UCU – A union transformed

 

A UK-wide activists’ assembly and organising school#UCUTransformed

Saturday 28 April, 10.30-5pm

Statement from final session

The 14 days of strike action against the attack on USS and the thousands of new members who have joined UCU show the massive potential for action to transform our union. The same process of transformation seen in USS HE branches is under way in FE, which have had a wave of strikes over pay and conditions, and in post 92 universities, illustrated by the recent disputes at Brighton University and LMU. However, we are deeply concerned about the opaque and undemocratic behaviour of the UCU leadership.

The imagination and enthusiasm shown by UCU members has been inspiring. We have seen expansion and participation at branch level. But this process has been uneven. We face an urgent task to maintain our numbers and develop the democratic control of our union, and our disputes, by our members.

We need to use the energy of recent disputes to continue the fight on pensions, but also to open up new fronts on equal pay, and put equality, disability, discrimination and casualisation – in its different forms – at the heart of the union.

The USS dispute has shown that a new generation of activists, including student activists, can be won to our union. It is vital we maintain the momentum and ensure it truly represents our members. The union must support members in developing alternative proposals to set against destructive management agendas of cuts, redundancies and punitive performance management.

We need to develop a genuine network of solidarity amongst branches. No UCU branch should fight alone. We support the establishment of a UCU solidarity network, and agree to meet again as a national group in the autumn term.

Resources

Event details
union-transformed-flyer

The USS ballot is over, but the dispute isn’t. We need to recognise the solidarities our dispute created and cemented, rise to the challenge of building on these solidarities, fighting for collective interests, and build the alternative university many of us got a chance to experience or envisage during the dispute. Come join us and be part of that conversation. – Jo Grady, University of Sheffield

Hosted by London Region UCU. Supported by UCU branches at Liverpool University, Dundee University, Goldsmiths College, Newcastle University, King’s College London, University College London, University of Brighton, Sandwell College, City and Islington College and Lambeth College… and more.

 

Timetable

10.30am-11.00am Registration
11.00am-12.15pm Workshops
i) Moving into Action: Campaigning to GTVO and organising strikes
Jim Wolfreys (King’s), Westminster Kingsway speaker
ii) #NoCapitulation: Using social media
Jana Bacevic (Cambridge), Rhiannon Lockley (Halesowen)
iii) Democratising the union: putting members at the centre of change
Jo Grady (Sheffield), Carlo Morelli (Dundee)
iv) Reclaiming our Colleges: Students and workers organising together
Sean Wallis (UCL), Feyzi Ismail (SOAS)
12.30pm-2.00pm HE open session: The USS pension dispute – reclaiming our Universities – (fighting to win) * Activist Guide * Ten points
Marion Hersh (Glasgow), Dennis Leech (Warwick), Sam Marsh (Sheffield), Carlo Morelli (Dundee)
FE open session: Pay and conditions in FE: Coordinating to win
Nita Sanghera (Bournville), Sean Vernell (City & Islington)
2.00pm-2.30pm Lunch
2.30pm-3.45pm Workshops
i) Building solidarity across the labour and trade union movement
Hull, Bradford and Liverpool speakers
ii) Equality Through and Through: Integrating equality demands in our industrial campaigns
Manali Desai (Cambridge), Dave Muritu (Sandwell)
iii) At the Heart of the Union: casualised workers in industrial action
Amy Jowett (Hackney ACE), Sai Englert (SOAS)
iv) An Injury to One… Defending international workers and students (fighting racism on campus)
Ioanna Ioannou (UCL)
3:45pm-5.00pm Closing session: Organising to win – building a democratic, campaigning union
Mandy Brown (Lambeth), Nita Sanghera (Bournville) and others tbc

UCU – A union transformed
– building a fighting union

A UK-wide activists’ assembly and organising school with practical sessions and discussion

The strike action taken by UCU members in HE in defence of USS pensions has been inspirational. Some 40,000 lecturers, academic related staff, researchers and support staff have struck across 64 institutions. In the first week of the strike 3,200 people joined UCU. Many of these new members are BAME, women and young members starting out their careers.

