UCU’s national executive committee (NEC) met online on May Day, 1 May. This was an emergency meeting called only after more than half of the committee had demanded it.
Society is in a permanent emergency, but Higher Education is at the edge of a financial precipice as the tuition fee market is expected to crash leaving universities bankrupt. Our members in FE are confronting job loses and management attempting force to implement a ‘business as usual’ approach.
The question is whether UCU will lead a UK-wide to fight to defend the sectors.
The meeting held on Teams was 2.5 hours in length — half the time of a normal physical NEC meeting.
The paper submitted by Sean Vernell and Sean Wallis proposing a way of framing the a UK-wide response of the union in a coherent way was ruled out of order on the basis that it was two days late. Despite the movers of the paper pointing out that much of we are doing currently is outside of rule, including the online NEC meeting itself (and its shortened form), sought leniency. The outgoing President resisted all attempts to include it, prevented any discussion of it and refused to accept a challenge to his ruling.
NEC heard a lengthy presentation by General Secretary Jo Grady on the steps the central union was taking. She defended her actions in writing to Government ministers, and commissioning and publishing reports from London Economics, without reference to the Higher Education Committee which had not met.
UCU’s intervention had stopped the UUK’s proposal from being adopted by Government. This is positive step. However, without a rapid bailout, employers are likely to now announce redundancies.
We cannot case-work our way out of a crisis. Nor can we fight branch by branch.
It was not until 3:50 that the meeting was permitted to debate the only motion tabled on Education and post-Covid recovery. That motion (attached below) was passed, amended to add reference to specific defence of casualised members. This motion called for a UK-wide response to the crisis. We will now need to make sure that this motion is enacted upon so that UCU is in a position to mobilise our members in defence of post-16 education.
The ‘Democratic Continuity’ paper — which was not debated by NEC — delegated powers to the General Secretary on the same basis as if the Covid-19 lockdown was the annual summer vacation.
Equality areas need urgent attention, especially given the national meeting of equality reps that was postponed from 3 April. When will this be reconvened?
In the meantime, NEC passed five other motions: on UCU’s equality organising, supporting the call from Diane Abbott and Stand Up to Racism for a genuinely independent public inquiry into BAME deaths from Covid-19, defending trans members and students, opposing the Hostile Environment and providing immigration advice.
Resolution 6. Education and post-Covid Recovery (as amended)
- The crucial role of post-16 education in prosperity, individual development and post-Covid recovery
- The likely negative impact of Covid on college and university finances
- The risks of job losses and increases in casualisation
- The importance of education for (young people) who do not have employment
NEC agrees to launch a UK-wide campaign, call for support from trade unions and community organisations and ask GS to write to PM for:
- Removing college and university fees.
- Additional fully funded places at less prosperous and struggling institutions so all young people can have a college or university place.
- Significant increase in government funding to make up any shortfalls, that all casualised workers jobs will be guaranteed equally in the next two years, alongside those of permanent colleagues, and no permanent worker should be disadvantaged for refusing to cover the work of a casualised colleague in the event of job losses.
- Full support for health service, disability support needs and economic recovery that, given the scandalous injustices of precarious work highlighted by the covid crisis, that full occupational sick pay now be extended to ALL casualised workers in all universities and colleges and prison departments
- Cancellation of Trident.
- Progressive ring-fenced increase in taxation to cover the costs e.g. 2% over £30,000, 4% over £50,000, 6% over £100,000.