My report for Mids members on UCU NEC 18th June 21

NEC – 18/6/21

Report to Midands members from Rhiannon Lockley (Midlands HE) (she/her)

I attended my first NEC as HE Mids representative on 18/6/21. Here is a short report to include the main business covered and how I voted on decisions presented at this meeting.

President’s address

The president Vicky Blake welcomed the new NEC and outlined the day’s business. She updated NEC that there are no plans for face-to-face meetings in the short to medium term future and identified that hybrid meetings are likely before any full return to Carlow Street. She briefed the meeting on the success of the campaign to prevent the deportation of Osime Brown, congratulating the union including Midlands members (West Midlands members brought this campaign to Congress) for their work for this and passing on the thanks of Joan, Osime’s mum, for all the support. You can read more here: Together we win: statement from Osime Brown’s Mum – Detention Action

General Secretary’s report

The General Secretary addressed the meeting to give an overview of current UCU activity. Key points here included:

  • FE: strike ballots on pay opening in some FE colleges.
  • Slow negotiations in Northern Ireland FE following members taking strike action
  • Congratulations to Novus prison education members for the action they are taking
  • HE pay and pensions (USS): members have rejected the HEA pay offer, and there have been two subsequent branch delegate meetings which put the decision on any action in the hands of the HESC this June (the Higher Education delegate meeting). HE sector conference voted to push ahead, and branches should now be holding meetings ASAP to assess ballot-readiness and build on pay and where applicable USS to feed into HEC which meets on 2nd July. I will be in touch separately with branch officers about this in advance of this meeting but please do get in touch with me at rhiannonlockley@hotmail.co.uk
  • Funding: 50% cut to arts subjects funding (HE) in England: work with Equity and other unions to oppose this.
  • Working with the NUS to fight attacks on student funding
  • Government pushing through a levy on unions to pay for a certification officer: working with other unions to resist this being enacted
  • “Freedom of speech bill” – working with a broad coalition to oppose this attempt at increased control of staff and students in HE under the guise of “academic freedom”.
  • UCU LGBT+ report recently published: https://www.ucu.org.uk/article/11536/Survey-shows-widespread-LGBT-discrimination-in-higher-education
  • UCU has been active in supporting the human rights of Palestinians
  • The union is supporting the People’s Assembly (we are affiliated) demonstration on Saturday 26th June: https://www.facebook.com/events/1014040739128410
  • PGRs: a campaign plan involving PGRs to increase rights is being developed
  • UCU has condemned the Sewell report on Race and is working with the affiliated group CLASS in response to this
  • ACE: adult education providers are facing 90% clawback where if targets are missed by 10% or more they face money being taken. This comes on top of a long period of cuts and in the context of delivery in a pandemic which has not finished, with an impact for colleges too where involved in this provision. Solidarity to those affected. Please do reach out to support our ACE and FE adult ed members in campaigning on this: I will update with any support actions I hear of.
  • Disputes: the GS mentioned a number of disputes: solidarity to all campaigning and fighting at the moment. You are updated about these weekly from HQ so please do use the national emails to see ways of supporting. I made a contribution on this point which I will briefly summarise after this section of the report.
  • The GS celebrated the success of the “Workers rising” programme and asked us to highlight the recently released resources for branches here: https://www.ucu.org.uk/building-ucu
  • Staffing: the GS welcomed John Hegarty who has joined the team in a new role and thanked Paul Cottrell (long standing head of democratic services) who is retiring after a long period of service to the union.

