You and UCU

Just another Wordpress.com weblog

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

I am the ONLY candidate with real experience of HE and FE

Unlike Roger and Sally, I have worked in the post 16 education system for many years. The bulk of my teaching was in Burnley College, Lancashire, where I taught in the Business Studies Department.  I was the co-ordinator of Management and Professional Studies teaching to students at levels 2 and 3, as well as graduate and post-graduate studies. At higher national and degree level, I’ve taught on courses in management, business, tourism, child study, engineering and education. At post-grad level, I’ve taught on courses in management and education. I also designed and delivered training for the commercial wing of Burnley College. My other main teaching area is on the TUC courses (Unionlearn), where I tutor on the Employment Law programme at Deeside College in Wales, having left Burnley in September 2005.  

As you can see, all of my recent teaching experience has been at 18+, but I have taught 16 to 19 as well.  My FE experience includes teaching as a part-time lecturer in the Liberal Studies Section (remember liberal studies?) at Tameside College, in Greater Manchester. That was followed by both part-time, then full-time in the Communication Section, (remember communication studies?) at High Peak College in Buxton, Derbyshire.  

As most of you will know, working in FE gives you a rich and rewarding experience of teaching, and I have taught adults on return to work programmes, students with disabilities and learning difficulties.   I have taught students on courses as varied as catering, engineering, nursery nursing, business, leisure and tourism, sports studies, media and music.  I know what it’s like to be an hourly-paid lecturer, indeed, that is what I am at the moment!  I know what it’s like to be an FE lecturer, that’s what the bulk of my experience is.  I know what it’s like to deliver post-graduate programmes, that’s what I did as a programme leader.  Indeed, I am the only candidate who really knows what it’s like in colleges and universities. 

If you elect me General Secretary, uniquely, it will be those experiences which I will bring to the job.

August 14, 2006 Posted by | Teaching Experience | Leave a comment

Equality and UCU

A number of members have asked me about my ‘vision’ for the UCU.  My real answer is that whatever we think about the emerging culture of the UCU, the equality agenda has to be in the forefront of our organisation.

If we cannot get the equality systems and structures within the Union right, how can we hope to represent our members in their struggle against employers.

It is right that the UCU has reserved seats for LGBT, Black, Disabled, Women and Part-time Members.  Members who identify with any of these sections might already be feeling marginalised by society and by employers – we must not allow those members to be marginalised by the Union’s structures.

And there are other sections of the Union, too, that we need to pay greater attention to – part-time members, those members who work in prison education, adult education, specialist colleges and in land-based education.

If we look at the Transitional Arrangements Committee (TAC), we can see that the only person who is there with an equality remit seems to be the ex-NATFHE Chair of Equality.

Taking equality seriously, would have meant electing representatives of all those members in the differing equality strands – but no!

No black member there of right!

No part-timer there of right!

No adult educator there of right!

And the same goes for LGBT, Disabled, Women, Prisons, Land-based …

We MUST get our equality structure right – ands it must be done NOW.

TAC has agreed, (as if it could do anything other), to form an Equality Committee of 22 members, 11 of whom will be ex-NATFHE and 11 of whom will be ex-AUT.  This is a start – but let it not be the end.

Given the characters of the members involved, I have every trust and confidence that what will evolve will place the concerns of members at the core of UCU’s activities.

If you elect me General Secretary, I will ensure that equality remains at the heart of the Union.  Because equality is both a moral and employment relations issue, it will be given a status which equals that of the further and higher education departments.  As General Secretary, I would commit myself to being the manager of the Equality Department – trusting in the commitment, expertise and knowledge of those who work in Equality to continue the great work that they have done in the past , and continue to do now.

August 1, 2006 Posted by | Equality | Leave a comment

My Experience as a Trade Unionist

Like many working-class kids who left school at 15 or 16, I went into work at the local factory.  I joined what was then the Amalgamated Engineering and Foundry Workers’ Union (AEF).  At the age of 18, I was elected shop-steward and was a delegate to the District Committee.  However, even at a young age, my trade union activity got me into trouble – and I got the sack.

Moving from Wales to Derbyshire in my early 20s, I joined the Transport and General Workers’ Union (TGWU).  For a number of years, I was a shop steward, Branch Committee member, delegate to the Region and Chair of the local Trades Council.  Again, my trade union activity seemed to get me the sack.

For a couple of years prior to entering higher education, I was a member of the National Union of Dyers, Bleachers and Textile Workers (NUDBTW).  I was a shop steward and Branch Committee member.  I guess that, by now, you will have worked out the pattern.  Yes! I was sacked.

At Manchester Poly (as it was), I was a member of the NUS, but was not active.  However, when I went to Huddersfield to do my PGCE, I joined NATFHE and have been an activist in NATFHE/UCU ever since.

At Burnley College, I was Branch Chair for a couple of years, then Secretary for more years than I care to remember – from prior to incorporation to September last year, when I moved back to Wales.

For most of that time, I was also the Branch rep to North West Region.  During my time on  the NW Region, I was Chair for three years, then Secretary for what seemed like a lifetime but was, in reality, a few years.

Also, I was one of the 2 elected NW reps on the National Executive Committee (NEC).  Whilst on the NEC, I was Vice-Chair of the Finance, Membership and Organisation Committee (FMO) – which has morphed into TAC, (Transitional Arrangements Committee).

I also represented the NW Region  as the Black member on the Equality Advisory Council (EAC) (I now represent Wales),  and the NW TUC Black Members’ network. 

This year, I represented NATFHE at both the North West and Wales TUC.

Including 2006, I have been a TUC delegate for 3 years.

Currently, I am the Part-time Rep and Branch Committee Member at Deeside College in Connah’s Quay in Wales.  At the last, (and I mean last) Wales NATFHE conference and AGM, I was elected as the Wales Black Member on EAC.

All in all, I have been an active trade unionist since the age of 17, and I continue to be so.

If you elect me as General Secretary, you will be electing a person who has been a lay activist, at all levels, throughout their working life. Not a bureaucrat, but someone who actually knows what it’s like to be sacked for their commitment to the trade union movement, someone who knows what it’s like to be a union member at grass-roots level, someone who knows what it’s like to fight discrimination first-hand.  And, yes, someome who knows what it’s like to work in education.

June 11, 2006 Posted by | Trade Union history | Comments Off on My Experience as a Trade Unionist