UCU campaigns for a Yes vote for further strike action over pensions

Last week at UCU, Sally Hunt agreed to back the NEC’s decision to take further action over pensions and to name a date for action with other unions – March 28th.

Teachers’ pensions are under attack and the NEC’s decision to step up the fight to defend TPS shows that they are willing to support the hundreds of thousands of UCU members who came out on the March 24, June 30 and November 30 strike days.

After each strike day, branches around the country reported back at regional meetings on fantastic support for picket lines, with many members coming out for the first time and new members being recruited daily. Since the start of the pensions dispute, UCU membership has grown by over 12,000 and 100,000 people joined trade unions in the run up to N30.

Since the beginning of the pensions dispute, motions have been passed at regional meetings and at branch meetings  throughout colleges, universities and education workplaces, calling for escalation of action, co-ordination with other unions and no to a sell-out.

Members are angry not just about pensions but about all attacks on education and the wider public sector. Bullying tactics and punitive measures by management in FE colleges and in schools are pushing already over-worked teachers and lecturers to work harder and longer to meet national targets and success rates, while undermining their professionalism and expertise. The attack on pensions is seen as a further attempt to reduce the value of the teaching profession.

And this is why we need a fighting NEC that is not going to back down and sell us out over pensions but will listen to members, act on motions passed democratically at branch meetings and support the 2.5 million people that struck on November 30th.

And so it’s good news that UCU has now launched a campaign to vote Yes in the consultative survey which opens on 27 February. There is a new pensions calculator which works out exactly how much of  your pension you will lose. And there are some excellent materials to download:

  • Actuarial report showing detailed breakdowns of how much extra you will have to pay:    Actuarial Report
  • Excellent ‘mythbusters’ document which destroys popular govt and media myths:     Mythbusters
  • FAQs on pensions and the new consultative survey answered here:       TPS_FAQs_Feb12

Please show your support for this campaign for a Yes vote by publicising these materials in branches and at meetings at workplaces.

And don’t forget to vote for candidates in the election who are standing for a fighting democratic union that represents members’ views and will continue to resist the govt attacks on our sector.


UCU NEC unanimously agree to join with NUT and PCS in strike action on March 28th

Sally Hunt and UCU Head Office have sent confusing messages to members in the last couple of days, which imply that the NEC has agreed to ballot members for strike action.

It is not an industrial ballot, it is a consultative e-survey and will be sent along with a recommendation to support the strike.

Mark Campbell explains the ins and outs in more detail here:

UCU NEC unanimously agree to join with NUT and PCS in strike action on March 28th.

Who I’m voting for in the NEC elections

Vice President FE

Angie McConnell, Wigan and Leigh College

Northern Ireland HE

Brian Kelly, Queens University Belfast

North East HE

Elizabeth Lawrence, Sheffield Hallam University
Gavin Reid, University of Leeds
Veronica Killen, Northumbria University

North East FE

Graham Mustin, Bransley College
Umit Yildiz, Bradford College

London and the East HE

Mark Campbell, London Metropolitan University
Jane Hardy, University of Hertfordshire
Jim Wolfreys, Kings College London

London and the East FE

Sean Vernell, City and Islington College
Mandy Brown, Lambeth College

Wales HE

Liza van Zyl, Cardiff University

North West FE

Darren Bradshaw, Blackpool and the Fylde College

UK-elected members HE

Jane Hardy, University of Hertfordshire
Jelena Timotijevic, University of Brighton
Lesley McGorrigan, University of Leeds

UK-elected members FE

Steven Boyce, A4E Prisons Branch
Richard McEwan, Tower Hamlets College
Jenny Sutton, College of Haringey, Enfield and North East London
Umit Yildiz, Bradford College

Representatives of women members HE

Marion Hersh, University of Glasgow

Representatives of women members FE

Alison Lord, Tower Hamlets College
Jenny Sutton, College of Haringey, Enfield and North East London

Seats for casually employed members FE

Regine Pilling, Westminster Kingsway College

UCU Trustee

Alan Whitaker, Oxford and Cherwell Valley College

ESOL and Adult Education saved until 2013

         February 5th, 2012

ESOL and Adult Education saved until 2013.

December 2011 saw a fantastic result for the Action for ESOL campaign, as the government announced that the huge U-Turn on their plans to make students on benefits pay for English (ESOL) classes would now stay until 2013. Many feared the concessions were ‘just for one year’ but this has now been extended for a further year until 2013/14.

