Friday, 25 April 2014

‘Hard core’ UCU activists urge staff to reject 2% pay offer

24 APRIL 2014 | BY 

Marking boycott suspended as union warns accepting deal would represent a 'damaging defeat'
Businessman with thumb down
Several University and College Union branches are urging their members to reject a 2 per cent pay offer, claiming the deal would represent a "severely damaging defeat" to the union.
Branch committees at a handful of universities, including University College London and the University of Bath, have voted to call on staff to turn down the deal for 2014-15 in a ballot of UCU members, while others look likely to follow suit.
The UCU has agreed to suspend its planned marking boycott, due to start on 28 April, until 6 May, pending the result of the vote.
However, Tom Hickey, chair of the University of Brighton's UCU branch, is urging members to reject the offer, claiming "every activist knows" that accepting it "would constitute a severely damaging defeat for the UCU".
"A defeat of this magnitude…will constitute an existential threat to the UCU, at least as a serious national force in the sector," he said.
"There is simply no way, this side of self-delusion, that this could be considered a win for the unions, or even a goalless draw."
Mark Campbell, chair of London Metropolitan University's UCU branch, agreed, saying that the proposed deal "in no way addresses our members' concerns and is less than the anticipated real rate of inflation…for the coming year".
"Now is the time to strengthen our resolve to see this fight through, not abandon it for crumbs from the employers' table," he said.
Sean Wallis, president at UCL's UCU branch, also criticised the union's higher education committee, which met on 16 April, for failing to make a recommendation before putting it to members.
"Members deserve to be told what their leaders think of the offer," said Mr Wallis.
The lack of a recommendation was "quite extraordinary" given that the current offer "falls far short of our pay demand, and that members are being asked to take very difficult action as an alternative", he added.
But Jimmy Donaghey, branch secretary at the University of Warwick's UCU branch and higher education committee vice-chair, believed it was right for members to decide.
"Union democracy is not about a hard core of activists telling members what to do: it must be an iterative process of leaders listening to members and developing a strategy in line with the views of members," he said.
While admitting the offer was "disappointing", unions had nonetheless "achieved what no other sector has achieved to date – breaking the public sector pay freeze".
Pat Hornby-Atkinson, chair of the Edge Hill University branch, also believed that "what has been achieved so far is not insignificant", even if the offer was "miserly".
"I believe that it is appropriate, at this point, to allow the membership to decide if they are willing to accept what is being offered or whether they wish to fight on."
Gregor Gall, professor of industrial relations at the University of Bradford, believed the offer would be accepted.
"It's a 100 per cent increase on last year's offer and this has been a long and relatively costly campaign for members," he said.

Saturday, 5 April 2014

Keep to the left! Higher Ed Service Group elections left slate

Sandy Nicoll, Molly Cooper & Consuelo Moreno on SOAS picket
I strongly recommend voting for:

* Sandy Nicoll, London General seat
* Molly Cooper, London Female seat

North West female
* Linda Holden

Eastern general:
Mark Dee Smith

South East general:
Ivan Bonsell

I have worked closely with Linda Holden, Sandy Nicoll and Molly Cooper on the HE SGE over the last two or three years and always valued their opinions and contributions.

Linda Holden, Sandy Nicoll, Sarah Pickett, Kath Owen,
Molly Cooper, & yours truly paying tribute to Bob Crow: legend.
Linda Holden is Branch Secretary of Manchester Met - a highly regarded, long standing activist who is well known at conference for challenging the standing orders - sometimes with success. When needed I have called on Linda many times for advice and once asked her to accompany me to a meeting. You can rely on Linda.

Like most London HE Branch Secretaries, I have known Sandy Nicoll since the moment I became active in my branch. Many activists in HE rightly look to Sandy, as SOAS Branch Sec and previously as HE London regional Chair, for inspiration and advice on just about any issue. I rang Sandy when I was called to a suspension hearing this time last year and at the drop of a hat he came across town to accompany me. That was the start of a successful campaign against a witch hunt in my workplace, and that is the sort of rep Sandy is; the kind of activist we badly need on the HE SGE.

Molly Cooper has been absolutely solid; a stalwart on the HE SGE representing the London female seat well over the last couple of years and her voice has been crucial in sustaining the strong campaign we've led so far over pay. If reps like Molly and Sandy had not argued from the outset for a strong push for action last year we would never have even had a ballot in September. Molly has also put a lot of work into highlighting and promoting the need to take high workloads seriously.

Almost all London HE branches rejected the pay offer during the consultative ballot last summer - and we have taken robust action in the capital over pay since as a result. It's vital that London - with our spiralling costs of living - continues to be represented by strong candidates. The same goes for the North West - keep to the left!

We also need to support the already strong team by electing new blood: we need dedicated, principled left activists on the HE SGE who are in favour of leading resistance when needed. We need people who believe and can develop a strategy to win, rather than calling off action from the outset. That is why I am advocating a vote for Mark Dee Smith and Ivan Bonsell, for the East and South-East general seats.

Justice for cleaners picket at SOAS: Sandy Nicoll is Branch Sec &
Consuelo Moreno is one of several cleaners reps
Consuelo Moreno stood for the low paid female seat - she is a cleaner from SOAS. The justice for cleaners campaign at SOAS is an incredible struggle for sick pay, holidays and pension rights equal to their in-house colleagues, including taking three days of hugely successful and inspiring industrial action (see photo).  I have seen Conseulo in action on their various protests and picket lines and been in utter admiration of the SOAS Justice for Cleaners campaign for some time now.

So I'm delighted that the following left candidates have been elected unopposed:

  • Consuelo Moreno: London low paid female seat
  • Kath Owen: Yorkshire and Humber female seat
  • Sarah Pickett: South east female seat
  • Andy Beech: NorthWest general seat
It is a pity Matt Raine is not standing again - his contribution has always been welcomed by the lay reps. Best wishes continuing to leading Birmingham Uni branch which he can now devote his attention to. 

Hoping that things can only get better at London Met University ...

'The Met's Unison official Max Watson said he hoped the change in leadership would be for the good. He added: "We welcome the appointment of a new vice-chancellor. We wish to draw a line under the last four years of disputes and despair and damage to industrial relations. We hope the new VC is able to meet with us and show respect for union reps rather than focus on attacking them. Dare I say, things can only get better."'