This was a half day meeting with HE and FE Committees in the afternoon.
The General Secretary’s report.
This had been drawn up by senior members of staff in Sally Hunt’s continuing absence due to illness.
There was an extended discussion of the aspects of the report related to finances before a revised budget was approved. This budget took account of the motions passed at Congress.
Despite gloomy predictions otherwise, it was reported that the union’s bank approved this budget. The discussion included the importance of not being apologetic about the subscription increases and clear about the real benefits of UCU membership. For instance several branches have recently won victories or partial victories in disputes with management (congratulations to Bournemouth and UCLAN for example) and significant improvements have been won for 9000 hourly paid workers.
A new subscription band has been introduced for members earning over £60,000, but the increase is only £1.50 a month. It should also be noted that the fact that there are significant numbers of members in this pay bracket is largely due to successful industrial action a few years ago. The increase in the next band (£40,000 – 59,999) is only 67p per month. Overall the increase in percentage terms is 8.2%, consistent with the Congress motion. There is no increase on the lowest band, F6 (below £5,000) and only an additional 36p per month on band F5, (£5,000 – 9,999).
There will be a letter, using the absolute values of the increases not just percentage values, sent to all members explaining why the decision to raise subscriptions was taken. It was made clear to the NEC that this communication must be located in the need to build a strong campaigning union to defend Post 16 Education from the continued assault by the Coalition government’s austerity and privatisation agenda.
NEC received a report on branch membership densities. This demonstrated that while density varies quite considerably between institutions there is almost always considerable scope to recruit in the workplaces we represent.
The key to building the union is to develop a detailed recruitment campaign in every institution that includes mapping the local membership, breaking down into HPL and permanent staff and identifying areas where the union density could be boosted.
The second prong of a successful recruitment strategy is a national campaign in defence of Post 16 Education and for decent pay and conditions as was discussed and endorsed at Congress. Unfortunately the NEC did not discuss this but the motions passed at Congress outlining a national strategy will be discussed at the next meetings of the NEC subcommittees.
Here are several useful links from the UCU national website dealing with recruitment strategies:
Build the Union – volunteer branches sought:
The NEC is seeking branches to volunteer for a pilot study involving the use of special membership offers, including consideration of the possibility of offering periods of free membership. If you’d like your branch to be considered for this, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org
Proposed standing order changes to branches and regions
A half day meeting (in practice two and a half hours) proved to be much too short for an NEC meeting. However, this had one unexpected outcome in that proposed modifications to model rules for branches and standing orders for English regions dropped off the agenda due to the receipt of a large number of amendments and not enough time to discuss them.
Although these proposals were presented as measures to increase participation in UCU, in practice they would reduce it. For instance, proposed changes to the branch rules included an increase in the quorum, no longer allowing motions for the equality conferences and special interest employment groups to be decided by members in those groups and not allowing branches to ballot for industrial action unless an e-ballot had taken place previously. Probably few members dispute that high attendance at branch meetings is desirable. However, the way to achieve this is not simply to increase the quorum. Branches would be forced into making decisions by email, a much less involving and less democratic process.
Copies of the proposed changes can be obtained from NEC members. Branches and regions may want to express any concerns they have to HQ and also suggest that changes in these rules and standing orders should be debated and decided by Congress not the NEC. At the moment any temporary factional majority on the NEC can seek to change the standing orders that determine the democratic processes of all our branches and regions. This is surely an unsatisfactory anomaly.
NEC standing orders
A number of changes to the NEC standing orders were approved by majority. They required a two-thirds majority and approval was only achieved by one vote. A significant minority of NEC members, including UCU Left supporters, felt that the cuts to meetings of the NEC and sub-committees, especially the Equality structures, included a number of unnecessary and damaging measures and so voted against the proposed changes.
Although some of these changes were desirable and removed redundant committees and replaced the Chair’s casting (double) vote by maintaining the status quo in the case of a tied vote, others were problematical. For instance, the ability of trustees to carry out oversight functions was reduced by requiring them to obtain permission to attend certain meetings. Also the membership of the Equality Committee was reduced.
Progress of Congress motions
As is customary at the first NEC meeting after Congress a document was presented, assigning all the motions passed or remitted at Congress to different committees of the NEC to be worked on. These committees should now work to implement these motions.
Unfortunately, the NEC and its committees are not currently required to report back to Congress on the implementation of motions. Branches, regions and devolved nations may want to ask through local NEC members what action is being taken on the motions they proposed. With some changes to add other committees to work on some motions, the document was passed.
Calendar of meetings
The (reduced) calendar of NEC and sub-committee meetings was agreed, though concerns were expressed about the Equality conferences all taking place on the same day, and the proposal for half-day teleconferences of the equality standing committees in April was remitted to the Strategy and Finance Committee.
Demonstration at Tory Party conference
Unfortunately an emergency motion to support the call by UNITE/GMB/UNISON to demonstrate outside the Tory Party conference on 29 September in defence of the NHS and help regions subsidise the cost of coaches, as well for branches/LAs to participate in lunchtime protests and other activities in support of a day of action on 5 November called by the People’s Assembly was not taken due to lack of time. However, branches, regions and devolved nations may want to pass motions and encourage members to attend the demonstration and participate in the day of action.