Report: NEC meeting, 20 November 2016
The union executive met just after the events of Paris (& Beirut, Russian plane in Sinai, Turkey, Mali). The national executive passed a motion of solidarity with Paris condemning the killings, and to oppose the racist backlash and call for war.
The meeting came just a week before the government spending review.
The General Secretary reported on many issues:
The Trade Union Reform Bill is to be law by the end of February if it is not stopped before. The largest ever lobby of parliament, 800 strong led to some parts of the bill involving the new rules on picketing being dropped but the bulk of the bill survived its third reading in the commons. It was reported that during the FE strike day some employers have gained enough confidence to try and challenge members’ actions on the picket line. The raised thresholds for ballots is one of the main concerns for FE members and we have a major task to educate them of the impact of the bill.
A motion noting the success of the ‘lightning strike’ action held at SOAS and supported by UCU members in defence of the victimised unison rep Sandy Nicoll was then put to the meeting. The motion stated the belief that unions must take action to defeat the bill and that UCU must promote the TUC’s call for a general strike. The motion was passed with an amendment to re-join the Trade Union Coordinating Group (TUCG) with a view to gaining as may allies as possible in this fight.
We also congratulated the junior doctors on their excellent ballot result and expressed solidarity for their forthcoming strike action (due to begin 1st of Dec).
The exec congratulated the walk out by the CWU in Bridgewater in defence of a disabled colleague.
The FE pay strike 10 November was well supported across the country and saw thousands of members in FE taking action on pay and in the defence of the sector. John McDonnell addressed the London Rally. The shadow chancellor gave assurances that UCU would be fully consulted in the development of Labour policy affecting further education. A packed West Midlands’ rally included UCU President Liz Lawrence and solidarity greetings from a BMA representative involved in the junior doctors’ dispute. Much of the discussion centred on the Area Reviews taking place in Birmingham. There was excellent media coverage of the action in Liverpool.
The FE Area Reviews will mean the shape of FE will be radically different if the Government’s plans are not opposed. The plans are in place for a massive reduction in the number of FE colleges across the country in a huge programme of rationalisation, which will mean the large-scale loss of members’ jobs and student places. Assurances were made to the GS that UCU would be consulted throughout the process but this has not happened. A number of members talked about the impact of the area reviews. In London colleges were trying to pre-empt the reviews by looking to merge and branches were working together to build a campaign to oppose these mergers. In Birmingham, one of the regions currently under review activists are meeting to build a strategy to resist the proposal of a huge ‘super college’ spanning across the whole city.
***The next steps for how we campaign of pay and area reviews will be developed at a special meeting of the FEC on 11 December.
It was reported, from the floor, that prisoners are now subject to fees/loans for courses they take whilst in prison.
· HE Green Paper
The HE Green Paper outlines plans to radically transform HE along neoliberal lines. Included in these wide-ranging proposals are: reforms to QA; more metrics with the introduction of a Teaching Excellence Framework (TEF) to ‘incentivise’ quality; opening up the sector to private providers to stimulate ‘competition’ and ‘choice’; removal of the cap on student fees.
UCU Left members called for a special HEC to discuss the union’s response to the 105 page Green Paper. Unfortunately this was not agreed.
The initial response from UCU is here:.
Staff at HQ will draft a response before Xmas and seek comments from branches and members by 7 January in order to submit for the Government consultation deadline of 15 January.
Activists will need to hold meetings and engage with this process. Branches should pass motions calling for a national lobby of parliament and a national demonstration alongside NUS on the day of the next parliamentary reading of the bill.
· Comprehensive Spending Review
This will be announced on 25 November and further extensive cuts to post-16 education will be proposed.
· The Open University proposed closures and ballot for action
The OU management plans to close seven of its nine regional centres with up to 500 job losses and degradation of the support it offers its students. The OU UCU branch has won a fantastic 72% for strike action and 82.7% for action short of a strike in its ballot with a 51.5% turnout.
NEC agreed to call on local FE and HE branches to support the OU strikes with motions of solidarity and delegations to picket lines.
The Day of Action on Racism in the Workplace
The union has organised a day of action on workplace racism on 10 February 2016.
A menu of suggestions of activities will be available for the day. The chair of the Black Members’ Standing Committee reported that work is underway and black members at the annual conference, held in the previous week welcomed the focus that the day of action provided to the work that was done.
Local activities may include showings of the BMSC commissioned film, meetings with speakers, campaign stalls linked to recruitment.
· No backlash against refugees, migrants and Muslims
· No to war
· Refuges are welcome here, open the borders.
· Political and negotiated solutions to war and conflict.
The 11-15 Nov UCU Equality conference was a success. The BMSC has been doing a great job in building BME networks.
· National Recruitment Strategy http://btu.web.ucu.org.uk/
The campaigns team reported strong activity during the first national recruitment week with lots of success stories. Falling membership was attributed to a number of factors including FE job losses.
The next two national recruitment weeks commence on 22 Feb and 25 April. Training of reps is part of this strategy.
· Anti casualisation
Reports from the anti-casualisation day of action were shared. See reports on this link:
A motion proposing self-registration for the Anti-Casualistion Conference was passed which will help improve the attendance at this vital event in the UCU’s calendar.
· Other reports and motions
Motions were passed on: solidarity with London Met facing closure of all sites except one (a dispute of national significance); supporting anti-climate change activities; anti-trident; refugees welcome here; transnational education issues. A Report from Education International World Congress was received.
There was an acknowledgement from the meeting that UCU had responded to the motion passed at Congress calling for a boycott of the Prevent Duty and that the guidance for branches is useful and produced in a timely fashion. There was a call for a strengthening of the campaign and further advice on the non-cooperation with the duty.
The Campaigns team reported that a joint statement with the other teaching unions was being prepared.
The chair of ROCC requested that materials being used in branches should be submitted to head office.