Reinstate David Muritu

What do you call an employer that circumvents long-established disciplinary procedures and sacks the branch secretary of its recognised trade union on the last day before the seasonal break? There are many unpleasant names that spring to mind, but because it’s Christmas I’ll use this employer’s official title: Halesowen College.

I reproduce below the statement supporting the reinstatement of UCU branch secretary, David Muritu. It is my understanding that this is just the beginning. Entirely coincidentally, of course, three more active members of the union are facing disciplinaries. This comes ahead of strike action planned in the New Year, which was unanimously endorsed by local UCU members. When that’s the case, you know management must be as poor as it is bellicose.

From what I can gather, David is popular among staff and students at the college. Like a number of others, he works ridiculous hours for his students against a pretty shoddy background . I ask you, what other college makes lecturers cover two classes *at the same time*, foists non-specialists to teach certain specialised courses, and fails to provide specialist cover when there are absences?

They’re hardly cash-strapped either. According to their own minutes of June’s corporate meeting, they have an operating *surplus* of over £2.7m. Management’s actions are plain bizarre. You can only agree with the petition statement’s opening, David Muritu’s sacking “is an attack on eduction and trade unionism”.

Make sure you sign the petition. Solidarity messages can be sent via HalesowenUCU_branch_secretary@hotmail.com

Halesowen College: Reinstate David Muritu as a Maths Lecturer at the college

This is an attack on education and trades unionism. On December 20th Dave Muritu, a known local socialist trades union activist, was sacked from his position as Maths lecturer. This followed disregard of the college disciplinary procedure (no evidence was presented 3 days in advance of the hearing), without anything other than deductive reasoning (his sacking was linked to results, with no regard for competency procedure or accurate review of statistical significance (his results are above national average).

Please sign and convey your disappointment in the college failure to prioritise student needs and achievement over politics. The only logical conclusion which can be drawn from the situation is that as no substantial evidence has been produced, Dave has been sacked on grounds of disagreement with the principal on educational theory and politics. The maths department have received considerable lack of support in the face of student needs, including

1) Failure of the principal to agree specialist cover in staff absence, inspite of a substantial surplus which could fund this

2) Students in a functional lesson being encouraged by management to give up the studies their time is allocated for in order to participate in a “focus group” based around leading questions with no rigorous development or consistent recording of data

3) Victimisation of a known trades unionist, along with possible victimisation of other known activists in the maths department, setting a precedent for activists to be targeted with knock-on effects for other trades-unionists nationally.

Please sign and join us in fighting this outrageous decision collectively.

Ucu Says Nick Clegg Must Apologise

General secretary of the education union, UCU, Sally Hunt, will tell protestors in central London today that Nick Clegg must apologise for his ‘gold-plated’ pensions jibe.

Speaking at rallies inside and outside Westminster Central Hall at around 1.30pm, she will remind crowds that the average pension of a female college lecturer is just £6,000.
 
Sally Hunt will point out that in the first year of the coalition government the income of the richest 1,000 people in the country grew by 18% and say that the government has no right to preach about fairness. She will say that she is fighting for dignity in old age and that dignity should not be restricted to the public sector, or even just politicians.
 
UCU general secretary, Sally Hunt, will say: ‘I come from a family of teachers, and coming from the family I am do, I could never underestimate the power of education to change things. Or the determination of teachers to stand up for what is fair. An attack on teachers is an attack on education itself. And an attack on education is an attack on hope.
 
‘I received an email from Diane from Norfolk who is on a pension of £120 a week.  So to hear Nick Clegg talk of public sector fat cats and gold-plated pensions makes my blood boil. He must apologise for that remark.
 
‘The average pension of a female college lecturer is just £6,000 a year. This is a government that has already presided over an increase in the income of the richest 1000 people by 18%. How dare they call us gold-plated? How dare they to preach to us about fairness?’
 
You can follow all the events on UCU’s live blog at www.ucu.org.uk/action2011live and on Twitter via the hashtag #ucustrike

Support Striking Lecturers

UCU members at around 500 colleges and universities across the UK will be on strike today in a row over changes to their pension and pay cuts: the first UK-wide strike action in universities for five years and in colleges since 2008.

