Further and Adult Education are facing grave threats to jobs and courses due to cuts in funding streams, especially the 24% cut to Adult non-apprenticeship funding announced recently. Already we are getting reports of threatened job cuts and course closures. The union nationally and London region have responded quickly with a petition which has now reached 33,000 signatures, and well-supported lobbying of MPs and some national publicity for a change. A national demonstration will take place this coming Saturday, 25th April, in London which we should all try to get to.
It is therefore no surprise that on Saturday delegates attending the special FESC were extremely disappointed and angered that the attendance did not reach the quorum, by two, and therefore did not go ahead.
The conference had been called by the Further Education Committee so that we could discuss pursuing a campaign for this year’s pay claim at the earliest possible opportunity and how local and national campaigning could be initiated before the first pay negotiations with the AoC which are due on the 11th May.
Members will be asking why the conference was not quorate. It was clear that this was due to an Independent Broad Left boycott, presumably because they disagree with the union organising a national campaign over pay. Out of the 12 IBL supporters on the FEC, 9 did not attend, including one of the vice-chairs of the FEC. None of the branches where supporters of the IBL are branch officers sent delegates. This is pretty disgraceful and undemocratic behaviour for trade unionists, potentially wasting the time and energy of delegates and the staff who attended.
Some IBL supporters may argue that the conference clashed with one of the regional AGMs. This is true, but where the same problem of a clash existed in Yorkshire and Humberside region, the regional executive, in recognition of the current crisis in Further and Adult Education, decided to re-schedule their AGM.
This is the first time, in my recollection, that this has happened and signals a very worrying turn by some in our union. Rather than openly debating and discussing the issues within the structures of the union, they have decided to undermine these democratic processes. At a time when the sector faces a fight for its survival it is unbelievable that some in the union prefer to behave in this damaging, sectarian way and/or continue to bury their heads in the sand, hoping that more case-work will somehow make the avalanche of job losses go away. It won’t.
On behalf of all the delegates who did turn up on Saturday I call upon the IBL and their supporters to stop this sectarian and damaging behaviour and work together on behalf of all union members in campaigning for the future of Further and Adult Education. We all need to remember who the main enemy is – and it is not others in the UCU.
We will all be judged by what we did to try and stop the thousands of jobs and the tens of thousands of student places that will go, if the 24% cut in the Adult Education budget is not defeated.
Delegates to the conference, despite the meeting not being quorate, stayed to hear and discuss the motions and indicatively voted on them. Motions to call for a national ballot on our ‘£1 extra per hour for all’ claim, if the employers refuse to meet our demands, and to make the fight for jobs a central issue, were passed overwhelmingly.
The inquorate conference also outlined a strategy to fight to make F/A Education funding a priority for whoever wins the election in two weeks’ time.
The strategy includes:
• Emailing your principal asking them for a guarantee that there will be no compulsory redundancies. If they refuse to do so, call a branch meeting this week to ask members for their support to initiate a dispute with the college and to ballot for industrial action. Inform your regional official of your branch’s decision so that they can notify your employer and therefore start to coordinate the fight to save jobs regionally and nationally.
• Building the London Region-called National Demonstration on Saturday 25th April.
• Building a lively and mass ‘Save Lifelong Learning’ contingent in the Peoples Assembly demonstration on the 20th June.
• Supporting the London Region-called ‘Saving Adult Education Conference’ in the autumn term.
• Calling for a national demonstration in defence of Post-16 Education in the autumn and approaching the NUS and other education unions to support.
We hope that everyone in the union will get behind this campaign. Look forward to seeing you all with your branch banners on the demonstration this Saturday and again on 20th June.
UCU FEC Vice Chair.