You and UCU

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Diversity – letter to THES 15 Jan 07

Two articles in last week’s THES (“Scrapheap still looms for those who hit 65”, and, “Sector is slow to embrace diversity”) are, or should be, of great interest to all members of the University and College Union, as they both affect the working relationship between employer and worker. 

What those articles demonstrate is a lack of understanding of the equality and diversity agenda, not just in the world of academe, but in society I general. 

The issues of compulsory retirement at 65 has already hit the Employment Tribunals and the higher courts in England, and is now winging its way to the European Court of Justice.  In seeking clarification and a judgement form the ECJ, the courts and other legal commentators have warned employers that to force employees to retire at 65 might well lead to cases in the future and to compensation for lost earnings. 

The safest thing that the universities (and FE colleges) can do, is to, seek the advice of, and negotiate with, the UCU on each and every case that they have and come to an agreement.  Indeed, when this situation was pointed out to the management in a Welsh FE college, an agreement was reached. 

The LGBT issue is also one where a joint approach between the employers and the UCU might prove beneficial.  The reason for this is not that the education institutions have not got policies, (although in many cases they haven’t), it is the lack of diversity training among their managers that leads to both direct and indirect discrimination. 

All of diversity problems facing the education sector are compounded by the culture in which they currently operate – a culture influenced by managerialism, competition and privatisation.  Whilst the figures show that the universities are light years behind the some of the other sectors, employers, generally, still have far to go. 

Education, along with local and national government and the other public sector organisations, should all be leading the way when it comes to the diversity agenda.  Fostering an environment where all members of society can feel comfortable and make a positive contribution.  That should be one of the roles of our education institutions, and that can be helped by real consultation, negotiation and agreement with the UCU.   


January 14, 2007 - Posted by | Diversity and Academia

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