Proposed Motion on HE Pay Campaign

UCU has called a series of pay briefing meetings at the end of September to discuss the stepping up of the pay dispute in HE. Other unions in HE are now balloting for action over pay. UCU Left supporters should seek to ensure there is a discussion in their branches prior to the pay briefings and we urge supporters to raise the motion below in their committee and branch meetings.
Proposed motion on HE Pay campaign

This UCU branch notes:

1. the most recent ‘final’ offer from the employers body UCEA. This branch believes that the offer is totally unsatisfactory. However, the very fact that the employers have made another ‘final’ offer, which includes some very small and totally inadequate movement to talks on the gender pay and casualisation when they said they could do nothing on these issues shows that our industrial action is having an effect and is hitting the employers. Otherwise they would not have made another offer. We therefore need to step up the action.

2. our pay demand was made on the basis of addressing the continued drop in real pay, rises in National Insurance contributions, rises in pension contributions and cuts in pension provision.

3. members have been inspired by the desire of UCU to place equality issues, specifically, the gender pay gap and abuse of casualised contracts, as central components to our pay demands.

4. the UCU pay briefings at the end of this month provide branches with an opportunity to discuss restarting and escalating the pay campaign since the action at the beginning of the summer.

5. Other campus trade unions including EIS, UNITE and UNISON are currently engaged in balloting members to join the pay dispute.

This UCU branch believes:

1. UCEA’s latest pay offer fails to address any of the elements of the pay claim. The employers have to demonstrate action to end the gender pay gap and the abuse of casualised contracts rather than talk about it.

2. Escalating industrial action including strike action is required to ensure a fair settlement of the pay demand is achieved.

This UCU branch resolves:

1. to reject the ‘latest’ offer from the employers.

2. to call on UCU to restart the pay campaign with new publicity and material focusing upon the continued discrimination faced by women and casualised staff in Higher Education.

3. to mandate our delegates to the pay briefing meeting to call for an escalation of the pay campaign with a return to industrial action including strike action leading to action short of strike this semester.

4. For UCU to name dates for strike action beginning the end of October and escalating ASOS later in the term.


UCU Left National Conference 2016 – Save the date – Saturday 24th of September

UCU Left National Conference 2016.

Defend education from the cradle to the grave – a strategy to win.

*Saturday 24th of September 10:30 – 4:30pm – Birkbeck London*

There are huge shifts taking place in British Politics. Cameron has resigned following Brexit. Theresa May has a thin majority and a history of ‘nasty party’ politics. The mass movement opposed to austerity and racism has gained strength from the election of Jeremy Corbyn. The Labour party has grown massively in the last year despite the failed coup. Many of the opposition parties are clearly opposed to austerity. This throws up crisis and opportunity for the left.

Post-16 education is at a crossroads.

The Further and Adult Education has suffered a sustained attack on funding and jobs, and now the biggest restructuring since incorporation with area reviews,  mergers and devolved funding. The mass campaign to defend adult education has put FE on the map.

How do we ensure FE is part of the campaign and we build on last year’s work?

The Higher Education sector faces the entry of the for-profits with the HE Bill and an autumn of strikes following waves of action this summer on gender pay equality and the end of casualisation.

What is the strategy for autumn to defeat the bill, promote a vision of higher education and ensure the industrial strategy is a success?

There are opportunities to unite the movement. On November the 12th UCU/NUS will hold a national demonstration. The NUT has launched a campaign to stop academisation of schools with the potential for united action in the autumn to defend education from the Cradle to the grave.

We want to be at the centre of defending education and active in new alliances that are forming to challenge the market and racism in our society.

We want you to be an active part of our organisation.

Join the UCU Left conference to get involved, discuss and organise.

  • Guest speakers from across the movement.
  • Breakout workshops to organise.
  • Hustings for UCU GS, VP and NEC elections.
  • UCU Left AGM.

Save the date:

Saturday 24th of September.

Birkbeck University.


Nearest Tubes: Euston, or Russell Square.

£5/£2.50 waged/unwaged. We can help cover train fare.

Click here to register and pay.

Protest at Higher Education Bill Second Reading, 19 July, 12 noon

parlt-lobbyThe Government is rushing the HE Bill through to its Second Reading in the House of Commons. The Second Reading has been called for Tuesday 19 July.