In FE 15 colleges are involved in a campaign of escalating strike action in defence of their pay and conditions. There are another 146 branches that have submitted 168 claims to their employers that could form a second wave of action. This is 50% of all FE bargaining units across the UK. The claims range from, pay, casualisation, equal pay and workloads.

UCU is in transformation.

This UCU UK–wide activist assembly, hosted by London Region UCU, invites all branches that want to be a part of developing a new campaigning UCU to come to the school. Each session will be led off by UCU members who have been on the front-line of this transformation; building the strike votes and picket lines, developing imaginative social media campaigns and creative campaigning strategies. Each workshop will be looking at ways that women, BAME, LGBT+ and disabled members can ensure that their concerns are central in shaping the union.

Equality issues have to be at the heart of a fighting UCU.

If you are in a branch that is about to enter into a dispute or in a branch that hasn’t yet been energised by the recent campaigning activity around USS and FE pay come along and be a part of the event.

**There will be a collection for a hardship fund on the day to help towards the cost of the fare for those who have travelled from outside London to get the meeting**

It is very likely that we have not seen the end of industrial action in this dispute over the future of the USS. While we must ensure that the terms of reference and appointments to the Joint Expert Panel are agreed transparently and without mission-creep, it is also precisely the right time to discuss the democratic structures of UCU to ensure that we are in the strongest possible position to robustly defend our pension in six months’ time, should we need to do so. – Sam Marsh, University of Sheffield.
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NEC member contact info

Continuing members

Mandy Brown (Lambeth College) – FE UK-elected : mandybrowncow@yahoo.com

Christina Paine (London Metropolitan University) –  HE Casually employed members : christinaucu1@gmail.com

Rhiannon Lockley (Halesowen College) – FE Midlands : rhiannonlockley@hotmail.co.uk

Marion Hersh (Glasgow University) – HE UK-elected and USS Negotiator : marion.hersh@glasgow.ac.uk

Julie Hearn (Lancaster University) – HE UK-elected : j.hearn@lancaster.ac.uk

Sean Wallis (University College London) – HE London and East : s.wallis@ucl.ac.uk

Sue Abbot (Newcastle University) – HE Women : suebbtt15@googlemail.com

Sean Vernell (City and Islington College) – FE London and East : sean.vernell@yahoo.co.uk

Chris Jones (Neath Port Talbot Group) – FE Wales : chris.jones@nptcgroup.ac.uk

Margot Hill (Croydon College) – FE UK-elected : margothill@uk2.net

UNTIL Congress 1 June 2018

Rachel Cohen (City University) – HE London and East : rachellaracohen@gmail.com

Nita Sanghera (Bournville College) – FE Black Members : npande.sanghera327@googlemail.com

Lesley McGorrigan (Leeds University) – HE UK-elected : mclesley2@yahoo.co.uk

AFTER Congress 1 June 2018

Nita Sanghera (Bournville College) – Vice President : npande.sanghera327@googlemail.com

Mark Abel (Brighton University) – HE Post-92 UK-elected : markabel24@gmail.com

Pura Ariza (Manchester Metropolitan University) – HE Women  : p.ariza@mmu.ac.uk

Steve Lui (University of Huddersfield)  – HE North East : steve.lui712@gmail.com

FE College strike dates

(If you are a college taking strike action, please email the dates to Mandy Brown UCU London Regional Secretary at mandybrowncow@yahoo.com so we can add to this list)

Wednesday 9 May

 Hull College Group

rgoodfellow@hull-college.ac.uk

Friday 11 May

 Tower Hamlets College

pwareham@tower.ac.uk             john.budis@tower.ac.uk

Hackney Community College

michaela.hendriks@ncclondon.ac.uk

 

