You and UCU

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What I Stand for

Further and Adult Education

For many years now, the 16-19 sector has been in disarray. 

NATFHE failed to come to grips with the ravages of incorporation and the results are there for all to see – principals tearing up contracts whilst the right wing mount impotent challenges.  This has been allowed to happen because the moderate voices are not allowed to question or be heard, whilst all the stops are brought out to stifle any alternative.  This is a result of a right wing campaign designed to ensure that people elected on to the national executive committee will toe the ‘party line’.   Not a party in the real sense, but a strange amalgam of people who believe that it is better to have docile and compliant people running the union, than those with strong branch – and regional-based credentials who have demonstrated their commitment to the members by engaging in the struggles on a basis of real opposition to the bosses. 

 The examples of Newcastle and Norwich clearly show that moderation merely results in principals wielding a stick so large that our members are battered into submission. 

On the other hand, the struggle in Wales, which has been no less difficult than that in England, has shown that, with a strong effective leadership, members gain in confidence, demoralisation diminishes and the college bosses know that the fight will be a real one. 

We need a UCU which can take the examples of Wales and transfer them to Northern Ireland, where our members are currently engaged in the struggle to maintain decent working conditions, one which, like Wales, can give members confidence strength and motivation, which can re-energise and galvanise members.   A struggle which all sections of UCU need to support. 

And if we look at those other areas of membership, so often ignored  – adult education, prison education, landbased education.  Sectors where members often feel isolated and forgotten.  Well, as general secretary of UCU, I will not forget them.   The terms and conditions of those members is equally as important as the rest of UCU.   Their issues, their problems their struggles will be given high priority.   Why?   Because the way the UCU treats the more disparate sections of our union will show how we treat ALL members of the union.  

And what about FE pay?  What a mess! 

Three year’s ago, as author of the ‘Minority Report’, I pointed out the view of the left-wing negotiators with regard to the then two-year deal.   We said then that it was unachievable, and we were right.   Despite that, the majority on the committee of negotiators, and on the National Further Education Committee decided to accept it.   Because, it was said, that in year three (of a two-year deal?) it would give us a national scale.   Um!   Interestingly, the colleges ignored the deal. And what happened?  Year three came and went – and for many still no pay rise – and for most, still no national scale.   Now, we’re into year four of the two-year pay deal!  Still no national scale and still no decent pay rise. 

Oh dear!  Like the Grand Old Duke of York, every Autumn we’re marched to the top of the hill – and marched down again. The college bosses know this – and they don’t care. 

This year’s 7% claim resulted in a 1½% offer that was so insulting that the National FE Committee decided to call a two-day strike with a view to escalating the action if necessary. 

And what happened? 

The strike was called off by the Chair of that Committee because the bosses were going to make an improved offer.   And they did.  They offered 2.5%, which we rejected, and then improved it to 2% for 6 months, followed by a further 0.9% for six months – which actually adds up to 2.45%!  Somebody is obviously not doing their sums!  

A third round of talks in June saw the acceptance of 2.5%. 

Yes!  That’s right, the negotiators accepted in June what they’d rejected in May!  Oh dear! Oh dear! Oh dear! 

Higher Education

 The UCU is emerging from a pay dispute which demoralised members and threatened to destroy unity.  In seeking a three-year deal, both Sally Hunt and Roger Kline failed to learn the lessons of FE.  Both Sally and Roger were responsible for the ultimate ‘agreement’They were the people who led and directed the dispute.   They are the people who failed to learn the lessons from FE.   

We need to be negotiating deals which are transparent to members and which are enforceable.  The leaders of UCU need to develop tactical nous,  nous which was not shown by the leaders of the dispute.   Taking short industrial action in Autumn, or, longer action in late Spring can never work for us.   It merely allows the employers to sit back and avoid the flak.   It pushes UCU members into tight corners, it, effectively, pulls the teeth of any industrial action. We need to develop strategies that do not allow the press to trumpet half truths, which allow deals which headline at, say 12%, but in cash terms are really 8%. We need to develop strategies which do not alienate the public who perceive young people as victims whose future is being threatened.  We need to develop strategies which do not hang our members out to dry.  

If you elect me General Secretary, I will ensure that the actions of the negotiators really does reflect the desires of the members.


September 7, 2006 Posted by | What I Stand For | Leave a comment

Education guardian – 7 September 2006

Dear Sir, 

It was interesting to read about the equality row in the UCU (“The smiles have long faded”, Education Guardian, 5th September 2006), and the manoeuvrings regarding the election of general secretary. Your reporter, Francis Beckett, was correct in linking the two issues together.  However, anyone paying attention at NATFHE’s last conference could not have missed my declaration of my intention to stand as a candidate.  A declaration made in response to Paul Mackney’s attempt to pre-empt the election process by using his last speech as General Secretary to rubber-stamp his chosen successor, Roger Kline. 

Whilst it is obvious that equality is, and should be, of the highest priority to UCU, what seems to be less clear to the joint General Secretaries is how the members feel. Yes, we can all point to the records of the predecessor unions and their equality structures and the commitment of the full-time officials.  But what really needs to be looked at is what the members think. 

The issue of equality is not just about gender. Has anybody asked the black members what they think of the union and how it represents their views, or deals with their issues, or addresses their problems?  The same question can be asked in relation to disabled members, LGBT members and those members who are part-time. 

And it is not just members in those sections who are feeling disgruntled. UCU members in adult education, prison education and specialist colleges are feeling marginalized, as are members in Wales, (and Scotland and Northern Ireland?). This is an important year for the members of UCU and it is clear that this founding year will set the tone for the election of the general secretary.  

This election should not just be about the posturing of the big boys and girls in London, but about what kind of union the members really want, and what kind of leader the members really want.   

Naturally, my view is that the members should be given a real choice in the election.  A choice which allows them to vote for a member who has actually had experience of working in post 16 education, and who does understand the issues of equality. 

Yes, the UCU needs to develop a culture that has equality at the heart of its organisation, its campaigning and its philosophy.  But it needs to convert that to addressing the needs of all its members, individually and collectively and ensuring that the terms and conditions of employment are improved, fighting bad employment practices – and stop marching them to the top of the hill just to march back down again. 

Yours sincerely     

Peter Jones

 UCU Wales  

September 7, 2006 Posted by | letters | Leave a comment