27 May 2017
The Conservatives have been an ‘unmitigated disaster’ for people working in education, UCU general secretary Sally Hunt said today.
Speaking at the union’s annual congress in Brighton, Sally Hunt delivered a damning critique of the government’s record. Her wide-ranging address went through the challenges facing the union in its fight for better pay and conditions, and she said recruiting new members was crucial to securing UCU’s future as a strong union.
The three-day conference started this morning with a minute’s silence for those who lost their lives in Monday night’s attack. Sally Hunt started her speech by reflecting on events in Manchester and said:
‘UCU members working in and around Manchester make up one-fifth of our total membership. Our hearts are breaking at the dreadful events last week, not least as it emerges that among the many innocent victims were students at our universities and colleges.
‘We send our solidarity to all those affected including the incredible emergency service workers who ran towards danger in order to save lives. And, as the days pass, to the teachers working so hard to reassure frightened students.
‘Education is what this union is all about and our response to this horrific incident must be to continue to champion knowledge, truth, tolerance and diversity. These are British values that are worth fighting for.’
Criticising the government’s record, Sally Hunt said: ‘It is worth reflecting on what an unmitigated disaster the Conservatives have been for our people. They have tripled tuition fees. They have halved the adult education budget. They have decimated funding for English language classes.
‘They have opened the floodgates to privatisation of our universities and colleges. They have introduced the absurd and damaging Teaching Excellence Framework. They have cut money for widening participation.
‘They have held down public sector pay. They have encouraged casualisation. They have attacked the poor whilst giving freely to the already rich. They have allowed Britain’s future to be held hostage by the negotiating skills of David Davis and Boris Johnson.
‘They have cuddled up to the revolting Trump. They have made immigrants and refugees scapegoats for their own failings.
‘And they have introduced the vindictive, unnecessary and illiberal Trade Union Act – an act that has nothing to do with union democracy and everything to do with making it harder for us to resist, organise and win.’
Addressing the union’s future and how UCU must attract new members, Sally Hunt said: ‘For people starting in the profession now, joining a union is not simply a matter of course. They need to be persuaded that we are worth belonging to.
‘We need to make a big, bold offer to those staff who are new to further and higher education. An offer that recognises the pressures new staff are under in terms of their job security, income and workloads. An offer that shows we are relevant to their developing professional needs, and that we can, and will, stand up for them.
‘Our task is to transform the union. To rebuild it as a national force in the most challenging of circumstances. To build capacity and to deliver for members. To make joining the union the norm and not the exception.’