The battle against attacks on workers marked the UCU’s further education (FE) sector conference.
Delegates called on their union to approach other unions and the TUC to jointly organise a national demonstration in the autumn against job losses and to defend public services.
They backed further coordinated industrial action in the union’s “IOU” campaign, where several colleges are fighting for a pay rise that was nationally agreed in 2004 but which employers have refused to implement.
Many delegates spoke about the impact of attacks on education.
Isabel Brotherstone from Manchester college talked about management bullying and attacks on union activists.
“We’ve had a couple of terrible years,” she said. “Union reps have been sacked. Experienced staff are leaving. People are being bullied and crying in corridors.”
She added that Manchester college is a powerful institution, controlling two thirds of prison teaching. But it has decided that it is not making enough money and has begun issuing redundancies.
“What’s happening at Manchester is a blueprint for education,” she warned.
Delegates unanimously agreed to the greylisting [boycotting] of Manchester college. They called for the reinstatement of the UCU activists and an investigation of its “anti-union practices”.
Lecturers pointed out how cuts and neoliberal policies in education hit the most vulnerable and destroy the chances of millions to get a decent education.
Umit Yildiz said, “Universities are becoming like multinational companies. Who goes first when they sack people? It is part-time workers, those on fixed terms or who are hourly-paid. These are usually black, women and disabled workers.”
Congress defended migrant workers and affiliated to the Hands Off My Workmate campaign. It reasserted opposition to outsourcing.
And it called on the union to oppose all forms of “education on the cheap” and promote lifelong learning.