By Tassia Kobylinska and Marian Carty, Goldsmiths UCU delegates to Congress
Today’s first day of UCU Congress descended into dramatic suspensions, walk outs and the surreal scenario of Unite launching a trade dispute against us, UCU.
After the groundswell in UCU activism, hugely increased membership numbers and with a series of crucial motions tabled on pay, workload, democracy, accountability and the USS dispute this should have been one of the most successful and impactful conferences yet. Instead all union business was disrupted and suspended by two walkouts by the panel in response to motions which challenged the position of the General Secretary and confidence in UCU leadership.
In brief, after motions 1 and 2 were proposed and carried, there were two walk outs by national officials in Unite in objection to wording relating to appointed officials in untabled Motion B19 (Late motion) Democracy review (University of Sheffield, University of Bath), which Congress voted to retable. As a result of reinstatement, all Unite member UCU employees left the hall. President, Joanna De Groot then declared suspension of Congress and the entire platform stood up and walked out, along with a number of delegates supporting Unite members’ objections. The majority of Congress members stayed to continue to discuss events from the floor – despite all mics and screens switched off.
Unite members held a union meeting in an adjacent room and after negotiating with the motion proposers agreed to remove the contested wording and the UCU employees returned to the hall after a (very) extended suspension, approximately 2 hours, with an amendment to B19 here which was carried.
Congress continued, motions were carried relating to participatory democracy (Full details here) until Motions 10 and 11 when congress members voted to hear Motion 10 (No confidence in Sally Hunt) and Motion 11 (Censure of General Secretary). Once again there was a further walk out, a suspension of Congress and the declaration of a trade dispute by Unite against UCU, thereby ending further discussion and debate on these motions and to all further congress business for the day – hours of Congress have now been lost.
Congress resumes on Friday and with Motions 10 and 11 still tabled we anticipate a repeat performance. However a lunch time NEC Unite meeting is scheduled for tomorrow (Thursday) lunchtime with this single agenda item – we will update you on the report back to conference on the result. Meanwhile FE and HE Sector conference continue on Thursday.
All motions carried here: https://www.ucu.org.uk/article/9513/Congress-2018-Live
Can’t overstate how incredibly bad for this is for @ucu
If union transparency & accountability can’t be discussed at congress, then where can they be discussed. Walking out to prevent discussion about democratic structures only demonstrates that discussion is needed. #ucu2018https://t.co/JiyHvI885b
— Jo Grady (@DrJoGrady) May 30, 2018
In a way, a credible industrial strategy is being developed @ UCU Congress: unofficial walk outs & solidarity pickets. If only they’d apply this approach against the employers instead of their own freaking membership we might actually be able to save our pensions #UCU18#UCU2018
— PerrierCommunist (@PerrierCommuni1) May 30, 201