The initial plans changed funding eligibility for all adult learners on so-called ‘inactive’ benefits. This meant that up to 75% of students learning English for speakers of other languages (ESOL), mainly women from black and minority ethnic groups, would no longer be eligible for English classes. Those on benefits such as income support would be asked to pay up to £1200 for a course, which they could not afford and would have had a devastating impact on ESOL students and all of our communities.

The August U-turn was an important victory for Action for ESOL as, although the concessions did not apply to those on working tax credit, low-income workers not on benefits and asylum seekers, most of the 250,000 adult places at risk could potentially be saved.

Action for ESOL was founded in January 2011 by students, teachers, union activists and community groups, to oppose the eligibility changes. Action for ESOL is supported by the University and College Union (UCU), the National Association for Teaching English and other Community Languages to Adults (NATECLA), the Refugee Council and other organisations. This successful campaign has raised awareness of ESOL at a local and national level through students and practitioners in colleges and community groups speaking to MPs, parliamentary lobbying and holding ESOL protests.

Action for ESOL’s success is due to the hundreds of students, teachers, trade unionists and supporters who took part in the demonstrations and letter-writing, spoke to their MPs, lobbied in parliament and came on the marches and protests around the country. As well as the fantastic response to the chaotic last-minute U-turn by getting students back into college and in some cases getting ESOL courses and teachers re-instated.

The campaign still has work to do for those students to whom the concessions did not apply, and many colleges are still trying to undo the chaos caused by the last-minute funding changes.  Next steps need to address these issues and to consider how to fight the introduction of FE loans in 2013.

  • Campaigners should be approaching college management to ensure they act on the August U-turn on by filling places on ESOL courses, recruiting staff and planning for the extension.
  • Many colleges received extra funding following the riots over the summer, and this should be welcomed and management approached to re-instate those ESOL staff lost, replace ESOL closed courses and invite in all ESOL students who are on waiting lists.
  • This 2 year extension gives campaigners time to regroup and take on the challenges down the road including fees, loans and changes wrought by the ‘universal benefit’ system due around 2015, all of which will facilitate privatisation and undermine adult and further education. The campaign will seek to work with students and workers campaigning against cuts and privatisation to the whole of education.

But for now, this new announcement means that Adult Education is now protected for a further year and the majority of ESOL students can continue their studies until 2013.

Read more about ESOL and Further Education:

ESOL manifesto – out now, see actionforesol.org to read the manifesto

UCU FE paper – Jobs and Education, Regaining the Trust of Young People at http://bit.ly/sy6kOh

Fair Pensions for All N30 in Lambeth


November 30th saw fantastic support for the strike across the country. Over 2 million workers came out, which showed the government exactly how strongly people feel about the attacks on our pensions, how prepared they were to take strike action whether or not they had voted, and how angry we are about the savage cuts to our education, health and public services.

UCU in Lambeth had well-attended pickets at the 3 college centres in Brixton, Clapham and Vauxhall, with the college closed to students and no courses running. Picket lines encouraged more people to support union action, with 1 admin worker on their way into work at Vauxhall joining on the spot and spending the rest of the day at the front of the central London march!

Public support this time round was overwhelmingly in our favour. Just like on the joint union Battle Bus last Saturday, shoppers, shopkeepers, bus drivers and people walking and driving to work took time out to say ‘thanks, you’re doing a great job’, toot horns and shout from cars and bikes.

It was a good feeling walking down Brixton Hill and seeing all the picket lines on the way before coming into Windrush Square and witnessing the incredible noisy council workers picket on the steps of the Town Hall. Horns, megaphones and vigorous chanting hailed the passing public, who responded likewise with shouts, waves and car horns.

The council protesters joined the 500 strong rally in Windrush Square, brillliant atmosphere, union banners everywhere, listening to speakers from across Lambeth community talking about why they were on strike or supporting the strike. A  statement was read out, which congratulated the strikers and called for longer action in January, and voted through unanimously.

The local rally then went on a spontaneous march down to Brixton tube station and then joined the central rally at Lincolns Inn Fields to march along with 50,000 people from 29 trade unions to the Embankment rally.

A tremendous day and an excellent start to the campaign to defend pensions and public services.

Mandy Brown