Monday 14 May

 Tower Hamlets College

pwareham@tower.ac.uk             john.budis@tower.ac.uk

Hackney Community College

michaela.hendriks@ncclondon.ac.uk

Tuesday 15 May

 Tower Hamlets College

pwareham@tower.ac.uk             john.budis@tower.ac.uk

Hackney Community College

michaela.hendriks@ncclondon.ac.uk

Sandwell College

michael.roche@sandwell.ac.uk

 

Wednesday 16 May

 Sandwell College

michael.roche@sandwell.ac.uk

Thursday 17 May

 Hull College Group

rgoodfellow@hull-college.ac.uk

Epping Forest College

drewperridge@yahoo.co.uk

Sandwell College

michael.roche@sandwell.ac.uk

Friday 18 May

 Hull College Group

rgoodfellow@hull-college.ac.uk

Sandwell College

michael.roche@sandwell.ac.uk

Tuesday 22 May

 Lambeth College

mandybrowncow@hotmail.com

Lewisham Southwark College

brad.grisdale@lscollege.ac.uk

Wednesday 23 May

 Lambeth College

mandybrowncow@hotmail.com

City and Islington College (CCG)

veronika.johnson@candi.ac.uk

College of Haringey Enfield and North East London (CCG)

jsutton@conel.ac.uk

Westminster Kingsway College (CCG)

carly.grundle@westking.ac.uk

Lewisham Southwark College

brad.grisdale@lscollege.ac.uk

Thursday 24 May

 Lambeth College

mandybrowncow@hotmail.com

City and Islington College (CCG)

veronika.johnson@candi.ac.uk

College of Haringey Enfield and North East London (CCG)

jsutton@conel.ac.uk

Westminster Kingsway College (CCG)

carly.grundle@westking.ac.uk

Friday 25 May

City and Islington College (CCG)

veronika.johnson@candi.ac.uk

College of Haringey Enfield and North East London (CCG)

jsutton@conel.ac.uk

Westminster Kingsway College (CCG)

carly.grundle@westking.ac.uk

Tuesday 5 June

 City and Islington College (CCG)

veronika.johnson@candi.ac.uk

College of Haringey Enfield and North East London (CCG)

jsutton@conel.ac.uk

Westminster Kingsway College (CCG)

carly.grundle@westking.ac.uk

Havering College

swithers@havering-college.ac.uk

Wednesday 6 June

 City and Islington College (CCG)

veronika.johnson@candi.ac.uk

College of Haringey Enfield and North East London  (CCG)

jsutton@conel.ac.uk

Westminster Kingsway College  (CCG)

carly.grundle@westking.ac.uk

Thursday 7 June

 City and Islington College (CCG)

veronika.johnson@candi.ac.uk

College of Haringey Enfield and North East London  (CCG)

jsutton@conel.ac.uk

Westminster Kingsway College (CCG)

carly.grundle@westking.ac.uk

Havering College

swithers@havering-college.ac.uk

Friday 8 June

 City and Islington College (CCG)

veronika.johnson@candi.ac.uk

College of Haringey Enfield and North East London (CCG)

jsutton@conel.ac.uk

Westminster Kingsway College (CCG)

carly.grundle@westking.ac.uk

Havering College

swithers@havering-college.ac.uk

Tuesday 12 June

 Havering College

swithers@havering-college.ac.uk

 

Workshop notes, #UCUTransformed

The following notes were documented during the various workshops

Moving into action, Organising to GTVO and strike

  • Take-away points / memorable moments. Importance of Preparing The Ground before ballot. GTVO not just bureaucratic but political campaign. How to keep the momentum going that the strike has built. Broaden the scope of the things we challenge.
  • Suggested actions. Investigate issues with electronic voting. Find a balance between local and national issues.

