Casualisation: Stopping the Abuse [AEIP]

This is a report back from the anti-casualisation workshop at the UCU Left conference, and forms part of the series of articles being discussed in the UCU Left Forum Another Education is Possible – please find the discussion online here.

The workshop was a well attended and lively workshop, which demonstrates that anti-casualisation is a vital part of our campaigning.  The session was a practical workshop in order to develop ideas and practical steps for active campaigns at colleges and campuses.  The session broke down into the three sector areas HE, FE and ACE in order for members to discuss the particular casualisation issues within their areas.

There were two key areas to the meeting: discussing how to take the campaign further and how reps can take individual cases (basics within the UCU Left HPL Toolkit).

The key ideas to help take the anti-casualisation campaign further were:

  • To always start from the general principle that we do not accept the use of insecure casual contracts.  Branches need to unite permanent members of staff and those on casual contracts to win this argument in the branch and with management.  Casualisation is an issue for everyone.
  • To take on the unfounded ‘economic argument’ that institutions can’t afford to move employees onto permanent contracts.  Institutions need to ensure high rates of retention and success. If members are not given adequate resources, time and security it is more difficult to maintain high retention and success rates.  Therefore, to ask UCU, or find ourselves, a comparator of a college with a high proportion of casualised workers and one with a relatively lower percentage to compare the rates of retention and success.
  • Branches and regions to find strong test cases on anti-casualisation and put pressure on the union to take them as test cases.
  • To promote ‘best practice’ of anti-casusalisation campaigns through developing and sharing the UCU Left HPL Toolkit and to share ideas at regions and branches.
  • For a ‘Casualisation: Stopping the Abuse’ issue of the UCU Left magazine Another Education is Possible in order to raise the profile of insecure, casual contracts.
  • For branches and regions to start organising a plan of action for the UCU Day of Action against casual contracts in the Spring Term as this will be an effective recruitment tool into the union.

Another Education is Possible Forum [AEIP]

We are pleased to announce the launch of UCU Left’s forum – Another Education is Possible. This forum will be used to generate discussion and develop initiatives in the fight to defend post-16 education and to provide practical steps for building an alternative vision of education.

The forum contains online articles from The UCU Left magazine – Another Education is Possible. These articles are open to comments and ideas.

The forum was launched following the UCU Left Conference – ‘Defending Post 16 Education in an era of Austerity’ – on Saturday 22nd September. 110 delegates attended the conference, which looked at different aspects of what is happening to post 16 Education.  Jeremy Corbyn MP reported on the latest developments at London Metropolitan University and placed this struggle in a wider context within the fight against austerity. A Greek lecturer from Athens University described what was happening with the movement in Greece. A forum on ‘Does it matter who owns our Colleges and Universities?’ heard Andrew McGettigan, Jane Hardy and Ken Spours explaining the challenges that higher and further education face and put forward alternatives to the pro market and privatisation agenda of the Tory led coalition.

John McDonnell MP called upon UCU members to continue to develop progressive alternatives to austerity for the working class movement as a whole. In the ‘Privatisation, pay and pensions; building a new alliance’ session, speakers from the NUT, PCS and the UCU NECs put forward strategies on how the movement can learn from last year’s battle over pensions and how it could go forward by building the October 20th demonstration and campaigning within that for further strike action over pay, pensions and jobs.

The conference held 8 workshops ranging from ‘Defending Multiculturalism in Education’, ‘Casualisation; stopping the abuse’ to ‘Democratising teaching and learning’ and ‘Plebiscite and debate; how do we make UCU democratic?’. The discussion at these workshops resulted in a number of initiatives including UCU left hosting a conference on multiculturalism and a conference on the impending crises facing the HE sector.

Click on the links to the workshops to read the notes from the discussions and add your own comments and ideas. This allows the workshops to be taken to a wider audience for further discussion and will also be used to develop the initiatives that came out of the conference.

John McDonnell and Ken Spours, who spoke at the conference, have written messages of support for the ideas in this forum and for UCULeft.

UCU Left welcomes all contributions and encourages debate on all aspects of the defence of post 16 education and building an alternative vision for education.


Equality in education: a nice idea, but how we achieve it? [AEIP]

This is a report back from a workshop at the recent UCU Left conference, please discuss the article and the ideas from it in our “Another Education is Possible” Forum here.

These were the questions and themes that were suggested for the workshop to consider:

  • How do we ensure that the inequality aspects of the assault on the public sector are at the centre of our resistance?
  • What practical opportunities can we address to build links and networks with other unions and with campaigning equal rights organisations?
  • How do we ensure that the equality agenda becomes more central to the union’s industrial relations strategy, and that the equality agenda is not marginalised in any proposed changes to the NEC?

Around a dozen people took part in the workshop, with a more or less equal mix from HE and FE institutions. There was a useful and lively discussion framed by the suggestions above.

While the time available was limited because the previous session had overrun, a number of useful points emerged.

1. There was discussion about how more black members and women could be involved as reps at branch level. The point was made that one way of encouraging involvement in the union branch is to link issues of concern in the local communities (eg stop and search, pro-abortion activity, anti-cuts campaigning, etc) to branch support and activity.

There was discussion about how political spaces and opportunities could be opened up at all levels in the union where minorities could be encouraged to play active and leading roles.

Some at the session argued that a recognition of the broader political and ideological context in which the austerity assault is taking place is essential if equality reps and branch officers are not to risk being submerged in casework and consultation and thus not see the wood for the trees.

2. The issue of how to undermine an unfortunately still common view in some branches in the union that equality is effectively compartmentalised and ‘bolt on’ was discussed. Some members argued that it was crucial to explain the ways that equality concerns are fundamentally part of jobs and redundancy, working conditions and pay. For example, women are being hardest hit by the pensions attack, and most of the public sector workers on strike earlier this year and last were women.

3. Members suggested that there should be a dedicated equality forum on the union’s website, and that we should be agitating for the union to produce more campaigning materials emphasising the equality dimensions of the cuts, tuition fee increases, etc.
Part of this could be sharing ideas and best practice on how branches have been thinking about promoting Black History Month, or International Women’s Day, or LGBT History month, and so on.

4. It was suggested that out of the conference which had been proposed in the ‘defend multiculturalism’ workshop session earlier in the day should also come a UCU Left guide to ‘how we get genuine equality in education’, or something along these lines.

Laura Miles, group convenor, 27/09/2012