By Tom Hickey, UCU NEC (pc)
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UCU congress – lecturers must seize the chance to lead the fight

This article is over 8 years, 7 months old
Issue 2355

The UCU lecturers’ union was set to hold its annual congress from Wednesday of this week. It will be an opportunity to discuss what kind of union higher and further education needs for the 21st century.

Should UCU be a servicing organisation, with limited campaigning and little control of policy and its implementation by members? Or should it be a fighting and campaigning, democratic and organising union? 

Staff are entering a summer of balloting over campaigns on pay, equality and jobs.

Workers have seen their salaries cut in real terms by up to 16 percent. Pensions have been undermined and jobs disappeared.

Workloads have dramatically increased, and commercialisation of education accelerates. Privatisation is an imminent threat.

To win the ballots and build effective campaigns requires members’ confidence that the union leadership will fight.

Civil service workers, teachers and local government workers are on the march. The general situation is shifting, and the UCU sector conferences have to give a lead on this.

These campaigns must be about more than pay and conditions. UCU must take the lead in resistance to the market in education, and oppose government policy on privatisation.

Only in that way will staff see the unions as relevant to the problems in education today. 

Only with a vision for education and a determination to defend conditions, will the UCU be able to recruit.

UCU congress needs to preserve its member-led constitution and a representative NEC. It should support an alternative financial strategy that will safeguard its campaigning potential. 

March to defend Lambeth College

Lambeth College in south London faces its largest ever funding reduction to date.

An estimated £3 million worth of cuts are to be made for the next academic year. 

The eventual figure could be even worse, as many adult students will no longer be eligible for grants. 

The college has already axed its A Level provision for next year. Bosses announced this week that they are proposing to make 30-40 full time posts redundant, with a total of 97 members of staff affected.

The UCU and Unison unions, along with students and local people, plan to fight these cuts and job losses every step of the way. 

UCU members voted unanimously to ballot for industrial action two weeks ago, unless a guarantee is given that there would be no compulsory redundancies. 

We will be marching on Saturday 15 June from Clapham at 2pm to Brixton before holding a rally in Windrush Square at 3pm. 

Mandy Brown, UCU branch secretary Lambeth College

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