The NUS, UCU London Region and other organisations have called an emergency protest in Parliament Square at noon.

Emergency Protest against the HE Bill
Tuesday 19 July, Westminster

Assemble 12 Noon, Parliament Square (Westminster Tube)
Called by London Region UCU, NUS, FACE, NCAFC and others.

More information, including lobbying your MP…

Hundreds of thousands of teachers strike: An excellent start to shaping the post-Brexit world

Front of NUT demo (1 of 1)

What a magnificent response to the Tory government’s attack on education!

Yesterday’s NUT strike, involving hundreds of thousands of teachers, was an inspirational day of action. UCU members in thirty-three universities, nearly a quarter of all universities, helped make this day an even more important one by taking strike action alongside the teachers.

The reports are still coming in. 10,000 marched in London, 3,000 in Bristol, 750 in Manchester and Birmingham, over 1500 in Brighton, up to 500 in Lancaster, 300 in Cambridge, and there were other big marches and rallies elsewhere. The NUT has also reported that since the strike action was announced the union has recruited over 6,000 new members.

I attended the London demonstration. The demonstrators were young, angry, diverse and determined. There were many funny moments, too. As one of the capital’s many homeless men walked past the demo, slightly worse off after a few drinks, he shouted at the demo, ‘Hey teacher’. Hundreds of teachers on my part of the demo all turned at the same time and spontaneously responded by singing, ‘leave those kids alone’!

On another part of the demo the Iceland football supporters’ chant, the slow build-up of ‘hoo’, was given a go too. It had even more of a threatening tone to it when chanted on a demo against cuts.

A symbolic moment for me came when a man driving a white van, with cropped hair and a flag of St George displayed in the back of his cabin leant out of his window and cheered and beeped his horn in support of the striking teachers as he slowly drove past the demo.

When the thousands of teachers marched into Parliament Square they listened and applauded the speeches enthusiastically. The biggest rounds of applause came at three moments. The first was when a junior doctor announced the result from their ballot – a 2:1 rejection of the government’s offer. The second was when Kevin Courtney, acting NUT General Secretary, argued that it was not immigrant children who were to blame for rising class sizes but government cuts in funding. The third was when John McDonnell announced that Jeremy Corbyn would not be resigning.

A significant strike

The teachers’ strike was over workload and funding, but is part of a dispute sited in the wider defence of education. Coming only a week and half after the Brexit vote the strike took on even more significance . The battle we have all been in since the vote was announced has been to try and ensure that our world is united and not divided by racial hatred, as well as to prepare the working class movement to fight further attacks on our services and communities.

It is very strange indeed to live in a society where all the main political parties are leaderless. The Tories are in a vicious leadership contest. Jeremy Corbyn is under immense pressure from Labour MPs to resign, the Greens are holding their own leadership contest and Farage has resigned as the leader of UKIP. Only the Liberal Democratic Party are not having a contest – but who cares….

What yesterday’s teachers’ strike showed is that there is not a crisis within the movement – we are united. The crisis is at the top of society, where there is a profound crisis of leadership.

It is in these moments in history, when the official leadership of a country is in disarray, that new spaces for real bottom-up forms of democracy, rooted in our workplaces and communities, can begin to develop.

This is why it is important that we do all we can to ensure that Jeremy Corbyn is not defeated in his battle to remain the leader of the Labour Party. His leadership symbolises for millions of working people the desire to take back control of their lives.

Next steps

We need to build a movement to defend education from the cradle to the grave.

NUT and UCU united (1 of 1)

Yesterday was an excellent start to building this movement.

NUT General Secretary Kevin Courtney made it clear to his members that more action will be necessary if they are to be successful.

Mark Campbell, Chair of London Metropolitan University UCU, got an enthusiastic response for calling for more coordinated action in the Autumn term. There is now a real possibility of coordinated strike action between junior doctors, teachers and university lecturers.

Yesterday the NUS and UCU called a national demonstration for Saturday 12th November. We need to make sure that hundreds of thousands turn out for this.

The first step to building for the action in the Autumn will be the People’s Assembly and Stand up to Racism national march in London on Saturday 16th July. The theme for this demo is ‘No to austerity – No to racism’.

There have been arguments, understandably, both within our own union, and within the NUT, about whether it was wise to take strike action when the country is in a political and economic crisis.

