Free Movement of Labour Campaign Report – UCU Left conference 24th September 2016


Lucia Pradella and Phoebe Moore attended the UCU Left conference on 24/09/16 to talk about the Free Movement of Labour campaign.

Brexit creates challenges both for the British ruling class and for the working class.
Most obviously, the existing free movement of labour within the European Economic Area (EEA) is now seriously threatened; immigration restrictions are at the centre of the Brexit agenda.

Just yesterday Schauble mocked Boris Johnson for defining as complete baloney the link between Britain’s access to the single market and EU free movement arrangements.

This is clearly a very fluid moment, and mobilisation from below is essential for having an impact on union leaders and the Brexit debate.

But both pro-remain Labour MPs like Rachel Reeves and also union leaders like Len McCluskey interpreted the Brexit vote as an anti-immigration vote, and embraced the idea of immigration restrictions from the EU.

In the UCU, the existing policy on migration recognises the social economic and cultural value of migration and opposes all forms of racism and the Points-Based Immigration Scheme.

This policy, however, does not explicitly refer to a commitment to defending the free movement of labour.

We believe however that this should be a priority for us in the UCU.

Why a priority? Because any restrictions on freedom of movement, and our right to work without discrimination based on nationality, will put increasing competitive pressure on EEA staff.

This will worsen the conditions of workers from the EU – up to the point that many Principals are now scared about losing their EU staff.

But the worsening condition of a significant component of HE staff would increase competitive pressure on staff as a whole, and weaken our union.

It will also have a detrimental effect on the educational experience and academic life in schools and campuses.

The paradox is that many employers have been quite active in supporting EU staff and students, while the UCU has been relatively slow and has not explicitly defended the current free movement arrangements.

But the TUC signed a joint statement with the Eu TUC defending freedom of movement for labour in a post-Brexit contest.

Our campaign for freedom of movement therefore aims to organise a mobilisation from below to defend existing free movement arrangements, both within and without the EEA.
We believe that there is a huge mobilisation potential within the unions and that new workers could join this campaign.

Our main priorities are:

+ campaigning for free movement of labour post-Brexit and for an up-front guarantee for existing EU/EEA citizens in the UK to stay

+ organising active solidarity with EU and non-EU colleagues to demand improvement of immigration support for all non-UK staff

+ building this active solidarity is crucial to opposing the idea that worsening working conditions depend on immigration – and not on the crisis, neoliberalism, austerity and immigration restrictions themselves

This is thus crucial for opposing increasing racism and hate crimes against immigrants and ethnic minority workers.

At local level – raise demands on Vice Chancellors to commit publicly to:

+ permanently guarantee that there will be no change in the employment or student status of any current EU/EEA Member State and Candidate Country staff and students arising from Brexit negotiations

+ permanently guarantee that this university/college will not implement any changes in the academic qualification, residential or fee conditions concerning students applying from EU member states and Norway or Switzerland

+ campaign as a major European country to maintain free movement of labour and people across all 28 current EU Member States.

+ meet with the UCU, UNISON and other trade unions within the university/college to discuss the most effective ways of jointly campaigning for the right to remain for all EU workers and students living in the UK and to maintain Freedom of Movement of Labour across the current 28 EU Member States

+ to submit this motion, when passed, to the National Executive Committee of UCU
to liaise with other branches regarding submitting a version of this motion to UCU Congress 2017

We will have an informal meeting at the Stand up to Racism conference on the 8th of October and an open organising meeting on the 22nd of October at UCL. We will also be participating in National NUS Demo on 19 of November.

It is essential that we bring our opposition to fee increases for EU students within broader struggle against university fees. This shows that we are not just defending EU students, we are against all fee increases. If we get the university commitment not to increasing fees in one or two universities then we can strengthen the movement as a whole.

Likewise, defending current free movement arrangements within the EU is not just a EU issue. The worsening of migration arrangements within the EU would likely trigger further worsening also for non-EU workers. Plus, many cleaners from Latin America have used their European citizenship to enter the UK. So this is not an issue that involves only European workers – it is therefore essential that we try to link with other immigrant workers in the UK and other unions.

Written by Lucia Pradella.


Link to Free Movement of Labour Campaign website : 

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