At the beginning of the meeting, a minute’s silence was observed for the victims of the Grenfell fire and the Finsbury Park Mosque attack. The GS asked the NEC if they would agree to send a message of condolence and support to the family and the Muslim Community at Finsbury Park Mosque where the terrorist attack took place. This was agreed.
General Secretary’s (GS) Report
The GS put forward an analysis of the general election and post election political situation which was discussed by NEC members. The GS highlighted two campaigning initiatives that the union would be actively promoting. The first was the People’s Assembly demonstration on 1st July. The second was a joint lobby of Parliament with all the main public sector unions and the TUC over public sector pay and demanding the government lift the pay cap.
As part of that discussion two motions were put forward: one on Opposing the DUP deal, proposed by Rhiannon Lockley, which was voted through with just two abstentions.
The second motion, Response to the Election, was proposed by Mandy Brown. Three of the four resolves of this motion were agreed unanimously with no abstentions. However the fourth resolve, which called for ‘an emergency delegate conference to discuss how UCU should respond to the new political situation‘, was considered contentious and it was asked that this resolve be taken separately.
Supporters of this motion and resolve argued that Corbyn’s Labour party has transformed the political landscape. This is evidenced not only by the Labour surge in votes and the taking of key Tory seats in the election, but also by the impact that Corbyn is having on current issues such as the decision to house the Grenfell families in an empty apartment building in the borough of Kensington and Chelsea.
Furthermore, the Tories are so weakened by the election result that some of their key manifesto policies (more grammar schools, scrapping free school meals, fox hunting, dementia tax) were thrown out in Theresa May’s Queen’s Speech. And in this context we now have a great opportunity to push for those Labour party education policies which match UCU’s to be debated and made policy in a parliament where the Tories do not have a large enough majority to pass policy and even their own MPs are calling for an end to austerity austerity and saying they will not vote for further cuts.
Everything has changed. The union needs to respond quickly to attempt to shape and reflect on this new political situation by organising a delegate conference to look at how, as educationalists, we can maximise the potential to improve education for students and stop the cuts to our courses and erosion of our conditions.
Unfortunately other NEC members put forward arguments that UCU doesn’t have allowance to call emergency conferences (despite the fact this is untrue, see UCU rules 16.11 & 16.12), that it will cost money and that we ‘need to calm down‘ and wait to see what happens. On that basis this resolve was voted down.
The second item in the GS report was on the Industrial Action Commission that the general secretary announced for the first time in her speech at Congress in May.
A motion was put forward to ensure that this surprise decision presented to delegates by the GS at congress could be democratised via representation of nations and of the Equality strands.
However at the start of the discussion, the president announced she was ruling this motion out of order on the grounds that it was amending a congress decision. This ruling was challenged on the grounds that it in no way altered the motion that was passed at congress. The challenge was voted down and the motion did not get heard. Oddly a very similar motion was allowed to be heard and was passed.
The second half of the GS report was around ‘effective bargaining‘ and member involvement and NEC was asked to make two changes to our current policy.
Although a lot of this section of the report used vague language to propose new initiatives, the debate was cut short. It meant that clarification around the use of phrases such as ‘freeing up regional officials to focus on improving bargaining capacity in branches‘, ‘develop a rolling programme…through which branches are developed as effective bargaining units….’, ‘regional official led training programme for branches‘ and the term ‘senior‘ branch activists, were not fully explained to the NEC and therefore the NEC could not explore fully the implications for the union.
The general secretary stated that the executive will be asked to “review the remits and outputs of all committees to assess if any changes are needed“. She clarified that this will not involve any restructuring of staff, which would of course need to go to Congress for decision.
The final item was the decision on two changes, one to remove the current 90-day rule for access to legal support and one to provide free membership to postgraduate and those on ‘sub-lecturer’ contracts. A question was raised about why they were not being presented to congress as rule changes. The GS replied that these changes had been specifically requested at Congress. Both decisions were supported by the majority of NEC.
TUC Congress motions
Two motions were agreed to be sent from UCU to TUC conference – one on post 16 education and one on Freedom of Movement.
Amendments to these motions can be sent in for inclusion by officers. The motion on Climate change is still, as it was last year, UCU policy and members were reminded that delegates to TUC must ensure, unlike last year, that UCU policy on this is reflected in the way our delegation votes.
All other motions from members were voted through easily including the final motion of the day on the Grenfell disaster. The proposer, Sean Vernell, and supporters of this motion paid moving tributes to those who lost their lives, the solidarity of the local community and response by firefighters. And expressed their anger at the the years of cuts and neglect which caused this to happen and the government’s feeble response to the disaster.
Oppose the DUP deal
The hugely successful campaign for free access to education and mobilisation of student voters in the recent election in which UCU played a key role.
The resulting failure of the Conservative party to form a majority government.
The subsequent move to form a confidence and supply working agreement with the DUP.
The threat this represents to the equality we champion in terms of reproductive rights, LGBT+ rights, and resisting racism.
The threat of emboldened far right activity and the damage to existing peace agreements
- To fully support the mobilisation of public protest to challenge this deal.
To support the Women’s march against the DUP deal on Saturday 24th June.
- To support the people’s assembly demonstration “Not one day more” on Saturday 1st July.
Proposed by Rhiannon Lockley
Response to the election
May’s government now relies on support from the reactionary DUP to remain in office.
Austerity has been blamed on the effects of immigration and has led to the scapegoating of refugees, as well as women and the disabled, for the underfunding of public services and low wages.
The Tories have no mandate for their policies.
Jeremy Corbyn’s campaign and Labour’s manifesto inspired 13 million votes.
NEC Resolves to:
- Work with Labour to promote the ‘national education service’ idea and help win support for the restoration of EMA and the scrapping of tuition fees through regional events in the summer term.
- Support John McDonnell’s call for a million people to march to end the Tory/DUP coalition government and call upon the TUC to support this call.
- support the PA national demo on 1st July
- Call an emergency delegate conference to discuss how UCU should respond to the new political situation.
Proposer: Mandy Brown
Grenfell Tower disaster
We send our heartfelt condolences to the families of the victims of the Grenfell Tower fire.
We offer our admiration and solidarity to the people of the local community for their magnificent response and to the fire-fighters who risked their lives to deal with the emergency.
Those that died were the victims of years of cuts and neglect while the area was gentrified.
We condemn the government’s feeble response to the disaster and call for all tenants to be fire guaranteed re-Housing in the local area.
1) To call for the resignation of ex housing minister, Gavin Barwell, and now NO10 chief of staff who ignored calls for safety reform.
2) To call on the government to release funds to local councils to urgently improve the safety of high rise flats.
3) To make a donation of £1,000 to the disaster fund and to call for a national solidarity collection day.
Proposed by Sean Vernell
Report by UCULeft NEC members