Yesterday’s strike was a clear illustration of why it was precisely the right thing to do. It demonstrated that there is a deep desire for unity within the working class and organised labour movement. It was an important first step to shaping the post-Brexit world in favour of working people.

To continue what the teachers have begun will take great determination and effort. But when did that ever stop us?

Game on.


Sean Vernell, UCU NEC

UCU NEC statement in support of Jeremy Corbyn

Below is a statement in support of Jeremy Corbyn signed by UCU NEC members all in personal capacity

Corbyn arrives (1 of 1)

The attempt by Labour MPs to oust Jeremy Corbyn is an act of betrayal.  He won 59% of the vote in the leadership contest last year, has attracted tens of thousands to the Labour Party and has inspired a new generation to become engaged in politics.

At a time when the Tory Party is riven with splits and infighting the whole of the labour and trade union movement should be united in launching a campaign to drive them out of office to defend working people from the avalanche of attacks that are being prepared.

Those MPs that are attempting to undermine Jeremy Corbyn’s democratic mandate have shown their complete and utter contempt towards the millions of working class people who see him as a breath of fresh air in an age of plastic politicians. Corbyn is alone among party leaders in taking a principled stand in support of refugees and migrants and was one of only 48 Labour MPs to vote against the Tory government’s welfare reforms.

The idea that those who are standing against Corbyn can re-connect the Labour Party to its working class base are delusional. The MPs, who lost over 5 million votes, say that he does not have the ‘leadership’ qualities to win a general election. Many of these MPs are the ones who supported wars, austerity, privatisation and pandered to lies about immigration – in short Tory–lite policies.

The media attack on Corbyn ever since he was elected as leader has been unprecedented and has risen to new levels. They, like many of those MPs who are trying to remove him, are fearful not that he will lose a general election but they are afraid that he will win.

This political crisis that has erupted in the Labour Party is not about an individual it is about what he symbolises.  Jeremy Corbyn represents opposition to privatisation, austerity, racism and the opposition to illegal wars. He stands for a planned economy, equality for all and peace.  All polices that UCU has supported from its inception. When he spoke at the Cradle to the Grave Conference this year he outlined an exciting vision of a post 16 education system which is free and has open access to all and without competition and the market.

This why as UCU NEC and standing committee members we call upon all those in the labour and trade union movement to get behind Jeremy and condemn those who are trying to undermine him and all that he represents.

All signatories in personal capacity
Rob Goodfellow UCU President • Dr Elisabeth Lawrence UCU immediate past President • Sean Vernell, NEC London and East Region • Sean Wallis, NEC London and East Region • Rachel Cohen, NEC London and East Region • Julia Roberts, NEC London and East Region • Jeff Fowler, NEC Northern Region • Sue Abbot, NEC Northern Region • Nina Doran NEC Northwest Region • Jo McNeill NEC Northwest Region • Mick Dawson, NEC Southeast Region • Patricia MacManus NEC South Region • Bruce Heil NEC South Region • Dave Muritu, NEC West Midlands Region • Xanthe Whittaker NEC Midlands • Lesley McGorrigan NEC Yorkshire and the Humber Region • Renee Prendergast UCU NEC • Chris Jones, NEC UCU Wales • Carlo Morelli, NEC UK elected • Mandy Brown NEC UK elected • Margot Hill, NEC UK elected • Julie Hearn, NEC UK elected • Amy Jowett, NEC re for casually employed members • Elaine White, NEC FE Women’s rep • Victoria Showunmi NEC HE women’s rep • Tara Styles-Lightowlers (Women’s standing committee) • Elane Hefferman (Disabled members’ standing committee) • Rhiannon Lockley, Women’s standing committee • Jean Crocker (Anti-Casualisation Committee & Disabled Members Committee) • Lesley Kane (Anti-Casualisation Committee)

Support South Downs College – 4 day strike starts today

South Downs College staff to strike as deal on pay and conditions rejected

UCU members at South Downs College start a four day walkout today in an escalating row over new contracts, which would lead to worse pay and conditions for staff.

Staff were on a picket line from 8am today morning at the main entrance on College Road.

The strike was announced after members voted to reject a deal which included plans to extend the period of salary protection and make a one-off payment to staff only if they accepted the new contracts.