#NoCapitulation, using social media

  • Decisions. Extend use in FE – training sessions?
  • Take-away points / memorable moments. Social media is an add on and can catalyse but not replace organising. Builds community identity but can exclude. Anonymise, share responsibility, have agreed guidelines to protect branch.

Democratising the union: putting members at the centre of change

  • Decisions Add equality/disability awareness / inc in organising events
  • Take-away points / memorable moments Clyde Workers Committee 1915: ‘We will support the officials just so long as they represent the workers, but we will act independently immediately they misrepresent them’.
  • Suggested actions Hold academic conference on this matter, congruent with who we are and what we do, publish papers etc.. Think of ways to replicate the GTVO campaign / picket line mobilisation. Demand that key papers from HEC and FEC meetings be published. Sheffield’s Democracy Review motion
  • Questions raised (still to be answered)
    • How do we increase members’ knowledge about the union?
    • Is it too late to influence the JEP? Is this not a problem of a general democratic deficit?
  • Other Role of the Special Higher Education Sector Conference – depending on when, what its potential could be.

Reclaiming our Colleges: Students and workers organising together

  • Take-away points / memorable moments Teachouts and solidarity between students and staff. Building horizontal relationships. Not Student Union but grassroots. Building standing committees with staff and students. Lack of effective pre-strike communication between UCU and SU in some campuses
  • Suggested actions Questions of Governance (Scotland as an example?). Campaigns in defence of Statutes. For democratising our colleges. Building joint student+staff solidarity committees with a view to calling general assemblies. Continue teach-ins? Regular newsletter. Fight for education as a whole. International movement.
  • Questions raised (still to be answered) Solidarity with other university workers (e.g. cleaners, security, etc.) who also have been striking for their rights? What should students do to reclaim their students union?
  • Other University bureaucratisation & increasing admin tasks issue – important for both students and workers

 Equality Through and Through: Integrating equality demands in our industrial campaigns

  • Decisions Things must change on disabled access.
  • Take-away points / memorable moments Integrate equality. must be central to everything we do. eg pay claim to give more to lower graded workers, who are often Black members. union increase in FE in hourly paid, women, black members and disabled members are concentrated in this group and UCU must campaign for HPL as an equality issue. also pensions move to career average rather than final salary affects women (and disabled..).  HE: Cambridge used the USS strike to challenge racism and set up a network of women of Colour. new people involved must be included. ge in our access to our union events . disabled members demand we are included by equal acess and involved in planning for this in future. Midlands region has a number of equality reps at regional level and this should happen for every strand.
  • Suggested actions integrate equality. must be central to everything we do. eg pay claim to give more to lower graded workers, who are often Black members. union increase in FE in hourly paid, women, black members and disabled members are concenrtrated in this group and UCU must campaign for HPL as an equality issue. also pensions move to career average rather than final salary affects women (and disabled..).  HE: Cambridge used the USS strike to challenge racism and set up a network of women of Colour. new people involved must be included. ge in our access to our union events . disabled members demand we are included by equal acess and involved in planning for this in future.  women strike actions on 8th March in USS was a good step, but the fight to decolonise the universities and make them democratic goes on. The union is much too slow on sexual harassment.  can we integrate more carefully issues of sexual harassment
  • Questions raised (still to be answered) how can we frame our pay campaigns in such a way as to embed equality issues better?  how can we make disabiled access better (consult disabled members and campaign with us rather than put issues to back burner)  how do we shift the agenda so tht we are not limited to the constraints of the UCU lawyers advice and the law–which does not achieve equality. how do we stop Athena Swan being a token event
  • Other we have done well in winning the idea that we get equality on the agenda as an industtrial issue. we are serious about it and need to make the officials see it as an industrial issue. we need to make the union ask the question of the members, what does victory look like on equality questions?  more discussion on how everyone is involved in fighting for equality–eg not just women or not just black memebrs organising around equality. It must not be only the oppressed who are involved in changing things. should international issues be hived off into a seperate workshop from equallities in future?