UCU members will walk out over plans for greater pension contributions from staff and an increase in the pension age, against a backdrop of a second consecutive real-terms annual pay cut. Staff will be on picket lines at institutions throughout the country with many branches joining together to hold regional rallies in cities such as Leeds, Liverpool, Cardiff, Manchester, Glasgow, Aberdeen, Birmingham and Newcastle.

UCU members’ action is part of the first UK-wide strike action in universities for five years and the first in further education colleges since 2008. The union has received the support of the National Union of Students, despite the likely disruption to their members’ studies.

UCU general secretary, Sally Hunt, said: ‘University and college staff really value their pension rights and have made their views of the detrimental changes crystal clear. Strike action is always a last resort but the attacks on pensions and pay have created real anger and, instead of burying their heads in the sand, the employers need to respond urgently to our concerns.

‘Staff are sick to the back teeth of being told that their pay and pensions need to be cut to pay for an economic crisis created by others.’

The UK-wide action comes on top of four days’ strike action* at 67 UK universities across the UK in a row over pensions. UCU members at those 67 universities are members of the Universities Superannuation Scheme. They are on strike again tomorrow (Thursday) and will be joined by their colleagues in the rest of the UK’s universities and also in further education colleges, who are members of the Teachers’ Pension Scheme.

* UK strike action in the last week has taken place in universities where UCU members are members of the USS scheme: Scottish universities on Thursday 17 March; Welsh universities on Friday 18 March; Northern Irish universities on Monday 21 March; and English universities on Tuesday 22 March.

Full lists of the colleges and universities taking strike action can be found here: Colleges | Universities

SUPPORT LECTURERS’ STRIKE 24th MARCH

OPEN LETTER TO TRADE UNIONISTS, STUDENTS, COMMUNITY ACTIVISTS FROM LONDON REGION UCU

Dear sisters and brothers,

On Thursday 24th March up to 120,000 university and college lecturers will be on strike across the UK. We will be striking in defence of our pensions, jobs, and pay.

London region of the UCU would like to invite you to join us on our picket lines and demonstration on the 24th.

As the bankers continue to reward themselves obscene bonuses the coalition government, via our employers, are attempting to cut our jobs, conditions, and public services, in order that we are the ones that have to pay the price for the greed of those same city fat cats who created the financial mess we are now in. Why should ordinary hard working public sector workers pay for the excess of the few? Why should desperately needed jobs and services be cut, and conditions of employment reduced, when the simple and affordable alternative is to increase the taxation of the very rich, reign in the banks profiteering, and recover the billions of pounds of tax revenue lost through corporate tax avoidance and tax evasion?

The government is trying to divide workers by describing public sector pensions as too generous or ‘gold plated’. In reality, pensions are our deferred wages. At the same time, lecturers’ pay has been cut. The employers made college lecturers our worst pay offer ever last year, 0.2 percent. This follows below inflation ‘increases’ last year. University lecturers have been offered 0.4 percent. If our pay rises don’t keep up with inflation, currently around 5%, we face accumulated de-facto real-terms pay cuts this year of around 8-10 percent.

Lecturers are also concerned about massive job losses and the hugely negative effect this will have on the quality of education we can provide to our students. In almost every university and college, job losses are mounting, with an estimated 40,000 jobs currently at risk in higher education alone. One million 16-24 year olds are languishing on the dole—and the government and employers now seem determined to force lecturers to join them.

The political context of our dispute is about far more than pay, pensions and jobs; it is about defending education for all.  The lifting of the cap on tuition fees, the scrapping of the Education Maintenance Allowance, and the refusal to pay fees for those on income support who want to learn English, will ensure that education will become the exclusive domain of only those who can afford it. It is this political context that our specific strikes and demonstrations can help expose and build resistance to.

On 10 November, when 52,000 students and lecturers marched through London, they broke the consensus that cuts are inevitable.  They also gave many of us the impetuous and confidence to take up that fight. Subsequent student and worker demonstrations and college occupations have reinforced our resolve to fight back.

However, we are also the first to realise that we cannot defend access to education alone.  We need the support of fellow trade unionists, students, and community activists.  As the old trade union adage goes “in unity there is strength.” We therefore hope to see as many of you as possible on the 24th March on both our picket lines and on our demonstrations.