UCU said the new contracts would lead to a pay cut of around 3% for many staff, and said that the college had failed to address concerns about the impact of the new contracts on other working conditions like holiday entitlement.

Today’s walkout is the first of four days of strike action in the coming weeks, with three further walk-outs planned for Thursday (30 June), Monday 4 and Tuesday 5 July. Members will also begin working to contract on Friday (1 July), which means they will refuse to work overtime or take on additional duties not specified in their contract.

UCU regional official, Moray McAulay, said: ‘Staff have made their position clear; they simply will not accept plans which would see them signing away a significant portion of their salary and holiday entitlement. The college has failed to address concerns about the long-term impact of these new contracts, both on existing staff and on the college’s ability to attract staff in the future.

‘Strike action is never taken lightly, but these plans are deeply damaging and members feel that they have been left with no option. The college urgently needs to review its plans and come back to the negotiating table with UCU to find a way forward.”

Please rush messages of support to:

After working people vote to leave the EU let’s shape the future

Adult ed lobby - Liz L-1040412

There are moments in political life when those who rule society are exposed. These moments reveal how removed and disconnected they are from the mass of people who they seek to rule over. The outcome of the European Union (EU) referendum is one of them.

Fifty-two percent of the population voted to leave the EU. This is despite the vast majority of the employers, MPs and mainstream political parties campaigning to remain in the EU. Those who voted to remain are understandably fearful of the future as they see Farage being paraded around TV studios gloating over the result.

Cameron said that he would call the referendum in the run up to last year’s General Election as an attempt to keep his right flank in the Tory party on board. Probably not the wisest tactical move ever made! By calling the referendum not only has he opened up the old wounds within the Tory party to such an extent it is difficult to see, in the short to medium term, how they can be healed but also he has opened the door to the possible destruction of the European Union.

What the referendum campaign has also done is politicised society. 72% of the population, around 35 million people, voted. The establishment, who bemoan the fact that working class people do not bother to turn out to vote in general elections, are now castigating the working class for using the referendum to show their rage at an establishment that has wrecked their lives.

Corbyn, the Labour Party and working class resistance

It is a disgrace that the first thing that some Labour MPs have done after such a momentous event has been to turn their fire, not on the Tories, but on Jeremy Corbyn. The idea that Margaret Hodge, Yvette Cooper, Hillary Benn or any of the Blairites would be more able to reconnect the LP to its working class base is laughable.

Inside or outside the Labour Party we must do all we can to defend Corbyn from any attempt to oust him from the leadership of the Labour Party. The petition launched by twelve General Secretaries in support of Corbyn is one we should ensure is sent round to all our members. Corbyn must continue to throw his weight behind building the movements against austerity and he must call for a general election now.

Elsewhere I have argued that it was a serious mistake that Corbyn decided to join the Remain campaign. Some of us warned Corbyn that by failing to provide an independent left case for exit the working class in Labour’s heartlands would be left to the racist populism of Farage to give voice to their concerns. If Corbyn and McDonnell had spearheaded a left exit campaign, speaking at rallies up and down the country, tens of thousands would have joined, and we would be further down the road to providing a real alternative to the racist little Englanders.

A working class revolt

Let us not mistake the nature of what took place on Friday 24th June 2016; it was a revolt by the working class against an elite they perceive to be responsible for the destruction of their communities.

But like any political revolt that leads to a political crisis, it is never pure. It is not the case that one set of people line up on one side under the banner of ‘anti–corporate, anti-racism and for equality’ whilst the other side line up under the banner of ‘reaction’.

People entering into social movements against the system for the first time carry with them contradictory ideas; anti-corporate and anti-immigrant. As a leading Russian Revolutionary once warned, ‘Whoever expects a “pure” social revolution will never live to see it.’

Those of us who aim to build movements to defend our communities from the wrecking ball policies of government need to understand that people will hold contradictory ideas and that these contradictions have the potential to be overcome when working people continue to play an active part in shaping their destinies.

As financial markets collapse and there is panic and despair amongst the ruling elite sparked by the revolt of working people we must resist the lure of being pulled into this despair. We rightly, year after year, denounce a system that creates poverty and inequality. When it starts to fall to pieces, because ordinary people flex their muscles, it is not down to us to run to its aid to keep it alive so that we can continue to reform it.

