UCU Left statement 
No Racism in UCU – solidarity with BMSC and UCU Staff

UCU Left members elected to the NEC stand in full solidarity with Unite UCU members representing those who work for the union, with the elected Black Members Standing Committee (BMSC), and with Black UCU members, in the labour to make visible & challenge institutional racism within UCU. Read the BMSC Statement on racism here.

We support the call from NEC members (see below) for an independent investigation into issues of racism in the union, as well as an emergency NEC to address this along with the motion brought to the last NEC by UCU left members (but timed out after moves from GS supporters to keep it off the agenda) calling for the autonomy of our self-organised equality committees to be formalised by NEC in line with existing custom and practice.

In addition, we demand that UCU addresses specifically the BMSC–raised issue of internal censorship around the issue of Palestine. As trade union activists and internationalists, we have a duty to stand with oppressed people worldwide, including sibling education workers. We reject a bureaucratic move to protect organisational reputation through shutting down the voices of our self-elected Black representatives and demand that their position statement is shared through UCU communications. Our self-organised Black members are not a vulnerability to be hidden, but a voice of truth to power: their labour and voice must be acknowledged in the union.

In an increasingly authoritarian society, UCU must honour its strength as a democratic organisation built on collectively decided policy.

In producing a statement on the unfolding events in Palestine, the BMSC were committing their labour to amplifying our collective UCU policy, bringing their specific framing of lived experience as marginalised Black education workers. Any pushback received by UCU in relation to democratic policy must be a collective matter for our democratic structures, and not subject to reactive and defensive position retreats from the GS acting in isolation from democracy.

We demand that UCU rejuvenates grassroots self-led equality organising through committing appropriate resources to national, regional and branch equality organising, and through honouring the democratic positions arising through our self-organised groups.

We call on UCU collectively to redouble our work in visibly mobilising membership on our streets, and in our campuses as part of the movement in solidarity with the Palestinian people. We must not allow marginalised members and students to be made vulnerable through any failure of the labour movement to fully stand in solidarity.

Solidarity with BMSC and Unite UCU: Call an Emergency NEC

We, the undersigned members of NEC, are deeply dismayed to learn of the experiences described in the statement circulated to the NEC by members of Black Members Standing Committee (BMSC) on 15 February 2024. This statement compounds our grave concerns about reports of structural racism and discrimination in UCU from staff via public facing statements made by their recognised union, Unite UCU, and reports published in the Times Higher Education on 12 February 2024.

We express our solidarity with the BMSC and Unite UCU, noting the immense courage it takes to speak out about racism, discrimination and marginalisation. We believe the situations described must be treated with the utmost seriousness. We note that the BMSC statement outlines why they feel their only option is to boycott further engagement with UCU until these issues are meaningfully resolved. 

A central tenet of the BMSC’s statement, “that the actual paradigm of progressive anti-racist trade-unionism – which acknowledges that institutional power is not immune from dominant ideas about gender, sexuality, race and disability – is not understood” makes clear that UCU has a deep-seated problem and we must address it as a matter of urgency. We call for a full, independent review of the concerns raised by Unite UCU regarding structural racism in the workplace, and of the concerns similarly raised by the BMSC. This independent review should be commissioned with full transparency and the agreement of Unite UCU and the BMSC.

We note that as NEC members we are bound by a code of conduct that outlines the separation between the elected lay leadership of UCU and the daily operations of UCU staff, and which stipulates that our concerns must be addressed to the General Secretary as the person with responsibility for implementation of UCU policy and the day to day running of UCU. We feel that the public General Secretary statement on anti-racism published yesterday (15 February), shortly after the BMSC statement was circulated to NEC, does not sufficiently address the issues raised.

We call for the BMSC to receive a full explanation of what has led to this deleterious breakdown in relations, and for their many questions to be addressed, including what grievances Black staff in UCU have raised, and what the General Secretary and UCU management have undertaken to redress these matters.  We further call for an explanation to be provided to the NEC, including why this situation was not brought to our attention earlier, and what the General Secretary proposes to do to resolve these issues and repair the relationships with Black staff and the BMSC.
We therefore call for an emergency meeting of NEC to be convened at the earliest opportunity before the next scheduled meeting on 15 March. The urgent and timely business which needs to be addressed by this special NEC is as follows:

  • Concerns about structural racism in UCU raised by the recognised staff union Unite and the UCU Black Members Standing Committee
  • Motion 7 (the text of which is below) ordered onto the agenda of the 24 November 2023 NEC meeting which was not moved or debated owing to time.

Vicky Blake • Grant Buttars • Laura Loyola-Hernández • Rhian Elinor Keyse • Kyran Joughin • Agnes Flues • Lucy Burke • Aris Katzourakis • Rhiannon Lockley • Deepa Govindarajan Driver • Dharminder Singh Chuhan • John James • Richard McEwan • Peta Bulmer • Peter Evans • Sean Wallis • Regi Pilling • Elaine White • Julie Hearn • Carlo Morelli • Matt Perry • Richard Wild • Sean Vernell • Vida Greaux • Linda Moore • Mark Abel • Juliana Ojinnaka • Naina Kent • Doug Webley • Marion Hersh • Nina Doran

Motion 7 Autonomy of UCU equality standing committees (ESCs) – as submitted to the 24 November 2023 NEC meeting

NEC notes Black Members Standing Committee recently composed a statement in response to the Gaza situation: it was composed jointly within the committee, who sought expert advice from a barrister and experts in the field and was supported by the majority of the committee. The statement referenced existing UCU policy.
We believe UCU ESCs must be empowered to connect with constituent groups and the wider membership.

We agree with the General Secretary who stated in her [2019 p8] manifesto she believes in the:
· empowerment of national committees to represent and communicate directly with casualised members and other specific constituencies that are currently marginalised.

We resolve any statements produced by UCU’s ESCs shall be posted on the UCU website appropriately and disseminated through the usual channels. The only exception to this may be if there is not majority support on the relevant committee or the statement goes against UCU rules, policies or procedures.

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