Details for the London protests and mass rally next Thursday 24 March:

11.30am: London action for ESOL protest, Old Palace Yard, opposite Parliament

1pm: UCU London Region March to Parliament, Assemble at LSE, Houghton Street, London WC2A 2AE

3pm: UCU London Region Rally, At Emmanuel Centre, 9-23 Marsham Steet, SW1P 3DW

Speakers include:

Alan Whittaker UCU president, Mark Serwotka PCS general secretary, Billy Hayes CWU general secretary, John McDonnell MP, Jeremy Corbyn MP, Dot Gibson NPC, Mark Bergfeld NUS NEC (pc), Zita Holbourne BARAC,  Rose Veitch, Action for ESOL

Left of Lecturers’ Union: Statement on Education Protests

DEFEND EDUCATION: TIME FOR A FIGHTBACK

The student protest movement has shown that there is now a real potential to roll back the huge assault on workers and the most vulnerable that the Con-Dem coalition has unleashed. The protests before Xmas inspired millions and have helped create a new confidence to fight back.

Over the next couple of months we in UCU, alongside our students and other workers, can play a central role in helping to shift labour movement resistance to the cuts into an even higher gear.

This is the backdrop to the discussions and decisions made at the NEC meeting on 17th December and overwelmingly reconfirmed at the NEC meeting on 14th January. Now, having agreed these essential motions, our union needs to move forward in a united way to defeat the education cuts that are set to blight current and future generations of our young people if not successfully challenged.

The demonstrations and national industrial action ballots for which the union is mobilising can help set the pace in creating a national movement against the Con-Dem inspired cuts. Every UCU member should play a part in this. We are on the verge of a national fight to defend education across Higher, Further and Adult Education. There is now an itinerary of events which can build towards the major TUC demonstration on March 26th and towards the kind of coordinated industrial action which we will need in order to defeat the Coalition’s cuts. We need to make sure that every one of our branches is part of the action and that we encourage all college and university workers to get on board. Click to continue reading

The Unwelcome Return of the Red Scare

from AVPS

I can’t remember which comrade said it, but someone recently quipped the left has become relevant enough to witch-hunt again. And one place where the ducking stool has come out from the cupboard is in the University and College Union.

This morning’s Times Higher reports the union is in the throes of a political crisis. On the one hand there is a strong UCU Left challenge to incumbent general secretary Sally Hunt. On the other union officers are threatening strike action after being criticised for their role in previous protests and moves to increase their accountability to lay members.

As with the NUS, the fees protests were bound to produce stresses and strains within the UCU. Like the students there are significant numbers of academic staff who’ve been lifted by the militant mood and would like their union to reflect that. The decision of a large number of NEC members to critically but unconditionally back the winter protests is not the action of an unrepresentative minority, but reflects wider sentiment among the union’s members.

Facing a barrage of criticism and a possible challenge to her position, rather than defending herself politically Sally Hunt has reached for her weapon of choice: red baiting. In the THS piece, she is quoted as saying other HE-related unions are viewed as “appendages” in the UCU Left’s grand strategy, and this itself “seems to be directed by bodies outside UCU rather than our own members”.

Hmm. Haven’t we been here before? In her 2006 election campaign she tried to stir up support by attacking the SWP. She then wrote “I believe that UCU should be a politically independent, industrially confident union and I am disappointed that political parties such as the Socialist Workers Party (SWP) and others are seeking to influence this election. I think they should leave the decision to you – the members”.

Her dark mutterings about outside influences is indicative of the bureaucratic mindset Hunt inhabits. It’s beyond her ken that members might be unhappy with her four years of steady-as-she-goes leadership and her backing of the lacklustre NUS president Aaron Porter and chums. In this view of the world, opposition springs not from legitimate grievances but the machinations of a cabal of Trots intent on annexing the union to their nefarious schemes. It’s a logic readers of the mainstream press are familiar with. Outside agitation is the explanation of choice politicians, bosses, media worthies, and bureaucrats sezie upon to write off incidences of sustained protest and unofficial strike action. It’s a convenient trope, a simple (and simplistic) narrative that avoids the inconvenience of realising the state of affairs they preside over isn’t all that, and shields their egos from detailed and devastating criticisms.

