Defend Education, Jobs and Pensions.
I have worked at the University of Brighton for 12 years, firstly as an HPL and then in a permanent post. Currently I am a Principal Lecturer in Linguistics and Philosophy of Language.
In my UCU branch, I have been an Equal Opps Officer and Membership Secretary, and Secretary of the UCU Coordinating Committee. I am a delegate to the Southern and Eastern Regional Trade Union Council (SERTUC).
My experience as an hourly paid lecturer was similar to many on casual contracts which did not protect against disproportionate workloads, imbalance of teaching and research hours, lack of pensions’ contributions, pressure to teach more for less, all of which we must continue to resist and negotiate greater contractual protection for every single member in our branches where that protection still does not exist.
We face unprecedented attacks on university education. Employers are turning Universities into market-led, privatised companies whose ethos is that of profit and competition.
Their strategy is to cut courses and provision which do not fit into the government’s market priorities – the main aim of the Higher Education White paper, which says nothing about improving teaching experience and empowering generations of students to come. This will jeopardise the existence of some HE institutions.
Our pensions and jobs are under threat. The changes the government wants to introduce to pensions are not necessary; pension schemes are not facing financial burden – the changes are about shifting this burden to public sector staff.
This government’s strategy is closely linked to the strategy for the privatisation of higher education: both are aimed at cutting public provision, both open up opportunities for for-profit companies and the financial sector and both work towards changing the tradition of social responsibility to individualism and commercialisation of education sector and pensions’ provision.
Our students are also under attack: higher tuition fees will prevent many from staying on in education, and those who do will be faced with a lifetime of debt.
Staff are under continuous and increased pressure. In many institutions intensified workloads and contact hours mean less time for research, increased stress levels and pressure on staff to sell courses, shifting the emphasis therefore from teaching and research to marketing.
The UCU must therefore fight to defend every single job, and defend education, pensions, pay and conditions.
That is why those we elect as reps should be accountable to every member in our branches. We need democratic and member-led local branches to ensure the implementation of Congress decisions by elected officers of the NEC.
We must link our fight to defend pensions and pay with a fight to defend education and make common cause with our students against escalating student debt. The UCU must play a pivotal role in the campaign against the White Paper.
We must fight for free education and an education system open to all. Central to that is our vigorous defence of academic freedom, under threat like never before.
That means we need nationally supported campaigns to resist job losses, cuts to courses and increased workloads. We need to campaign for fair working conditions for all staff, including hourly paid.
I am a convenor of the Defend The Right To Protest Campaign, to which UCU affiliated at Congress 2011; also a member of Unite Against Fascism and the UCU Left.
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