era.
This is organised by the Convention for Higher Education, the group who produced the Alternative White Paper for Higher Education.
Saturday 9th May
10am to 12noon
Please register here.

Future UCU Left webinars
More than 400 people have taken part in our Monday night series of UCU Left webinars and meetings.
The recordings of past webinars on UCU Left Facebook were viewed more than 3.5k times.

Save the date for Monday. We will post details in the coming days of next Monday’s webinar on No Return to Unsafe Workplaces.

Check out UCU Left Facebook, UCUleft.org website and @UCULeft for details.

You can join UCU Left here.

Please get in contact if you would like to get in touch with UCU Left members in your branch, region or locality, to host a local meeting or get support.

Thanks for joining us and we hope to see you again next Monday!


Mark Abel • Secretary, UCU Left
Bee Hughes • Chair, UCU Left webinars

All the above links in one place:

Strategy document: Defending Post-16 Education in the Coronavirus Era

UCU Left Report from NEC

Send solidarity to UCU Roehampton: @RoehamptonUCU

Bob Jeffery report

Corona Contract website 

Online Convention for Higher Education meeting
10-noon Saturday 9 May.
Responding to the crisis: organising to defend Higher Education in the pandemic era. Register here.

Open schools when it is safe petition

Defend the NHS, don’t end the lockdown
No return to unsafe workplaces
6pm Wednesday 6 May
People Before Profit Speakers.
·       John McDonnell MP
·       Kevin Courtney NEU
·       Sarah Woolley BFAWU
·       Karen Reissmann NHS worker
·       Janet Newsham Hazards Campaign

Day of Action Thursday.
Defend the NHS, don’t end the lockdown
No return to unsafe workplaces

Additional resources:

  1. No going back until it is safe selfie
  2. Three demands: No return to work till it is safe. No to redundancies: defend education.
  3. NEU Model letter for contacting MPs

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