I made a contribution in response to the local disputes section of the GS report. I

  • extended solidarity to Leicester UCU and Novus (highlighting the brilliant work Midlands Novus members are doing),
  • updated on the BCU COVID dispute to identify our recent open day success
  • called on the GS and NEC to extend special solidarity to University College Birmingham as a branch fighting back against redundancies including a recent demonstration and a petition which I encourage all Midlands members to sign if not done so already and to keep sharing: this is available at https://speakout.web.ucu.org.uk/university-college-birmingham-oppose-the-restructure/

Motions from members

Motion titleActionsHow I voted and reasoningOutcome of vote
Emergency motion: Support for the #StopSIM coalition1. To formally support #StopSIM in demanding 1) an end to SIM and SIM-like models of mental healthcare and 2) an independent review. 2. To publicly acknowledge SIM as a symptom of the abusive mental healthcare system. 3. To actively support members affected by SIM and similar models.  In favour   These actions extend important solidarity to those experiencing abuse in the mental health system, a principle I have supported historically e.g. in bringing policy to the union to support the campaign for justice for Sarah Reed.Carried
Motion 1 Challenging LGBT+ exclusionfor NEC members to include pronouns in their Zoom names for NEC meetings ·    to encourage UCU members to display pronouns in all UCU online meetings and in email signaturesIn favour   This motion was opposed but I am elected on a clear mandate of supporting trans inclusivity which this motion builds within our unionCarried
Standing ordersChange standing orders to require the agreement of rather than consultation with the General Secretary so that a special meeting called under this clause requires a joint decision of two people.Against   I put in to speak against this motion but was not called. I opposed the motion on the grounds that our members have demonstrated their support of the principle of separation of powers between elected officers and representatives to ensure accountability and the right to challenge. NEC is chaired by the President and giving the GS the right to veto the President in calling an extraordinary NEC could prevent a meeting being called on an issue of GS accountability. While financial prudence was given as a reason to support this motion the treasurer admitted that there has not been a financial issue caused by NEC holding too many meetings and given our increased capacity to meet online if and when it is necessary this seems a more sensible route than reassigning more member power over calling meetings to the GS.   I was elected on a mandate of a member-led union (as evident in election material) so my vote was in line with this mandate.Fell
GDPR and potential member dataActions related to tackling mid use of GDPR to block union access to new staff for recruitment In favour   Deliberate blocking of access to information supporting recruitment has been reported to me by members in the Midlands over a period of time and it is useful for the union to support branches against this obstacle to recruitment.Carried
Strike pay for deductionsNEC agrees that days for which deductions are made will be treated in the same way as strike days, with payment made on a pro-rata basis for days with less than 100% deductions.In favour   This is an enabling motion which allows the union to respond to employers making deductions to curtail ASOS. I stood on a mandate of an organising, building union – ASOS is an important tool for branches taking industrial action as we have seen at BCU.Carried
Report on implementation of NEC motionsNEC calls on the General Secretary to organise the production of a report on the implementation of NEC motions for each NEC meeting, analogously to the report on the implementation of Congress motions, though not necessarily in the same format. This should include all motions where action is being taken, proposed for the future or where implemtation has not yet been completed. The report will be discussed if a member of NEC requests discussion prior to the start of the NEC meeting.In favour   This motion allows clarity and oversight in following up on the actions brought to the union nationally by NEC members on behalf of members. I supported in line with my mandate of standing for a member led union.Carried
Trans inclusion    To reassert the UCU position on trans inclusion*. · To increase efforts to provide practical support and policy guidance for reps and trans members in challenging acts of harassment and NEC/1419 discrimination against trans persons committed in the course of employment   (A friendly amendment was made and accepted to the contextual part of this motion which I supported)In favour   This motion allows the union to respond proactively to “emboldening” of trans oppressive behaviour following on from the recent 10th June Maya Forstater v CGD Europe and others (UKEAT/0105/20/JOJ*) ruling. As noted above my mandate on NEC is in clearly in support of trans rights, as evident in my election material.Carried as amended

A motion on “Rhodes must fall” fell due to business falling at the end of the day.

Please do get in touch with me to ask any questions, to raise anything you want to be taken to NEC or HEC, or to invite me to a branch meeting to support building, make connections with the national union and meet members: rhiannonlockley@hotmail.co.uk

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