This week will see the first annual congress of the University and Colleges Union (UCU) which was formed last year from the merger of the AUT and Natfhe unions.
There are a number of battles facing the union. In further education (FE), there are cuts in funding for adult education and English for speakers of other languages (Esol). In higher education (HE) there are threats to privatise departments.
FE lecturer and UCU national executive member Sean Vernell told Socialist Worker, 'Lecturers at six London FE colleges have been taking part in a strike ballot over redundancies arising from cuts in adult education.
'At City and Islington college, where I work, and two other London colleges there will now be no compulsory redundancies, and so we are not being balloted.
'Last week saw the first strike action by lecturers at Harlow college over new contracts.
'Their fight is not just about one college – it's about how management are able to treat lecturers. It's about what education means. And it's a fight we have to win.'
HE lecturer and UCU national executive member Jane Hardy said, 'The first conference of the new union is a great opportunity.
'The first year of the new union has seen very successful campaigns over privatisation and Esol. At congress we need to build on this success and look forward.
'One major issue is going to be the attacks on national bargaining. We have to fight to keep national bargaining, so that lecturers at all universities can be united.'
Congress will be debating the future of the new union both politically and in terms of upcoming battles.
Jane Hardy and Sean Vernell speak in a personal capacity. For further information about debates at UCU congress go to » www.uculeft.org.