Ten Points for the USS Valuation, #UCUTransformed

At the UCU Transformed meeting on 28 April, Dennis Leech (Warwick) posed the following points and questions that the Joint Expert Panel should consider.

  1. How does a scheme that is currently cash flow positive go into deficit?
  2. What do cash flow projections for income and outgo look like?
  3. Why use index linked gilts (currently producing a negative return)?
  4. Consider using the internal rate of return.
  5. Are investment returns really too low?
  6. Investigate the ‘best estimate’ valuation.
  7. Focus on income from investments not asset price.
  8. Question the facile assumption that equities universally riskier than bonds.
  9. Examine in detail projections of key parameters e.g. mortality, growth, inflation, etc. Also the level of prudence.
  10. Distinguish between risk and short-term asset price volatility.

See also

USS activist guide, #UCUTransformed

A UCU Activist’s Guide to the Next Few Months

Immediate term

  • The terms of reference for the Joint Expert Panel (JEP) were pushed through the Higher Education Committee (HEC) with no amendments permitted by the chair on 27 April. The terms are highly problematic, providing no accountability or transparency.
  •  The last chance to influence the JEP’s terms will be the National Executive Committee, which meets on 4 May. They may consider an emergency motion so long as it affects the whole union, not merely the HE sector. Activists should lobby NEC members to revise the JEP’s terms to ensure UCU nominees are elected, have to account regularly to the membership throughout the JEP process, and are fully transparent. See JEP Manifesto below.
  •  On 16 May, the UCU Superannuation Working Group (SWG) will appoint JEP members based on applications from interested parties. Activists should lobby the SWG to ensure they appoint (a) people who are not just technical expert but who are prepared to challenge the actuarial and regulatory orthodoxy that has led us to this point, i.e. who understand that the choice of assumptions behind a valuation is political, not neutral; (b) someone from UCU’s own actuaries, First Actuarial, who have done good work in the past.
  • Branches can also still usefully:
    • Submit amendments to motions for UCU Sector Conference (or Congress) – deadline 4 May. One on a pay dispute would be useful (see below).
    • Submit late motions to Sector Conference / Congress (deadline is eve of Congress).
    • Submit motions of no confidence in Sally Hunt’s leadership (as at Kent, Exeter and Queen Mary).
    • Submit motions for an emergency special sector conference under rule 16.11 (as passed at over 15 institutions now – required threshold is 20).

Short term

UCU Congress and the HE Sector Conference will be held from 30 May to 1 June in Manchester. Branches need to send their full complement of delegates and support important motions submitted by other branches, including calls to:

  • Establish a review of democratic mechanisms in the union to strengthen internal democracy and the accountability of the leadership;
  • Hold a special HE Sector Conference in September to review the JEP’s report and, if necessary, initiate industrial action in response;
  • Create a national strike committee to ensure democratic control of industrial action.

Medium term (but can start now)

See also Re-mobilising for industrial action, below.

  • Need to re-start strike committees and re-engage branch members, understand why people voted in the ballot as they did, and rebuild the mobilisation seen through March, around the #WeAreTheUniversity slogan, which captures a broad range of issues stemming from marketization. UCU needs to be positioned as the main defender of education against destructive neoliberal policies.
  • A dispute on pay can address many of these issues in a way the pensions dispute could not. We can claim for cost-of-living increases and the impact of any imposed cost-sharing in USS, but we can also tackle equalities, workload, precarity, casualisation, etc. An activist network needs to ensure the dispute is framed in this broad way. A pay campaign can also unite the pre- and post-92 sectors, and also build solidarity with FE, where 21 branches are already in dispute with another 150 claims underway (1/3 of institutions).
  • Branches need to gear up for possible renewed strike action in the autumn after the JEP reports, if this is seriously detrimental to members’ interests.
  • Branches also need to:
    • Lobby employers to commit to “No Detriment” in pensions, as Oxford has.
    • Lobby employers to commit to not reporting strikes as unauthorised absences to the Home Office for staff on Tier 4 visas, as this imperils their right to take action.
    • Keep an eye on serious disputes emerging around redundancies at local FE colleges, the Open University, Liverpool, etc. This is linked to union-busting at London South Bank, a problem also faced at Coventry University College. Pre-92 branches are asked to “twin” with local post-92s, and HE branches with FE ones. Messages of solidarity are highly valued. Coventry also asks members to support their march on 17 May and write to MPs to support Early Day Motion 1178.

