Left gears up for UCU general secretary contest
Around 100 lecturers were in Manchester last Saturday for a meeting of the University and College Union (UCU) Left group.
The conference was called as the nomination period for those wanting to stand for election in the new union comes to a close.
And the discussion throughout the day centred on the need for the new union to be a fighting union.
Lecturer Howard Miles said, “We have to look at the political context that we are facing.
“There is growing inequality in Britain—that has a direct impact on education.
“We also face growing marketisation in education. The people elected to the executive and as general secretary of the new union will set the tone—or set us back.
“If we get this right, if we mobilise, then we can make a real difference to UCU, and to the trade union movement as a whole.”
The conference voted by 79 to eight to support Roger Kline for general secretary of the new union.
The debate centred on the importance of backing a left candidate who can win, and the high vote to back Kline is a clear indication of how the left is united around the election.
Kline told the conference, “Education is facing ever greater uncertainty. We don’t yet have 50 percent.membership in the colleges and universities—we need to fight for a much higher density.
“You can’t have a union that is members first, politics second—it’s a non sequitur. We have to reposition the union as custodians of education. We want a union that fights for education as well as over what lecturers get paid.”
There was a real feeling of momentum coming out of the meeting—with lecturers talking about how important the next few months will be in terms of shaping the future of the new union.
The coming election is vital for the future of the new union.
Activists should be inviting Roger Kline to speak at union meetings as well as having discussions in their colleges and universities about the need for a strong left presence in the new union.
Higher education sector conference—the issues made clear
The first conference of UCU’s Higher Education Sector met recently to discuss the lessons to be learned from the pay dispute last academic year.
The end to the dispute split the members of the union. The central aim of “catch up” in relative pay was not won, yet the union’s leaders called off the action just as its effects were about to bite, and contrary to conference policy.
The higher education conference divided between those loyal to the old leadership, and therefore supportive of the decision to call off the dispute, and those critical of both.
The conference voted to adopt a series of motions, typically by a two to one margin (there were no counts) but sometimes more closely.
They included support for a motion that industrial action should only be suspended by the decision of elected representatives at a special conference, and not by elected or appointed officials. Another said any threat to national bargaining would be resisted by national industrial action.
Middlesex lecturers: give us respect
Lecturers at Middlesex University are balloting for strikes and action short of a strike.
The dispute is in response to the university management’s refusal to commit to the full implementation of two national agreements over pay, both due for implementation on 1 August this year.
After a very angry and militant union meeting last week, management conceded they would implement one of the deals from December and backdate due payments. But this leaves outstanding the Pay Framework Agreement.
The union meeting attracted people who had never been to such a meeting before. It was a mix of more experienced and younger colleagues, which resembled the very successful picket lines we organised just under a year ago.
Speaker after speaker talked of harassment and bullying by managers over impossible deadlines and the lack of any recognition of our work.
The meeting voted for a motion which instructed members to refuse to work above their working day hours and refuse weekend work, which has become the norm in the last few months. The ballot was to close on Friday of this week.