UCU Left calls on members to vote for candidates who are committed to fighting for Health and Safety, workers’ rights, equality, and protecting the planet.
In the coming UCU NEC elections it is important all members vote. Low polls comfort only the employers, who use them as an argument for ignoring union reps.
For a fighting union that defends education, working conditions and the planet
- Workplace organisation
- Winning the HE disputes
- Fighting for equality
- At the heart of the movement for climate justice
- Part of a wider struggle
We recommend voting for the following candidates:
|Post & recommended voting order||Candidate|
Click name for
|Vice President (FE)||1||Juliana Ojinnaka|
|North East HE||1|
Mary Ellen Large
|London and East HE||1|
|Dharminder Singh Chuhan |
|Migrant members||1||Khizer Saeed|
For a union that defends education, working conditions and the planet
The drive by government and employers to slash jobs and worsen our working conditions is relentless. Runaway inflation along with hikes in National Insurance and soaring energy costs will make 2022 a year of falling living standards for all workers. Across FE, HE and Prison Education, managerialism is rife as our employers take advantage of the upheaval caused by the pandemic to erode our professional autonomy and strengthen their grip on every aspect of our working lives.
The only thing that stands in their way is strong union organisation at workplace level. Employers need to know that we can deliver successful strike ballots in response to their attacks. Whether it’s insisting on adequate Covid safety measures or resisting redundancies, success depends on UCU branches with strong rep structures which have the trust of members.
This has been shown time and again during the last year. In FE, the branches that beat the ballot thresholds won pay rises, some without even taking action. Strikes at CCCG in London forced an intrusive and punitive observation policy to be dropped. Liverpool University UCU showed that sustained industrial action, organised through daily mass meetings of members, can defeat even the most intransigent of employers. They prevented all 47 of the threatened compulsory redundancies.
UCU Left builds well-organised branches capable of mobilising members to fight for their own conditions and in defence of education. We organise solidarity with every struggle because the more we collectivise our fights, the stronger we are. This requires branch leaderships which understand the power of collective action, trust the membership to take action and operate in an open and democratic way.
Winning the HE disputes
The marketisation of higher education has been disastrous for staff and students alike. Universities that are in cut-throat competition with each other do not want the expense of a collective pension scheme and want to be free to drive down their staffing costs by slashing jobs, increasing workloads and minimising permanent contracts. Despite the sector being richer than ever, the employers use the weakest institutions to justify below inflation pay awards year after year.
That’s why it’s crucial that we win the USS and Four Fights disputes. They are not just fights to defend education from the scourge of low pay, inequality and casualisation, they represent a challenge to the neoliberal model of education. Most students understand that a commodified, standardised product delivered by increasingly exploited and stressed staff is a shadow of what their education could be and support our struggle.
Fighting these disputes together maximises our strength by uniting branches and members across the sector. Decoupling the USS from the Four Fights would in practice mean delaying and deprioritising the Four Fights. This would not only be disastrous for pay and equality, it would also weaken the fight to defend USS pensions by giving our younger, casualised members no stake in the fight.
When the stakes are so high we cannot afford to wait until we have ‘supermajorities’ before we fight. Betting all or nothing on winning an aggregated ballot is an unnecessary gamble. We have to beat the anti-union laws and take action where we can, re-balloting where we miss the threshold. The other campus unions are learning this lesson and are starting to take action alongside us.
Losing these disputes would be a major setback. The resources of the whole union must be put behind the sustained and escalating action we need to win.
Fighting for equality
Our education institutions are at the epicentre of the culture wars being waged by the Tories. Their attacks on ‘woke culture’ are part of an attempt to regain the ground they lost during last year’s Black Lives Matter, to defend the legacy of the Empire and their version of British history. Priti Patel wants to neutralise criticism of her barbaric demonisation of migrants, which results in people fleeing war and poverty, often caused by British interventions around the world, drowning in the English Channel.
The Higher Education Freedom of Speech Bill has nothing to do with freedom of speech. Its effect will be to allow anti-trans advocates, Holocaust deniers, anti-vaxxers, supporters of Israeli apartheid and others to espouse their views on campuses with the full protection of college authorities. As their attempt to impose the IHRA definition of antisemitism proves, in reality, the Tories want to ban views they don’t like.
Our union must defend the right to free speech of the oppressed. This includes supporting the right of students to protest for equality and justice. We support efforts for a thorough decolonising of the curriculum: not the tick-box tinkering with reading lists that managements favour but one that enhances education by bringing hidden and marginalised histories and perspectives to light and critiquing established narratives.
Our union must engage in a constant war against inequality in the workplace. The gender and race pay gaps are scandalous, while insecure employment blights the lives of too many of us. People of colour struggle to get promoted, and disabled staff are often denied the workplace adjustments that they need. Our migrant colleagues face onerous hurdles and additional costs for the right to work alongside us. We fight against these things because it is the right thing to do, but also because it is the precondition for the workplace unity that we need.
At the heart of the movement for
From melting polar ice caps, to raging forest fires and devastating floods, the evidence of catastrophic climate change is overwhelming and is being experienced on all continents. But last year’s COP26 conference did virtually nothing to alter the trajectory to environmental disaster we are on. Few people believe that even the weak promises made by governments will be adhered to, while a commitment to phase out coal was removed from the final statement.
The fossil fuel industrial complex can only be challenged by mass movements demanding climate justice. It is clear that while there are profits to be made from the fossil economy, corporate interests will resist every attempt to curtail it. The organised working class has a special role to play in the climate movement. It is only workers that can challenge the profits of the fossil multinationals, and only the workers’ movement that can ensure a just transition from labour that digs coal, drills oil and builds cars to labour that builds wind turbines, instals heat pumps and runs mass public transport. Stopping climate change requires system change.
UCU has already played a central role in this movement. In 2019 it was a UCU motion that won TUC support for a work stoppage in support of the youth climate movement. We have an important role as climate educators, pushing to green the curriculum. We must press our institutions to decarbonise more quickly, the USS pension fund to disinvest from fossil fuels, and join our students and others on the streets.
Part of a wider struggle
Johnson’s government is inept and corrupt, and he has frittered away the support for his Brexit promises that won him the 2019 election. But the Tories are still attacking working people. They want to protect business during the pandemic whatever the cost in lives, and they are determined to make working people pay for the economic downturn. Johnson’s ‘levelling-up’ agenda is bogus, and his promises of a high wage future are belied by rampant inflation. The super-rich have added to their share of wealth throughout the pandemic.
Resistance to the Tories is growing. There are more strikes as groups of workers exploit labour shortages to fight for pay rises. One-day and token strikes are being replaced by sustained and indefinite action. Workers increasingly realise that it is futile to hope that Starmer’s Labour Party will deliver anything for working people. Sharon Graham’s election to leader of the Unite union on a platform of strong, self-reliant fighting trade unionism is a step forward.
Now is the time for the trade union movement to launch a general assault to halt the squeeze on living standards and repel the bosses’ attacks. Not only do we need pay rises that exceed rapidly rising inflation, we also need mass united action to fund the NHS properly and bring utilities and social care into public ownership.
UCU already has good policies on these things and on much more. Putting them into practice as part of a wider trade union fight for social and economic justice requires an NEC that stands up for the interests of rank and file members and challenges the hesitancy and pessimism of many in the trade union leaderships.