Our task is to build a bigger and stronger movement that can provide an alternative to their divisive and destructive system of inequality and despair.

Was racism the reason why people voted to leave?

Already one of the central explanations that has been offered as to why working class people voted to leave the EU is because of their deep seated racism. The official Leave campaign led by Gove, Johnson and Farage, as well as the Remain campaign, used anti-immigrant racism to win people to their cause. But the majority of working class people who voted to leave are not racists.

The three towns outside of London where the “White British” population is a minority produced large Leave votes.

In Luton 45 percent of the population is “White British”—it voted Leave by 56.5 percent on a 66.2 percent turnout. In Slough 34.52 percent of the population is “White British”—people there also voted Leave by 54 percent on a 62.1 percent turnout. Similarly, in Leicester 45 percent of population are “White British”, and 48.9 percent voted for Leave on a 65 percent turnout.

Although people in London backed Remain more strongly, leave still had strong support among working class people in the capital.

For example, in Newham 47 percent of people voted Leave. The east London borough is one of the poorest and most multicultural boroughs in London, with only 17 percent of the population being “White British”.

The point here is not to ignore or deny the impact the official Remain and Leave campaigns of racism had on turning some people’s fears against immigrants, particularly Leave supporters. But to show that an explanation that starts from all those who voted to leave are racist bigots does not grasp the contradictory nature of the vote and the anti-austerity rage that lay at is heart.


Make our 5th July a day to remember

However we voted we now need to unite (see UCU NEC statement below) to continue to build a movement that offers hope. The first opportunity we have to do this is on the 5th July when hundreds of thousands of teachers will be taking strike action in defence of working class education. This strike takes on even more significance. It will be the first opportunity to demonstrate the unity and strength of the anti-austerity movement in the aftermath of the EU referendum vote.

UCU members in around twenty universities will also be taking strike action on that day. We need to drill this strike down into every community inviting parents and their families to join us on the rallies and demonstrations. At every rally a migrant worker should be invited to speak. Those in work who cannot make the lunchtime protest should organise their own one at work to demonstrate their solidarity with the defence of working class education.

Their system is in disarray. Neither side of the debate have answers to the poverty and pain that working people are suffering except to heap more pain and misery onto our communities. The best response to protect our futures is to do all we can to make sure that 5th July is a mass demonstration of working class unity that has at it’s core equality for all.


Sean Vernell UCU NEC ( PC)





UCU NEC statement:


The vote to leave the EU has created a political earthquake

The referendum was marred by disgraceful racism and scaremongering over immigration by figures on both sides of the official campaigns and of course by the tragic death of Jo Cox MP.
However millions of people have voted to leave the EU as a direct result of years of austerity and economic decline.

The UCU rejects any attempt to use the ‘Leave’ vote to impose further austerity measures. Post 16 education is already under attack, we will fight any attempt at further cuts as a result of the referendum.

We will determinedly oppose any attempt by politicians to use the vote to restrict the rights of migrant workers and refugees and reaffirm our Congress commitment to supporting EU students and staff in UK institutions.

On 5 July teachers will be striking against attacks on education and will be joined by our members in HE who have elected to strike on that day. We will mobilise as a union to back their strikes and protests on the day.

We support the mobilisation called by the People’s Assembly against austerity at the Tory Party conference on 2 October.


Below is a joint press statement from the leaders of the biggest trade unions in the UK backing Jeremy Corbyn. There is also a petition of confidence in him that already gained over 133,000 signatures within 24 hours of its launch.




A statement from union leaders backing Jeremy Corbyn to continue as Labour leader.

The Prime Minister’s resignation has triggered a Tory leadership crisis. At the very time we need politicians to come together for the common good, the Tory party is plunging into a period of argument and infighting. In the absence of a government that puts the people first Labour must unite as a source of national stability and unity.

It should focus on speaking up for jobs and workers’ rights under threat, and on challenging any attempt to use the referendum result to introduce a more right-wing Tory government by the backdoor.

The last thing Labour needs is a manufactured leadership row of its own in the midst of this crisis and we call upon all Labour MPs not to engage in any such indulgence.