What about the substance of her accusation, that leftist UCU members are pursuing a strategy determined outside the union? I’d say that’s bollocks. The SWP is strong in the UCU because it’s active and its members have built up a base for the party through industrial and political struggle. Put simply, it has support because it’s won support. I’m not the SWP’s biggest fan by any means, but I know a thing or two about how revolutionary organisations are run. As a general rule union fractions of Leninist parties are operated and directed by the trade unionists who belong to that fraction. They know better than anyone else in their party the balance of forces, the mood of the workforce, and the operation of the union bureaucracy. In theory they’re subject to the diktats of the industrial department/organiser, but in practice it just doesn’t play out like that. A union fraction run directly by the central committee is a fraction that won’t make much headway. What Hunt finds particularly objectionable is not “outside groups” per se but the fact SWP members are the backbone of an internal movement seeking to hold her to account.

The UCU doesn’t wear fences, tank traps and pill boxes like a necklace. It is not North Korea. It’s a trade union made up of members with their own opinions and politics. SWP members have as much right to promote their party and their alternative strategy inside the union as anyone else. Hunt might not like it, but that’s life in the labour movement for you. Unfortunately for her, this time round the witch-hunting language won’t wash. The next gensec election will be more about policy, vision, and strategic direction than the last. If all Hunt can say for herself is “oh noes, the SWPs are teh evilz”, then she’s up shit creek before the campaign has started

Ucu Left Calls for Fightback to Defend Education

Government Cuts Cost Lives
Defend Education – Time to Fightback

Wednesday’s demonstration by over 50,000 students, lecturers and support workers against education cuts in London was a watershed and has achieved several big steps forward in the fight against the cuts.

It showed that there is mass support for a fight back; it has knocked on the head the idea that demonstrations are things of the past and that students are no longer willing to come out on the streets; and it has thrown the government onto the defensive. It has also shown
brilliantly that students and college workers can and should organise together against the cuts.

Predictably the right wing press and commentators are trying to demonise demonstrators who occupied the Millbank Tower Tory HQ. We should not fall into the classic trap of condemning the occupation and the smashing of a couple of windows, against the backdrop of the destruction that the Con-Dem government is unleashing against millions through their savage cuts. We are appalled at the attempts to victimise protestors at Wednesday’s anti cuts demonstration.

The real violence is being perpetrated by a government prepared to throw hundreds of thousands out of work and home and deny opportunities to millions more. We therefore stand in solidarity with those that demonstrated on Wednesday, a large number of who are
young working-class FE and school students whose lives are about to be thrown on the scrap heap by this callous Government.

We now need to build on the gains opened up by Wednesday’s national demonstration without delay. That means launching local anti-cuts campaigns in every college and university. These should be as broad as possible and should invite workers already in dispute or under threat to take part and address meetings – BBC workers, fire-fighters, civil servants, local government workers and so on.

We should put pressure on our local managements and national bodies to be less mealy-mouthed about what the Con-Dem cuts will do to education. We need to forge links with our local communities to involve people in the defence of post-16 education. We need to spell out that what the Con-Dems are doing is motivated by neo-liberal assumptions and is nothing short of the privatisation of post-16 education and the denial of opportunities for a generation of young people and those seeking a second chance education. We should point out all the time that the necessity for the cuts is a con and a lie and the responsibility should lie with the bankers and politicians and not the public purse at the cost of our services, jobs and conditions.

We have to start to discuss seriously what action we are going to need to stop the cuts – more mass demonstrations, industrial action, an early demonstration by the whole of the trade union movement, and the kind of ‘coordinated strike action’ – a general strike – that the TUC talked about supporting at its conference in September.

UCU has a pivotal role to play in building this opposition and UCU Left supporters will be at the forefront of organising the kind of resistance we are going to need.

Wednesday 24th November is a national day of protest for the NUS and we urge all UCU members to organise local anti-cuts meetings and protests alongside the students.

UCU Left – Steering Committee

Vote Ucu Left in Nec Elections

The UCU left have issued the following statement concerning the forthcoming NEC elections

We believe UCU members need representatives on the NEC who will fight alongside them, and that our NEC should be made up of the best local and regional activists who stand up for and mobilise UCU members.

