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UCU response to boycott vote

30 May 2007

Delegates at the inaugural UCU congress voted this afternoon in favour of a motion calling for the circulation of 'the full text of the Palestinian boycott call to all branches for information and discussion'.

The delegates earlier overwhelmingly (just one vote against) voted to accept the recommendations of a report from a body set up in the fallout of the 2005 decision by AUT to impose an academic boycott of Israel.

That interim report accepted by the union this afternoon says: 'The commission believes, after careful consideration, and noting that we are not capable of policing the academic world in a pro-active way, that triggers for actions leading to greylisting and boycott can only result from a request from a legitimate organisation within the state, or within the occupied territory or institution in question. Legitimate organisations would include a trade union movement, a recognised higher education union or other representative organisation. Exceptionally, a decision to impose greylisting or boycotting might be taken following consultation with Education International in circumstances where legitimate organisations cannot be lawfully established within the state or institutions in question, or in circumstances where institutions or branches of institutions, are established in territories under unlawful occupation as defined by UN resolutions.

'It is recognised that this is a difficult area. We are aware of great wrongs being committed throughout the world against colleagues in other countries.  But there is always a balance to be drawn between boycotting and damaging those colleagues in the hope that the state will address the harm that it is inflicting on academia, and the harm that the boycott itself inflicts on academia.'

Responding to the votes this afternoon, UCU general secretary, Sally Hunt, said: 'As I have made clear in the past, and as I reiterated on the floor of congress this morning, I do not believe a boycott is supported by the majority of UCU members, nor do I believe that members see it is a priority for the union.

'Today's motion on boycott means all branches now have a responsibility to consult all of their members on the issue and I believe that every member should have the opportunity to have their say. The earlier motion means that any future calls for a boycott must pass key tests before a boycott can implemented.'
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