UCU Left report on HEC Meeting on 8th June: Don’t bury the #FourFights

Four-fights Square

The Higher Education Committee (HEC) re-convened for a further on-line HEC meeting on the 8th June following the inability to deal with questions relating to the Four Fights and USS disputes at its last meeting of the 27th May. Before commenting on this it is worth noting that two important decisions were taken at the Higher Education Committee (HEC) on 8th June, both of which were supported by UCU Left members. The first to support the “Take the Knee” protests called by Black Lives Matter and Stand Up To Racism on Wednesday 10th June. The motion (see below) was overwhelmingly supported 22:6 with 9 abstentions. The second motion (again see below for the motion) moved by a casualised member called for support for the vibrant campaign being waged by casualised staff and branches against redundancies in response to Covid-19. Unfortunately, neither motion was given the usual opportunity to a full debate but both were moved and voted on, this was due to the lack of time taken with the discussion which the HEC was originally convened to debate.

Four Fights & USS disputes

The reconvened HEC’s business concentrated primarily upon the unresolved question of how to defend members in the Four Fights and USS disputes. The Branch delegates’ meeting (BDM), held prior to the HEC of 27th May, rejected the settlement of the Four Fights and sought to retain the Four Fights and the USS dispute as live disputes. The one vote at the HEC of 27th May that was clear was that the HEC voted to support the position of the BDM and rejected employer (UCEA) proposals over the Four Fights as insufficient. May’s HEC therefore voted to reject a proposal to put the UCEA proposals to members. This was the view taken by UCU Left members.

The short time available for the original HEC meeting prevented discussion of the 14 motions which could then have outlined a strategy for the development of the two Four Fights and USS disputes. These included not moving to immediate ballots but retaining the disputes as on-going. This was in line with the decision of the BDM and was the specific question of the consultation within the branches prior to the BDM. Other motions to the May HEC would have called for the holding a Special Higher Education Sector Conference on the Four Fights dispute. Again something supported by the BDM meeting, but not subject to the original consultation. This could have allowed branches to determine the means by which a campaign would take place and, not least, provide a focus upon campaigning over job cuts to casusalised staff, which is at the heart of employers’ response to the current covid-19 crisis.

Unfortunately, the reconvened HEC did not discuss these outstanding motions but instead took up almost all its time examining the process of voting on proposals already rejected by the last HEC. The Chair clarified after one hour’s discussion that the vote would be on adopting the principles as outlined by the BDM, rather than on the implementation.  The HEC’s decision should not be misinterpreted as seeking to stop the Four Fights campaign, despite the fact that all the outstanding motions from the May HEC were remitted again, this time to the HEC in July. While there is little open support for the UCEA proposals, either at the HEC or the BDM, the consultation with members must come with a strong recommendation for rejection. If the implementation is decided outside HEC it will be an attempt to undermine the Four Fights dispute and abandon the fight over equality and causalisation. It is important to recognise that members do not vote for action at the drop of a hat. Without a concerted campaign from the union that convinces members both that we can fight and that the union is willing to back a fight members know they are being treated cynically, like a stage army; being led up the hill only to be led back down again. It is this that is leading the majority of the new HEC to overturn the previous HEC decision and now put the UCEA offer out to consultation. This is a model adopted by the last General Secretary.

The HEC voted by majority 22 to 17 to refuse to separate off the question of rejection of the offer from that of consulting members and so overturned the HEC decision of 27th May. UCU Left members voted to separate the two questions. Branches and members now need to campaign to keep the Four Fights alive. UCU must not cut the feet from under our casualised colleagues, nor ditch the campaign over equality or accept the inevitable increase in workloads now facing all staff. The Four Fights dispute arose out of the campaign by activists to force the union to ensure UCU took the questions of inequality and discrimination facing so many of our more vulnerable colleagues at the heart of our union’s work. Those members on more secure contracts recognised that without a campaign to raise the terms and conditions for the least well paid the terms of conditions for all will be lowered.

Emergency motion, Solidarity with George Floyd

HEC sends solidarity to George Floyd’s family and condemns the systematic racism that caused his death. We stand with all protesting against police brutality.

HEC believes that the UK has many BAME deaths in custody, and disproportionate BAME people in prisons. BAME are more likely to die from force or restraint and of Covid 19.

HEC demands all Principals and VCs to commit to ending institutional racist practices in the post 16 education sector.

1.  Decolonise the Curriculum

2.  End the BAME attainment gap.

3. End the race pay gap.

4. Support the protests of Black Lives Matter movements and SUTR.

5. Calls on all to join taking the knee on Wednesday 10 June at 6.00pm #TakeTheKnee

6 Supports the call to take by Dianne Abbott and Stand up to Racism for an independent inquiry into disproportionate BAME deaths in the Covid crisis in the UK.

Emergency motion, HE Casualisation crisis

HEC notes:

The consequences of the HE casualisation crisis are becoming clearer. The lack of UCU coordination on this has led to several brave campaigns being mounted by the most vulnerable precarious workers (many BAME) in defence of livelihoods, their students, and the future of the institutions.

HEC resolves:

  1. To engage in widespread media campaign to publicise grassroots anticasualisation efforts, including (but not limited to) Precarious@Gold, @EssexGTAs, @KingsGTAs, @CleanersFor, and @CoronaContract.
  2. To encourage members and branches to donate to solidarity funds for such campaigns.
  3. To expand UCU’s anti-casualisation work to support and dovetail with the work of said grassroots organisations, with the involvement of the anticasualisation committee. Said work will include both UK-wide campaigning, and concrete regional support for local branch work, via organisational and collective casework support.
  • ‘UCU to equip all members with know your rights training aiding the pushback against covering for casualised staff
  • UCU recruit and support a member, or group of members in a precedent setting case on resisting job loss due to Covid
  • to consult more closely with ACC and coronacontract
  • Jo Grady will speak directly with casualised organisers from corona contracts
  • to publicise any good practice on retaining of casualised staff’
  1. Arrange mass online meeting to organise opposition to casualization in HE, before the end of June 2020.
  • ‘Negotiate with UCEA on guarantee of at least two years job security for
  • casualised staff.
  • Develop a section of website on supporting Corona job retention
  • Name and shame institutions that engage in bad practice, by
  • media and articles by sympathetic journalists
  • Defend staff in the workplace who refuse to take on previously employed casualised colleagues’ work.
  • Consult with ACC about ALL actions concerned with casualisation’
  1. Urgently to mount a campaign to call on securely employed staff to defend casualised staff whose contracts have not been renewed or whose hours have been cut by refusing to take on new or additional work produced by redundancies, non-renewal and a reduction of their hours. This shall be accompanied by a strong and regular communications strategy with direct input from the Anti-casualisation committee.
  2. To reinstate the annual anticasualisation training and organising conference established by Congress 2013 composite motion 9, beginning in summer 2020 with an adapted online programme for the coronavirus context. It will be organised with direct guidance and input from the Anticasualisation Committee to ensure development of targeted, reproducible, confidence-building training to empower and recruit anticasualisation reps, officers and activists vital to the fight for jobs, safe working environments, and secure work.


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