Len McCluskey, General Secretary, Unite the Union

Dave Prentis, General Secretary, UNISON

Tim Roache, General Secretary, GMB

Dave Ward, General Secretary, CWU

Brian Rye, Acting General Secretary, UCATT

Manuel Cortes, General Secretary, TSSA

Mick Whelan, General Secretary, ASLEF

Matt Wrack, General Secretary, FBU

John Smith, General Secretary, Musicians’ Union

Gerry Morrissey, General Secretary, BECTU

Ronnie Draper, General Secretary, BFAWU

Chris Kitchen, General Secretary, NUM



“The last thing Labour needs is a leadership row” – Unions’ statement backing Corbyn

Below is a joint press statement from the leaders of the biggest trade unions in the UK backing Jeremy Corbyn. There is also a petition of confidence in him that has already gained over 133,000 signatures since its launch yesterday afternoon.

Jeremy Corbyn EU ref

A statement from union leaders backing Jeremy Corbyn to continue as Labour leader.

The Prime Minister’s resignation has triggered a Tory leadership crisis. At the very time we need politicians to come together for the common good, the Tory party is plunging into a period of argument and infighting. In the absence of a government that puts the people first Labour must unite as a source of national stability and unity.

It should focus on speaking up for jobs and workers’ rights under threat, and on challenging any attempt to use the referendum result to introduce a more right-wing Tory government by the backdoor. 

The last thing Labour needs is a manufactured leadership row of its own in the midst of this crisis and we call upon all Labour MPs not to engage in any such indulgence.

Len McCluskey, General Secretary, Unite the Union

Dave Prentis, General Secretary, UNISON

Tim Roache, General Secretary, GMB

Dave Ward, General Secretary, CWU

Brian Rye, Acting General Secretary, UCATT

Manuel Cortes, General Secretary, TSSA

Mick Whelan, General Secretary, ASLEF

Matt Wrack, General Secretary, FBU

John Smith, General Secretary, Musicians’ Union

Gerry Morrissey, General Secretary, BECTU

Ronnie Draper, General Secretary, BFAWU

Chris Kitchen, General Secretary, NUM

Those responsible for creating a climate of fear over immigration must be held to account.

Convoy to Calais send off (1 of 1)-3
The horrific murder of the Labour MP Jo Cox is a moment that has revealed how racism, stoked up by mainstream political parties and media over fears of immigration, can lead to violent extremism. As Jonathan Freedland states in an article in the Guardian, ‘if you inject enough poison into our politics, somebody will get sick’.

Thomas Mair, the man who shot Jo Cox, shouted before he did so, ‘Britain first’ the name of a fascist organisation set up by ex-members of the British National Party. He had links with far right and fascist organisations in the US and South Africa. When asked his name in court he replied, ‘My name is death to traitors, freedom for Britain’.

Whilst the press coverage has been full of remorse for Jo’s death and denunciation of her killer, not surprisingly there has been no self-examination of their role and the consequences of creating a climate of fear and hatred towards those fleeing war and persecution and those who try to help them.

It does not take much imagination to visualise the headlines if Jo’s killer had been non-white and shouted, ‘Allahu Akbar’ as he shot her to death. The headlines would be ‘Islamic terrorist kills politician’ and there would be articles calling upon the government to copy Donald Trump’s call by banning Muslims from coming into Britain.

Some of the media commentary has pointed to the vile anti-immigrant hysteria that has been whipped up during the EU referendum campaign. The latest example of this was Nigel Farage’s overtly racist Brexit campaign poster that shows a queue of refugees supposedly trying to get into Britain with the caption, ‘Breaking point’. This is true. However, the reality is that this kind of racist narrative has been developed over many years.

This includes the continued lies about how immigration has created the crisis in housing and the NHS. Lies that the cuts in our wage packets are due to immigrant labour providing a cheap source of labour for the employers. More recently a sexualisation of anti-immigrant racism has been developed. Child sex abuse, according to the tabloid press, has become synonymous with gangs of Asian (Muslim) men grooming white girls. Nigel Farage’s recent comments that remaining in the EU will lead to more attacks on women like that which took place in Cologne on New Year’s Eve is another example of this sexualisation of anti-immigrant racism.


A racist narrative years in the making

The press has consciously set about trying to provide a scapegoat for the inability of the employers and government to address the deterioration of working people’s living standards. The constant drip, drip, drip of lies about the impact of immigration has meant that according to a recent opinion poll people believe that 35% of the population are immigrants when the real figure is only 13%.

