Monday, 28 October 2019

Socialist Historians supporting UCU ballots / Ruskin College dispute

The pressure on staff in the neo-liberal university continues to increase. Socialist Historians, often themselves impacted, support the UCU in its continuing efforts to resist the onward march to the bottom. Below is a summary of this autumn’s action from the UCU:

There are strike ballots at UK universities in rows over USS pensions and pay, workloads, casualisation and equality. The pay, workloads, casualisation and equality ballot is running at 147 institutions and UCU members at 69 of those universities there is also a ballot for strike action over proposed changes to USS pensions. At a meeting of the USS Joint Negotiating Committee (JNC) in August 2019 the universities' proposals - that will see members pay 9.6% of their salary into their USS pension, compared to 8.8% at present and 8% before the strikes - were backed by the chair, Sir Andrew Cubie.

The union said universities had also done nothing to address the declining value of members' pay, which has fallen in real-terms by 21% in the last decade, or address concerns over casualisation, equality and workloads.

The ballots close on Wednesday 30 October and the union's higher education committee will meet to consider the results on Friday 1 November. The ballots will be disaggregated so each institution will be polled separately.

Ruskin College dispute: The College where History Workshop was founded sacks union reps

Many readers of the newsletter will be aware of the dispute at Ruskin College involving the victimisation of UCU officers. Given that Ruskin has its origins as a trade union college the matter is perhaps particularly inexcusable.

Socialist historians will have special reasons for offering solidarity. Raphael Samuel, a key figure in the History Workshop movement was for many years a tutor at Ruskin. In addition several of the best known History Workshop conferences took place there including some of the earliest activities.

Ten trade union leaders have written to Ruskin College in Oxford to ask them to drop all disciplinary proceedings and withdraw threats of redundancy against staff after the college dismissed a trade union branch officer, with others subject to continuing disciplinary action, and four threatened with redundancy over the summer.

UCU branch officer Lee Humber was sacked on Friday 12 July having previously been suspended for "spurious reasons" just days after the local branch passed a motion of no confidence in the principal.
The college wants to axe four more posts in a move that UCU says will kill off all trade union higher education courses at the institution, leaving just a rump of two HE courses overall. The union said the college's proud boasts of transforming people's lives through education and its origins as a workers' college set up to strive for a fairer society meant little if it was prepared to victimise trade union reps and sack staff.

UCU acting general secretary Paul Cottrell said: 'Ruskin College makes much of its links to the wider union movement and origins as a workers' college, which makes the sacking of union reps all the more offensive. Staff have made it clear they have no faith in the direction the management is heading, but Ruskin's response has been to get rid of people trying to highlight the problems.
The entire social work team at Ruskin College has resigned in solidarity with victimised union reps. Social work is the biggest programme at the Oxford college.

Text of letter and full list of signatories.

We write to you in our respective capacities as General Secretaries of ten national trade unions, to raise our profound concerns about the way Ruskin College management appears to be victimising trade union reps from the University and College Union (UCU).
Given the proud history of the College - built on Labour movement values - we are concerned that this course of action is not only wrong in itself, but also risks undermining the founding principles of the institution.
As we understand it, three reps have been placed under unwarranted disciplinary investigation, whilst a further two union members have been placed at risk of redundancy. If financial circumstances are difficult, we would expect management to enter into serious discussions to explore a way of resolving the situation. There can never be an excuse to victimise or harass trade union reps.
We would ask that you drop all disciplinary proceedings and withdraw threats of redundancy and pursue a constructive approach towards working with UCU reps going forward. Otherwise, we stand ready to give our full support and solidarity to members of Ruskin College staff should they
move towards taking industrial action.
Mick Cash (General Secretary, RMT)
Michelle Stanistreet (General Secretary, NUJ)
Dr. Jo Grady (General Secretary, UCU)
Kevin Courtney (General Secretary, NEU)
Bob Monks (General Secretary, URTU)
Mark Serwotka (General Secretary, PCS)
Ian Lawrence (Chair of TUCG, and General Secretary, NAPO)
Matt Wrack (General Secretary, FBU)
Ronnie Draper (General Secretary, BFAWU)
 Steve Gillan (General Secretary, POA)

For updates please see Ruskin College UCU fb and twitter

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