This year’s UCU lecturers’ union annual congress was shaped by the impact of the growing recession and the fight for jobs and education.
UCU president Sasha Callaghan opened congress by saying that “our priority is to show solidarity with UCU members in struggle.
“The government has challenged us to reskill the country out of recession. But our own members are facing the dole queue themselves.”
Conference was buoyed by the recent victories against job cuts at Doncaster College and Liverpool university, and over union rights at Nottingham Trent University. UCU Wales has also won concessions over funding.
However, delegates were clear that they were still in the early stages of a major fight.
Delegates spoke of how the victories at the Visteon car components plants and at Waterford Glass had given them confidence to fight for jobs.
Ron Clark, a former Unite union steward at Visteon’s Enfield plant, was applauded when he addressed congress on the first day.
Many delegates also criticised the “British jobs for British workers” slogan that has characterised some recent struggles.
“This is a sickening slogan that would divide our union,” said Sue Abbott.
Delegates voted to support the Fight for the Right to Work conference that will take place om 13 June in London.
Delegates also debated many aspects of education, passing motions attacking government cuts that deny funding to people studying for a qualification equivalent to or lower than one they already hold.
Lecturers spoke of the damaging impact of privatisation and the market in education and of the need to oppose the “narrow skills agenda” promoted by the government.
Delegates backed many progressive motions, including voting to affiliate to the United Campaign Against Police Violence.
They also reaffirmed their commitment to campaign against the Nazi British National Party and to support Unite Against Fascism and Love Music Hate Racism.
Over 100 people attended a UCU Left fringe meeting.
Congress reflected a seriousness about the scale of the threat facing colleges and universities and a real mood to build a united response to save both jobs and education.