ROCC met on Friday 10th October for the first time after Congress. This meant that the main focus of the meeting was to determine how best to implement the various Congress motions that come under the remit of the committee. This will clearly involve working closely with the various other committees of the union, in particular the Education Committee. Both of these come under the auspices of a single official and can be loosely seen as the policy (Education) and implementation (ROCC) wings of a single department. However, they will still operate as separate committees. It is therefore important that UCU Left members on both of these bodies communicate with each other in order to launch initiatives and formulate strategy.
Members are encouraged to view the text of all the motions passed at Congress at http://www.ucu.org.uk/congress2014
The key to much of the work we will do over this year lies in motion 9 which reads:
Congress notes the continuing work undertaken by ROCC in supporting local and national disputes; developing a broad campaign to increase funding for post-16 education; increasing member participation; and highlighting recruitment. Congress recognises this is its last meeting before the 2015 Westminster General Election and calls upon ROCC to prioritise work with the Education Committee and devolved nations to raise the profile of post-16 education as a political issue across the UK.
In other words, there are three main strands
Disputes including local disputes of national significance
Increasing participation and recruitment
Increasing the political profile of post-16 education
- There are several other Congress motions pertaining to these broad areas.
- In addition, there is significant Congress policy on anti-casualisation and opposition to zero-hours contracts.
- A programme of work has been produced which covers all of these areas. To go through these in the order they were presented:
We will establish a permanent parliamentary presence to promote the union’s policies. This will also include working with Tories and Lib Dems where appropriate. Naturally, we will not be approaching UKIP! We will also be encouraging branches to work with local MPs and develop links where possible.
The ‘knowledge economy’ campaign continues in concert with the Education Committee. This will include ‘Cradle to Grave’ type conferences organised at a national and local level, making use of the academic expertise within the union and external speakers.
On UKIP specifically, UCU and Class have jointly produced an excellent pamphlet extolling the benefits of immigration. A PDF version to download can be found here: http://classonline.org.uk/pubs/item/why-immigration-is-good-for-all-of-us
There is policy to support local disputes of national significance and, of course, national campaigns. The FE pay dispute, USS and Lambeth spring to mind. The following document has been produced to help increase member turnout:http://www.ucu.org.uk/media/pdf/i/q/GTVO_booklet.pdf
The union’s strategy around recruitment is focused on institutions with the potential of having over 1000 members. This is obviously very HE biased but we were assured that plans were in place for FE development as well. The discussion that followed was around trying to recruit members who would also be active within the union. The union’s blog sitehttp://btu.web.ucu.org.uk/ is a step in this direction.
Related to this, the new website is due to go live in Spring 2015.
A discussion then took place about a pilot conducted in which 4 branches were selected around the country to offer free membership for a year to new members. The results of this pilot were entirely inconclusive. All branches showed an increase in members but it is impossible to say whether this is a result of the free membership offer or general increased activity around recruitment because the branch was involved in a pilot! UCU Left members generally took the view that we would be better being a campaigning union doing good things for members rather than involve ourselves in a race to the bottom on price. This is particularly true in those branches where we are in a turf war with the AtL. This view gained some agreement outside of UCU Left members of the committee. It was agreed in the end that the officers would come back with some ‘middle ground’ proposals for discussion at the next meeting.
Some excellent work has already been done, especially by the Anti-Casualisation committee, on implementing a range of Congress motions around this issue. This report cannot hope to summarise everything but some headlines are as follows:
There will be an anti casualisation day of action which will include a letter writing campaign to engage MPs with the issue, support for a private members bill, increasing the profile of the campaign amongst members of UCU and the public, sending a briefing letter to members and the production of a bargaining pack for use in branches.
Several other motions were passed at Congress not covered above. In particular the defence of the right to protest and opposition to the use of water cannons is covered under ongoing work and will doubtless come up at future meetings as we respond to events.
Also, the politics around the commemorations of the Miners’ Strike and the First World War were discussed. Information about campaigns and events were circulated to members at the time.
UCU Left members are in a significant minority on this committee. However, we were able to shape many of the discussions around a more overtly political approach to implementing Congress motions. In particular, we have been and will continue to be strong proponents of active rather than passive branch membership and national and local events which seek to explain to members and the public the political dimension of our campaigns. We do not do all of these things merely to improve the terms and conditions of our members (although this is important) but to raise awareness of the importance of post-16 education and the role it plays within our society.