I was looking back recently at some of the GCSE English resources I have used over the years. One is a lesson about identifying political bias within the press where I give students five headlines about immigration. Their task is to work out which newspapers they are from. One is, ‘Asylum seeker ate my Donkey’. No prizes where this came from!
The Tory party has fed these fears through their propaganda and pernicious laws like Prevent. Labour, in office and when electioneering, has too often echoed these anti-immigrant views.

It is in this context that Jo’s murder took place. She was a principled Labour politician who campaigned to build solidarity with refugees and to try and reverse the Tory government’s racist policies. Because of these views she was targeted by a racist who gunned her down. Yes, Thomas Mair might be a ‘lone’ fascist supporter with a history of mental illness but this does not disguise that fact that he was a product of a society that allows its press and political parties to spew out racist lies about immigrants.

The editors of these newspapers and the campaign managers might not have pulled the trigger that killed Jo but they must take responsibility and be held to account for their role in creating a climate of fear that gives birth to extremism.

Let’s not confuse anti-austerity rage with racism

Luckily, despite this constant barrage of xenophobia, the vast majority of working people do not hold these racist views. Despite what some of the liberal journalists who write for the Guardian might believe, those Labour supporters that are going to vote to leave the EU are not defined by anti-immigrant racism.

John Harris’s interviews for the Guardian with Labour supporters in Stoke, who are going to vote to leave, reveal they will do so not out of racial hatred towards immigrants but to give Cameron’s Tory government a kick in the teeth for all the hurt and pain they have suffered under their rule. Their leave vote is an anti-austerity vote not an anti-immigrant one. Just like those in Scotland who voted for independence, they did so not because of some virulent nationalism but because they despised the Tory government and all that they stood for.

City and Islington College UCU members about to set off on the convoy to Calais.

City and Islington College UCU members about to set off on the convoy to Calais.

On Saturday a convoy of over 200 hundred cars, vans and lorries attempted to cross the border to France. They were hoping to take food, clothes, medicines and money to the refugees in Calais. Thousands of people had collected from tens of thousands of others across Britain to show their solidarity with the refugees stuck at the border.

These people and their actions symbolise the real humanity of working people in Britain today. Is was a moving sight to see the convoy set off from central London to try and break the French authorities’ ban on them crossing the border into France. Once again we see the inhumanity of those who control fortress Europe in which the movement of capital goes unchecked. Whilst people trying to help those who are doing what humans have always done, ever since the beginning of civilisation, -migrate – are forcibly prevented from doing so.

The outcome of the EU referendum will not silence those who wish to divide us.It is the internationalism and solidarity shown by the convoy that can begin to undermine the establishment’s climate of fear.

Sean Vernell, UCU National Executive Committee

Summer school for refugees in the Calais camp


Following the motion to NEC and Congress proposing that UCU set up a summer school for refugees in the Calais camp it has proved difficult to provide a formal and structured provision. However we would like to provide as much support as possible to enable members to actively bring solidarity in following ways:

1. Provide contacts with education organisations working with refugees in this country.

2. Coordinate collections of resources to be delivered to the Care4Calais warehouse in Calais at the cost of UCU, for distribution for refugees.

3. Develop educational resources such as themed language resources in both English and French to be used in the camp. UCU would cover the printing and reproduction costs.

4. Provide basic initial language teacher training for members with that need. This could be provided by teacher trainers and ESOL specialists.

5. Provide contacts for members to volunteer for Care4Calais in distributing aid. It has been suggested that volunteers organizing sport sessions with younger refugees would be helpful.

6. Provide a presence in Calais over 2-3 weeks in the summer holidays to act as a contact for members who would like to volunteer individually. It must be stressed that this would be unofficial activism as oppose to being part of a UCU delegation.

If you can help with any of of this contact:

Dave Muritu,

Head office will be coordinating points 1 – 5 but it would be really useful to initially identify a core group of activists to provide the presence in Calais as outlined in point 6.

Ultimately this is a political project aimed at providing solidarity to the refugees and bringing their stories back to our work places and wider society. As an education union we should be at the forefront of defending refugees and opposing racism. We stand for safe and welcoming educational spaces and for education and learning as the solution to ignorance and hatred.

In solidarity,

Dave Muritu