University and College Union

University and College Union

Infobox Union
name= UCU
country= United Kingdom
affiliation= TUC
members= 116,000 (on formation)
full_name= University and College Union

founded= 2006-06-01
office= London, UK
people= Sally Hunt (General Secretary)
The University and College Union (UCU) is a UK trade union formed from the 2006 merger of the Association of University Teachers (AUT) and the National Association of Teachers in Further and Higher Education (NATFHE).

The union was formed on 1 June 2006. For the first year a set of transitional rules was in place until full operational unity was achieved in June 2007. The union has around 116,000 members and is the largest further and higher education union in the world.

During the first year of the new union the existing General Secretaries (Sally Hunt and Paul Mackney) remained in post, managing the union’s day to day business jointly. Paul Mackney did not stand for General Secretary of UCU due to ill-health and Sally Hunt was elected the first General Secretary of the new union on 9 March 2007, and took office on 1 June 2007.

The logo of the new union was designed by London design group sans+baum [] .

2006 HE industrial action

Until the merger, AUT and NATFHE members in higher education were involved in ongoing 'action short of a strike' - including boycotting setting and marking exams and other coursework and this action continued under the UCU banner. Lecturers were taking industrial action over issues of pay, and the gap that has grown up over the last 20-30 years between their remuneration and that of other similarly qualified public-sector professionals. Prime Minister Tony Blair promised that a significant percentage of new monies released for universities would be put towards lecturers' pay and this had not happened.

AUT and NATFHE rejected an offer of 12.6% over three years which was made on the 8th of May [] , [] and a further offer of 13.12% over three years made on 30th May [] , [] , [] .

Concerns grew that students would not be able to graduate that year (2006) [] . The National Union of Students' leadership supported the lecturers' action and although the matter was raised at various meetings NUS support for lecturers was never successfully challenged. In response to feedback from a group of students' unions NUS advised AUT/NATFHE (UCU) that their support for action could not be indefinite and was wholly dependent on seeking a fast resolution. Many students' unions from around the country went further and openly condemned the action taken by the lecturers' unions as holding the students to ransom.

To support the industrial action the new union, on its very first day of existence, organised a 'day of solidarity' by its higher education members. This included a demonstration in London which ended with a lobby at the headquarters of the employers' body, the Universities and Colleges Employers' Association (Ucea) [] , [] .

Following further talks on 6 June between UCU and UCEA, sponsored by the TUC and Acas, the UCU agreed to ballot members on the 13.1% offer (with an increase of around 15% for lower paid members of non-academic university staff) over three years, with the important proviso that any monies docked from striking lecturers would be repaid and that an independent review would consider the mechanisms for future negotiations and the scope of funding available to universities for future pay settlements. The pay increase will be phased over the three years, with the final year's figure subject to further increase in line with inflation. The boycott of assessment was suspended on 7th June [] , []

Possible boycott of Israeli academic institutions

On May 30, 2007, the union voted to have a union-wide debate on whether to boycott Israeli institutions, asking lecturers to "consider the moral implications of existing and proposed links with Israeli academic institutions." [] The motion was moved on the basis that delegates should "support this motion which is for a debate on a boycott; it is not a motion for a boycott." [] Actions were planned to help local branches consider the arguments for and against a boycott, including with the help of invitees from both Israel and Palestine. This position is considered antisemitism according to Jewish organizations such as the Simon Wiesenthal Center. [] The position is also considered contrary to basic academic principles and has been condemned by multiethnic, multidisciplinary groups of scholars such as the 20,000 faculty member Scholars for Peace in the Middle East and the International Council for Science.

After the motion was carried, at a meeting in June to determine a programme to implement the motion, legal advice was received saying that "the Union and its members are fully entitled to exercise their right to freedom of expression, discussion and debate by considering the pros and cons of the proposed boycott, and, if so minded, to pass and publish resolutions criticising the policies of the Israeli government and its supporters and expressing support for the rights of Palestinians, withdrawal by Israel from the occupied territories, and so on." but that "it would [...] be beyond the Union's powers and unlawful for the union to call for or to implement a boycott by the Union and its members of any kind of Israeli universities and other academic institutions." []

Subsequently, legal advisers for the union recommended that "It would be beyond the union's powers and unlawful for the union, directly or indirectly, to call for, or to implement, a boycott by the union and its members of any kind of Israeli universities and other academic institutions; and that the use of union funds directly or indirectly to further such a boycott would also be unlawful." The union's Strategy and Finance Committee concluded that "the call to boycott is unlawful and that we cannot debate and vote on it according to our legal advice." [] Therefore, all action related to the debate on a boycott was suspended on 28th September 2007. []

Privatisation of education

UCU is campaigning against private finance initiatives and joint ventures, such as those proposed by INTO University Partnerships.

External links

* [ University and College Union] official website
* [ Joint AUT–NATFHE press release]
* [ Opposition to proposed UCU anti-Israel academic boycott]
* [ British Academic Union passes Motion to consider Boycotting Israel]

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