UCU leadership still dragging its heals on defending members
The special HEC met on 5th February, to discuss the union’s response to the latest developments in the Covid crisis against a backdrop of the discussions that emerged at the NEC Briefing on Section 44 held on the 22nd January https://uculeft.org/report-on-nec-briefing-on-section-44-and-collective-action/. A number of motions and amendments to the Committee Secretary’s report were tabled and heard. It is a step forward that the national committees of the union are now running and able to get through the business brought to the meeting by its elected members. There remains an organisational problem of the holding of these meetings with voting being held after the meeting has finished rather than in real time. Our Congress meeting this weekend and on Tuesday will hold real time voting for a Congress with hundreds of delegates but we can’t get voting for under 40 HEC members organised timeously. That one third of HEC members did not respond to their voting email suggests HEC members, just like members generally, are missing or unable to respond to emails in the deluge of work they are undertaking in their day jobs.
The Committee Secretary’s report was voted through and will now develop updated guidance on issues around extensions of the academic year, assessment and develop bargaining advice on the use of Equality Impact Assessments and work-life balance along with updating advice on any return to campuses for members and branches to use. Motions on the need for rapid health and safety training, the empowerment of members in the use of section 44, excessive workloads and student mental health and digital poverty were all carried overwhelmingly. That one or two HEC members actually voted against these motions we may generous put down to accidentally pressing the wrong button!
Disappointingly, and indicative of the division in the HEC is the fact that all amendments to the Committee Secretary’s report or motions that mentioned collective action or developing industrial action strategies in response to the challenges members are facing were all lost. That HEC did not follow through on the discussion at the NEC Briefing and consistently voted against all attempts to ensure participatory mass meetings or industrial action strategies highlights that the majority of the HEC are not prepared to lead members and instead branches are being left to defend members on their own. Leicester UCU is just the latest HE branch to face a threat to jobs and the targeting of departments. Many branches, most recently Dundee, have stopped these immediate redundancies after a joint staff student campaign culminating in an ultimatum that unless they were withdrawn the branch would ballot for industrial action. But defending members branch by branch is insufficient. We face a UK wide national threat not aberrant individual employers.
The strategy being adopted by the current HEC is little more than acting as an advice agency for branches. UCU Congress this weekend has an opportunity to ensure activists force UCU to start acting like a trade union in response to members calls for solidarity and support. Voting advice for motions to the original UCU Congress can be found
UCU Left recommends voting for all the late motions