 The UCU Left candidates standing in these elections, together with those previously elected, meet those criteria. They are representatives who are truly accountable to the members and they reflect the dynamism of our union, women and men, black and white, gay and straight, disabled and non-disabled. They include many leading members who have a proven record as fighters in the union. They also include new younger activists who’ve emerged out of the recent battles in Higher and Further Education. We believe all of them will bring with them commitment to creating a democratic, member led, progressive union to the new NEC.

Please click on each link for candidate names, election addresses and union biographies

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UCU Left Candidates (UCU National Officers)
UCU Left Candidates (Regional HE Seats)
UCU Left Candidates (Regional FE Seats)
UCU Left Candidates (UK-elected HE Seats)
UCU Left Candidates (UK-elected HE Seat – Casual Vacancy)
UCU Left Candidates (UK-elected FE Seats)
UCU Left Candidates (Equality Seats)

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UCU Left – Election Leaflets (with regional voting guide)

Why we need the boycott


Some of the discussion about the proposed academic boycott of Israel has missed a crucial point. For example, the Guardian reports it as already having started: “The boycott was launched by the UCU, which represents more than 120,000 academics, at its inaugural conference.” But there is no boycott, only a decision to debate whether there should be a boycott.

The motion was passed with a decisive majority at the UCU conference precisely because of the way it was phrased. The motion requires the union to hold a debate about having a boycott in every college and university up and down the land.

Therefore, those who seeking to overturn the motion in the name of academic freedom are in reality seeking to suppress the debate which is being proposed, and disempower the lecturers from debating the question of Palestine.

What is true is that if/when the union does pass a resolution for a boycott the new General Secretary Sally Hunt has pledged she will try to overturn it with a ballot of all members.

That’s a further reason why activists need to ensure the debate involves as many members of UCU as possible. The very process of having the debate with union members is an excellent contribution to raising awareness of the plight of the Palestinians, and puts further pressure on Israel.

The Jewish Week , a New York newspaper, accuses those advocating the boycott of anti-semitism and quotes Nachman Ben Yehuda, dean of the faculty of Social Sciences at Hebrew University in Jerusalem saying: “What does it mean to boycott the Israeli academy? It means to boycott Jewish professors. We need to put this on the table”

But there is not question of academics being boycotted because of their Jewishness, it is the institutions that are being targeted, because of the exceptional nature of the forty year occupation of the West Bank and Gaza.

According to Asaf Wohl, writing on the Ynet news site says: “One of the official reasons for the boycott on the Israeli academy is the occupation. Isn’t it ridiculous to hear such criticism from the citizens of a country that sends its army to the other side of the earth just to keep under its colonialist patronage two arid scraps of land in the middle of the ocean? From the citizens of a country that refuses to return Gibraltar to its legal owners? Not to mention its soldiers who are fighting in Afghanistan and Iraq.”

However, the occupation of Palestinian lands is exceptional and unique in the modern world because of the question of the settlements. Israel is seeking to illegally annex East Jerusalem despite the fact that international law is now unequivocal that territory cannot be illegally acquired through conquest, and there are half a million colonists illegally living in the new Zionist towns and settlements in the West Bank.

The exceptional nature of these settlements, the land grab that they represent, and the systematic destruction of the Palestinian economy and civil society that they cause require pressure to be brought onto Israel.

The EU and USA have sanctions against the Palestinian Authority freezing funding, because the elected Hamas government does not recognise Israel. The symbolic issue of Hamas’s refusal to acknowledge Israel is considered more important that the actualy existing failure of Israel to respect the territorial integrity of Palestine.

As the governments of the west have no intention of pressurising Israel, it falls upon civil society, and particularly the trade unions, to apply measured and targeted sanctions on Israel. As Kamel Hawwash, the only British Palestinian delegate to the UCU conference wrote in a letter to the Financial Times: “The mere discussion of boycotts took the debate on to the next (and in my view) necessary level. … I am very pleased with this as a British Palestinian academic and I look forward to following the debate over the coming 12 months. I see the decision of the UCU as an opportunity for Israeli society as a whole and not just academia, to come to a historic realisation that they will only achieve peace and security when the Palestinians have their due rights and there is an independent, confident Palestinian state living side by side with Israel and not inside Israel.”

The proposed boycott is in the interests of justice,and without justice there can be no peace.