JEP MANIFESTO

  • Membership – who to include/ exclude (e.g. consultants w/ pecuniary conflict of interest (not simply having previously expressed a view)) [current criteria: no commitment to equalities (will be added)] Should be elected. Lobby for particular candidates?
  • Guided by whose interests? Beneficiaries not UUK/ UCU
  • Issues to tackle? Methodology AND data
  • Transparency/ Procedure?
    • Who will chair? Who will take minutes?
    • How will deliberations be recorded?
    • How will inputs and outputs be recorded? (e.g. UUK may channel consultants who have driven DC) Transparency on external advisors; governance; decision-making if disagreement exists [“expected to reach consensus” – what happens if they don’t?]
    • Should be regular reports to elected bodies.
  • USS must commit to accepting JEP recommendations and stop defending its flawed valuation.
  • Can they get extra time if they need added data/time?
  • First Actuarial must be included and not suppressed by UCU leadership

HOW?

  • Emergency motion to NEC next Friday
  • Lobby USS Working Group (meets 16 May) which will appoint JEP by 21 May
  • Amendments and late motions to Congress/Sector Conference in May: amendment deadline = 4 May

See also Ten points for the USS valuation

Re-mobilising for industrial action

  •  #WeAreTheUniversity: keep the focus on transforming HE and addressing broad issues raised during strike: reversing marketization as the root of all evils we face; UCU needs to become the defender of education in Britain
  • Need to transcend the yes/no divide arising from controversial ballot. Emphasise dispute is still live, more fighting required in future around shared agenda of defending our pensions (and other issues!)
  •  Re-energise strike committees around new activity: discuss how to build pay+ campaign & start doing it.
  •  Need to broaden to/ bring in post-92s (TPS will follow USS) & keep people engage – through campaign over pay (to meet cost-sharing challenge + address casualization + equalities + workload issues specifically)
    • form network to ensure dispute gets framed in this way
    • emergency motion to Congress on this
  • Prepare for dispute!
    • Try to get individual universities to commit to No Detriment, as Oxford has. Employers are on back-foot now because of risk of imposition of cost-sharing by USS.
    • Demand detailed breakdown of consultative ballot results by branch to help activists understand where members are at local scale.
    • Alternative: survey your own branch members about how they feel about the ballot, UCU democracy, future disputes etc. But need to bear in mind that “yes” and “no” contain many overlapping views.

Notes by Lee Jones, QMUL, 28 April 2018

See also

 

Post-ballot Strike Co-ordinating Meeting, Monday 16 April, 6pm

What next after the e-ballot?

  • Date: Monday 16 April, 6pm
  • Location: UCL Cruciform Lecture Theatre 2

London Region UCU is organising an open meeting to discuss what next after the e-ballot, where reps and activists can come to discuss the next stage in the dispute. 

The USS ballot will close on Friday 13th and some branches are due to strike on Monday 16th. The result will be public, one way or another, by Saturday, and most likely by mid Friday afternoon.

If the vote is NO, several London branches will take a week of strike action from 23 April. We will need solidarity from branches that are not striking!

The larger the turnout and the greater the vote NO the easier it will be to put the action on.

Outside of London, some branches are set to strike from Monday 16th.

If the vote is YES, then industrial action will be stood down, and reps will want to discuss what we do next!

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