A largely uneventful meeting of the newly constituted NEC took place on 18th June. The key substantive issues were as follows.
Following delivery of her report (see the video), the General Secretary was questioned about the rationale for the consultations on the union’s pay and pensions campaigns which have been initiated in both FE and HE since this month’s sector conferences.
Consultations or conversations?
The GS replied that these were not really intended to be consultations. Rather, they are designed to initiate the conversations with members which will be required if the union’s industrial campaigns are to be successful.
But this exercise has been explicitly described as an ‘urgent consultations process’ which must provide feedback to the next meetings of FEC and HEC where decisions on organising action will be taken. In the case of FE, a question is included about whether members feel the specific percentage figure in the union’s pay claim is the right one.
This is not appropriate. The Sector Conferences passed motions committing the union to organise the FE pay and workload campaign, and the Four Fights and USS campaigns in HE. What branches need is not a set of questions to prompt debate with members over decisions that have already been taken, but campaigning material to maximise the chances of winning industrial action ballots.
The GS’s report also listed the local disputes that have arisen this academic year. The list is long – 28 branches across HE, FE and Prison Education. In reply to a question, the GS expressed the view that not much can be learned by the union from this unprecedented situation because each case is distinct.
But as the UCU Solidarity Movement has shown repeatedly this year, there are too many similarities between the attacks on our members for this rash of disputes to be a coincidence. In HE especially, it is clear that managements in different institutions share the goal of cutting jobs and are adopting common tactics to achieve it. Unless UCU finds a way of using the strength of the union as a whole to resist these attacks, we will struggle to defend the jobs and working conditions of our members.
A number of motions from NEC members were debated. Two motions reaffirming and strengthening the union’s commitment to trans inclusion were passed. A motion giving the General Secretary a veto over the chair’s decision to call emergency NEC meetings was opposed by UCU Left delegates and defeated. A motion addressing the union’s response to the latest tactic by employers to deny information on staff to branches for recruitment and organising purposes was passed, as was a motion committing the union to pay strike pay to members losing pay through punitive deductions. A motion calling for a report on the implementation of motions passed on NEC was contested by some members but was carried. This provides an equivalent level of accountability as already exists for Congress and Conference motions.
Unfortunately, an important motion on support for the Rhodes Must Fall campaign at Oxford fell off the agenda through lack of time.